Mike Sando: Whitworth, the west side and the web

Mike Sando has been writing about sports as a journalist since the 1990s, most recently with ESPN.com. His experience as a sports writer stretches back to his time at Whitworth University, though Sando’s desire to be a journalist began even earlier. “I pretty much knew from high school that I wanted to be a sportswriter,” Sando said. “At the time, newspapers were where to go.”

As part of a 10th-grade career-research project, Sando spoke to professional journalists in his home town of Sacramento, California. Sando said the advice the writers gave him was the best he has ever received.

“They said, ‘Just take classes and enjoy what you’re doing,’” Sando said. “I think that’s so important for whatever job you do, too. If you can love it, then you’ll be impassioned.”

Aside from the advice given to him by professionals in Sacramento, Sando’s father became the primary reason for him going to Whitworth, as his father was a 1960 Whitworth grad. When his father died in March of Sando’s senior year, Sando still did not know where he was going to college, but made his decision soon after.

“When he passed away, I decided to go [to Whitworth],” Sando said. “I had been up there for a visit, but I drove up there not knowing anybody and just started fresh.”

Sando’s experience writing his first article for The Whitworthian in 1988 sticks with him. Assigned to cover a football game between Whitworth and Central Washington University, he did not expect what ensued.

“The headline that was put on [the article] was something like ‘Wildcats annihilate Bucs.’ It was a pretty harsh headline. I never even saw it. I didn’t even know,” Sando said. “So I get back to my dorm room and there’s a sign on my door threatening physical harm for the article I’d written. There were multiple football players that lived down there and some are my buddies still to this day, but I was shook up.”

Sando wrote the article entitled "Wildcats annihilate Pirates" in 1988.

The experience did not sway Sando from being a sports journalist, and he became the sports editor of The Whitworthian a few years later. Looking back on his role during that time, Sando said he thinks of his time with newspaper production as a valuable experience.

“I can remember spending the entire night on Sunday nights,” Sando said. “We would have to produce the paper, and we had these early Macintosh computers and I can remember just being in that office. We had to get them to the printers at 6 a.m. in the morning or something. We’d be there the whole way through. You’d stay up the whole night. I think if you’re passionate about something you want to do, there’s an element of a grind to it.”

During his time at Whitworth, Sando interned at The Spokesman-Review, spending six months as a reporter and six months as a copy editor.

“It was a great experience for me because it got my foot in the door in high schools and high school tournaments,” Sando said. “[It was great] to be in the office in that environment where you’re editing the copy that comes in and learn what does and doesn’t work.”

Joe Palmquist, who was the assistant sports editor at the time and now serves as the head sports editor of The Spokesman-Review, said Sando approached the editors of the sports section and asked if there was any work he could do.

“He was this tall, gangly kid, real young,” Palmquist said. “We said, ‘We’ll put you to work taking phone calls,’ but his interest was pretty obvious right from the beginning that he wanted to do more than just take phone calls. He was eager to learn everything he could and he was really into sports. You could tell that.”

Sando’s opportunity with The Spokesman-Review came partly with the help of a Whitworthian colleague. Greg Orwig, Whitworth vice president of admissions and financial aid, was a classmate of Sando’s and served as the news editor during the time Sando served as the sports editor of The Whitworthian.

Orwig noticed Sando’s potential and encouraged him to approach the sports staff, Orwig said.

“He was very sharp, very good writer, quick writer, good editor and being colleagues on The Whitworthian, you come to appreciate people who get it and know what they’re doing,” Orwig said.

Sando used his time at the Spokesman copy desk to read through and get an understanding for good writing and what it took to emulate it, Palmquist said.

“I think reading a lot of copy really helped and he just had a great natural curiosity,” Palmquist said. “I mean, he loved sports. Some people are just natural at it and he was one of them.”

After getting his first full-time job at the Spokesman as a copyeditor, Sando eventually transitioned to covering the Eastern Washington University basketball and football beats. Things moved quickly for Sando then as he took over a vacant seat covering Washington State University football when he was 26.

John Blanchette, who was working as a sportswriter for the Spokesman at the time, said Sando had an interesting confrontation with then-standout WSU quarterback Ryan Leaf over something Sando wrote in an article.

“I can’t even remember the circumstances of it, but something he had written had somehow, and I’m sure it wasn’t even remotely bad in terms of being hypercritical,” Blanchette said. “It was just because it was Leaf. I think it was a practice, and Mike had a ball go whizzing by his head and Leaf said, ‘If I wanted to hit you I could,’ and he didn’t throw a slow ball.”

