On basketball game days at South Whidbey High School, the players, coaches, officials and fans show up, the whistle blows, the referee tosses the ball in the air and the game begins.
It begins — and continues, usually with no hiccups — because of what goes on behind the scenes. Among those who make it happen are longtime helpers Mary Ann Davis, Janet McNeely and Pat Nostrand.
“It is such a relief that you know you have quality people who are going to get the job done right,” South Whidbey Athletic Director Paul Lagerstedt said.
He added that the three are “community icons” and that the people coming to the games look forward to seeing them.
For visiting fans, the trio are among the first they encounter at the athletic contests, and they always make a good first impression, according to Lagerstedt.
Lagerstedt noted that the group enjoys working together, and that helps make for a “better environment” at South Whidbey sporting events.
In 2018, the Snohomish County Officials Association selected South Whidbey’s game-day crew as the Scorer’s Table of the Year.
In addition to working Falcon basketball games, the three volunteer to help at football contests.
“We shine with them,” Lagerstedt said.
Mary Ann Davis
Davis doesn’t recall when she started helping out at the games: “It’s been 20-some years.” It might be closer to 30-some because she fondly remembers the glory years of Falcon basketball in the 1980s.
Davis moved to South Whidbey 42 years ago and was recruited to help out at the games by friends Linda and Bill Alexander, who worked at the score table. Davis’ first assignment was running the shot clock.
She is not sure how much longer she will help out, but she does know that she “isn’t ready to give it up.”
Davis noted she grew up in a small town and likes the feeling of being connected. Helping at the basketball games enables her stay ingrained in the community.
Interacting with people at the games and with the people she volunteers with is a “real joy,” she said.
Watching her three children and a grandchild grow up and graduate from South Whidbey added to the enjoyment of being involved with the schools, Davis said.
McNeely has worked as the high school athletic coordinator for the past 15 years and as the middle school athletic director for the last three.
Those responsibilities require doing “many jobs,” she said. Among those are filling in when officials, press box workers or scorekeepers don’t show up; doing custodial work; monitoring crowds; and welcoming visiting teams and officials.
“Being a small school and not having many paid helpers, the athletic director (Lagerstedt) and I work very closely together to take care of details at all athletic events,” she said.
McNeely, a retired physical education specialist, became involved in South Whidbey athletics when she began a 21-year stint as the middle school volleyball coach; the final two years included announcing duties at girls basketball games.
That morphed into becoming athletic coordinator, which “seemed the logical next step as I had retired from coaching but was still teaching at South Whidbey Elementary and wanted to stay connected to athletics and student athletes,” McNeely said. “I love my longtime connection to our student athletes. Most of them I taught in grades K-2, and to see them again in high school is a special bond.”
She is looking forward to the end of COVID restrictions and resumption of school sports: “I love my job and have been pretty lost without athletics and our kids.”
McNeely’s work goes beyond the school grounds. She also volunteers at her church (Trinity Lutheran), with the Star Legacy Foundation and with South Whidbey Little League.
“I love giving back to our kids and families.”
Nostrand, who moved to South Whidbey from San Diego in 1984, started keeping score when she was asked by her son’s freshman basketball coach Nathan Buck in 1994.
Her son would stay and watch the junior varsity and varsity games that followed, and Nostrand was often recruited to keep score or work the shot clock when the scheduled operators were unable to attend. Eventually she took over those duties full time. Her son transferred after his sophomore season, but Nostrand stuck with it because she was “having so much fun.”
“It is a way to stay attached to the kids,” she said. “They are fun and respectful, and it is so cute when they come up after the game and ask how many points they scored.”
Nostrand has built a reputation as an honest and accurate scorekeeper.
On the rare occasion when the home and visitor’s scorebooks don’t match, the officials have always sided with Nostrand.
She said she appreciates that they trust her and recognize her abilities.
Nostrand enjoys the fact that she will always have a seat at the games, even when the gym is full. And, not any seat, but “the best in the house.”
Nostrand, who retired from teaching in the Everett School District in 2013, said she isn’t ready to hand in her pencil.
“I’ll stick around until my numbers don’t add up,” she said.