The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association calls it Springfest, but May Madness might be a better moniker.
Six spring sports with six classifications each contesting state championships over a single week — and most of it coming to a head on a single day — has made Memorial Day weekend one of the most memorable sports weekends on the calendar across Washington.
The number of high schoolers competing each year — competitors at the state track and field meets alone break four figures — can break an abacus. And with that much athletic prowess determined to make dreams come true and reward months of sweating through practice, the stuff of legends can emerge.
This year was one of the few years the WIAA pushed through the holiday weekend and scheduled the spring state championships to end May 30. Those plans, of course, ended last month when the state’s governing body for high-school sports was forced to cancel this year’s events because of the coronavirus pandemic.
We’ll fill the void in the sports section normally filled each Memorial Day weekend with champions in baseball, softball, boys soccer, track and field, golf and tennis with some of the more memorable spring state events over the decades.
This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive story crowning the best state champions in state history — so you save your tweets and emails — it’s just a look back at some of the most memorable champions.
Hopefully, this will help fill the void in your sports calendar.
Track and field: Orting’s Carrigan soared to nation’s best
At the 1969 state track and field meet, Casey Carrigan won his fourth title with a mark at 16 feet, 7 inches, a mark few high-school vaulters approach even 50 years later.
But that accomplishment wouldn’t be at the top of Carrigan’s high-school resume. Might not even make the top 10. By the time he won that fourth state title, Carrigan had already competed at the Olympic Games.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, consider that Carrigan learned to pole vault with self-made poles in a pit in his back yard in Orting with his brothers and father and without a coach.
“That classic thing: Cut down a stick and jumping in a sand pit,” Carrigan said when he was inducted into the National High School Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2019. “So I started pretty early.”
When Carrigan cleared 16 feet as a junior, his father petitioned for him to compete in the pre-Olympic Trials, where he cleared 16-8 to break the national high-school record. He cleared 17-0 at the Olympic Trials, taking third and a spot in the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
The Olympics didn’t go too well. He missed his first two attempts at 16-0. On his third attempt, he cleared the bar easily, but his pole broke the plane below the bar, which was a violation at the time.
“I sat in the stands. Cried for three days off and on,” Carrigan said. “Watched the finals in the stands with my dad. Beautiful conditions. Three guys tied the world record. But, hey, I was there.”
And he still had another season in high school. A few weeks after winning state, he competed at the Golden West Invitational in Sacramento, California. That’s where he cleared 17-4 3/4, which is the oldest state record still standing and extended his national record (which is currently 19-10 1/4).
Carrigan never returned to the Olympics. After vaulting for a year at Stanford (taking fourth at the NCAA meet), he decided he needed a break and gave up his scholarship and didn’t try to make the 1972 Olympics. He returned to vaulting, and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in 1975, but an Achilles injury derailed his career.
Carrigan became a firefighter and retired as a captain in the Long Beach Fire Department.
Baseball: Jackson stakes claim as state’s best
In 2006, Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek may have put together the best collection of baseball players in state history.
Just consider the numbers: There’s the 27-0 record, with 19 of those wins coming via the 10-run mercy rule. The No. 2 national ranking by Baseball America. Nine players who played NCAA Division I ball and five of whom were drafted. There’s the team on-base percentage of .497 with an ERA of 0.95.
In four state-tournament games, the Timberwolves outscored opponents 38-4.
They were led by one of the best players the state has produced in Travis Snider, who was drafted with the 14th overall pick of the MLB draft a few weeks after winning state. Snider finished that baseball season by earning Short Season Player of The Year honors in the Appalachian League.
“Travis Snider was as good a motivator to teammates as anybody I’ve ever seen,” said Kirk Nicholson, who has coached Jackson since it opened in 1994. “He was not a fan of losing. Let’s just say that.”
Another future draft pick, Danny Oh, hit .404 as a sophomore. The top two pitchers, Cam Nobles and Geoff Brown, went 10-0 each. Both were drafted, but they decided to play for the Washington Huskies. Catcher/pitcher Kawika Emsley-Pai, a junior, played at Texas and Lewis-Clark State before getting drafted.
In the title game, the T-wolves beat Auburn 7-1. Brown, who was a junior, was the hero of that game. He gave up a run in five-plus innings (despite six walks) and hit a two-run homer.
“Honestly, it was one of the big reliefs I’ve ever had,” said Nicholson, who was technically the assistant coach for that one season. “If you win it, it’s what you should have done. If you lose, it’s ‘Please God don’t let me have made a mistake.’ “
Golf: Kang crushed them all in 1999
There was never a doubt who was going to win the Class 1A state girls golf championship in 1999 at Liberty Lake near Spokane, not with King’s High School junior Jimin “Esther” Kang, one of the top amateurs in the country, in the field.
But winning by 21 strokes in a 36-hole event? Who could have expected that?
Such dominance had never been seen before (or since) at a Washington state high school tournament.
Kang, who was a junior, shot a 2-over 142 on the difficult course. And indeed, it proved difficult for everyone in the field but Kang.
She was unable to play in the state tournament as a senior because at age 20 she was past the age limit, but Kang remained in the news. She finished second in the U.S. Amateur in the summer before her senior year, then made the cut at the LPGA event in cut at the start of her senior year.
Afterward, Kang was approached by an LPGA official about playing in that week’s Tour stop in Portland, but declined.
