Yelm High School athletes probably deserve to be on the Wheaties box this year, given their mounting victories.
With four undefeated seasons, six 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.
Hill said the school wasn’t even sure sports were going to happen at all up until two weeks before season one started. Once they got the go-ahead, the league split all the sports into three reduced seasons.
“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.”
What if the kids got to play full-length seasons? What if postseason was on the table? How would these sterling athletes have done at a higher level of competition?
“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.”
He said that COVID-19 really clipped the wings of the teams and players, but they were still able to reach new heights thanks to all the hard work they put in, and with the dedicated efforts of coaching staff, volunteers and administrators.
“And so that was kind of a COVID casualty — losing those opportunities for postseason — but the fact that we were able to pull what we did off was a pretty big feat for us to do and the results for our kids this year were fantastic,” Hill said.
He said the year saw a shift in mentality for the small town, a coming of age, a time when Yelm High School stood up and took its place in the sun.
“I believe the culture in athletics in Yelm has been changing over the years, and this is more proof that our kids now feel like they can compete with anybody, that they’re not second class to anybody,” Hill said.
The Yelm High School athletic program’s 2021 accomplishments are as follows:
- Football went 6-0, and its players became the South Sound Conference (SSC) League Champions. The program had the League MVP of Kyler Ronquillo and Defensive MVP of Ray Wright, who are both sophomores. The YHS coaches were voted “Staff of the Year” by their peers.
- Boys cross country players became the SSC South League Champions for the second consecutive year.
- Girls soccer finished third in the SSC South, which was the best in years, beating teams that it hadn’t beaten in a long time.
- Fastpitch went 14-0, and its players became the SSC League Champions. Coach Lindsay Walton was voted “Coach of the Year” by her peers.
- Boys track and field players became the SSC South League Champions.
- Girls track and field finished second in the SSC South.
- Girls tennis first and second doubles teams went undefeated this year.
- Girls basketball went 14-0 and its players became the SSC South League Champions. Bayleigh Harder was voted League MVP. Coach Russ Riches was voted “Coach of the Year” by his peers.
- Boys wrestling went undefeated, with its players becoming SSC South Champions.
- Boys basketball finished second place in the SSC South, a huge turn around from about three Ws in 20 games last year. Coach Dave Wasankari was voted “Coach of the Year” by his peers.
- Girls wrestling went undefeated, though they only played in partial meets.