By Oliver Lazenby
In the second full calendar year after moving to the 2A bracket from 1A, several Blaine High School sports teams made the playoffs and all put on a good show.
Blaine fans could have predicted some 2016 successes – wrestling finished strong, as usual, and football had a winning season with its stacked senior class and ample varsity experience. Other successes had an element of surprise, such as the baseball team struggling through to the state tournament on a string of upset wins, making it Blaine’s most accomplished team of the year.
Here’s a season-by-season look at how Blaine High School athletes and teams performed last year.
After making the state tournament four years in a row, Blaine’s girls basketball team struggled without its longtime leaders. Season highlights included wins against Squalicum and Cascade Christian early in the season. Younger players including Josie Deming, Brynn Hallberg and Ashley Dickerson emerged to lead the team, but they fell short of the post-season and finished with a 3–17 record overall.
2016 was a breakout year for boys’ basketball, with several experienced seniors including Shaq Woods and Kier Munzanreder leading the team to its first playoff game in four years. It was also the first time in four years the Borderites had an average-or-better record, with 10–10 record overall and a 5–7 record in 2A Northwest Conference games. The season ended in a pair of close losses in the 2A district tournament.
The Borderites consistently place among the top schools in the state for wrestling, and 2016 was no exception. Fifteen Borderites medaled in the regional tournament and seven athletes went to the state tournament where Blaine finished sixth as a team.
Caleb Frey earned the second place medal at state at 152 pounds and Anthony Frey won the third place medal at 145. Three other Borderites finished in the top 5. Last year also marked the end of a chapter for the Borderites as decorated wrestling coach Craig Foster retired at the end of the school year.
The baseball team’s season, capped with a deep drive into the playoffs, was probably the most exciting of any Borderites team last year.
After a rocky start, the team clawed its way back with a six-game winning streak in the last half of the season. Its 12–8 regular season record made it the lowest seeded team in regional playoffs, but the underdogs in orange – fueled by senior Jon Starcer’s pitching – scored surprise victories against teams they usually lose to, including Burlington-Edison and Archbishop Murphy.
The Borderites’ season finally ended with a 3–0 loss to Fife in the first round of the state tournament.
Softball improved its record over the previous year by leaps and bounds, winning more than twice as many games. But the Borderites’ 8–12 record wasn’t quite enough to make the playoffs. A 14–1 win against Burlington-Edison, which included an 11-run sixth inning, was a highlight of the season.
The Borderites’ boys soccer program is gaining popularity and enough athletes signed up to give the high school three teams for the second year in a row. That enthusiasm didn’t translate to wins in 2016 – the varsity team had a 1-13-2 record. Many of those losses were close, however. One highlight of the season was a 4–0 win against Mount Baker, in which Zack Oakley, Gavin McPhail, Matt Bowyer and Nicholas Wheaton scored goals for Blaine.
Both the boys and girls golf teams were small last year. Boys golf placed near the top in a tournament at Semiahmoo – a pinnacle of the season. The two-member girls team put together a solid performance at Homestead Farms Golf Club in Lynden.
The girls’ tennis team finished the season with a 1–14–1 record, with the highlight of the season being a 4–3 win over Granite Falls.
Coaches and close followers of Blaine football knew 2016 would be exciting: senior year had arrived for a class of veterans. On offense, quarterback Jalen Kortlever, wide receiver Anthony Ball and running back Riley Fritsch all had years of varsity experience, as did Gunnar Arnason and a slew of other defenders. The Borderites played as expected and made the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
With a 4–3 record in conference games the Borderites landed in the lowest seed in the district tournament, where they lost 27–24 against up-to-that-point undefeated Liberty High School.
Blaine cross country teams had low turnout, with not enough girls to make a scoring team. However, some individuals stood out, including freshman Masahide Shibuya and junior Liam Lyons, who finished together near the top in most races and nearly qualified for state.
A young Blaine girls soccer team had a rebuilding year finishing the season with a 2–13–1 record overall. Freshman Sky Nolasco led the team on offense with five goals.
Blaine’s promising volleyball team made it to the playoffs with a 6–8 regular season record, led mostly by juniors and sophomores. The team had few seniors and improved throughout the season, but fell in its first playoff game against Bellingham, a 3–0 loss.