“I have to go back to school,” she told The Seattle Times.
After attending Arizona State, Kang made her mark full-time on the LPGA Tour, winning twice.
Severe allergies halted her career several years ago. Kang, 40, returned to ASU to get her degree and became a certified LPGA teaching pro in 2018.
Last year, 20 years after her domination at the state high school tournament, she earned berths into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship (making the cut) and the U.S. Women’s Open.
Boys soccer: State title eluded Jordan Morris
The heat is the overriding memory for Sounders FC forward Jordan Morris when thinking about his lone high-school state title match. Understandable considering the Mercer Island alum was on the losing end of the 2012 Class 3A state boys soccer championship.
It was a humid 73 degrees in Puyallup when the Islanders took the field at Sparks Stadium against Bainbridge. Morris, then a junior, was already hampered by a deep muscle bruise in his right shin after colliding with the Eastmont goalkeeper in a semifinal win. The Islanders were also without a starter who received a red card earlier in the tournament, equaling a two-game suspension.
MI started slow and, dropped the match 3-2 to give Bainbridge its first boys soccer title. Morris had the final goal, a beamer from 17 yards out to the left post in the 70th minute.
“I wish I could’ve won because you get to write history a little bit for Mercer Island,” Morris said. “It was a tough one to get so close and not finish the job. … My two roommates before my fiancé moved in (last year), have been my best friends since we were in first grade and we got to play together and it was a cool experience. We still reminisce on those times.”
Looking back, state felt like the biggest match in Morris’ then-budding career even though it wasn’t. The prolific scorer led his club team, Eastside B94 Red, to six Washington state titles and in 2012 was its Golden Ball honoree. Morris was also the NSCAA Washington State Player of the Year and NSCAA High School All-American.
Morris, a two-time All-KingCo 3A MVP, didn’t compete his senior high-school season due to rule changes by the U.S. Soccer Development Academy not permitting athletes to play club and high-school soccer simultaneously.
After starring for Sounders Academy and Stanford — leading the Cardinal to the first national championship in program history in 2015 — Morris took his talents to MLS. In November, Morris helped the Sounders win the league championship before a partisan crowd of 69,274 people at CenturyLink Field.
“I really feel for those kids that are missing out on that experience, especially the seniors whether in high school or college,” Morris said of the cancellation of spring sports. “It’s such a fun time and you only have a certain amount of it.”
Tennis: Peter Kung, Jenny Lewellen went out on top
The tennis courts in Washington were hot after the turn of the century.
A slew of talent from the United States Tennis Association (USTA) circuit also took pride in competing for their high schools — few bigger than 2005 state champions Peter Kung and Jenny Lewellen.
Kung was a four-time Class 3A boys tennis state champion for Lakeside, winning his final title in 2005. Lewellen was a junior and ranked 150th in the country for ages 16 and under in 2005 when she won the girls Class 3A tennis title for Evergreen. It was Lewellen’s only experience playing in high school, doing so for her father who was a longtime teacher at the school.
“There were more than usual elite players during that era,” Kung said. “Playing high-school tennis was a way to relax a little bit and get more in touch with my high-school classmates and friends in terms of going to practice. But USTA is a reputable league and when you compete at that level, you have expectations to win.”
Kung and Lewellen made quick work of their opponents in their title matches at the University of Washington’s Nordstrom Tennis Center.
“I was so relieved the season was over,” Lewellen said. “It was a long haul and I felt a lot of pressure to win and I’m pretty sure I had more tennis the next week. It’s pretty intense when you’re that age. You keep playing and keep playing.”
Kung went on to play at Cornell while Lewellen played for Sioux Falls.
Lewellen recently moved to Seattle to begin a career as a physical therapist and returned to the court this month because the state’s stay-at-home order shuttered her business. Kung was set to volunteer coach for the Brookline High tennis team in Massachusetts where he lives and works as a software programmer.
“I really enjoy teaching kids, especially those who have a real passion for learning and being active,” said Kung, who also volunteered coached in Argentina.
Softball: Madi Schreyer, Woodinville perfect in 2012
Even after a standout career pitching for the University of Washington, Madi Schreyer still lists in her bio that winning the Class 4A state softball championship for Woodinville in 2012 as her greatest softball memory.
Schreyer, then a junior, was 21-0 that season with a 0.28 ERA with 189 strikeouts in 123 innings. The Falcons were 26-0, taking their talents across the mountains to thump defending champion Walla Walla 5-0 for the title at the Dwight Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane.
As was the case all season, the show was Schreyer’s performance on the mound. She allowed just three hits and struck out eight batters to keep a shutout. The Falcons outscored their opponents 44-3 in the state tournament that season.
“(Madi) is overpowering on the mound physically as well as mentally,” former Issaquah coach Jim Magnuson told ESPN in 2012 when Schreyer was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.
“There is no one that has a greater impact on the game.”
Schreyer, a four-time KingCo 4A champion, committed to play for Stanford where she was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention as a freshman. She transferred to UW after an injury-riddled sophomore year.
In 2017, Schreyer pitched 24 games to help the Huskies finish third in the nation. Schreyer had a 7-3 record with a 3.06 ERA.
“The season was awesome,” Schreyer told the Woodinville Weekly. “It took a while for us to get together and on the same page. But we got there. It was always one of my biggest dreams to play in the World Series. It was incredible.”