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Prep Sports Preview Winter 2023–24

Meet the stars of this season

Fall prep sports preview: Basketball teams look to defend titles; wrestling, swim and dive, bowling start season ]

BELLINGHAM

Malia Hanks, Junior, Girls basketball, Guard

photo  Bellingham girls basketball guard Malia Hanks. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

This team struggled last season. What do you believe, if anything, will be different this year? Last year, we had less experience because the majority of the team [was made up] of freshmen. This year a lot of our returners are sophomores, so now that they have that year of experience, we’re all a little more together and we know each other better … I think that will definitely help us improve this season.

What do you enjoy most about playing basketball? I enjoy the competition. I really enjoy the people, especially in our program. We’re all really close. We all love each other. It’s just when we have those great moments, when we win, have a good win, even in the tough moments when we have a bad loss — being able to be together and like get through it together is what I love most.

After a disappointing end to the soccer season, how do you quickly switch your mindset to a new sport? This year, having a week and a half [after soccer] has allowed me to be able to start getting into basketball … and remember what it’s like.  

We have open gyms and so it just takes a couple of days and I have to re-up myself after having such a disappointing finish. Being able to get back in the gym with my friends really helps me make that switch and adjustment.

Pavel Shintar, Senior, Boys wrestling

photo  Bellingham boys wrestler Pavel Shintar. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After reaching state a season ago, what are your main goals for this season? Last year I was lacking conditioning [and] mentality. My coach told me I should hit the gym this entire year, which I did. This year was probably the most I’ve worked on my wrestling compared to the others. I think this year I have a really [good] shot of getting the state title.

In your mind, what’s the most difficult part of being an effective wrestler? The mentality. It’s not quitting, basically. It’s just built into me. I can’t let myself quit. It’s all up to conditioning sometimes but, to not get pinned, it’s all mental. Like if I get pinned, what’s my dad going to say? Or what’s my coach going to think of me? So that’s basically all it was for me. 


What activities/hobbies do you enjoy outside of athletics? I play accordion and piano at home, and then I sing in the choir. [I have been playing] piano about 11 years and accordion for five.


BLAINE

Deja Dube, Senior, Girls basketball, Point guard

photo  Blaine girls basketball point guard Deja Dube. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Last year’s team struggled. How do you and your team ensure more wins this season? I know we have more players, and we have some new freshmen. And I know our new coach [former Western guard Gracie Castaneda ]is really working on skills and not just plays. I think the positivity of this team is a lot better. 

What would make this a successful season for you? Working on my own skills, bringing the ball down and really connecting with my teammates. Some years we haven’t connected very well. I think this will be a really good year to play together.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I have three younger sisters. I hang out with my sisters a lot and my family. 

Noah Tavis, Senior, Boys basketball, Power forward

photo  Blaine boys basketball power forward Noah Tavis. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Last year was a historic season for this team and the best in 23 years. How does that momentum carry over to this season? I feel like it’s going to carry [over] nicely, we’ve got a whole bunch of different players and a different roster with a bunch of seniors graduated, but I feel like that momentum is still going. I’m coming back and we’ve still got the same coach. A lot of the guys are fired up and this week’s practices have been pretty high-energy, so I think everyone is ready to go.

Do you expect your role to change this season? How so? Not a whole lot. I might be on the perimeter a bit more than I was, but I’ll still be low post most of the time.

In your mind, what exactly is a Borderite (the school’s mascot)? Everyone has grown up in Blaine, but it’s a lot of the same guys and Borderites means playing for your team. 


FERNDALE

Mercedes Hinz, Junior, Girls wrestling

photo  Ferndale girl wrestler Mercedes Hinz. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After some impact seniors graduated, how is your role changing this season? I was kind of a captain before, but now I’m having to step up and be one of the role models and leaders on the team.

What skills do you hope to focus on and improve this season? Just improving and sharpening the fundamentals that I already know and becoming a better leader — becoming a better person through wrestling.

What are your plans after high school? I plan to wrestle in college, but I don’t know where. I started kind of looking, but I don’t really know yet.

