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Fall sports preview: District programs loaded with talent
The Todd Beamer Titans rolled into the quarterfinals of the state tournament a season ago, but head coach Joel Lindberg graduated nine seniors from that team.
But that doesn’t mean the Titans don’t have a lot of firepower coming back. Leading the list is senior forward Jenny Hoefel, who led Beamer in scoring, was named the Most Valuable Player in the SPSL South and a first-team, All-State selection. Hoefel finished the season with 18 goals and seven assists for the Titans.
Decatur was the other district team to advance to the state tournament a season ago. The Gators won a penalty-kick shootout over Capital to qualify.
Decatur returns several talented players, led by defender Maggie Hale and goalkeeper Ericka Budinich. The Gator defense finished the season with six shutouts.
Jefferson came one win short of making the state tournament, but will be without Lindsay Dahl this year. Dahl finished with 28 goals in TJ’s 18 matches.
Federal Way is looking to rebuild after winning five games in the SPSL South last year. The Eagles return sophomore Gabriela Pelogi, who led the team with seven goals last year.
Federal Way High and the state of Washington will be missing a big name this fall. Mitch Stewart is not turning out for school tennis, allowing him to concentrate more on national-level tournaments. Stewart, who won the Class 4A state championship a season ago, is turning out for the Eagles’ cross country team.
Stewart, who is one of the top-ranked 16-year-olds in the country, is currently in New York City accomplishing the goal of every junior tennis player in the country. Stewart plays his first-round match on Aug. 31 at the U.S. Open Junior Tournament. Earlier this summer, Stewart won the USTA National Clay Court championship.
Jefferson returns another deep team after winning the SPSL championship a season ago. The Raiders return several players, including state veteran Alex Lee, seniors Richard Ban, Abishek Murali and Tyler Hamashima, juniors Vivek Ramanujan and Zach Martin, and sophomore Cameron Martin.
As has been the case for the past 11 years, the Thomas Jefferson Raider girls were the dominant program in Federal Way again last season. During that stretch, the Raiders have qualified for the state meet as a team, last year finishing in ninth place overall.
But TJ will be without its three top runners from a season ago with the graduation of Leah Kiyohara, Amanda Ditzhazy and Vanessa Church. So the Raiders will be counting on several newcomers this fall.
The Beamer and Federal Way girls will also have a state veteran on their rosters this fall. Beamer features sophomore Paige Hallstrom, who was 60th as a ninth-grader, and Khiana Duncan was 78th overall for the Eagles.
On the boys’ side, Beamer is shaping up to be the class of Federal Way. Last season, the Titans finished in 15th overall at the state meet and bring back their three top runners in juniors Haftom Tafere and Blake Hansen and sophomore Austin Jex.
Tafere was the top finisher at the state meet last year in 58th place. Jex was 97th and Hansen was 100th overall.
The only other boy from the district to run at state was Jefferson’s Yohan Gebrehiwet, who finished in 63rd place.
Chris Williams, a Decatur grad, takes over for longtime Federal Way coach Jean Licari. Licari died after a long battle with cancer last spring.
Recently, volleyball wins have been few and far between for the four Federal Way high schools. During the past four seasons, the programs at Beamer, Decatur, Jefferson and Federal Way have combined to win a grand total of 13 SPSL matches, which averages to under one win a season for each team. Last season, Beamer and Federal Way both finished with 1-7 league records, while Jefferson and Decatur were both winless.
The Titans might have the best returning talent of any team in Federal Way in juniors Aliya Ranis and the 6-foot-1 Megan Huff, along with senior Sophie Miller.
The Federal Way school district has long produced some of the best swimmers and divers in the state. This season should be no different.
The most successful returner will be Federal Way junior Kenna Ramey. Last year, Ramey won the state title in the 50-yard freestyle in a time of 23.62
Other state swim meet returners include Beamer’s Taylor Wintler, Michelle Rah and Annalise Miller, Federal Way’s Eva Barth and Marissa Meyer and Decatur’s Ciara Neely, Lanie Vuong and Victoria Snyder.
Diving should also include some impressive performers from Federal Way. In 2011, district divers snagged four of the top six spots on the podium at state. Current Jefferson senior Monica Church ended up in fourth place, followed by twin sister Shelby Church in sixth. Federal Way sophomore Tia Thomas finished in 16th place.
The Decatur Gators will return plenty of talent from a team that has won the last two SPSL 3A championships, including sophomore Celia Beyke.
Last season, Beyke ended up in 11th place at the Class 3A State Girls Golf Championships with a two-round total of 155 in Spokane.
Also back for the Gators will be Amanda Lehman, who played at the state tournament.
Jefferson will also have another title contender this season. The Raiders rolled to the SPSL 4A championship a season ago and bring back a bulk of that team.
Hanna Yi and Sarah Yu both made the cut during the Class 4A girls state tournament in Spokane last spring. Yi tied in 34th place and Yu ended up in 36th place. Jiny Lee also played at state, but failed to make the cut after the first round.
Thomas Jefferson’s A.J. Seo was the only boy from the Federal Way school district to qualify for the state tournament a year ago. Seo failed to make the cut at the Class 4A boys tournament at Hangman Valley Golf Course in Spokane. Seo shot a first-day round of 88.