The level of profile with the WSU football beat eventually gave Sando some notoriety, Sando said.

“At the time, my good friend from Spokane, Dave Boling, had left to take a columnist job in Tacoma. Then, what are the odds that two years there on the WSU beat, after getting some really good experience covering the prime beat at the paper, what are the odds that John Clayton, one of the foremost NFL beat reporters at any newspaper in the country, is going to be leaving the Tacoma News Tribune to work at ESPN the magazine?” Sando said.

What improved the situation was the fact that not only was Boling working for the Tribune at the time, but he and Clayton were the traveling NFL columnists, Sando said.

“Dave was like, ‘Hey, you got to do this man. You don’t even know how good this would be.’ And I didn’t. I had no idea. I wasn’t even that initially interested,” Sando said. “Then we talked it over, I sent in a resume and months went by. Finally I interviewed and I ended up getting it, but to think it was all part of some grand plan by me- not at all.”

Boling, who continues to work as a sports columnist for the News Tribune, said Sando did a lot more for himself in getting to the Tribune then he gives himself credit for. Boling simply pointed the Tribune in Sando’s direction, Boling said.

“It was very impressive how he jumped in and quickly started developing sources,” Boling said. “I think part of that is his strengths as both a reporter and a writer. There’s a lot who are one or the other, but it’s far rarer to find somebody who has both.”

When Sando arrived at the Tacoma News Tribune as the new Seattle Seahawks beat reporter, his dedication and maturity allowed him to be successful, said Dale Phelps, managing editor of the Tribune.

“He’s a mature guy. At that time he was pretty young and covering a professional sports beat for the first time, but he had the kind of maturity where he could do that,” Phelps said. “He’s a hard-working guy, very detail-oriented. It’s important on beats like that because they’re very complex.”

Due to the fact that Sando was inheriting a beat in which the previous reporters had established a working relationship with Seahawks head coach Dennis Erickson, Sando says he was at an initial loss without an established relationship. However, Erickson was soon fired and Mike Holmgren was brought in. Sando then took it upon himself to do a profile piece on Holmgren right from the start, Phelps said.

“Mike went down and talked to Holmgren’s junior high teacher and stuff and really wrote a terrific story about it, but the story also had the benefit of impressing Holmgren,” Phelps said. “Holmgren knew Sando was doing all this work and that the guy was really all in and committed to his job.”

As the 2006 NFL Draft approached, though, the idea for a Seahawks draft blog would send Sando’s writing from the west side of Washington across the country. To provide more in-depth coverage of the Seahawks in the draft, Sando was tasked with creating a blog to integrate fan interaction and following. The web traffic on the newspaper website as a result of this story was unprecedented, Phelps said. They kept the blog going afterward.

“The thing that he got earlier than most people was the digital push that was going to transform our industry,” Phelps said. “He got it, he bought into it, he was an industry leader on it. I remember as part of the sports editors convention and stuff speaking at those about the things we were doing, and it was primarily Sando; he was getting a reputation throughout the industry as the front of the digital push and ultimately that’s what kind of got him his job at ESPN.”

When considering one’s career, it is about making the most of what one has in front of them. Continually focusing on doing a good job now will set one up better in the long term, Sando said.

“I’ve never felt ambitious like I’m plotting my next move,” Sando said. “I’m ambitious with what I’m doing now with the belief that if you like what you’re doing and you do it really well, it’ll probably work out better than if you’re scheming and trying to get somewhere. I just kind of take it as it comes.”

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men's basketball season ends with dramatic loss against Emory

After being fouled by sophomore forward Christian Jurlina with five seconds left in the game, Emory junior guard Davis Rao hit both shots from the free throw line to give the Eagles a one-point lead. A last-second 3-pointer from junior forward George Valle missed the mark and left the Pirates on the wrong side of a one-point deficit to end their tournament run. Despite 6-10 shooting from the field and 9-11 shooting from the strike for Valle and senior Adam Wilks’ 10-13 shooting from the field for a career-high 21 points to go with 11 rebounds, the Pirates could not keep the Eagles at bay.

“Adam did a really good job for us. He played the best basketball of his career that night,” head coach Matt Logie said.

Whitworth led Emory by three, 40-37, at the half with 26 of those Pirate points coming from the paint. However, Emory managed to keep their bench involved and put up 21 of their 37 points from bench play.