Will Poast, Senior, Boys wrestling

photo  Ferndale boys wrestler Will Poast. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

A handful of your teammates made it to state last season. How did witnessing their success motivate you this year? It inspires me a lot, seeing my friends succeed and get to go to state. I’ve made it to regionals sophomore year, junior year and hopefully now, senior year. My freshman year we didn’t have a season because it was [during] COVID, so it pushes me on. I want to make it this year.

What do you do best on the mat? I’m good at cradles … my [height] helps grabbing people’s ankles and not letting them grab my hands because I can spread out.

What activities/hobbies do you enjoy outside of athletics? I play football, I enjoy the gym, I love nature. I love going on hikes, running, biking, mountain biking, camping. I go with my family … we get out and we get active.


LYNDEN

Anthony Canales, Senior, Boys basketball, Shooting guard

photo  Lynden boys basketball shooting guard Anthony Canales. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After back-to-back state championships the last two seasons, would not winning one be a disappointment? I wouldn’t say disappointment but [it] would definitely hurt a little bit just knowing I’ve been there. I don’t know anything else from it so it would definitely be different. 

You’re now a senior leader on this team. How are you embracing that role? Mixed emotions, I feel. [I’m] excited that we’re in the season, but also sometimes feel a little sad knowing this is your last go-around, so definitely mixed emotions. 

What are you looking for in your college destination? I’m just looking for a school where I’m going to play. Location doesn’t matter as long as I’m hooping. 

Belen Lopez, Senior, Girls wrestling

photo  Lynden girls wrestler Belen Lopez. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

How did last season’s runner-up state finish motivate you for this season? I think it kind of sets me up in that mentality where I’ve gotten there once, so I can get there again. It prepares me because a lot of coaches and people have told me I’m their target so I’m working harder so someone can’t surprise me and take me down. 

How long have you been wrestling and what originally interested you in the sport? My parents wanted us to stay moving around and we would always do three sports a year. There are four sports in middle school and I did not want to do wrestling so I tried to do every sport in the wrestling season. I even tried out for the basketball team … I knew I was going to get cut and I did. Once I started [wrestling], the first year was rough, but once you start getting better and learning it then you fall in love with the sport. 

What’s your pre-meet routine? A lot of them are earlier so I’ll wake up and I have a treadmill in my house, so I’ll run a mile before because I’m trying to fit into my weight class. Then a long bus ride trying to sleep. Once we get there just start running the warmups and pumping yourself up. Then you get on the scale to see if you made weight.


LYNDEN CHRISTIAN

Tabby Dejong, Senior, Girls basketball, Post

photo  Lynden Christian girls basketball post Tabby Dejong. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

This team lost a lot of key seniors at the end of last season. What are you all doing to mitigate that loss? We don’t have a lot of people who have returned from last year, but we are looking to motivate everybody. One thing I really enjoy about Lynden Christian is we have a lot of incoming groups. So, we have a lot of young players this year that are really looking to fill key roles we lost last year. So, I’m excited to see where that goes, and I just trust our coaching staff and what they are going to do for our team.

How have you all moved on after last season’s state championship loss? One thing especially [coach Brady] Bomber talks to us [about] is that adversity strengthens us. We talked about this a lot at practice, so we didn’t like losing that, but going through that is a good experience for all of us. It is good to know how to take a loss and it’s good to use that as motivation. We learn through hard things and how to do things better.

What does it mean to you to play for a storied program like LC? One thing about LC is that there is a name on our backs. If I was at a different school, I would have a lot of fun beating us … Having Lyncs and Lynden Christian on our back means a lot. We want to represent Christ through everything we do on and off the court and there’s a legacy of being good so it’s always something to push us.

Dawson Bouma, Senior, Boys basketball, Guard

photo  Lynden Christian boys basketball guard Dawson Bouma. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

What’s the biggest challenge of missing the beginning of the season because of football? I don’t think it’ll be a huge deal. Our coaches are good, and they’ll know what to do. We’ll be fine. We have open gyms, so we’ve been in the gym.

What is there left to accomplish after winning back-to-back state titles? We have all the pressure in the world to get a third one. We’ve got a big role to fill.

How do you see your role evolving this season? I see myself as a big leader on the team and defense is a huge role in my play. I need to step that up and lead the team to another state championship. 


