Liberty Bell High School competitors made themselves known on the statewide level throughout the year, but no more so than at the state 1B/2B girls’ cross-country championships. For the third consecutive year, the Lady Lions easily outdistanced the field to take home another first-place title. Junior Novie McCabe also claimed her third consecutive individual title.

The girls’ soccer team once again made the long trek to Sumner for the state finals. The softball and baseball teams qualified for the state tournament, three Liberty Bell wrestlers went to the annual Mat Classic, the boys’ and girls’ teams competed at the state track meet, the Knowledge Bowl team claimed second place at state, and tennis player Ruthann Matteson advanced to the state meet as well.

The Killer Whales swim team won its league meet, and the Methow Valley Nordic Team was well represented at the national level.

Here’s a team-by-team summary of accomplishments in 2018:


The Lady Lions once again advanced to the District 5/6 2B tournament, but their season ended with a 61-41 loss to Brewster – the only league opponent Liberty Bell did not defeat during the regular season. Liberty Bell lost to Mabton in the opening round of the district tournament, then stayed alive to face Brewster with a win over Tonasket. The team ended the season with a 13-10 overall record, including 12-4 in league play – good for second place. The previous year, Liberty Bell was eliminated in the first round of the district tournament.

The loss to Brewster was also the last game for Liberty Bell head coach Ed Smith, who retired. He was replaced by assistant coach Stephanie Mitchell for the 2018-19 season.

Senior Lauren Ochoa led the Lady Lions in scoring for the season, followed by senior Katie Labanauskas. Lauren Ochoa was a first team All-League selection for the girls’ CW2B league, and Labanauskas was named to the second team. Sophomores Ali Palm and Tommie Ochoa each earned honorable mention recognition.

An alumna note: 2017 Liberty Bell graduate Lauren Fitzmaurice made the Syracuse University women’s varsity basketball team as a walk-on, and appeared in her first games this season.



Senior Finlay Holston joined the list of Liberty Bell High School wrestlers who have won state championships when he claimed the 1B/2B 195-pound title at Mat Classic XXX in Tacoma. As a junior, Holston took second place at 182 pounds. Also wrestling for Liberty Bell at the Mat Classic were junior Jed McMillan at 120 pounds and freshman Bodie Paul at 145 pounds. Neither placed among the top six in their divisions. Liberty Bell scored 29 points to finish 16th out of 44 teams at the meet. On the girls’ side, Shelby White had a strong season and advanced to the regionals, but did not make it to the state finals.


The Liberty Bell High School baseball team only encountered two teams it couldn’t beat in the 2018 season. Unfortunately, one of them – Tri-Cities Prep – stood in the way of the Mountain Lions advancing in the first round of the state tournament.  Tri-Cities ended Liberty Bell’s outstanding season with a 12-1 win over the Mountain Lions.

The only other two games the Mountain Lions lost were to league champion Brewster. Liberty Bell finished second in league play, and made its sixth consecutive trip to the state tournament. The Mountain Lions finished with a 16-4 record.

Senior Finlay Holston batted .500 for the season and drove in 26 runs. Junior Peter Aspholm was 5-2 as a pitcher and posted an ERA of 1.80. He led the pitching staff with 93 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings.

The Mountain Lions placed seven players on the All-League team. Holston was named to the first team along with Aspholm; senior Quinton Knox was named to the second team along with junior Cole Rhoades; and senior Reid Wengerd was an honorable mention along with junior Leo Shaw and sophomore Shay Crandall.

Aspholm was also named Pitcher of the Year, and Liberty Bell won the league’s sportsmanship award.


The Lady Lions’ trip to the state tournament ended with a loss to eventual state 2B champion Northwest Christian School, and then a loss to Orcas Island in the loser-out bracket. Nevertheless, it was a successful season for the Lady Lions, who finished tied for second with Lake Roosevelt in league play. Liberty Bell, with its season hanging in the balance, had managed a dramatic walk-off win in regional play and finished the tournament with another victory that qualified them for the state tournament.

Senior Devin Surface was named to the All-League first team for the second consecutive year. Senior Katie Labanauskas was named to the second team, also for the second consecutive year. Janie McMillan and Nadine Treise earned honorable mention; both were also honorable mention the previous year.