Points off the bench proved to be a key factor in keeping the Eagles around in spite of slim Whitworth leads in the last ten minutes of play. Sophomore guard Jonathan Terry put up 22 points off the bench and finished behind his teammate, senior forward Alex Foster, who was able to hit from all over the court as part of his 30 points and nine rebounds.

Foul trouble proved costly for both teams in the closing minutes but turned out to hit the Bucs hardest. Valle, senior forward Taylor Farnsworth and Jurlina all hit foul trouble early and spent significant second-half time on the bench. Jurlina fouled out with five seconds to play and was not able to make a run at the last-second shot opportunity for the Bucs.

“I think it affected our rotations. I think we got to a point in the game where we had some guys in foul trouble playing down the stretch and they may not have been in the game under normal circumstances,” Logie said. “We had to be a little bit more passive defensively and I thought it was harder for us to defend the rim and protect the paint down the stretch because of that.”

Farnsworth, who was limited to four points in nine minutes in the Emory loss has been dealing with a broken thumb for most of the season in addition to a leg injury he sustained in the last few weeks, Logie said.

“Taylor really just didn’t get in a rhythm whether it was fouls or just unfortunate circumstances. It was just one of those weekends for him and that happens,” Logie said. “You hate to see that happen to a senior, but we wouldn’t [have gone as far as we have] without Taylor Farnsworth and what he’s meant to our program.”

The Pirates finish the season 25-4 after going 15-1 at home and winning both the NWC Championship and the NWC Tournament Championship.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men’s basketball clinches NWC Tournament crown

After battling a tough Willamette team on Thursday, the men’s basketball team defeated an upstart Lewis & Clark team on Saturday, 69-58, for the Northwest Conference Tournament Championship. In a game with seven lead changes and only a five-point Pirate lead at the half, the contest would come down to the last few minutes before a definitive result could be determined. With the student section clad in white and the Pirate players sporting their white home jerseys, the setting looked like a good vs. evil matchup out of a movie as Whitworth opposed Lewis & Clark in their black and orange.

Head coach Matt Logie made a change for the starting lineup by starting senior forward Adam Wilks and having freshman guard Matt Staudacher come off the bench.

“We wanted to establish ourselves on the glass early on and really set the tone on the defensive side,” Logie said.  “When we were able to go in with Matt and play our traditional lineup, we were able to pick up the pace and the tempo and I thought it worked pretty well.”

Despite winning the tip, the Bucs could not get anything going early offensively. Both teams traded the lead for the first 10 minutes of play with Lewis & Clark forwards Bradley Carter and Carl Appleton providing very physical presences in the paint. In the last Whitworth outing against the Pioneers, Appleton finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds while scoring key baskets to keep Pioneers within striking distance throughout that game.

“It’s tough. [Appleton]’s a huge body and he knows how to use it,” Farnsworth said. “It’s just kind of about working early and trying to fight for position early because if he gets you buried, it’s pretty tough. He can just put you in the rim.”

However, early foul trouble and the Pirates’ effective full-court offensive push proved too much for the slower Lewis & Clark forwards.

“I thought it was important for us tonight against Lewis & Clark to try to play with some tempo and pace and get some things in transition because their defense is so good in the halfcourt,” Logie said. “You got to give your guys some freedom to attack and make plays and fortunately our defense was able to create some opportunities.”

Late scoring runs in the first half along with a 3-point dagger from sophomore guard Kenny Love at the buzzer gave the Pirates a 31-26 advantage after 20 minutes of play.

“We knew that their guards were really an area where we could try and get into the paint and free up things for others,” Love said. “Some of our basic sets where you throw it inside wouldn’t work so we tried to get some advantages there and that was one of them.”

After putting up 13 and six points respectively in the first half, Love and junior forward George Valle effectively took over the Pirate offense for the rest of the game.

Lewis & Clark would end up tying the game at 48 and taking a slim advantage off of a 3-pointer from second-team all-NWC guard Jason Luhnow at 8:08 to take a 51-50 lead. However, after a lay-in by Staudacher to retake the Whitworth lead, 52-51, the lead would never change again.

With the help of three 3-pointers from Luhnow in the last nine minutes, the Pioneers stayed within striking distance, but the performances of Valle and Love in the final 10 minutes made the difference in the end.