MERIDIAN

Taran Burks, Senior, Boys basketball, Guard

photo  Meridian boys basketball guard Taran Burks. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

This year’s team will be fairly senior-heavy. How are you embracing a role as one of the team’s leaders? Just being an elevator for everyone, you know, including our seniors. We have a lot [of seniors], but our experience might be a little less than [in previous years]. So, just keeping everybody in the loop of the team culture, making sure everyone from our sophomores all the way up to our seniors is part of that.

What do you view as your most valuable trait as a player? My hustle on defense, especially. I think at the top of our press and zone, just kind of being annoying to other players, active hands.

What will it take for this team to get out of the district tournament this season? It’s going to be that toughness. Especially mid-season, everyone’s tired … getting through that, and then not getting too comfortable where we are.

Savannah Storgaard, Senior, Girls basketball, Post

photo  Meridian girls basketball post Savannah Storgaard. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After last year’s down season, how are you hoping to shape this team into a state contender? We lost two decent seniors last year. We have a few returning players that were injured before, they’re coming back. We also have a lot of new freshmen. So, I think [it’s] a very new team. 

We need to learn how to work together first, but I think we’re all really strong and we’re getting a good start to the season.

How long have you played basketball, and what drew you to the sport? I’ve been playing for 13 years — since I was in kindergarten. I just started because my parents signed me up for it. I kind of just always got it right away and I’ve always kind of been in love with it.

What are your plans for after high school? I don’t really want to go to school. I don’t really know what I’ll do yet — probably just work. I don’t have plans to play sports or anything.


MOUNT BAKER

Lauren Valum, Senior, Girls wrestling

photo  Mount Baker girls wrestler Lauren Valum. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After reaching state last year, what’s your main goal for this season? My main goal is to make it back there, obviously, but just to get better at every tournament and just see how it goes.

How do you prepare for a meet? I normally just think to myself, ‘Don’t think,’ you know? In wrestling, it’s just your body knowing what to do and it’s just a mindset that you’ve got to keep the discipline and keep strong.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I love to dance. I like to sing and dance. It’s a fun thing to do for me. After coming home from practice, I jam out in my car.

Vance Lawrence, Senior, Boys wrestling

photo  Mount Baker boys wrestler Vance Lawrence. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

How do you plan to improve on last season’s fourth-place state finish? I’m going to work harder and push my teammates to work harder so we can get better as a team. [I need to work on] more takedowns.

What’s your favorite wrestling drill? Live wrestling. It’s like a match, but just going for 20 to 30 minutes nonstop.

What activities/hobbies do you enjoy outside of athletics? Working out, going fishing. Hunting, sometimes.


NOOKSACK VALLEY

Devin Coppinger, Senior, Girls basketball, Point guard

photo  Nooksack Valley girls basketball point guard Devin Coppinger. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

After winning a state title last season and signing to play at the University of Washington, what do you have left to prove? Not last year, but the year before, we obviously made it there and we lost. I guess we proved ourselves by winning the next year, but it’s just probably proving it’s not a fluke — we want to be consistent. 

I don’t even know what our first game is because we’re worried about practices right now. [We want to] prove that we can not only just win state, but we can get back to that spot and win again. But there’s a long way before we get there. 

How are you and the team feeling entering the season after the program’s first-ever state title? Right after it, we were all very excited and had many celebrations. But, over the summer, it was back to work. We had summer league, we did pretty good with that. [We lost] a couple good seniors last year, so younger girls, our bench is going to have to step up. But really, it’s just kind of camaraderie with the girls.

What do you enjoy most about basketball? It’s kind of all of it, but more so the competitive side. I know all sports are competitive, but it’s just kind of been my passion forever, and then just all the skills of it. I love putting in work into something and just seeing how I can go from being mediocre at something to just really improving in that growth. It just drives me to get better.

Julio Nolasco Martin, Senior, Boys wrestling

photo  Nooksack Valley boys wrestler Julio Nolasco Martin. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

What’s been your favorite moment of your wrestling career thus far? I had a tough match going against a state placer. It was my first year wrestling, and I got destroyed. I was thrown around, tossed around but I still got back up. 

