Best of luck to new college athletes

"Inside Pitch" -- sports commentary

As all the local high school athletes strap on their helmets, shinguards and knee pads for the start of the fall sports season, I am sitting here trying to figure out a way to fit every event into my oh-so-busy schedule.

That’s because my coverage area has gotten a lot bigger since last year, with a handful of former high-school stars taking to the field in the college ranks.

Becca Meierbachtol is right down the road at the University of Portland. Jacobe Krizman and Tommy Owyen are a little further down the road at Southern Oregon University.

Jon Munk and Todd Shypertt are a lot further away at Notre Dame de Namur University. And Matt Dallman is even further still at Chico State University.

I’m not sure if time will allow me to get all the way to Chico, Calif. (at least this season), but I plan to make at least one appearance in Ashland, and at least a couple more at U.P.

(After all, knowing a player on the defending national champs is only added incentive for this soccer nut.)

I’m also going to try to make it down to Western Baptist College in Salem to watch another local product, John Winters of Horizon Christian School. I talked to him right before he left, and I know it would mean a lot to him.

But that’s not the only reason I’m out covering these kids. I’m there because I know there are plenty of people in this community who are anxious to hear about them even after they have graduated.

There is always room in the Hood River News for a story on Beth Pendleton (University of Wisconsin swimming), Dana Huseby (University of Nevada track-and-field), Kellen Maurer (Mississippi State University golf), or Crystal Draper (Oregon State University softball).

Now let’s expand that to the Class of 2003, which, to my knowledge, produced seven college-level athletes. That’s five more than the Class of 2002, which produced only Jordan Thompson (Chico State, soccer) and Joel Stenberg (Whitworth, soccer).

Each of the recent grads figures to play a vital role on his or her new team, and of those seven athletes, six of them received some type of scholarship.

That’s really saying something, considering that the Class of 2001 and 2002 didn’t even produce half that number — combined.

But it’s not only about the money. It’s about the opportunity to play at the next level. It’s about raising the bar for future high-school athletes. It’s about making your hometown proud.

I know each of the 2003 grads that is playing at the college level this year, and I can assure you that none of them will let us down. They will give us something to be proud of, and if nothing else, something else to talk about.

High school sports season is here, and I can’t wait to do it all over again. But the athletes who have risen to the college ranks also deserve our support.

So while you’re out cheering for the Blue and Gold this season, don’t forget about the other amazing stories being written elsewhere.

I’ll do my best to make sure you won’t.

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