As Valle and Love continued to score, three steals and five blocks in the last six and a half minutes for Whitworth iced any chance of a Pioneer comeback. The game ended with the “Hack-a-Pirate” strategy for Lewis & Clark and the student section chanting, “I believe that we will win.”

Love led all scorers with 20 points while Valle, who was Mr. Consistent for the entire game, ended with 19. Valle said the multiple areas of talent from the guard position allowed Love and himself to be successful.

“Since we have so many good shooters, they don’t really like to help off of them if we put a good shooter in each corner. They can only help so much,” Valle said. “With that in their heads, Kenny and I are coming in with a full head of steam, attacking our defender and being able to create some good things.”

The Pirates clinched an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament with their ninth consecutive NWC Tournament crown. The Pirate matchup for the first round was announced on Monday. The men will take on LaGrange College in Atlanta, Georgia on Friday, March 6.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Men's basketball defeats Willamette with five Pirates in double figures

A towel over the face of junior Willamette forward Brandon Luedtke with less than a minute to play said it all for the Whitworth vs. Willamette tournament game on Thursday night. Luedtke, an All-NWC First Team selection, fouled out with less than five minutes to play en route to an 89-64 victory for the Pirates in the first round of the Northwest Conference Tournament. Despite the one-sided end result, the No. 4-seeded Bearcats proved to be a tough bunch. A slow offensive start for the Pirates left Willamette leading 10-5, five minutes in.

However, with strong offensive play from senior forward Adam Wilks, the deficit was closed and the Pirates found themselves tied at 16 three minutes later. A pull-up 3-pointer from sophomore guard and NWC Player of the Year, Kenny Love, sparked a 5-0 run for the Pirates to put them up 21-18. They would retain the lead for the rest of the game. Wilks early performance foreshadowed the 52 points in the paint the Pirates would score in the matchup.

“[Senior forward Taylor Farnsworth and I] just bring a lot of experience. We’ve both been here before and when you have that kind of leadership on the front lines it can just steady the guys,” Wilks said. “When we don’t get off to a great start, when we have the ability to bring in myself, a senior off the bench, to just keep things calm and play our game it really is a huge advantage for us.”

A second pull-up Love 3-pointer would contribute to an eight-point Whitworth lead with six and a half left in the first. A lay-in from sophomore forward Christian Jurlina off a Bearcat turnover would be the only points for Jurlina in the first half. However, 12 points for junior forward George Valle and eight for Kenny Love in the first half were the beginning of a multidimensional scoring effort from all areas of the floor for the Bucs.

“I think the key to our offense recently has been how balanced it has been,” Valle said. “I think we had five guys in double figures tonight which means everyone is scoring, everyone is sharing the ball, passing the ball and getting good looks. I think that’s really the key as to why we’re being so efficient on offense.”

After generating a 43-29 lead at halftime, the Bucs continued their offensive onslaught with Wilks, Love, Valle, freshman guard Matt Staudacher and even Jurlina all reaching double figures by the end of the contest. Inspired performances from Luedtke with 12 and senior Bearcat forward Kyle McNally with 18 points and 10 rebounds would not be enough to overcome the Pirates’ 51.5% shooting from the field and 53.8% from beyond the arc.

Willamette came into the second half with spirited efforts on the offensive and defensive sides of the floor and the Bucs’ early attempts to increase the lead were stymied. However, a steal by Love three minutes in led to a one-handed dunk in traffic that put the ice on any potential Bearcat comeback.

“[The Bearcats] have a great heart. They continue to fight and they’re a hard team to put away which is why they made the playoffs in the first place,” head coach Matt Logie said. “We had a lot of respect for them coming in. We didn’t feel like we played our best in either of those previous matchups with them to date, but we were able to play a little bit better tonight.”

The closest the Bearcats would ever come was within 11, but no further. Love finished with 16, Valle with 19, Staudacher with 11 and Wilkes with 14. In addition, Jurlina highlighted the second half of play with another 14 points after just scoring two in the first half.

“They were playing pretty heavy denial on me [in the first half], but it actually worked out well because it opened up lanes and scoring opportunities for my teammates which is actually pretty good,” Jurlina said. “The second half they sort of stepped off a bit and gave me some space and I was able to utilize that to my advantage.”

Despite Whitworth foul trouble throughout the game, the only player in the game who would foul out would be Luedtke in the closing minutes. Missed opportunities from the 3-point line would prove costly for Willamette as well, going 3-19 from beyond the arc.