Liberty Bell coach Lee Pilkinton was named Coach of the Year. He was also honored as Coach of the Year the previous year.


The Lady Lions scored 17 points to claim a tie for 15th place at the state meet – their highest finish in years. The boys’ team scored 3 points, tying them for 35th place. Senior Seth Stevie took seventh place in the 300-meter hurdles, followed by junior Brayden White in eighth.

The top podium performance for the girls came from junior Icel Sukovaty, who took third place in the 3,200M run with a personal best time. Sukovaty also scored points for the Lady Lions with a PR in the 1,600M run, good for eighth place. Ahead of her for Liberty Bell was freshman Liv Aspholm, who took fifth place in her first state meet with a PR.

The girls’ 4x200M relay team of freshman Sammy Curtis, junior Sally Thornton-White, sophomore Ali Palm and junior Athena Milani took fourth place with a time of 1:50.97 – the second-best time in Liberty Bell history. Also scoring for the Lady Lions was senior Lauren Ochoa, who took eighth place in the discus.

Earlier, the girls took first place and the boys fourth place in the 2B District 5/6 championships. The girls also won the subdistrict meet for the second consecutive year. The boys were third at the subdistrict meet.


A late-season surge nearly put the Liberty Bell High School boys’ soccer team into the post-season playoffs picture. But it wasn’t quite enough, as the Mountain Lions finished fourth in the CWB-2B league with a record of 4-6, and were 5-8-1 overall. The Mountain Lions won five of their last seven games.

The team continued its year-to-year improvement. The previous year, the Mountain Lions were 2-8 in league play and 3-11 overall. The year before that, the team finished at 2-12 for the season. Kohl Simmons was named to the All-League second team among forwards, and Josh Dinham was also named to the second team as an infielder. Named as honorable mention midfielders were Cade Quigley and Henry Jones.


Liberty Bell junior Ruthann Matteson advanced to the state tennis meet after a third-place finish in district play. For the boys, the doubles team of Tim Haley and William Grubb played the No. 1 seeded duo from Okanogan and lost, 0-6, 1-6. In the losers’ bracket, Haley and Grubb lost to Oroville, 0-6, 2-6, and were out of the double-elimination tournament. At state, Matteson battled throughout a long, exhausting day but eventually was eliminated after two losses.

Liberty Bell finished second in league play behind Tonasket. Matteson was honored as girls’ Player of the Year, and was named to the All-League first team, in girls’ singles for the CWB 1B/2B league. Liberty Bell’s Logan Butler earned an honorable mention in girls’ singles.


The Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross-country team came into the state 1B/2B championship meet with a different group of runners touring a different course than the previous two years, but the outcome was the same: first place and another team trophy. The Lady Lions, rated No. 1 in the state coming into the meet, won with a score of 56 points.

Leading the pack of 116 runners at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course from start to finish was Liberty Bell junior Novie McCabe, who stood at the top of the winners’ podium for the third consecutive year.

Only McCabe, senior Ella Kuzyk and senior captain Icel Sukovaty were part of the previous year’s winning team. They were joined this year by freshmen Jori Grialou and Mahali Kuzyk, senior Ava Mott and sophomore Keeley Brooks.

Meanwhile, the Liberty Bell boys’ team, in its ninth consecutive state meet, finished in a tie for 10th place after taking second the previous two years. Seniors Emerson Worrell, Simon Studen and Lazo Gitchos all matched their best previous state meet times and finishes, Brooks said.

Liberty Bell took four of the five spots on the girls’ CW 2B first team All-League selections for cross-country: McCabe, Sukovaty, Mott and Grialou. Named to the second team were Mahali Kuzyk, sophomore Eva Weymuller and sophomore Lena Nelson.

Named to the boys’ All-League first team were Worrell and sophomore Travis Grialou. Senior Simon Studen and freshman Bellamy Kar were accorded honorable mention.

McCabe was named a Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Athlete of the Week for the week of Oct. 28-Nov. 3. McCabe was honored for winning her third consecutive individual state 1B/2B girls’ cross-country championship while leading the Lady Lions to their third straight team title.


The Mountain Lions played spirited football throughout the season but were often outnumbered by opponents on the way to a 1-8 season record, 0-6 in league play.

