Retiring Sports Editor Bob Taylor shares milestones from a long career on the sidelines

March 6, 2012

By Bob Taylor

Kasen Williams, then-Skyline High School senior, makes his winning triple-jump leap of 45 feet, 5 1/2 inches, during the KingCo track and field championships May 13, 2011, at Juanita High School. File

I kind of know how Bill Gates must have felt when he made his first million. When I joined The Issaquah Press news staff May 22, 2000, I struck it rich, too!

Five days after being hired at The Press I covered my first Issaquah School District state championship team. Actually, it was inevitable that an Issaquah team would win when Issaquah and Skyline met for the 3A state baseball title in Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium. Issaquah won 5-3.

This was a sign of things to come. In December, I covered the unbeaten Skyline football team that won the 3A state title with a 42-30 victory against Lakes in the Tacoma Dome.

From that year on, the Issaquah School District has had a team state champion or an individual state champion every year. Teams from Issaquah, Skyline and Liberty combined to win 24 state titles in Washington Interscholastic Activities Association-sanctioned events from 2000-2011.

In addition to WIAA sports, the Issaquah Lacrosse Club won three Washington High School Boys Lacrosse Association state titles. So, 27 titles during that time span is really remarkable for the school district.

Because of health issues and other factors, I have not been able to be out in the trenches covering Issaquah teams the past three years. However, I nevertheless retire later this week with some great memories of Issaquah District teams and athletes.

There were so many incredible events that I am not sure where to start when trekking down memory lane. Certainly, covering the 2000 state title baseball game was special for me because the Issaquah coach was Rob Reese, who I first met several years earlier when he played baseball for Interlake High School.

And that Skyline football team in 2000 was enjoyable to watch on its march to the title. Mitch Browne, who directed a couple of spectacular comebacks that season, quarterbacked the Spartans. His younger brother Max led the Spartans to a sixth title last fall. I guess titles run in the family.

If a person sticks around long enough — and in my case 40 years — you are bound to cover sons and daughters of athletes you covered years before. In particular, there is Sammamish resident Scott Pelluer. I watched him play football in 1976 for Interlake. I had the opportunity to cover Scott’s oldest son Tyler, when he played at Skyline, and daughter Jordan, who played basketball at Skyline. Unfortunately, I did not get the chance to cover Cooper, who now plays for the University of Washington, or Peyton, who is currently a standout at Skyline.

There have been some awesome athletes in the district. I was fortunate to have seen multitalented Kasen Williams for a year. I still remember going to his first varsity football game at Skyline. A Skyline parent in the press box tapped me on the shoulder before the game and said, “Watch Kasen Williams. He is going to be a D-1 player some day.” The parent was not wrong.

Williams, who now plays for the University of Washington, was easily the best all-around high-school athlete I have ever seen in my career. He excelled in football, basketball and track. Williams was a talented receiver in football, setting several school records. In basketball, he was an all-KingCo Conference 4A player. However, what amazed me as much as anything was his prowess in track.

A muscular athlete, Williams concluded a remarkable high-school career last May by winning three individual titles at the Class 4A state meet. He won the triple jump with a leap of 50 feet, 9 1/4 inches, which ranked third in the nation. He captured the long jump with a 24-5 1/4 effort and won the high jump by clearing 6-10.

Mkristo Bruce, who starred in football, basketball and track at Liberty; and Mark Gray, a standout in football and baseball, are a couple of other all-around athletes who were pretty special. Bruce, who had a stellar career at Washington State University, holds the distinction of being the only district athlete to play in the National Football League.

And then there were baseball stars Colin Curtis, of Issaquah, and Tim Lincecum, of Liberty. I am not surprised either got to The Show because both worked hard at their sport.

Curtis, an all-state player at Issaquah who later starred at Arizona State University, always worked on his hitting. After home games, even if he was hitting .400 and had gone 4-for-4, Curtis took extra batting practice. The work paid off as he made it to the New York Yankees in 2010.

Lincecum, well, he has been a sensational pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, winning two National League Cy Young Awards, pitching in an All-Star Game and helping the club win a World Series in 2010.

The first time I saw Lincecum I mistook him for a Little Leaguer. Sorry, Tim. It was at the 2002 KingCo opener between Skyline and Liberty at Liberty. In the sixth inning, I saw this skinny, little kid walk down to the bullpen. I thought he was just going down to play catch.

However, in the bottom of the seventh inning with the bases loaded, then-Liberty coach Glen Walker brought in this unassuming young player to face the heart of Skyline’s lineup. Lincecum struck out the side to earn his first high-school save.

From then on, Lincecum was on every Major League scout’s radar. During his senior year, scouts would call Walker to find out when Lincecum was pitching again. Lincecum capped his senior year by blanking O’Dea 8-0 in the semifinals. The Patriots won the 3A title next day by beating West Valley, of Yakima.

