Looking Back: 2021 Sports in Review


March 25 

Yelm Completes Perfect Season in Imperfect Year With 28-7 Win Over Rams

The Yelm Tornados’ 28-7 win against the North Thurston Rams on Friday, March 19, 2021 marked the program’s first undefeated season since 1938 and secured them top status in the 3A South Sound Conference.

Yelm ended its shortened season with a perfect 6-0 overall record. The win represents the end of the line for the Tornados, with no postseason opportunities on the line due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Football fans for the first time this season were allowed into SSC facilities in March thanks to loosened social distancing guidelines.

The Tornados were looking for a shutout against the Rams (0-5) at South Sound Stadium, but came just short of that goal.

March 25 

Yelm Boys Cross Country Team Wins South Sound Conference Championship During Year of Challenges

It wasn’t the season finale they pictured back in June 2020 during cross country camp, but the Yelm Tornados ended their winter 2021 season at the top of their conference’s podium after overcoming a season filled with many obstacles.

For a second consecutive year, the Yelm boys team were the South Sound Conference champions. They beat out 4A Olympia 40-55 on Saturday, March 20 during the championship meet at LBA Park to take the top spot.

May 13

Tornados Finish Out the Season With a Perfect Record

After scoring 170 runs and tallying just 41 points against them in the spring 2021 season’s shortened 14 games, the Tornado softball team accomplished everything it could have possibly mastered last year, reigning undefeated.

“I’m extremely proud of my team,” said coach Lindsay Walton. “We had a goal for this season to be undefeated and we were able to accomplish that.”

June 11

Tornados Go Undefeated on the Mat, Named League Champions

Yelm wrestlers pinned their way to a toppleless 8-0 season, emerging league champions after their 72-12 match against Timberline on Thursday, June 3, 2021.

Coach Gaylord Strand said he was proud of what the grapplers accomplished, given the circumstances.

“The best thing we got from this year was being able to give our seniors the best that we could, given the short season,” Strand said. 

The team only saw a fraction of the athletes that usually turn out for the sport in part because of the strict COVID-19-related guidelines that were set up this year, which required wrestlers to be tested for the virus twice a week and wear masks while competing.

Yet the slim pickings led to some great opportunities, Strand said.

“The one-on-one coaching was special, especially with all the volunteer assistants helping out,” Strand said. “There was no shortage of help when needed.”

June 17

Yelm Girls Basketball Finishes Undefeated Season

The Yelm girls basketball team finished a stainless season in June 2021, as the girls dominated their competition each game.

Senior Bayleigh Harder was named league MVP, senior My’Kel Jones was given all-league first team honors, freshman Lilli Williams was named to the second team and freshman Henlee Sherman made third team.

In the final game of the season, played against River Ridge High School on June 11, 2021 at home, the Tornados won 70-42.

July 1

YHS Sees Its Winningest Year In League

With four undefeated seasons during the 2020-21 school year, six Yelm teams emerging as league champions, two teams placing second in league, three most valuable player (MVP) awards, several individual competitors going undefeated and four award-winning coaches or staff, the Tornados had their best year in league sports ever, said Rob Hill, Yelm High School athletic director.

“I’m very happy that our kids got the opportunity to compete this year, when in September, October, November, December, even January, it was doubtful that things were going to happen,” Hill said. “I’m excited that our kids got the chance to compete.”

But with a year that’s been the winningest in recent memory, as far as win-loss percentage goes, the Yelm community will always wonder “what if.”

“I’m disappointed that several of our teams and individual competitors didn’t get the chance to pursue state titles and make deep playoff runs,” Hill said. “I think we had some teams this year that would have made some noise at the state level.”

Aug. 5 

Jeremiah Nubbe Captures Discus Title in National Tournament

Rainier track and field star Jeremiah Nubbe can add a national title to his resume after winning the discus at the USA Track and Field National Junior Olympic Track & Field Championships on Sunday, Aug. 1, 2021 in Jacksonville, Florida.

The tournament featured some of the top 17- and 18-year-old high school track and field athletes in the nation, and Nubbe won with a toss of 189.07 feet, besting the runner up, Ahmari Avin, by nearly 14 feet (175.59 feet). He also threw the hammer but scratched on all three throws and did not place.

His discus throw on Aug. 1, 2021 wasn’t even close to his personal best of 200 feet 2 inches, a mark he hit while placing second at The Outdoor Nationals, Presented by Nike on June 30 at the University of Oregon.

At that time, Nubbe’s PR in hammer was 224 feet, 8.5 inches, 12 feet behind the nation’s leader, and his discus PR was 10 feet behind the leader.

Nubbe was the Class 2B state champion in the discus as a freshman (147-01) before his sophomore season was canceled due to the pandemic. During his junior season in 2021, Nubbe began climbing the national ranks in discus and hammer.

Aug. 19

Rainier Man Becomes Cornhole Pro, Wins World Championship

Rainier resident Dean Norton not only became an American Cornhole League (ACL) pro this month, but he also won a division of the world championships.

Norton won the advanced blind draw division at the 2021 ACL World Championships in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a competition where he had to blindly accept the rest of his team, drawn by chance. The competition spanned from Aug. 2 to Aug. 8, 2021.

He won enough cornhole events during the 2020-21 season to earn a spot as an ACL pro for the 2021-22 season, which started in September of 2021.

“I was fortunate enough to really put my mind to it, and I worked extremely hard to get as good as I am right now, and I was able to win some big tournaments,” Norton said.

Nov. 11

Tornados Head to State After 37-21 Finish Over Mead

The Tornados football team ousted Mead High School 37-21 in the WIAA 3A district playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at home, securing a spot in the first round of the four-round state competition.

The Tornados were ranked first in the 3A South Sound League and the team was 9-0 with the post-season win.

With a couple interceptions thrown, and a slew of penalties, Yelm Coach Jason Ronquillo said the team had a slow start before revving into the gear the community has come to expect from the team.

The Tornados went on to win the first round of the state competition, though they did not make it past the quarter finals.

Nov. 18

Yelm Volleyball Loses Postseason Pigtail Game

The Yelm volleyball team lost its postseason pigtail game against Bainbridge High School three sets to nothing on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021.

The game marked Yelm volleyball’s first postseason outing since 2005.

The team ended its season with a 10-11 record.

Coach Molly O’Hagan said the game didn’t reflect her hopes for the team’s potential.

“We showed some real moments of greatness, but unfortunately, it just didn’t fall our way,” O’Hagan said.

Bainbridge outscored the Tornados 25-19, 26-24 and 25-12 in each of the three sets, respectively.


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