The coronavirus pandemic brought an abrupt halt to high school sports competition in Washington state at about the time the spring season of 2020 was finishing up. And while prep athletes may now practice under some proscribed circumstances, they are still not allowed to compete under COVID-related protocols.
For Liberty Bell High School, the suspension of competition hit the spring sports teams hard, particularly seniors hoping to wrap up their careers with more success. The track and field, baseball, softball, tennis and boys’ soccer seasons were all canceled.
This fall, the football, wrestling, girls’ soccer and volleyball seasons were at least postponed under new schedules developed by the Washington Interscholastic Athletics Association, which oversees high school sports in the state.
While most sports still are scheduled to have truncated seasons smashed into the first five months of 2021, the outlook for easing of coronavirus restrictions did not look good at the end of the year.
Before the remaining 2020 seasons were canceled or postponed, the Liberty Bell girls’ and boys’ basketball teams both extended their seasons into the playoffs, and the wrestling team could boast of a second-place winner at the state meet. The valley’s Nordic skiers, meanwhile, continued their impressive performances at the local, national and international levels. Alas, the Liberty Bell Knowledge Bowl team was denied a chance to defend its 2019 state title.
After three seasons of frustration, the Liberty Bell High School boys’ basketball team battled its way into the 2B district tournament. Coach Kyle Acord was named Central Washington 2B league coach of the year for the 2019-20 season as Liberty Bell experienced something of a renaissance. After the Mountain Lions won just four games in the previous three seasons, Acord coached a much more competitive team to a 9-16 record that included earning a spot in the district tournament. The Mountain Lions did not advance past the first round.
Junior Nolan Falcon-George, the team’s leading scorer at 11.1 points per game, was named to the All-League third team. Honorable mention went to junior Tyler Darwood, the Mountain Lions’ second-leading scorer at 7.7 points per game. Liberty Bell also won the team sportsmanship award.
The Lady Lions advanced to the district tourney, compiled a 17-6 record and took second place in the CW2B league for the second consecutive year under the direction of coach Stephanie Mitchell. However, Liberty Bell was not able to repeat its 2019 trip to the regional tournament after its season-ending loss in the district tournament.
For the second consecutive year, sophomore Jadyn Mitchell was named to the Central Washington 2B girls’ basketball All-League first team. Mitchell averaged 15.9 points per game. As a freshman, Mitchell averaged 15.2 points per game.
Senior Ali Palm was named to the All-League second team. Palm averaged 9.5 points per game. Honorable mention went to senior Tommie Ochoa, the team’s floor leader at point guard. She averaged 6 points per game. Ochoa also earned Honorable Mention as a junior. Junior Madi Surface was named to the All-League defensive team.
In the 2018-19 season, the Lady Lions finished 18-6 after losing in the first round of the 2B regionals.
Junior Bodie Paul took second place at the state wrestling meet in the 1B/2B 152-pound division, and was named to the Central Washington 2B All-League first team in that division. Sophomore Cody White was named to the third team in the 126-pound class, and sophomore Noah Holston also earned third-team honors in the 170-pound division.
Paul dominated all three of his regional matches to earn a berth to the Mat Classic. White and Holston finished one place short of a spot in the state tournament. Both qualified as alternates to state. Paul fell just one move short of the state title at Mat Classic XXXII in the Tacoma Dome. He lost to the third-best wrestler in the state in the final match.
Wrestling for the girls’ team were senior Shelby White and freshman Mariah Paz, who competed for berths in the state tournament against girls from all classifications. At the girls’ regionals in Othello, White had her run to state derailed by injury.
After a loss and then a win in the early rounds, White faced the same wrestler from West Valley High School who had defeated her one week earlier and went on to take the district championship.
But after a hard-fought victory, White appeared to be injured, and she had to forfeit her next match. That put her in sixth place, with only the top four finishers advancing to state. Paz lost two tough matches at regionals, ending her season.
The Liberty Bell High School Knowledge Bowl team, state 2B champions in 2019, expected to defend their title at the state meet in March. But the event was canceled because of coronavirus-related restrictions. Liberty Bell was coming off an impressive first-place finish at the North Central Washington regionals.
It could have been regarded as a rebuilding season for Liberty Bell. The team –which included one junior and no seniors –was junior Lindsay Worrell, sophomores Per Dillingham, Alex Eslava, and Sophia Newton, and freshmen Rocco Wildman and Madison Strauss. Dillingham was the only returning member from the previous year’s state championship team.
Liberty Bell had finished either first or second in the previous four Knowledge Bowl state meets, and finished in the top 10 seven out of the previous eight years.
The Methow Valley’s Novie McCabe made an impact at the World Junior Championships in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, where she was part of the U.S. Nordic skiing team. McCabe, a senior placed 9th in the 15-kilometer freestyle mass start race, qualifying to compete in the World Cup finals in Canmore, Alberta. Skiing the anchor leg, McCabe was part of the U.S. relay team that took second place in the 4x-3.3K relay.
Meanwhile, Methow Valley Nordic Team (MVNT) competed at events in Canada, Oregon and California, and hosted the regional Junior National Qualifier races on the McCabe Trail at Liberty Bell High School. Competitors included Walker Hall, Travis Grialou, Aidan Whitelaw, Ian Delong, Cooper Legler, Oliver Orkand, Graham Sheley, Carter Sheley, Alex Tareski, Novie McCabe, Gretta Scholz, Greta Laesch, Keeley Brooks, Lena Nelson, Jori Grialou, Stella Scholz, Mariah Lucy, Wyatt Albright, Dashe McCabe, Leki Albright, Marta Schkrohowsky, Zoe Kaltenbach, Dexter Delaney, Conrad Laesch, Baker Smith, Emmett Bondi, Ben Kaufman, Aidan Sands, Emil Schkrohowsky, Cooper Buzzard, Sam Polson, Marit Nelson, Wylie Smith, Josie Bolinger, Sisu Clark, Clara Ramsay George, Madison Williams, Maren Sands, Nils Smith, Dylan Sands, Jude Polson and Neva Clark.
The Loup Loup Alpine Ski Team hosted the annual Wolf Chase Ski Race at the Loup Loup Ski Bowl, featuring more than 140 racers ages 7-14 representing Alpental, Stevens Pass, Mission Ridge, 49 Degrees North and Mt Baker. The team’s top finishers included, for the girls, Ella Gann, Mabel Grayum, Elaine Walker, Nella Belcher, and Greta Schumacher. Competing for the boys were Gabriel Boesel, Oliver Nelson, Lyric Ashford, Wyatt Schumacher, Josef Gann and Damon Alumbaugh.
Eva Weymuller was named to the U.S. Biathlon Female Youth World Championship Team. Eli Neilsen was named to the U.S. Male Junior World Championship Team. Both attended Liberty Bell High School.
The Liberty Bell teams were able to practice and hold time trials during the fall, but could not compete in any meets. The previous year, the girls’ team took second place at the state meet, and the boys’ team took eighth place.
The popular Apple Puck, a tournament featuring four college club hockey teams, returned to the Winthrop Rink for the fourth consecutive year. Competing were teams from the University of Washington (which had won the previous three tournaments), Washington State University, Western Washington University and, for the first time, Gonzaga University. In the championship game, Western trounced the UW, 8-2.