Falcon winter sports shine in classroom

South Whidbey girls basketball players Kinsey Eager

South Whidbey High School’s winter sports teams will have new plaques to hang in their respective locker rooms this year, but none have anything to do with achievements in athletics.

Wrestling, girls basketball, boys basketball and cheer were honored by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) for their academic achievements. Girls basketball and cheer were honored with “outstanding” scholastic awards, which requires a varsity team to collectively maintain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or higher, while wrestling and boys basketball earned “distinguished” scholastic awards for GPA’s between 3.0-3.49.

Representatives of the teams were recognized at South Whidbey School District’s regular monthly meeting March 23. Coaches sent rosters with players’ names and GPAs to the WIAA.

First-year athletic director Paul Lagerstedt said the widespread achievement spoke volumes about the integrity of the student-athletes.

“It speaks to their organization and their prioritizing and their time management,” Lagerstedt said in a phone interview Monday afternoon. “It says a lot about our school culture.”

Four of the Falcons’ 12 varsity girls basketball players — juniors Megan Drake, Kinsey Eager, Bailey Forsyth and senior Morgan Davis — were present at the meeting. Davis, who holds a 3.94 GPA and is a member of honor society and Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), said the path to earning the achievement wasn’t easy. While on the road, the varsity girls and boys basketball teams would often find a quiet room to study while the junior varsity teams played. Together, the Falcon teams pushed one another to finish their homework so they wouldn’t have to stay up late at night finishing it when they got home.

“It was helpful to have us all in one room doing it together,” Davis, who plans to study physical therapy at Eastern Washington University next fall, said. “That was one way we got through the really long away games.”

Falcon head coach Andy Davis said nine of the 12 players participate in multiple sports, as well as extracurricular activities such as DECA and honor society.

“One of the things about extracurricular sports that people need to realize is those students that participate, if you compare their academic success to the regular student body, their GPAs tend to be higher than the kids that aren’t involved,” Davis said at the meeting. “Kids that are involved achieve at a higher level than kids that aren’t involved. That’s one of the biggest reasons why I believe in athletics.”

Davis said the team’s collective GPA could have been even higher had it not been for upperclassmen taking high-end courses such as advance placement history, precalculus and calculus.

“Because of those rigorous classes, our GPA dipped a little bit, but no fault to them,” Davis said. “We have great, great kids on our teams and it’s easy to go to practice every single day and it’s just fun.”

Cheer captains Carmen Warwick and Thandeka Brigham and head coach Savannah Turner were present at the meeting to accept the honor.

“I’m just proud of them,” Turner said at the meeting. “They work really hard for me. To keep up their grades for what they do everyday, it blows my mind honestly.”

Falcon head wrestling coach Jim Thompson accepted the award on behalf of his team. He, like other coaches, try to stress the importance of maintaining good grades at the start of every practice.

“You hope that after a couple years that they’re kind of getting it,” Thompson said at the meeting. “Well, I think for the past few years my wrestling team is getting it.”

Thompson said his wrestlers collectively were between 3.2-3.49. The Falcons sent five of its 11 wrestlers to the class 1A state wrestling championships. Junior Hunter Newman, who was one win shy of placing in the top-eight, earned academic all-state.

Falcons Lewis Pope, Kellen Boyd, Tyler Heggenes and Maxfield Friedman accepted the honors for their boys basketball team. Head coach Mike Washington said at the meeting that when he took over the program in 2014, he instilled his philosophy on academics. Players are required to send in their grade reports via email or text every Wednesday. If grades slip, the players will do extra running.

“However, this year, they haven’t had to do any extra running because the grades were so good,” Washington said.