By Don Nelson
Winning a state championship isn’t easy. Repeating is even harder. But the Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross-country team, and top runner Novie McCabe, emphatically repeated their state championship performances of 2016 with follow-up victories in 2017. Meanwhile, the boys’ cross-country team also repeated its second-place finish at the state meet.
McCabe had a banner year on skis as well, winning two national titles at the Nordic Junior Championships in Lake Placid, New York.
As for firsts: The Liberty Bell High School Knowledge Bowl team won its first-ever state championship. And the elementary school’s Math is Cool sixth-grade team took first place at the State Masters Competition. The Methow Valley Killer Whales swim team reclaimed its county championship status as well.
Also competing at the state meet level were the boys’ and girls’ track teams, the baseball team, the girls’ soccer team, the softball team and Finlay Holston in wrestling.
Here’s a team-by-team summary of accomplishments in 2017:
It was a grueling season for the Mountain Lions, who finished winless at 0-20 and were often on the wrong side of lopsided scores. Coach Kyle Acord praised the team for its non-stop hustle and competitive spirit. The team lost seniors Leif Portmann-Bown, Carter Dornfeld, Zane Herrera, Corydon Goodman and Brendan Saling. Portmann-Bown was the team’s leading scorer with an average of 8.5 points per game and earned an honorable mention on the all-league team. Liberty bell also received the league’s sportsmanship award.
The Lady Lions finished fourth in the Central Washington 2B league and qualified for postseason play. They lost a hard-fought contest in the opening round of the district tournament, falling to Walla Walla Academy, 48-45, in overtime. That ended their season with a 14-10 record, after winning only four games and failing to make post-season play the previous year.
Among the highlights: At the Cascade Holiday Tourney, the Lady Lions beat host Cascade 40-38 and then were just edged out by Eatonville, 54-51, in the title game.
For the regular season, senior Lauren Fitzmaurice led the team in scoring at 14.3 points per game, followed by juniors Katie Labanauskas, 11.1, and Lauren Ochoa, 8.8. Fitzmaurice was named to the all-league first team, while Labanauskas was named to the second team and Ochoa to the third team.
Fitzmaurice was also named state Athlete of the Week by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in January.
Junior Finlay Holston took first place in the district wrestling finals at 182 pounds, and was one of six Liberty Bell wrestlers who advanced to the regional tournament: Jed McMillan at 106 pounds, Tanner White at 138 pounds, Magnus Treise at 152 pounds, Caleb Simmons at 160 pounds and Alex Garcia-Lopez at 170 pounds. In the women’s district tournament, Liberty Bell’s Shelby White competed but did not advance to regionals.
Holston then advanced to the state meet, while White and McMillan were named as alternates. At the state meet, Holston took second place in the 182-pound division. Liberty Bell finished 23rd among 43 teams at the meet.
The Lady Lions finished the regular season with a 15-4 record that included a 10-game winning streak and first-round victory in the district tournament. They moved on to regional play and the No. 3 seed. At regionals, the Lady Lions won one game and lost two, which allowed them to advance to the state tournament.
At the state tournament, Liberty Bell won a game and lost two, finishing 18-9 for the season.
Juniors Devin Surface and Lauren Ochoa were named to the all-league first team. Junior Katie Labanauskas was named to the second team, and Janie McMillan and Nadine Treise were accorded honorable mention. Coach Lee Pilkinton was named coach of the year. Liberty Bell also won the league’s sportsmanship award.
The Mountain Lions compiled an impressive season that led them to a first-place tie with Brewster in the CWB league and advancement to post-season play. Liberty Bell won its first district playoff game and finished third in district competition, moving on to the state tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
However, the Mountain Lions fell to Colfax, 12-2, and did not advance to the finals. Liberty bell finished with an overall record of 19-6, 14-2 in league play.
Three Mountain Lions were named to the all-league first team: senior Derek Alumbaugh, junior Finlay Holston and sophomore Peter Aspholm. Named to the second team was senior Cole Darwood. Accorded honorable mentions were sophomore Reid Wengerd and freshman Shay Crandall.
Alumbaugh and Darwood were also chosen for in all-state games post-season.
The Mountain Lions compiled a 2-8 record in league play and finished 3-11 overall, an improvement over the previous year’s 2-12 finish. Liberty Bell continued to make progress throughout the season, improving its performances against league teams.
Goalkeeper Mike Hafsos was named to the all-league first team. Defenseman Eden Davis, midfielder Henry Jones and forward Jed Butler were named to the all-league second team.
TRACK AND FIELD
The Lady Lions took first place at the league championship and subdistrict meet, qualifying more than a dozen performers for the district meet. Meanwhile, the boys took sixth place in the league and subdistrict competition and sent seven athletes to district.
From the district meet — where the girls took first place and the boys were seventh — 10 girls and four boys qualified for the state meet.
At the state meet, the boys scored 5 points while the girls tallied 9 points.
In the 300-meter hurdles, junior Seth Stevie was fifth and sophomore Brayden White was eighth. On the girls’ side, freshman Gretta Scholz set a personal record while taking fourth place in the 1,600-meter run. The girls’ 4x200M relay team of sophomores Sally Thornton-White, Athena Milani, Lucy Cole and freshman Maya Sheely took sixth place in the finals. Sophomore Icel Sukovaty took eighth place in the 3,200M run with her best time of the season.
The Liberty Bell boys’ team took first place in the CWB league with an undefeated record (8-0, 10-2 overall), while the girls claimed second place in league play (8-1, 8-5 overall). Seven Liberty Bell players moved on to the second round of district playoffs: Logan Butler, Erin Frey and Ruthann Matteson for the girls, Tyler White, Isaac Blodgett, Jesse Schulz and Tim Haley for the boys. Frey and Matteson qualified as alternates in doubles play for the state tournament.