The Pirates advance to play upset-minded Lewis & Clark for the tournament championship after Lewis & Clark defeated No. 2-ranked Whitman, 84-73. The championship contest will be played on Saturday night in the Fieldhouse.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

AQUAMAN: The story of a Pirate that almost never was

Junior Wes Walton is one of the most decorated swimmers on the Whitworth men’s swim team. He has already won eight individual Northwest Conference Championships during his three years at Whitworth and holds two individual school records in both the 200 backstroke and the 200 individual medley. He is now heading to the NCAA DIII Championships for the second year in a row. However, despite the ways in which he is thriving now, Walton actually left Whitworth as a freshman with no initial thoughts of coming back. In his first year at Whitworth, Walton said he was having trouble academically and did not know whether or not he was going to make it at Whitworth.

“Freshman year I really kind of sucked at school and had to take a year off of swimming. I transferred to Boise State thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this at Whitworth’ and stuff like that.’ So I went to Boise State, didn’t swim for a year and that’s how I got an extra year of eligibility,” Walton said. “I just took a year off and realized I wasn’t supposed to be in engineering like I was, switched to kinesiology at Boise, wanted to go back to Whitworth and here I am.”

Head Coach Steve Schadt ended up being a guiding voice in helping Walton get back on the right path for his life, but said Walton’s problems were complex.

“He had to figure out why he was in college and why he wanted to swim and if he was in the right major and he had to figure out the academic side of things. He was finding himself as a lot of freshman do,” Schadt said.

Due to this period in Walton’s life, Schadt said Walton has changed for the better.

“When he came back to us, he came back to us as a much more mature guy because he had gone through a lot of those life struggles that everybody has to go through,” Schadt said. “The Wes you see today as a junior is very different from the Wes as a freshman.”

Walton thrived from the start in his return to Whitworth. He took home NWC individual championships in his first year and made it to nationals in his sophomore athletic year. Walton, who was competitive from the outset, said practices are even an opportunity for him to compete.

“Even on stuff that’s not supposed to be race-pace, I always find myself racing everyone anyways. I don’t know why, it’s just what I do,” Walton said.

Freshman Jason Smith said Walton has been very friendly toward other members of the team and that Walton’s attitude in practice is a good one to be around.

“He always has a positive attitude about practice and he doesn’t complain when sets are hard. He encourages others when they need encouraging,” Jason Smith said.

Schadt said Walton’s competitive attitude in practice is something Walton has developed in the last few years.

“He’s always going to be ultra competitive, but I think as a freshman it was about results and stuff like that and as he’s matured as an athlete. I think he’s still hypercompetitive but he’s learning to enjoy the process that goes along with that and the day-to-day and the practices and the swimming,” Schadt said.

After a multitude of struggles in Walton’s first few college years, Schadt said he saw what he thought was Walton’s highest point, last spring.

“He saw 180-degree turnaround from his freshman year,” Schadt said. “He ended up being an NCAA qualifier and an Academic All-American and he was so excited about that. That Academic All-American was important, if not more important than being a national champion. He was just stoked about that, and worked really hard to get to that point. For him, I think that was vindication of where he had been before because he had to struggle to get there.”

After 12 consecutive NWC Championship seasons for the men’s team, Walton knew with the loss of a few members of the team that this year, things were going to be close.

“For me personally, I knew that if it was going to happen, it was going to happen this year,” Walton said.

Walton had a spectacular meet by winning all three of his individual events. He broke his own NWC record in the 200 backstroke after previously winning the 200 and 400 yd I.M. After Whitman’s team took the lead on Sunday and came away with the overall victory, Walton said he felt he could have gone a bit faster, even in record-setting 200 backstroke.

“I’m always super competitive and I’m always trying to go faster and faster so if I feel like I trained hard enough and the results don’t show it then I’m a little bit upset,” Walton said. “I’m always trying to go back to the races in my head and think how I could have done something different to go a bit faster.”

Walton will finish his third season at the NCAA DIII Championships in Shenandoah, Texas on March 19-22.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Cross country and the Battle at Bush Park

Bush Pasture Park served as the location for yet another cross country race this season with the NCAA DIII West Regional Meet on Saturday.

As both the men’s and women’s cross country teams prepared to return to competition after their strong performances at the conference meet, many factors for both teams would come into play.