Liberty Bell played its first five games on the road, including a 32-26 overtime win at Kettle Falls, and finished with four games at home. The Mountain Lions averaged 14 points a game, while their opponents averaged 44 points.

Junior Magnus Treise was named to the CW 2B All League first team as a linebacker, and was named to the second team as a punter. Also named to the All League second team were senior Alex Garcia, offensive lineman, and senior Vincent Schnoor, offensive lineman. Accorded honorable mention were senior Tanner White at linebacker, and senior Brady Moriarty as a defensive back. Liberty Bell also received the team Sportsmanship Award.

After the season, Liberty Bell Activities Director Michael Wilbur, head football coach Bob Bucsko and assistant coach Jeff Lidey met with parents, current Liberty Bell players and past players to talk about the possibility of returning to 8-man play. Wilbur said that Bucsko had approached him with concerns about injuries and the Mountain Lions’ depleted roster, and suggested considering the 8-man option.

Wilbur said that several other schools in the region are also contemplating a switch to 8-man next year, and it may be possible to form a new league. The proposal has been reviewed by the Methow Valley School District board.

The Mountain Lions played one season of 8-man football, in 2015, when they racked up an 8-1 record, averaged 53 points per game and scored 70 or more points on several occasions.


The Liberty Bell High School volleyball team’s dramatic turnaround this year was almost enough to get them into post-season play. The Lady Lions finished the season with an overall record of 9-6 and a record of 4-4 in league play – good enough for fifth place. But only four teams from the CW 2B league move on in the playoffs. The previous year, Liberty Bell was 3-13 overall.

The Lady Lions showed how far they’ve come by nearly knocking off powerhouse Brewster, which took the league title with an 8-0 record.

Liberty Bell senior Ruthann Matteson was named to the CW 2B All-League second team. Honorable mention went to junior Hailey Damman and freshman Jadyn Mitchell.


The Lady Lions arrived at the state finals in Sumner with an undefeated record, but their quest for a state championship fell short. Still, the Lady Lions came away with a fourth-place finish in the 1B/2B division.

In the first semifinal game, Liberty Bell fell again to its annual nemesis and eventual state champion, St. George’s, losing 4-1. Playing for third place against Adna, the Lady Lions lost 3-0. St. George’s took the title with a 2-0 win over Kalama.

Liberty Bell came into the Sumner finals as the district and league champions, with an unblemished 18-0 record. Five Lady Lions were named to the CW 2B All-League first team: senior Sally Thornton-White, senior Spencer Hoffner, junior Tommie Ochoa, junior Ali Palm and sophomore Josephine Cole. Thornton-White was named the league’s most valuable player. Liberty Bell head coach Lincoln Post was named coach of the year, and the Lady Lions won the league sportsmanship award.

Named to the All-League second team were junior Maya Sheely and freshman Chloe Sprauer. Sophomore Cymone Van Marter was accorded honorable mention.

In 2016, at Liberty Bell’s most-recent trip to the finals in Sumner, the Lady Lions lost to St. George’s in the semifinals and finished fourth. In 2017, St. George’s eliminated Liberty Bell in quarterfinals play. The Lady Lions missed a trip to Sumner in 2015, but took second in 2014, third in 2013 and fourth in 2012.


The Methow Valley Killer Whales swim team capped off a dominating season with a powerful first-place finish at the league championship meet. The Methow Valley team stroked its way to 866 points, finishing ahead of the Okanogan Bullfrogs with 620, the Brewster Bearacudas with 515.5 and the Omak Manta Rays with 297.5. It was the second consecutive league title for the Killer Whales, whose nine-year winning streak was interrupted by the Bearacudas in 2016 because the Wagner Memorial Pool’s closure for repairs delayed training for the local swimmers.

Three Killer Whales earned high-point honors for the day: Tyler Darwood in the 15-16-year-old boys’ group; Gavin Blank in the 9-10-year-old boys’ group; and Clara Ramsey-George in the 7-8-year-old girls’ group.


The Methow Valley Nordic Team’s Novie McCabe won two national championships, and anchored an all-MVNT relay team to another first-place finish, at the Junior National Championships in Utah. McCabe also won two first-place titles in the previous year’s Junior Nationals in the U16 division. This year she competed in the U18 girls group.