I didn’t give him an easy win — [I] did the best I could. At the end of the match, he walks up to my coach and he’s like, ‘Hey, don’t let that kid give up.’ That was encouraging.

In your mind, what does it take to be successful in a sport like wrestling? It takes tenacity. You can’t give up — you will get destroyed; you will get beaten up. My whole body aches right now, just from my first day [of practice], and I know that I have to go right back to school and right back to practice and do it again all over. 

That’s what I love about wrestling, is it is not just for the sport that it teaches you, it teaches you things about life, too.

What do you like to do when you’re not training or competing? I’m either working or doing some school stuff. But what I like to do is watch wrestling.


SEHOME

Natalie Brewer, Senior, Girls basketball, Post

photo  Sehome girls basketball post Natalie Brewer. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Last year’s regional loss had to feel like an abrupt ending to the season. How are you and the team hoping to get further this season? It’s obviously going to be a challenge since this year the final two teams? make it instead of three last year, but I feel like if we work hard enough, I know all of us will have a really good chance. Our biggest competition is going to be Burlington-Edison, so we will have to suit up for them.

What do you feel is your best skill on the court? I mean I’m pretty aggressive. I like getting down on the ground and getting dirty and rebounding. So I feel that is probably my strongest [skill].

How has your role evolved since your high school career began? As a freshman I was on varsity, and of course it’s very scary being the youngest, so I didn’t really have a role — just kind of went with the flow. As a senior now and also last year I kind of became more of a leader on the team and tried to keep the team together, keep that team chemistry. I’m hoping this year I can be a team captain.

Austin McKay, Senior, Boys basketball, Shooting guard

photo  Sehome boys basketball shooting guard Austin McKay. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Only three players from last year’s team are returning this year. How do you handle that much change? Well, it is definitely a lot different than last year. I think it is going to be a big change in the leadership roles and we are going to have to step up a lot more than we ever did last year with 10 seniors. Last year was a lot different … just trying to motivate the new players and get them in the groove of things. We have a few sophomores, and one freshman will be on varsity.

What’s it like playing under a national champion coach in Brad Jackson? Brad is great. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever had. He’s very motivating, very calm and always says the right things. Obviously, he knows a lot about basketball, [has] a great resume, so yeah, he’s an unbelievable coach.

What’s something most people don’t know about you? I’m very determined, very competitive.


SQUALICUM

Bella Phillips, Senior, Girls wrestling

photo  Squalicum girl wrestler Bella Phillips. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

How did last season’s runner-up state finish motivate you for this season? It has been pretty motivating. This season, definitely the goal is state champ. I’m doing a different division this year because girls united wrestling split up. So instead of 3A/4A we’re going 1A/2A. Which is a little disheartening because all of the competition is in 3A/4A.

How did you become interested in wrestling? It is a funny story. It was in middle school during lunch and the coach only went to the guys’ table, so I went up to him and asked if girls could wrestle. He said yes, he was just scared to go to the girls’ tables.

What are your plans for after high school? I’m definitely going to college in wrestling. I’m looking at Gannon University, Menlo College, Simon Frasier [University] and Evergreen State College.

Marcus Nixon, Junior, Boys basketball, Guard/Post

photo  Squalicum boys basketball guard/post Marcus Nixon. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Do you prefer basketball, football or track and field? Why? Definitely football. I think it is a really emotional game, and to play and excel at it you kind of have to get really close to your teammates, so there’s that bonding into it. It’s definitely my favorite, and I’m the best at it out of the three.

In a competitive 2A league, how can this team take the next step this season? I think just building chemistry and kind of bonding, because we have no seniors on our team this year. So, I don’t want to look at it like a rebuild year, but if we can set ourselves up to be really solid this year going into next year, we can be really good. I think the main thing is building chemistry so by this time next year we will have pretty much the same team.

How do you balance academics and a social life while being a three-sport athlete? We have academic workshop classes so that’s time to do homework and all that. All of my friends play sports so I kind of see them at practice anyway. So that’s pretty much my social life. I just love sports in general, so it never seems like a task or a chore to me. I just know school has to come along with it. 

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