The highlight of the Mountain Lions’ season was a stunning 15-14 upset of Manson in Liberty Bell’s homecoming game. The game was won with a touchdown and two-point conversion with only a few seconds left on the clock.
The Mountain Lions rebounded from the previous year’s record 2-6 record by finishing 3-6 under new coach Bob Bucsko. A couple of close games could have gone either way for the Mountain Lions, who were usually outweighed by rarely outhustled.
Senior Seth Stevie was named to the first team all-league squad on offense. Honorable mention went to sophomore Magnus Treise and junior Tanner White. On defense, Treise was named to the second team and White as an honorable mention.
The Lady Lions played extremely well at times but inconsistency cost them in some close matches. They finished season with 3-13 record. Libero Ruthann Matteson, a junior, was named to the all-league first team. Senior Katie Labanauskas received honorable mention recognition.
The Lady Lions built an impressive season-long record in advancing to the state tournament once again. A stingy defense and productive offense carried the team to a 13-5 record.
Liberty Bell earned its way to the state tournament as a No. 2 seed from District 5/6 after losing for a third time to league champion Brewster. In the first round of state competition, the Lady Lions lost 1-0 to St. George’s and so did not make it back to Sumner for the semifinals games. Liberty Bell had finished fourth at the state tournament in 2016.
Leading scorer Sally Thornton-White (forward) was named to the all-league first team along with goalkeeper Lauren Ochoa, defender Anna Post and midfielder Haley Post. Named to the second team were defender Ali Palm and defender Stella Gunnip-Hunter. Honorable mention went to midfielder Tommie Ochoa. Coach Lincoln Post was named coach of the year, and the Lady Lions won the team sportsmanship award.
The boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams went into the season with high expectations. The girls, led by then-freshman Novie McCabe winning the individual championship, took first place at the state meet in 2016 — the first ever individual and team titles for the girls. The boys finished in a surprising second. Most of the top runners were returning.
Both squads had strong 2017 seasons, often traveling far and wide to find tougher competition to prepare them for the end-of-season meets. The girls’ team was ranked No. 1 in the state, and cemented their standing with easy wins at the league and regional meets. In the league meet, the girls’ team scored a perfect 15 points, and the boys won their eighth consecutive league title. At the district meet, the Lady Lions scored 17 points for the win, and the boys also took first place.
At the state meet, the girls improved on the previous year’s score of 24 points, winning with a remarkably low total of 23 points. McCabe repeated as state champion, with fellow sophomore Gretta Scholz in second. The boys, showing great depth, finished second once again.
Named to the all-league first team for the girls were sophomores McCabe and Scholz, and juniors Ella Kuzyk, Icel Sukovaty and Athena Milani. Second-team honors went to junior Lucy Cole and freshman Eva Weymuller. Freshman Lindsay Worrell received an honorable mention.
For the boys, named to the all-league first team were senior Eli Nielsen, junior Emerson Worrell, sophomore Walker Hall and freshman Ian Delong. Freshman Travis Grialou and senior Cade Quigley were named to the second team. Receiving honorable mention were juniors Simon Studen, Peter Aspholm and Lazo Gitchos.
The boys team won the Academic State Championship for 2B schools.
McCabe was named state Athlete of the Week by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association in November.
Other noteworthy accomplishments:
• Methow Valley biathlete Eli Nielsen was named to the World Youth and Junior Championships men’s team to represent the United States in international competition.
• The Methow Valley Elementary School sixth-grade Math is Cool team took first place at the regional competition in Wenatchee. Later, the team took first place in the State Masters Competition. Team members included Sawyer Crandall, Kellen Miles, Graham Sheley and Carter Sheley.
• The inaugural Apple Cup hockey game between club teams from the University of Washington and Washington State University drew a crowd of more than 350 to the Winthrop Rink, where the Huskies handled the Cougars, 8-0.
• Liberty Bell High School freshman Novie McCabe, representing the Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT), took first place in the U16 girls’ 5-kilometer race at the Nordic Junior Championships in Lake Placid, New York. Liberty Bell freshman Gretta Scholz finished 29th among 65 racers in the competition. In the U16 boys’ competition, MVNT’s Walker Hall finished 12th in a field of 67, while teammate Travis Grialou finished 34th. MVNT’s Taya Delong raced in the U18 girls’ competition, finished 60th in a field of 85.
Later in the national competition, McCabe claimed a second national title in the U16 girls’ sprint.
McCabe was also featured in Sports Illustrated magazines “Faces in the Crowd” section, which highlights the achievements of high school and college athletes around the country.
• Liberty Bell High School’s Knowledge Bowl team won its first state championship, edging St. George’s for the 2B title. Team members were Sebastian Hogness, Nate Hirsch, Bram Wathen, Noah Batson, Danielle Mott and Corinne Dietz.
• For the second consecutive year, Liberty Bell High School finished fourth among the state’s 2B schools in the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association and Washington Army National Guard Scholarship Championships for the 2016-17 season. The year-long competition recognizes the top schools in each of the six WIAA classifications based on academic, athletic and sportsmanship excellence. Big point winners for Liberty Bell in athletic competition were the girls’ cross-country team, which took first in the state, the boys’ cross-country team, which took second in the state, and the girls’ soccer team, which finished fourth at the state tournament. On the academic side, the soccer girls finished first in the state among 2B schools, while the baseball team finished second.
• The Liberty Bell track and field facilities were completely refurbished, including a new eight-lane track, at an estimated cost of $550,000–$575,000.
• After a dominant season, the Methow Valley Killer Whales swim team won the Okanogan County championship title, overwhelming the field with 1,031.5 points over competitors Okanogan, Omak and Brewster.