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The WIAA believes that school activities matter, and here's why...


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Roberto Duenaz

Academics vs. athletics has long been a hot topic regarding student athletes. Roberto Duenaz, a senior at Seattle Lutheran High School, is one of many students who has been motivated by athletic eligibility. Captain of this year's basketball team, Duenaz is the male recipient of February's Student Spotlight.


According to Seattle Lutheran’s Athletic Handbook, “A Student must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 to be eligible for co-curricular participation. Grades at the end of every four weeks are used to calculate GPA for eligibility. Students with one or more “F” grade (63% or below), regardless of GPA, are considered ineligible.” For Duenaz and other student athletes, this GPA is not always attainable for one reason or another.

Athletic Director David Sleighter said of Duenaz, “Although he has struggled with grades periodically throughout his four years, he has matured and made tremendous progress. I know for a fact that activities matter for Roberto.”

Head basketball coach Brett Kapels described Duenaz as “smooth, patient and unselfish,” all characteristics of a mature senior who has learned a lot over his last four years of athletics.


Beyond time management skills and a way to be part of a team, Duenaz has learned to have patience with players who aren’t as good as him, to appreciate the competition his teammates give him at practice, that “it doesn’t matter who scores as long as the team does good,” and regarding referees, they “don’t always do the best of jobs, but they do have a difficult job that not a lot of people could do.” That’s more than most adults can say about officials.

When asked of challenges he’s encountered in his four years at Seattle Lutheran, Duenaz noted his eligibility. Last year he had to sit out for six games early on in the basketball season. Considering the Lions have placed at State the last two years, it wasn’t easy for Duenaz to sit and watch.

Duenaz gives credit to overcoming his eligibility struggles by working harder, setting alarms for homework time and listening to everyone saying “time flies,” especially with the busy schedule of a student athlete.

For Duenaz, the day  starts at 8:00am. He’s in class for six hours, has practice for two hours after school, then carves out time for homework, a shower, food and finally sleep - only to wake back up and do it all over again. Being a multi-sport athlete (Duenaz participates in two of three seasons) guarantees the four years of high school to go by quickly.

Although he feels like he’s missed out on activities with friends due to his commitment to being a student athlete, Duenaz said, “priorities matter.” Priorities for him have become committing to hard work on the court for his team and even harder work in the classroom for himself.


School hasn’t always been Duenaz’s favorite, but participating in school sports the last four years has turned his attitude around. Coach Brett Kapels explained further: “For some, it [extracurricular sports/activities] is the motivation to do well in school. For others it is one of the best things they have going in life, it keeps them moving everyday. Roberto has changed his view and really started to appreciate the opportunity to play and recognize the need to keep his work in order to do so.”

Bella Hillman

Bella Hillman is a senior at Olympia High School. She's a dance/drill captain and is described by her coach, Chelsea Peterson, as a "living example of somebody who gets what they put into it." Hillman is the female recipient of February's Student Spotlight. 


Dance/drill is not often what one thinks of when the subject of team sports is brought up. After hearing from Hillman herself, it is clear that dance/drill requires as much if not more grit, perseverance and teamwork than the higher profile athletic activities.

In 2001, dance/drill became an official WIAA competitive activity paired with an annual State Tournament.


Although still not considered a mainstream sport, Hillman explained why she is proud to compete for Olympia with her dance/drill squad.

“It gives us a chance to represent our school in a positive and different way - we pull a different crowd, it’s our own culture. It’s taught me a lot about myself and others, we’re close, we have no boundaries.”

She went on to explain that trust is one of the most important parts of a team and in her squad. It has challenged her to trust her teammates in a way that has been hard for her in the past. It has allowed her to “feel her feelings.”


Anybody who has been a part of a team has experienced the strength of a teammate relationship. Like Hillman, you spend practically all day around each other, whether in season, or training during off-season, often sacrificing weekends for more practice or a tournament.

It’s not just teammates that an athlete builds these strong bonds with, the coaches are along for the ride too. As a student-athlete, your coach may also be your teacher during the school-day, as is the case with Hillman and coach, Peterson.

When asked what all good coaches have in common, Hillman explained there has to be “passion for the players and dedication to the sport.”

Peterson has known Hillman as a student since she taught her in eighth grade and as an athlete since ninth grade. She described Hillman as talented, humble and tenacious. Peterson has been able to watch Hillman grow as a young woman and as the strong and talented dancer she is today.

Tearing up, Peterson explained that Hillman is “truly, one hundred percent dedicated. She is one of them.”

“I watched her find her voice. She has massively come out of her shell, I see that in a lot of students who participate.”



WIAA student leadership committee.  Sophomores:  applications accepted in the spring.
$5,000 scholarship opportunity for graduating seniors.  Apply November 1-April 1, 2017.

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T-Strong at Kent Meridian

While sports are a natural arena for rivalries and competition, the Kent Meridian Football and Cheer programs have used this season as a chance to promote unity and sportsmanship throughout the North South Puget Sound League (NSPSL).


The Royals cheer squad and football team brought attention to Childhood Cancer Awareness month this September by implementing a "#TaylorStrong" awareness campaign.

A member of the KM coaching staff has a family friend whose son Taylor was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  The “T-Strong” campaign was started to support his fight. Taylor loves to watch student-athletes in uniform under the Friday Night Lights. These student-athletes have become heroes to Taylor, and the KM Royals have chosen to show Taylor how many “heroes” he has here in Washington State.

Cheer coaches Erica Wolfskill and Gerald Spalti explained the campaign further, “As a way to spread awareness and show this little boy that we have his back, KMHS Cheer and Football teams have been meeting their opponents’ mid-field, prior to kick off, to take one massive photo for Taylor.” 

 Amidst the fiery emotions that come along with competition, Kent Meridian and its opponents have created space for cross-team camaraderie and uniting for an altruistic movement.  
“While yes, we are bringing awareness, we are also showing that all schools in this league can unite for a cause. We are always looking for ways to promote and encourage sportsmanship…what better way to do so than to unite for a cause.”

Throughout the season, visiting coaches and players from schools such as Auburn Riverside, Hazen, Kentlake and Mt. Rainier have participated in the campaign by joining the Royals at the 50-yard line for a pre-game photo.

“This campaign has made so much of an impact that the new slogan for every game is to be “T-Strong," said Wolfskill and Spalti.

The KM Royals hope to use “#Taylorstrong” as a symbol of awareness for all students, regardless of their challenges, and to show that no matter what happens on the field, it's what you do off the field that can really make a difference.

Nathan Adrian
Bremerton HS '06
Nathan Adrian, Olympic Swimmer and Bremerton HS Alum '06

Ten-time Olympic medalist Nathan Adrian, a Bremerton HS alum, is featured in the Olympics edition of the Alumni Spotlight.

Nathan was introduced to swimming at the age of five when his older brother, sister and his friends were all swimming. His love of swimming blossomed from there. Nathan became a two-time WIAA State Champion in the 200-yard Freestyle with a time of 1:37.17 and the 100-yard Freestyle with a time of 44.08 as a senior (2006). His winning time in the 200-yard Freestyle is still a Boys Swimming & Diving State Meet Record. He followed his brother's and sister's footsteps and chose to swim at the Division I collegiate level. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he swam for the Bears.


(Video courtesy of Team Speedo YouTube channel
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