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Mirror's 2007 Male Athlete of the Year Cole Bixenman
By CASEY OLSON
Cole Bixenman is a jack of all trades.
In a day in age where specialization has reared its sometimes ugly head in high school sports, Bixenman is a throwback to the good-old days when athletes weren't considered athletes unless they played more than one season.
Bixenman did just that.
The recent Todd Beamer High School graduate was a standout on the football field as a quarterback, the wrestling mat and as a catcher on the baseball diamond for the Titans. He became the first Beamer boy to letter 12 times during his career at the 4-year-old school. Oh, and he also graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average.
"I know that if I hadn't done all three, I could have probably done better in one," Bixenman said. "But they always kept me busy. I had coaches from different teams that wanted me there more in the offseason. But I think they all helped me."
Bixenman's all-around talent also earned him the Mirror's 2007 Male Athlete of the Year. He narrowly edged out Beamer teammate Matt Hart for the honor. Hart earned all-state honors in two sports football and baseball.
"We are really going to miss those guys," said Beamer athletic director and head baseball coach Jerry Peterson. "They are great kids."
The deciding factor for Bixenman came on the wrestling mat. During his Beamer career, he wrestled at three straight Mat Classics inside the Tacoma Dome. The state championship tournament is the pinnacle for any high school wrestler and Bixenman experienced it in three different weight classes. He first qualified as a sophomore at 145 pounds and eventually ended his career as a 171-pound senior.
"I've wrestled since I was in the first grade," Bixenman said. "I think wrestling gives me that determination. It definitely makes you work hard."
But it's football and baseball that Bixenman will be playing at the next level when he takes his talents to Linfield College in the fall. The McMinnville, Ore. school plays in the NAIA Northwest Conference.
"I've always liked them both," Bixenman said about football and baseball. "I thought I was just going to play baseball in college, but I got to thinking and I couldn't imagine giving up football. I like it too much."
The Linfield football coaching staff has told him that a position switch to either receiver or safety might be his best option to get playing time. The team has a plethora of talent at quarterback. Bixenman played safety during his junior season. Linfield has an NCAA-record 51 straight winning seasons on the football field.
Bixenman had a solid season guiding the Beamer offense during his senior year. He completed 51 percent of his passes for 1,197 yards for an average of 133 yards a game under first-year coach Dick Zatkovich. He threw 11 touchdown passes and rushed for five more and was second on the team in rushing yards with 192 yards.
The Titans finished 5-5 in the rugged South Puget Sound League South Division, which was their best season in school history. His best game of the season came during a 30-12 win over Jefferson, when he threw for 270 yards and three touchdowns. In total, he had three games with three touchdown passes.
In baseball, Bixenman had a solid senior season behind the plate for the Titans. He hit .319 with four doubles, two triples, eight runs and nine RBIs. As a junior, Bixenman hit .387 with a league-leading 10 doubles, four home runs, 19 runs and 21 RBIs.
"I think baseball is probably my favorite sport," Bixenman said. "Just cause its relaxing and it's not always grinding on your body, like football and wrestling."
The Linfield baseball team is coached by former New York Yankee third baseman Scott Brosius.
"It was pretty cool to talk to him on the phone," Bixenman said. "I'm going to play catcher and they said I have a pretty good shot at getting some playing time next year."
Bixenman was part of the first class at Beamer that spent all four years at the high school.
"It's weird not being there," he said. "High school was a lot of fun. I have a lot of great memories."
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt Hart, Beamer
The Beamer graduate starred on the baseball and football fields. As a shortstop/pitcher, he hit .397 with seven doubles, two triples, 14 RBIs and one home run. He also led the SPSL South Division with 22 runs scored and 14 stolen bases. On the mound, he finished with just a 1-3 record, but had a 2.16 earned-run average and 44 strikeouts in 35 innings and also had one save.
After not playing football his junior year, Hart ended up catching 47 passes for 745 yards and nine touchdowns as a wide reciever. He was named the co-offensive back of the year in the SPSL South and was an All-Area selection by The News Tribune and a second-team all-stater by washingtonpreps.com.
He will play baseball at Washington State in the fall and was named a second-team, All-State pitcher on Friday. Hart actually shared the Todd Beamer Athlete of the Year award with Bixenman.
Andy Racus, Federal Way
The Federal Way graduate was a three-sport star for the Eagles in football, baseball and swimming.
On the football field, Racus was a key component in Federal Way's run into the postseason as a fullback/linebacker. In swimming, Racus served as the Eagles' captain and swam several events. But it was on the baseball field where the senior made his biggest mark.
Racus finished second in the North with a .532 batting average and led the league with 25 hits in 14 games. Racus also had two doubles, five home runs, 19 RBIs, 16 runs scored and five stolen bases all while playing the most demanding position on the field catcher. He was named the SPSL North's Player of the Year.
Brock Gates, Decatur
The Decatur graduate had a monster season on the baseball diamond for the Gators and was also a three-year starter as the quarterback on the football team. Gates, a first baseman, was a first-team All-State selection and finished fifth in the SPSL North with a .490 batting average and led the league with eight home runs, total bases (54) and slugged 1.102. He was also second in RBIs with 23 and had six doubles and 15 runs. He also had the best game in SPSL history when he finished 5-for-5 with four home runs, a double and 11 RBIs.
As a quarterback, Gates threw for 1,008 yards and nine touchdowns for the 2-8 Gators. He will play baseball at the University of Washington.
Devon Jones, Decatur
The three-sport athlete excelled at Decatur in football, wrestling and track. In football, Jones was the second-team, All-SPSL North punter and he qualified for the state tournament in wrestling at 171 pounds. In track, Jones competed at the district meet as a hurdler.
Andre Barrington, Federal Way
The sophomore lettered in football, basketball and track for Federal Way. In football, he ran for 1,099 yards and nine touchdowns as a running back. Barrington averaged five points, two rebounds and shot 51 percent from the field for the Eagle basketball team, which played at the state tournament. In track, he finished second in the SPSL in the long jump.
2006-07 All-City Players of the Year in every male sport
Football Tanuj Soni, Jefferson
Cross country Josh Smith, Decatur
Golf Thomas Jun, Beamer
Tennis Colin Zalewski and Kyle Christensen, Beamer
Basketball Terrell Smith, Federal Way
Swimming Tommy Cunningham, Decatur
Wrestling Trevor Mills, Beamer, and Tevyn Tillman, Decatur
Baseball Matt Hart, Beamer
Track Ezra John Griffey, Decatur
Soccer Kelyn Rowe, Federal Way, and Sean Davis, Beamer