The Decatur Golden Gator girls soccer team uses the pitch at Saghalie Park, while construction of the new turf at Decatur High School is completed. JEROD YOUNG, the Mirror

Saghalie Park heartbeat of Federal Way athletics | Full-Court Press

Monday afternoon was ugly.

If you took a moment to step outside, you saw what I am talking about. It was like all of the clouds convened over the city at 3 p.m. The sky was virtually almost black.

Within the next five minutes, it was as if those black clouds just could not possibly hold on to the rain bloating them across the sky. The sky began to pour — no — vomit rain.

Thankfully, I had made the decision to not yet get out of my car and head over to the tennis courts at Saghalie Park. As 15 minutes passed, the downpour turned to the standard Washington drizzle, which meant it was safe to exit.

As I did, I witnessed something incredible. While my world ceased to exist within that 15-minute window, all three of the sports practices going on at the time of Rainageddon just kept going [high school tennis had been cancelled, by the way].

To the north of the tennis courts, the middle school football practice was as loud, lively and enthusiastic as it had been prior to the surprise showers. And the players’ demeanor was as though a single drop had not ever fallen.

At the high school soccer practice underway on the fields to the right, same thing. There was no pause in instruction or play. The 11-on-11 play matched that of the players to the north: active, determined. Then there was the cross country team that had been circling the park long before the rain started.

The sky fell apart, but the female runners were as in line, as ever. Their pace never wavered, and their cadence never silenced. The harder it rained, the more determined they were to push on.

It was quite a picture.

Rain is a cruel foe to high school athletics. With many sports, the sight of a single drop spells doom for a given competition.

Take tennis or golf, for example. Tennis and golf season is almost completely eliminated each year thanks to the rain. Tennis players spend almost as much time on the indoor basketball courts as actual hoops players do.

And by the time they do get outside and compete, they just are not as ready for competition because of the long, arduous layoffs.

On the bright side, through the first five golf games and tennis matches, Federal Way schools have, for the most part, staved off bad weather. But now it is here. Let the cancellations begin.

For sports like football and soccer, there are no rain outs and some athletes don’t seem to mind.

“I don’t think it’s really much of a factor,” Jefferson senior soccer captain Michelle Kim said. “I mean, it can be. It can be slippery on the turf, [but] I don’t think it ever plays a role with how we focus and our drive to win.”

Maybe it is not about what sport can or cannot be played in the rain.

Perhaps what occurred at Saghalie Park on that rainy Monday was not an anomaly but is a part of something bigger.

Federal Way and the teams and individuals who bring that park to life might just be that passionate, that dedicated to sports.

“Federal Way is a sports town,” Federal Way Parks Director John Hutton said. “It has tremendous support, and there is a desire to play all the time. What you saw on a day like that is a normal day in the life of Saghalie, and you see that level of activity from sun up to sun down.”

He would know. Before he became the parks director, he was in charge of heading city athletics 20 years ago.

When the city built Saghalie Park in 1996, Hutton had direct input on how the park was designed. It was originally designed as the city’s premier softball complex.

Since it was built, the park has served as the city’s sports heartbeat. Young stars such as Travis Ishikawa, John Lester, Fran O’Brien and Stuart Lee all competed at Saghalie Park at one time.

“So many big names started on those fields,” Hutton said. “From six to 75-year-olds, this city has some phenomenal athletes.”

Monday afternoon was not pleasant. The rain could not contain itself. Yet athletes of all sports flocked to Saghalie Park to compete.

It was quite the sight to see.

It spoke volumes about how important sports are to Federal Way. While most of the city did its best to stay dry, Federal Way’s brightest athletes came out and lit up Saghalie Park and its love for sports — bright enough for all to see.

Jerod Young is the sports reporter for the Mirror. He can be contacted at jyoung@federalwaymirror.com.

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