Sports in Clark County – ClarkCountyToday.com

The State Championships are back, as are the Clark County Champions

The biggest day of sport in 2021?

Oh, that should be easy, right?

Well, maybe not.

Certainly, November 20 must be in the discussion. It was the day that Columbia River and Ridgefield met for the State 2A Volleyball Championship. The rapids – the rapids? – yes, the Rapids beat the Spudders for the title.

On the same day, the Camas Papermakers finished an unbeaten season to claim the Class 4A women’s football title.

The Camas Papermakers went undefeated and won the Class 4A State Championship, one of the best sports stories of 2021. This photo was taken by Kris Cavin, also known as KC Fresh.  He moved out of the region, another big sporting story of the year.  Photo by Kris Cavin
The Camas Papermakers went undefeated and won the Class 4A State Championship, one of the best sports stories of 2021. This photo was taken by Kris Cavin, also known as KC Fresh. He moved out of the region, another big sporting story of the year. Photo by Kris Cavin

There were also a few Clark County High School football teams in the quarterfinals that day.

Or maybe it was March 19, when two-time football coach Rick Steele of Hockinson resigned. Or on June 8, when two-time state champion football coach Jon Eagle de Camas resigned. Big news, of course, these days.

Rick Steele, pictured here celebrating the 2018 State Championship, has stepped down as Hockinson's football coach after the abridged spring season in 2021. Photo by Mike Schultz
Rick Steele, pictured here celebrating the 2018 State Championship, has stepped down as Hockinson’s football coach after the abridged spring season in 2021. Photo by Mike Schultz

Before they could even play soccer, volleyball or soccer, the powers that be had to come up with a plan to play.

Which means January 26, 2021 may have been the most important day for sports in Clark County in 2021.

It’s the day that athletic directors and school principals gave the green light for training to begin the following week for most fall sports, including football.

So, on February 1, high school athletes officially trained for the first time in the 2020-21 school year. The high school athletes were preparing for the games for the first time in about 11 months.

The return of the sport has helped society get back to some of what we had before the pandemic. In this state, in particular, it has been a slow journey. And even at the end of the year, we have a lot of COVID-related issues wreaking havoc on the local sports scene. The entire sport of high school wrestling is on a ‘hiatus’, although high school basketball is also having issues with COVID.

So, no, not even close to being back to the way things were. But still, the return of the sport has helped so many people.

Let’s take a look at some of the best sports stories, not just high school sports, as well as some of my favorites, from 2021:

On January 5th, we showed up at a dark thirty in the morning to watch the Mountain View football team hit the weight room, but there was no room. Because the players had moved the weights outside. Yes, at the start of 2021, with no football schedule yet, no season guarantee, the Thunder were out in January, still gloomy, lifting weights before school. It kind of told the story of the athletes at the start of 2021. Lots of unknowns, but athletes still had to find a way to prepare for anything.

Also in January, we featured Thomas Fletcher, a former Vancouver athlete who won a national championship playing for Alabama football. Later that year, he was drafted by the Carolina Panthers. Fletcher is spending his first year in professional football on the injured reserve list.

February was the return of the action for sports at Clark County High School. Fall sports in February, remember? Football in February and March. Crazy times.

I’ve written a few columns this year, but the one that stood out to me is my call for compassion rather than blame when it comes to COVID and sports. That day in March, it was the Camas athletes, who were accused of “spreading” the disease. For the rest of my life, I will never remember how our country openly took root for one side or another to get sick, to blame someone for spreading a virus that was not unknown. from any of us two years ago. No matter where you are on the political side of COVID-19, masks or vaccination, I do not wish any of you to get sick. And if you do, I will pray for a speedy recovery, and I will never blame you. It’s not your fault that COVID is here. Certainly not the fault of a teenager from Camas.

