By PAUL DELANEY
This past Monday was one of both wonderment and reflection for Medical Lake High School athletics director Chris Spring.
On a day spent away from the office, but not from work, Spring got to enjoy watching his kids make a snowman and chuckle as a pair of moose nosed around outside his backyard during the observance of Veterans Day.
Then Spring turned to the subject of the day, the strides the teams under his watch as the activities administrator had made this past fall season.
Medical Lake’s cross country team scored a third place in 1A competition at the recently completed state championships in Pasco and the Cardinal football team earned its first playoff berth in a decade.
Of course some upward mobility seemed to be in order. Medical Lake finally got its wish to become a member of the Northeast A League, a move they had sought for the last three years.
It just took two more years than was really necessary as the school navigated through the muck, mire, minefields and hurdles that constitute the bureaucracy of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.
But that’s an entirely different column.
“We thought coming in that we would have a better opportunity to be competitive,” Spring said. “But again, we don’t gauge all our successes and failures on wins and losses.”
There are multiple measurements Medical Lake uses to see if they are successful or not. “Most importantly I think is our participation rate,” Spring said. “Our numbers are holding steady from last year.”
Football numbers were up a little from last year for a team that flipped over from a 4-5 finish in 2011 to a 6-3 record this year. A 44-14 loss to Cascade of Leavenworth ended the season.
“We hung out at about 50 and now we’re over 60,” Spring said. “Our sub varsity was more in a position where we didn’t know what to do with them all.” A good problem to have, perhaps? Unless you’re that skinny freshman shivering on the sidelines waiting for your call from the coach.
Obviously with cross country there was a pretty good idea the Cards were going to be competitive.
“They have a work ethic and a tradition that they’ve built in three years – obviously Gene (Blankenship) has been in that business for I don’t know, 30-plus years – he brought the expectations to a whole new level,” Spring said as he spoke of his veteran head coach who helped guide the Cards to a podiums finish.
Team members are buying in and they are just fired up to get on the roads every day and get better, Spring said. “You just saw it throughout the year, whether it was a league meet, an invitational, our kids’ times were just amazingly improving on a weekly basis.”
“When we got to state we thought we were going to be OK and then when you compare times to other schools through Athletic.net and try to project, we had an idea we’d be competitive,” Spring said. “But as far as an idea of what we did and accomplished, I think it was above and beyond what any of us had hopes and dreams for; it was a pretty cool deal for our kids.”
Volleyball continues to struggle if that success iswins and losses. But as you know Spring does not. The Cardinals, under third-year coach Julie Smith finished winless in NEA play and 1-14 overall.
”Volleyball’s a unique sport and if you’re not clubbing it all year around - which if you’ look at the Freeman’s and Lakeside’s who are - on given nights, they are contenders for a state championship,” Spring said. “You’re just not going to get there unless you really start putting in the time.”
Third-year coach Julie Smith has definitely put in the time instituting camps and a summer league designed to improves skills in game-like situations.
“And like you say, Julie does a good job at finding avenues, every avenue possible to help us do those things without the expenses involved in club volleyball,” Spring said. “But again, it’s gong to take some time,” he insisted.
The Northeast A League, Spring thinks “is as good as – one, two three – is as good as the GNL (Great Northern League), any of those schools can win.”
“The soccer piece, you know, it’s an interesting league, there’s only five teams in the girls’ league,” Spring said. The Cards were 1-7 in their first NEA season, 2-12 overall under veteran head coach Zane Higgins.
A high point had to be in their season finale, a 2-1 loss to 2A playoff team West Valley. “I think year in, year out in our girls’ soccer we’ll continue to grow and have more opportunities that we had in the GNL.”
With real winter ahead there will be more snowmen to be made, possibly more visits from moose and maybe more success for Spring to discuss in a few months.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.