For the women, they would be without one of their captains, senior Christina Williams, and would have to contend with the injuries of junior captain Amanda Blankenship, who was limited in practice leading up to the regional meet. The women were ranked 32nd nationally going into the meet and third in the region with NWC foe Willamette ranked first in the region and California powerhouse Claremont Mudd Scripps ranked second.

On the men’s side, the team would be looking to continue what was the pinnacle of their season thus far at the conference meet. With a ranking of sixth in the region coming in, the men had their sights set on UPS and Whitman as they tried to improve on their finish at conference against those teams.

The men performed well through the first few miles with junior Chris MacMurray and senior Taylor Steele taking the early team leads and then shifting to Steele and junior Colton Berry for the remainder of the race. MacMurray would finish third for the team with a 27:11.3 on the 8K course. Steele and Berry would both take home all-region honors with Steele’s 26:15.4 finish in 20th and Berry’s 26:33.4 time for 34th.

Senior Trent Dudley, who finished in 27:15.8 and fourth for the team, is concluding his cross country career where it all began.

“I’ve been doing cross country since 4th grade. I just realize that I started cross country at Bush Park and I actually ended cross country at Bush Park so it’s just really weird,” Dudley said. “I threw up training in that park and had all my conference meets there and then this race. I guess it’s just right that I ended my season there and my career.”

The women were boxed out of front pack right from the start; they were forced to let other teams take the lead into the first hill. Junior Kellyn Roiko held the lead for Whitworth runners with junior Amanda Blankenship eventually passing her up. 

As the race came down to the final stretch, Blankenship was hitting her stride while Roiko was fighting to remain competitive. In the end, the women would get four athletes on the all-region team with Blankenship finishing 21st with a time of 23:06.2 and Roiko finishing 28th in 23:15.2. Sophomore Kristen Schoenike and junior Jessica Arnzen would fall in at 31st and 32nd, respectively.

“The women just fell down and still had a good race,” Head Coach Toby Schwarz said. “Kristen had a race like she’s always had. Amanda didn’t get out fast enough. Kellyn was sick. Katie [McKay] had the best race of her life. Thais [Pedro Trujillo] ran well. Bailey ran well considering she was sick. The women ran well; they just had unfortunate circumstances for some of them.”

The good overall team performance would prove to not be enough for a second-place finish as the CMS women unloaded on the field for 54 points to the Pirates’ 147. Willamette would finish first with 31 points.

“CMS was really good. They’ve been a top 15 national team for the last couple of years and they just hadn’t been running that way this year,” Schwarz said. “I think Willamette could potentially win or be a top five team and I think CMS will be somewhere between fifth and 10th at nationals.”

The Pirate women fell just short of their nationals goal.

Afterwards, Roiko leaned on the shoulder of her teammate sophomore Kendall Chin and got hit by the emotions of the day.

“I was pretty upset because I had my goal for the race to be in top 10 and I know that I could have been up there but I just didn’t have a very good race,” Roiko said. “Getting third again is really tough and I was just upset over my performance and just felt kind of bad about that.”

With all the races at Bush Park behind them and both teams now done for the season, athletes and coaches prepare for indoor and outdoor track to begin in January.

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Cross country caps off Oregon trip against NWC foes

The cross country teams are approaching the conclusion of their season and each meet is starting to be more indicative of where they are talent-wise compared to other NWC teams. At the Lewis & Clark Invitational last Saturday, those results were true to form, Head Coach Toby Schwarz said.

The women finished first of 12 teams and the men finished eighth of 14 teams behind conference opponents Whitman and University of Puget Sound.

The women won the invitational for the second year in a row despite not having three of their top five runners to finish in scoring position. Of those three, the Pirates were missing senior Christina Williams due to a stress fracture in her pelvis. Williams won the meet as an individual last year.

Junior Kellyn Roiko finished third overall for the 6K course with a time of 22:47.6, followed closely by sophomore Kristen Schoenike in sixth place with a time of 23:22.9. Freshman Bailey Scott had one of the best races of her season after finishing 12th overall with a time of 23:34.8. Sophomore Kendall Chin and junior Katie McKay were within seconds of Scott, finishing in 23:36.1 and 23:37.3, respectfully.

“There are two 3K laps on this course, and so it’s especially hard to stay focused and make the choice to keep trying to move up on the second lap,” Schoenike said. “I think that was the biggest factor for me was just staying focused during the second lap.”

The women finished first despite sophomore Allie Wood finishing 10th on the team and junior captain Amanda Blankenship finishing in the 12th team spot.

