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Dave Nichols: Giving a few more senior athletes a little bit more recognition

It was another terrific year in Eastern Washington high school sports, and the Spokane Youth Sports Awards ceremony on Tuesday at the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox marks the official end of the prep season. The presentations were a great way to honor some of those performances and highlight the incredibly talented athletes we covered this season.

Before we go on, a disclaimer: I was a member of the selection committee this year. It was a tremendous honor and I was flattered that Herb Rotchford and the rest of the Spokane Sports Commission asked me to participate in the process and help write the bios of the athletes for the awards program.

The selection committee is made up of members of the commission, current athletic directors, former coaches and other prominent folks in Spokane and they all have their specific knowledge base – whether it be a particular sport, league or school – which in isolation far outreaches my own.

But as someone who keeps track of all the leagues in Eastern Washington and visited over 50 schools this year, it was nice that they valued my wider – if maybe a bit diluted – input.

Enough about me.

All of this year’s nominees are extremely qualified and rightful recipients of this honor. These are the kids we should be promoting and holding up as an example as not only talented athletes but as tireless workers and good human beings and, in most cases, tremendous students.

In fact, it was extremely difficult in most categories to trim the nominees into the three finalists, let alone pick the winner.

Clearly, they are all winners.

So I don’t want to distract from any of those kids, and you can read all about them in the article I wrote about the ceremony elsewhere on this page.

I’ve known quite a few of the kids from covering them the last couple of years. For the seniors, it’s the last time I interviewed them as a high school athlete. That part is bittersweet. A few of them, especially from the smaller schools, I met for the first time – but their stories are no less impressive and important.

But the rest of this column I’m going to dedicate to a few senior athletes who either weren’t selected as a finalist or – for some inexplicable reason – weren’t nominated. I feel these kids deserved a little more recognition before we close the books on the 2018-19 high school sports season.

John Knight

The Colville football and wrestling teams were both honored at the event, but Knight had a spectacular senior season.

He was an all-league and all-state quarterback (headed to Montana State) who led his team to its first state championship, passing for more than 1,800 yards and rushing for 450 yards with 28 total touchdowns.

Knight then won his second state title in the 182-pound weight class and first as a team in wrestling. He then came back to baseball after two years off to lead that team to a state semifinal as its No. 1 pitcher with a 6-0 record and hit .485 as an infielder.

He did all this while maintaining a 3.4 grade-point average and participating in leadership at the school.

Xander Werkman

The 6-foot-6, 230-pound senior was a busy guy, starring in three sports for two schools.

Werkman attended St. George’s and was All-Northeast 2B in basketball and baseball. In the fall, he earned All-Greater Spokane League 4A first-team honors at offensive tackle representing Lewis and Clark.

He helped the Tigers to a playoff appearance and winning record for the first time in several seasons, then led the Dragons to their second consecutive state runner-up finish in basketball.

In the spring, Werkman threw a no-hitter for St. George’s and was named state baseball player of the week by the WIAA. He hit over .700 and played in the all-classifications all-state feeder game. He will play basketball for Division III Bowdoin (Maine) College next year.

Maguire (Mac) Isaak

Isaak has excelled as a three-sport athlete for Almira/Coulee-Hartline.

He has played in three State 1B title games in football, winning two, played on four state placers in basketball – including two second-place finishes – and three baseball title games, including this year when the Warriors won their second consecutive championship.

In his career, Isaak rushed for 3,307 yards and 57 TDs while passing for 5,817 yards and 101 TDs and was twice selected as all-state. He amassed 1,478 points, 558 rebounds, and 446 assists as a four-year basketball starter and earned league MVP twice and was 2018-19 WIBCA 1B player of the year. He is a two-time all-league second baseman and hit over .300 in his baseball career, including hitting .412 during the 2018 season.

Isaak has been a member of three academic state championship football teams and two academic state championship baseball teams, carrying a 3.93 GPA.

Jacob Parola

He might have been overshadowed by teammate Anton Watson on Gonzaga Prep’s back-to-back State 4A championship basketball teams, but no one in Spokane worked harder this season.

Parola was a running back and earned All-GSL first-team honors at linebacker, despite being listed at 5-11 and 170 pounds in pads.

He then piloted the Bullpups’ title-winners at point guard, earning honorable mention all-league.

Parola might not have filled the stat sheet every night, but he provided calm leadership on offense and a ferocious, linebacker’s tenacity on defense – all the while playing through a shoulder injury sustained during football that, while he didn’t like to talk about it, made even lifting his arm difficult at times.

Mady Simmelink

The Central Valley senior was a 12-time letter winner – four each in soccer, basketball and track – the first girl to achieve that distinction at CV.

Simmelink was a part of 11 GSL championship teams over her four years, including two state final four appearances in soccer, two state titles and four state appearances in basketball – with a win in the 2019 GEICO Nationals tournament – and four straight trips to state in track, with three top-five finishes for the team.

She was also CV’s representative for the GSL Scholar-Athlete of the Year with a 3.95 GPA and will play basketball at Concordia on academic and athletic scholarship.

Quincy McDeid

McDeid never received the same attention as some of the players she faced during her four years at North Central, but she carved out a special place in NC and GSL basketball history.

McDeid was a 12-time letter winner in soccer, basketball and golf. She finished her career as the all-time leading scorer in NC with 1,234 points and is the only four-time All-GSL honoree from the school.

On top of all that, she was NC’s nominee for GSL Scholar-Athlete of the Year with a 3.76 GPA, and as a student at Eastern Washington under the Running Start program her junior and senior year, she made the Dean’s List at EWU one quarter.

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