Also in March, Clark County mourned the loss of Ralph Huffman. The Washougal MX National is Clark County’s largest sporting event in terms of attendance. Over 20,000 fans show up as the series draws people from across the Northwest. This wouldn’t have been possible without Huffman, the track co-owner who has made all the improvements needed every year to keep the series coming back.

Ralph Huffman's family gathered around Ralph's Rock at Washougal MX Park this summer.  Ralph Huffman, the park's co-owner who died in the spring, helped make Washougal an annual stop on the national motocross tour.  Photo by Paul Valence
Ralph Huffman’s family gathered around Ralph’s Rock at Washougal MX Park this summer. Ralph Huffman, the park’s co-owner who died in the spring, helped make Washougal an annual stop on the national motocross tour. Photo by Paul Valence

In April, Columbia River High School officially adopted the name Rapids for its sports teams. The argument can go on and on with traditionalists. But the students have adapted. They are the Rapids. Or, they are River. Works anyway. Oh, but for a split second, Sasquatch was on the table. It would have been fun.

Also in April, we featured Robert Franks, an Evergreen High School graduate who reached the NBA last season. He finished that calendar year with the Brisbane Bullets, playing in the Australian league. It’s the start of the season, but he leads the team in points and rebounds.

In May one of my favorite pictures I have ever taken, just because of the weird situation. Wrestling in high school. In May. Outside. At Doc Harris stadium in Camas. Yet another thing we never thought we would see before the pandemic.

Outdoor high school wrestling?  At Doc Harris Stadium.  It was supposed to be in 2021. Photo by Paul Valencia
Outdoor high school wrestling? At Doc Harris Stadium. It was supposed to be in 2021. Photo by Paul Valencia

In June, it was the return of the Ridgefield Raptors. The organization was still trying to figure out how to handle the ever-changing pandemic protocols, but almost 1,000 people showed up on opening night because, well, it’s baseball. Clark County showed they love the Raptors when they first arrived in 2019, and fans missed the Raptors when there was no season in 2020.

Later that summer, Skyview High School’s Caden Vire was drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers.

We had local ties to the Olympics. Kara Winger, a Skyview High School graduate and four-time Olympian, carried the American flag at the closing ceremony of the Tokyo Games. Gymnast Jordan Chiles, a Prairie High School graduate, won a silver medal. She was honored by Vancouver with a parade later in the summer.

Jordan Chiles waves his silver medal during a parade in his honor in Vancouver in August.  Photo by Paul Valence
Jordan Chiles waves his silver medal during a parade in his honor in Vancouver in August. Photo by Paul Valence

Tobias Merriweather of Union High School, one of football’s best rookies to come out of Clark County in years, announced in early August that he intended to sign with Notre Dame. Later this month, we featured Merriweather, noting that her academic achievements are on par with her athletic achievements. In December, he formalized it by signing with the Fighting Irish.

In high school football, Ridgefield had his best season since his state title in 1995, winning his first 11 games to reach the quarter-finals.

Then there was November 20, with the Camas women’s soccer and Columbia River volleyball teams winning the state championships. The fall sports championship seasons hosted by the WIAA were the first since winter sports ended in 2020, just before the closures.

The Columbia River Rapids won the State 2A Volleyball State Championship on the same day the Camas women's football team won it all, giving Clark County two great stories on the same day.  Photo by Paul Valence
The Columbia River Rapids won the State 2A Volleyball State Championship on the same day the Camas women’s football team won it all, giving Clark County two great stories on the same day. Photo by Paul Valence

And in December, we noted that sports photographer Kris Cavin, known as KC Fresh on social media, had left the area – a great loss for Clark County athletes. Cavin, after all, volunteered his time and talent, never charging an athlete for the photos he provided.

As we head into 2022, there remains a lot of confusion, anger, frustration, whatever you want to call it, in terms of a pandemic.

But there have been a lot of great things in 2021 and I’m sure more amazing times will come in 2022.

As KC Fresh often tweets:

“Today is going to be so awesome.”

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About Frances R. Smith

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