On the men’s side, the team had uncharacteristic finishes from their top five scorers. Senior Taylor Steele crossed the line in 28th place for the Bucs in a time of 26:35.2 for the 8K course. Junior Colton Berry was next through the tape in 26:47.5 for 34th place, followed closely by senior Trent Dudley in 26:48.2 for 35th. Freshman Logan Veasy finished well with a 27:11.5, while junior Matt Ferris rounded out the men’s team scoring with a 27:21.8.

“I kind of got out slower, but Trent [Dudley], Chris  [MacMurray] and Taylor [Steele] were leading it for the guys up through the first mile,” junior Colton Berry said. “The race got out a little bit slow for the first mile, but our top guys came through at five [minutes] flat.”

“We’re pretty much the fourth-best team in the conference and we’ve kind of proved that over the last several meets,” Schwarz said.

The difference came with the finishes of junior Chris MacMurray who came through outside of the team scoring with a 27:28.4, and of freshman Grant Bingham who finished with 28:58.4.

“We just need those people to run what they’ve done earlier in the year and other people to do what they did today and we should be fine,” Schwarz said.

Both teams will take their customary break from competition and return for the NWC Championship meet in Salem, Oregon on Nov. 1 at 10 a.m. The women will be looking to take on defending conference champion Willamette, while the men will look to move up and improve on their fourth-place ranking in conference as they eye Whitman, UPS and the defending men’s champion, Willamette.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor

Spotted from the Crow's Nest: Samson Martinez

Junior Samson Martinez defines “family” in his own special way. He refers to it as a verb rather than a noun. Family relates to the people he’s close to, to the people that support him through his life, his struggles and his successes. He considers his closest friends to be family even though they are not blood-related, Martinez said. Martinez’s list of priorities is straightforward: God, family, work and school, friends and golf. Yes, golf is last on that list. However, Martinez said the relationships he forms with his teammates go far beyond the sport itself.

“They’re not just my golf teammates, they’re like a family to me and I would do anything for them. We care for each other like brothers,” Martinez said.

With so many high priorities in his life, Martinez said that golf practice allows him the opportunity to work on a variety of other priorities in his life.

“For me, golf practice, although it’s really hard and vigorous and makes me want to get better at my game, it’s also my social hours because I’m just out there for two and a half hours with some of my best friends at Whitworth and it makes for a great time,” Martinez said. “Golf helps me to fulfill those priorities.”

Everything Martinez involves himself heavily in, whether it be golf, academics, being a resident advisor or filling in as a babysitter, Martinez involves himself in because he sees the opportunity to develop the familial relationships in them, Martinez said.

“I just have this belief that when you ‘family’ each other, when you grow as brothers and not just friends, that bond allows you to accept that we’re not going to always believe the same thing, we’re not always going to agree with one another, we’re not always going to like each other but we will always be there for each other and we will always support each other through our life events,” Martinez said.

That mentality is taken directly from the way Martinez interacts with his own family.

“Some people feel like when their family comes to watch them play tournaments they feel like an added pressure or they don’t like it,” junior Oliver Rudnicki said. “Not the case at all with Samson, he likes them being there and being able to watch him.”

However, with all of the commitments Martinez has, it is still important for him to make everything a priority.

“The last thing I would ever want is to be with my teammates or be with my residents and have them get this vibe that I’m not fully invested in them,” Martinez said. “The best way to make an impact on the people around you is to fully invest in them and have their complete focus or have your complete focus on them.”

Even his coach has taken notice of the way Martinez keeps balance in his life.

“From my vantage point, he manages it all pretty well. I mean he’ll hit the books, he’ll tell me [he’ll be studying] four hours on a Friday night because he knew the weekend was busy and we had a tournament,” Head Coach Warren Friedrichs said. “He will hammer through a class while everyone else is out there having a good time.”

Despite the great deal of time and effort Martinez has to invest in order to push himself in everything he does, it is undoubtedly worth it in the end, Martinez said.

“People have asked me to sacrifice a couple things but I just can’t get myself to do it because every single thing I’m involved in right now has changed my life in an amazing way,” Martinez said.

However, on the days when things do not go the way Martinez expects them to, at least in golf, he leaves a reminder for himself on the head cover for one of his drivers.

Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

“Life’s not always going to be perfect, but I have a hope that God has a plan for me that’s better than I think,” Martinez said.

If that plan is any better than what Martinez is living out right now, then it should be pretty good.

 

Connor Soudani

Sports Editor