Several other MVNT skiers had impressive finishes as well.

The Pacific Northwest Ski Association U18 girls’ relay team was comprised entirely of MVNT skiers. Ella Kuzyk led off, Gretta Scholz took the second leg and McCabe anchored.

In the U16 boys race, featuring another all-MVNT team, Travis Grialou led off, handing off to Ian Delong in 4th position, just 3 seconds from 3rd. Delong handed off to Walker Hall in 6th place. Hall turned it on with the fastest time of the day, moving the MVNT team up to 3rd place and another podium spot.


Steve Bondi took over as general manager of the Winthrop Rink, replacing Connor Walsh.

At Loup Loup Ski Bowl, the new general manager is Dave Betts, who replaces C.P. Grosenick.

Chase Rost resigned as activities director at Liberty Bell High School, and was replaced by Michael Wilbur, the Mountain Lions’ baseball coach for the past several years.

Mike and Laurie Hilton of Winthrop took over management of the Bear Creek Golf Course.

Athena Milani, a standout performer on the cross-country and track teams, was named queen of the 2018 Methow Valley Rodeo.


Sadie and Erik Bjornsen, the sister-and-brother Nordic skiing stars who grew up in Mazama, competed for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Cross Country Skiing Team at the XXIII Olympic Winter Games in PyenongChang, South Korea. Both Bjornsens represented the United States in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. And both have been successfully competing on the World Cup Circuit in Europe.


Liberty Bell High School finished sixth among the state’s 2B schools in the annual Scholarship Cup competition for the 2017-18 sports season.

The Scholarship Cup is the WIAA’s most prestigious annual school award. The yearlong competition recognizes the top school in each of the six WIAA classifications based on academic, athletic and sportsmanship excellence. Points are awarded by a school’s finish in each of the WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires State Championships and Academic State Championships. St. George’s high school was first among the 2B schools in Scholarship Cup competition.

The Liberty Bell boys’ cross-country team took first place in the scholastic scoring category. The girls’ cross-country took second in the scholastic category, while earning “activity” points for Liberty Bell as the state champions in the 2B division. The boys’ cross-country team took second at the state meet.


The Liberty Bell Knowledge Bowl team once again squared off with perennial powerhouse St. George’s in the final round of the 2018 state 2B championship meet, but this time it was second place that was on the line – and the Mountain Lions prevailed.

In 2017, Liberty Bell edged St. George’s and claimed its first Knowledge Bowl state championship. In this year’s final round, Federal Way Public Academy took the championship. Liberty Bell and St. George’s were tied for second, necessitating what amounts to a Knowledge Bowl shootout. Liberty Bell won, 4-1, to claim the 2018 second-place trophy at the meet in Arlington.

Team members were captain Noah Batson, Emerson Worrell, Lazo Gitchos, Nicholas Fitzmaurice, Liliana Hart-Beck and Tova Portmann-Bown.

Liberty Bell took second place in 2016, and had never placed higher than fourth before that.


The University of Washington club team earned a hard-fought 4-3 win over Eastern Washington University in the second annual Apple Puck at the Winthrop Rink.  In the previous year’s inaugural event, the Huskies rolled over the short-handed club team from Washington State University, 8-0, at the regulation-size, open-air rink.

This year’s Apple Puck is reconstituted as a four-team tournament featuring the UW, WSU, Eastern Washington and Western Washington club teams.


Liberty Bell student Eli Nielsen was named to U.S. biathlon team for both the 2018 Youth and Junior World Championships in Estonia; and for the Male Junior IBU Cup #3 and Junior Open European Championships in Slovenia. Nielsen was chosen by the U.S. Biathlon International Competition Committee after the U.S. Junior/Youth World Championship Trials. Liberty Bell student Lazo Gitchos also competed at the trials.

A year previous, Nielsen was also named to the World Youth and Junior Championship team to represent the United States in European competition. He was on the U.S. team competing in the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway, in 2016, and was also a 2015 USA Youth and Junior Biathlon World Championship Team Trials qualifier.

Biathlete Kelsey Dickinson, a Liberty Bell High School graduate who skied competitively for the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, qualified for her third NCAA cross-country skiing championships.