Although drafted during his senior year, Lincecum elected to play baseball at the University of Washington, where he had three outstanding seasons before getting drafted again. He signed with the Giants and as they say, the rest is history.

As far as female athletes, it was pretty tough to beat Liberty’s Jamie Corwin. She was an all-league soccer player as a goalkeeper, all-league basketball player and a state-champion javelin thrower. She took a year off from track as a junior to play fastpitch and earned all-league honors as a catcher. Liberty coaches maintain she could have excelled at any sport she tried — even football. When Corwin was in middle school, she blew away the boys in the pass, punt and kick competition.

In soccer, Liberty coach Darren Tremblay used Corwin on throw-ins because she was so strong. She would race down the field and almost always threw the ball right on goal to give a teammate a header. Her throws were like a corner-kick. As soon as she did the throw-in, Corwin sprinted down the field to protect the goal. She got a workout every game.

Andie Taylor was another special athlete. I first wrote about her when she was competing for the Issaquah Swim Team. She was just a middle-schooler then but already ranked among the nation’s top swimmers. At Skyline, she had an amazing career, winning seven state girls swimming titles. Now swimming for Stanford University, Taylor ranks in the school’s top 10 career leaders in four events.

I wish I could have played golf as well as Issaquah’s Brittany Tallman, who won two state championships. I wish I had the courage of Skyline’s Jeff Skiba, who despite an artificial leg, won the state high jump title in 2002, or Skyline’s Mike Johnson, who started in football despite having just one arm.

Or the perseverance of Liberty’s Kara Bennett, who won the state high jump title in 2004 and the triple jump in 2005. She might have repeated one of those titles in 2006. However, Bennett was injured in a gymnastics meet and was unable to jump at state her senior year. No problem, she switched to the javelin and placed 11th at state.

I am glad I was at the Mat Classic in 2003 to see Liberty’s B.J. Ward win the 140-pound state classic. One of the first people B.J. wanted to call after the match was his older brother Taylor, who was an U.S. Army Ranger stationed in Afghanistan.

Before coming to The Issaquah Press, I had never really covered gymnastics. I definitely became a fan of the sport during Issaquah High’s three-year reign as Class 3A state champions.

When it came to covering state tournaments, it was always a road trip — but nothing like what happened Memorial Day weekend 2004. Issaquah Press photographer Greg Farrar and I went to Everett to cover the 3A state baseball finals. Because of thundershowers, and the threat of more rain, WIAA officials decided to move the tournament to Yakima. So the next morning, Greg and I were on the road again. The semifinals and finals were played the same day. Issaquah prevailed in the title game, beating Columbia River, 8-2.

I was at the Tacoma Dome in 2007 to watch Skyline come from behind to beat O’Dea, 42-35, in the 3A state title game. And I was at the 3A state championship game that fall to watch Issaquah win its second straight title with a 1-0 victory against Seattle Prep. Kate Deines, who would later star at the University of Washington, scored the game-winning goal.

I saw some comebacks that fell short. For instance, in 2006 the Issaquah girls basketball team lost to Chief Sealth, 44-43, in the 3A state title game. Chief Sealth later forfeited the game because of recruiting violations. In the WIAA record books, first place is vacant for the 2006 tournament. In my heart, Issaquah is really first because the team played by the rules.

One of the great things about covering sports is that you always hope to see something happen that you have never seen before. For me, it happened in October 2002, when Skyline’s football team defeated Bellevue, 33-27, in two overtimes. In the second overtime, Skyline was in position to win the game when it sent out placekicker Adam Blasquez, to kick a 32-yard field goal. His attempt was blocked.

However, no whistle was blown by officials, meaning the ball was still live. Skyline coaches yelled to their players to pick up the ball. Jake Randolph, stepson of then-Skyline head coach Steve Gervais, picked up the ball and ran in for the winning touchdown. Randolph was presented with the game ball during the team meeting. An hour later, Randolph was still clutching the football.

One of the greatest finishes to a boys basketball game came in the 2002 3A state tournament in the Tacoma Dome. With a few seconds remaining, Curtis, better known for his baseball ability, flung a pass down court to teammate Hans Gasser, who went up and caught the ball, and then turned and hit a jumper just before the buzzer as Issaquah defeated Fife, 55-53. It was Issaquah’s only victory in the tournament that year, but certainly one the team cherished for a long time.

These are just a few of my cherished memories from 12 years at The Issaquah Press. One cannot always measure a career in terms of dollars. Rather, it is the memories that make one rich.

Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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Comments

One Response to “Retiring Sports Editor Bob Taylor shares milestones from a long career on the sidelines”

  1. Tyler Roush on March 9th, 2012 10:29 am

    Congratulations and all the best to you, Bob! I enjoyed the trip down memory lane — even remember a couple of those moments myself. Cheers!

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