Sports

Mercer Island year in sports 2008

The calendar year for Mercer Island sports was full of shocking moments, championships and some very dominant aquatics.

Winter

The winter season was full of achievement for Mercer Island High School teams.

The Mercer Island boys basketball team, led by 11 seniors, ran the table in 3A KingCo to finish the regular season schedule 12-0. The league title was followed by a league championship game victory and the No. 2 seed to state. But losing both opening-round games at state would be a big disappointment for the team.

Girls basketball continued to take steps forward by pulling an upset and qualifying for the KingCo championship game. The Islanders would make it to the district tournament and win one game for the first time in a decade.

The Islander wrestling squad won the KingCo title for the third time in five years but took an unusual route. The team lost an early season meet. Normally, teams have to go undefeated to win a league wrestling title. But Mercer Island completed the season with just the one loss and got some help to take the championship. Islander Alex Faith would also win the district title at 125 pounds, while Chris Pothoven finished eighth at state at 215 pounds.

The boys swimming team also won the KingCo title, in addition to the district and state titles. Islander Beau Riebe won the state title in diving for the first time, and teammate Murray Longbotham won an individual state swimming title in the 200-yard freestyle.

Mercer Island resident and Eastside Catholic swimmer Ethan Hallowell beat Longbotham in the 100-yard freestyle to take the state title as a freshman.

Islander gymnastics had a big year thanks to Laura Maruhashi, who took the All-Around title at districts, despite taking second during the  KingCo meet. She would finish the year fourth at state.

Maybe the biggest off-field story of the year was the realignment of 3A KingCo. The move had an impact on every Mercer Island sports team and is still having far-reaching effects. The movement of teams included Newport, Skyline and Issaquah to 4A and Interlake down to 2A in most sports. Juanita High School returned to 3A KingCo, rekindling a rivalry between the Rebels and Mercer Island from the late 1990s.

Spring

The spring season marked some impressive freshman performances, a big game at a big league park and one massive run through Mercer Island.

The spring season began with a record 4,102 participants for the Mercer Island Rotary Run Day.

Baseball season began with the Mercer Island High School team playing an exhibition game against Lakeside. The team would have a good season, making it to the playoffs for only the second time in a decade.

Two former Islanders put together a memorial golf tournament for former Mercer Island High School golf coach Gary Adrian, who died in 2006. The event raised money for the First Tee charity.

The Mercer Island High School girls tennis team was led by a freshman this year: Chelsea Bailey, who guided the team to its 37th KingCo title. Bailey, the No. 1 singles player, teamed with Michelle Zemplenyi to earn the league doubles title and second place at state. Islanders Max Franklin and Matt Ellis also finished second at state in boys doubles tennis.

The Mercer Island boys soccer team completed a successful season by placing third in state. But its biggest accomplishment was moving up five places in KingCo in three weeks to win the league title.

Girls water polo finished the season second in state, while both the boys and girls lacrosse teams did not fare as well as usual. The boys team missed the state finals for the first time in seven seasons, while the girls team lost during the state semifinals and Meg Elston stepped down as head coach later in the summer to pursue other endeavors.

The Mount Baker crew team sent two shells to Nationals with Islanders rowing.

Mercer Island senior Bryce Borer finished his high school career with a state title in the pole vault, while Haley Piper stood on the medal podium to take eighth place in the mile.

Golf was a success in 2008, as Lindsay Chinn took eighth at state and the boys team finished third.

Mercer Island seniors Leroy Lutu and Maruhashi won male and female athletes of the year. Lutu would go on to play basketball at the University of Hawaii.

Summer

The summer was dominated by the Midlakes swimming season and an NBA star’s return to Mercer Island. Mercer Island middle school students packed Islander Stadium for the All-Island Track Meet despite pouring rain. West Mercer Elementary won the meet.

New York Knicks guard and former Rainier Beach standout Nate Robinson returned to the site of one of his biggest former rivals to hold a basketball camp for youth in Western Washington. The camp was held at the Community Center at Mercer View.

The Mercer Island 3-on-3 basketball tournament was a huge success with many changes. Thirty-three teams competed, and nearly half were girls teams. The biggest change for the tournament was the return to outdoor courts and a move to downtown Mercer Island.

The Mercerwood Shore Club’s streak of four consecutive Midlakes swim titles came to an end last summer when Edgebrook edged the defending champs, while the 9- to 10-year-old All-Stars became the first-ever Mercer Island Little League team to win a state title in July.

The Mercer Island High School football team was dealt a swift blow when coach Bill Heglar abruptly resigned just prior to the start of the preseason. A difference in teaching hours at the high school was the root of the issue. Heglar went to Kent Lake High School to take an athletic director position. The team would hire former NFL player John Williams as head coach one week later.

Fall

The fall season was marked by two big state team performances and one dynamic freshman quarterback.

The Mercer Island football team finished the season with a 3-7 record but many reasons to be hopeful, one of the biggest of which was the emergence of freshman quarterback Jeff Lindquist. The Islander finished with three separate team records in passing while earning the starting spot on the team. Islander Sam Bliss, who was forced from the starting quarterback job for multiple reasons including injury, came back to set a school record of five sacks in one game against Sammamish High School.

One of the biggest stories of the year was the Mercer Island girls cross country team’s state championship. The Islanders entered the state meet ranked as high as fourth, but finished second to Seattle Prep at districts after winning KingCo.

Another state title came to Mercer Island as four-year “Ironman” Rachel Godfred brought home an individual state championship during the state swim meet in November.

The Mercer Island volleyball team had its best year in three decades, completing the regular season undefeated, winning the KingCo and district titles and placing fourth at the state meet. The Mercer Island boys cross country team and both the boys and girls junior varsity cross country teams made it a clean sweep at the KingCo meet.

The Mercer Island boys water polo team welcomed back a former player, Adam Massmann, as its new head coach. Massmann returned the favor by guiding the young team to the state title.

Paul Jackson, the former Mercer Island High School wrestling coach of nearly 30 years, was inducted into the Washington State Wrestling Coaches Hall of Fame. The school was also supposed to hold its first-ever major wrestling tournament on Dec. 20, but it was postponed due to snow.

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