Mercer Island: The year in Sports (2009)

Islander Danny Strome (13) is slowed by a Lions defender during a state playoff game at Mercer Island on April 19, 2009. The boys soccer team advanced to finish third in state. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Islander Danny Strome (13) is slowed by a Lions defender during a state playoff game at Mercer Island on April 19, 2009. The boys soccer team advanced to finish third in state.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The year may be over, but the sports on and around Mercer Island continue to roll on. Here is a look at some of the biggest sports stories from the Island in 2009.


Girls basketball wins first-ever KingCo title

The Mercer Island High School girls basketball team won its first basketball KingCo title in the school’s history after defeating Liberty, 56-50, on Feb. 10, 2009. The team finished the regular season 10-2 and went on to win the KingCo tournament title as well, before heading to the state tournament in March.

Neary inspires, helps teach teammates

Ben Neary, a student at Mercer Island High School, was just another guy on the swim team, and like many of the others is a lifelong swimmer who began swimming with his mom, Carolyn, when he was 6 years old. The difference between Neary and his teammates? Neary has Down syndrome and was the first special needs athlete to turn out for the team under head coach Jeff Lowell. Neary has also competed in soccer, basketball and baseball on teams outside of high school.

Boys swim team wins fourth straight state title

The Mercer Island boys swim and dive team made state history on Feb. 21, 2009, after scoring 475 points to take its fourth consecutive state title. The point total was more than 100 points ahead of the record that the Islanders set the year before and 267 points ahead of second-place finisher Mt. Rainier.

Girls basketball finishes eighth at state

The Mercer Island girls basketball team finished eighth overall at the state basketball tournament. The team, which entered the weekend at the Tacoma Dome, was seeded fourth, but fell to Prairie in the first round. The Islanders bounced back to eventually make the consolation final, where they would either finish the season as the fifth- or eighth-place team in the state. They lost to Franklin, 67-44, for eighth place overall.

Pepple announces retirement

Ed Pepple, the legendary Mercer Island boys basketball coach of 42 years, announced his retirement at the end of March. He spent 49 years coaching in total and won 952 games, the most in Washington state history. Pepple began his coaching career at Fife High School in 1958.


Girls water polo second at state

First-year head coach Matt Jones helped the MIHS girls water polo team all the way to the state championships at the Mercer Island Country Club, but the girls could not eclipse the Castaway Polo Athletic (CPA) Club, for a second-place finish at the state tournament.

Islanders take top spots at state track meet

Bryce Borer, a MIHS senior, repeated as the 3A state pole vault champion during the state track and field championships at the end of May. His teammate, senior Phoebe Merritt, also earned a state title in the 1,600-meter race, finishing the race in 5 minutes and 8.82 seconds.

Boys soccer finishes third overall

The Mercer Island High School boys soccer team finished in third place at the state meet, beating Franklin Pierce High School for the trophy. The team, which was undefeated and also won the KingCo title, lost in the semifinals to the eventual state champions, Shorecrest.

Girls tennis wins state title, boys finish fifth

The MIHS girls tennis team had the top team finish at the state tournament in Vancouver, Wash., while the boys team, which took three team members to the tournament, finished in fifth place overall. Sophomore Chelsea Bailey was second in the singles competition, while the doubles team of Michelle Zemplenyi and Julia Schubach finished third at state.

Boys lacrosse loses state title to Issaquah

The MIHS boys lacrosse team lost its battle for the state lacrosse title to rival Issaquah, which repeated as state champions. The Islanders fell in the last moments of the game, unable to find an opening to score, and lost the game 10-9.

Girls golf nabs fourth-place finish

The girls golf team from Mercer Island brought home the fourth-place state trophy from the meet in Eastern Washington at the end of May. In the boys tournament, MIHS golfer Charlie Kern finished 22nd overall, the team’s only qualifier after the district tournament.

Rowers choose nationals over graduation

Three members of the Mt. Baker varsity 8s crew team chose to compete with their team at the national competition in Ohio rather than attend their own high school graduation. Thomas Ehlers, Ai Tanaka and Robert Capelluto all said that going to nationals was something they had worked toward for years and that this accomplishment may even have been harder than earning their high school diplomas.

