Aside from Florence, who will graduate this week, the Class of 2013 has moved their tassels from left to right, thrown their caps in the air, and are now ready to face the world. This class is truly the first class of the new millennium. They started school in 2000 as kindergartners. They are tech savvy, rarely without a cell phone and/or Iphone. Texting is their second language. But they are still kids, or rather young adults. Many of them are young athletes that I have gotten to know over the past four years and as always; I’m going to miss them.
I first noticed Lakyn Connors when she was just a tiny young girl, coming out to see her daddy, Bob Connors, as he was coaching football for the Stevensville Yellowjackets. This tiny little sprite was always cheerful and not the least bit shy as she danced around the football field. But even then she had a purpose. She could be dancing and spinning around, seemingly unaware of the game but would stop and cheer as a great play unfolded. I don’t know when she’s found time to sleep these last four years of high school. Between cross-country, basketball, track (state champion in three events this year) and did I mention she is also a dancer for Ballet Bitterroot. Through it all, Lakyn has had a smile a mile wide on her face. Her accomplishments have been phenomenal but it is that welcoming smile I will miss.
Although I didn’t get to know Bridger Walczynski very well, I admire him from afar. This young man has the distinction of being a four-year tennis doubles champion, with three different partners. Winning a state championship once is rare, winning it four times is almost unheard of. When you then realize he had to adapt his game three different times for new partners, he brings the phrase ‘team player’ to a new high. This not only looks good from a sporting perspective but also for life itself.
Although I only wrote about her a couple of times, Callie Roberts of Hamilton is one of those young people who make an impact. As the reigning Ravalli County Fair rodeo queen, she has provided the community with an insight into the sport of rodeo graciously. She never passes a youngster without a smile and most often, a handshake. She has mentored the younger members of the queen’s court cheerfully. She sits a saddle well and competes with the best of them. But most importantly, her passion for living life to the fullest is something we can all try to achieve.
About four or maybe five years ago, I was a member of the Bitter Root Chamber’s Leadership Bitterroot class. It was there I met Kyle Lubke’s step mom, Joni. Perhaps because of that, I paid a little more attention to Kyle through his high school years. As a freshman, he wouldn’t raise his head to look at anyone but he played golf and he wrestled very well. When I interviewed him a couple of years ago, I could barely get a word out of him. His contribution to the golf team helped secure two state championships but you wouldn’t know it to talk to him. This year, I wouldn’t say he came out of his shell but we at least make eye contact now.
Darby’s Julie Abrahamsen, on the other hand, has always been an outgoing kid who hasn’t met a stranger. Throughout her high school career, she’s had ups, and downs, and has kept on smiling, but more often than not, with a determined gleam in her eye. Coming from a family of distance runners, she chose a different path – basketball. As a freshman, she saw a lot of time on the basketball court. The team struggled but Julie worked hard and became a force to be reckoned with. She wasn’t afraid to get physical and always kept her eye on the basket. Each year, the team got a little better and this year, it was going to be ‘their’ year with Julie playing a major role in the game plan. A misstep during practice shot that down as Julie tore her ACL midway through the season. She returned to play in the tournaments, helping her team claim a trophy for the first time since 2004. Her passion for the game is still going strong.
The buzz has been surrounding Alycia Sims since she was an incoming freshman at Stevensville High School. “She was going to be great, what a player”, all the hype that comes with someone who has dedicated herself to the game of basketball. And she came through time and time again until she tore her ACL. Then she worked her way back through rehab and became even stronger. Her moves to the basket were and are just plain sweet. Last fall she signed with the University of Montana and then set out to enjoy her senior year. Although an injury limited her playing during the midpoint of the season, it’s hard to forget her play throughout the season and on to state. There are two memories of Alycia I doubt I’ll never forget. Last year she went out for softball and the grin on her face when she hit a home run showed how much just plain fun she was having. This year, she was the one with the ‘X’ on her back. Watching her ‘school’ a younger ‘upstart’ was just plain fun to watch. I’ve enjoyed watching Alycia develop into a poised young woman who will represent Stevensville and the Bitterroot well.
The term ‘golden boy’ comes to mind when I think of Kadin Beller. His athleticism and dedication and even his amazing singing voice has made Kadin one to remember throughout his high school years. Kadin’s basketball game has been fun to watch develop but it is his baseball playing that shines. His love of the game is evident whether it is catching or stepping into the batter’s box and knocking one out of the park. This fun loving kid morphs into a serious focused player who is all business when he’s wearing the Bitterroot Bucs’ uniform. Until he hits a home run, and flashes that grin.
I tried to narrow it down when it came to Florence’s senior class to a few standouts, but I couldn’t. This is a very special over achieving class that rose to the occasion no matter what sport. From Aaron Ward’s long passes to Ryno Baerlocher’s deliberate play on the court, to Courtney Byrne’s leadership on the volleyball court, the basketball court and the softball diamond, this class has been tough to beat. There’s Melody Maki and Makenzie Bauck on the volleyball court, Hayley Cole and Cazz Skeers on the diamond, Mike Finley and Chantz Hotsenpiller at basketball, Tanner Cobbs wrestling and playing football, Paige Bodner, Kyndall Hoff, and Jill Harris on the basketball court and Jill in the rodeo arena, too. These kids have made their opponents work hard to defend them. Every team and sport in Florence this year had a showing at state. From cross country, football and volleyball in the fall, to girls and boys basketball and wrestling, to track and softball, the Falcons garnered wins and trophies for the year. The volleyball team and the boys’ basketball team each brought home third place trophies from state. The football team went to the playoffs. Cobbs finished second at the state wrestling tournament. And the softball team won back-to-back state championships. All the while, this group of seniors has been fun to follow and a great role model for the rest of the school.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it now, Victor’s Kyle Ball is a highlight reel. Whether he is playing football, basketball, jumping or throwing the javelin, he is putting on a show and doing it well. His jumping ability made him hard to defend in basketball and football and won him a state title in the triple jump. His accuracy shooting the basketball came through when he was throwing the javelin as well. He finishes his career with two more state championships in track: triple jump and javelin; but he leaves behind many memories for the Pirate faithful. Perhaps the most important for me is the memory of him shaking the hand of another Kyle (my grandson) and planting the seeds of those dreams of Pirate glory for future classes.
Congratulations class of 2013