Chow and Borer athletes of the year

Seniors Janelle Chow and Bryce Borer were named athletes of the year by the school’s coaches at the end of the 2009 school year. The year’s scholar athletes were Peter Zajac and Lindsay Chinn. The U.S. Army honored Derek Schulte and Rachel Godfred as scholar athletes of the year.


Lowell steps down to take new job at Interlake

Jeff Lowell, the longtime swim coach at MIHS, resigned at the end of the school year from his coaching position, as well as from the school’s athletic department, to take an assistant principal position at Interlake High School in Bellevue. He helped the Islanders to 11 state titles in both swimming and water polo, including four consecutive boys swim state titles.

MI Little Leaguers compete at Little League World Series

The Mercer Island 11-12 Little League All-Star team placed high enough at the NW Regional Little League Championships in San Bernardino, Calif., to earn a spot at the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa., at the end of August. It was the first trip to the series for a team from Mercer Island. The team lost its three games at the tournament, but all the players involved called it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Islanders host first ’Round the Rock paddle surfing competition

Island resident Jeff Underwood and longtime friend Dan Eberhardt organized and hosted the first ’Round the Rock paddle surfing race, in which paddle surfers raced around Mercer Island. The event, held at the end of September, marked the recent growth of the sport in the Pacific Northwest. The duo said they plan on making it an annual event.

Longtime runner still competes

Island resident Esther Lott, who has been running for 30 years, took part in the Swedish SummeRun with her daughter and granddaughter. Lott started running when she was 47 years old, ran her first race at 50 and did a half-marathon at the age of 70. She used to run six days a week, doing multiple miles a day, but now runs only a couple of days every week, as it has gotten tougher on her body. She hopes to continue doing the Swedish SummeRun with her family.

Girls soccer takes second at state

The Mercer Island girls soccer team played in the program’s first state soccer championship game, losing in a shootout to Columbia River. The team also won its first KingCo title since 2002 under fourth-year head coach Adam Gervis.

Hydro drivers compete in Qatar

Dr. Ken Muscatel, a Mercer Island resident and driver/owner of the Superior Racing unlimited hydroplane boat, headed to Doha, Qatar, in November for the American Boat Racing Association’s Orynx Cup world championships. It was the first time that the championships were held outside of North America, and featured drivers from across the nation and many from the Northwest.

Boys golf finishes regular season second

The MIHS boys golf team finished its regular fall season after a second-place district finish, and three players qualified for the state competition in the spring. The team also won KingCo, was undefeated and qualified enough players to enter the state competition as a team.

Volleyball wins KingCo tournament

The Islanders volleyball team won the KingCo tournament title after beating Mt. Si in a five-game marathon to enter the district tournament as the No. 1 team from KingCo. The MIHS girls eventually lost out in the district tournament, falling short of qualification for the state tournament in November.

Boys water polo captures 10th consecutive title

The Islander boys water polo team won its 10th straight water polo state title, beating rival Bellevue in the championship game. Mercer Island beat the Wolverines, 15-5, in the final game.

Tennis coach, longtime Island resident dies

Joyce Hedlund, Mercer Island High School’s longtime boys and girls tennis coach, died after suffering a massive stroke in November. Her death came the week after the boys tennis team finished its regular season, bringing home both individual and doubles titles at the KingCo tournament. Hedlund coached at Mercer Island for over 20 years.

Girls swim captures first state title in over a decade

The Islander girls swim team brought home the state trophy after winning its first title since 1998. The team, which marked its first season under new head coach Chauntelle Johnson, had a prolific regular season and beat second-place Juanita by just 4.5 points at the state meet.

Pro-lacrosse brings player home

Washington Stealth, the state’s pro-lacrosse team, welcomed Jason Bloom to the team this summer, making it possible for the Mercer Island resident to once again play in the state where he lives, after commuting between Boston, Seattle and Florida during the first seasons of his career.

For more sports pictures of the year, visit

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