All in a year's work

Dedication and effort paid off for a trio of Oak Harbor High School students when they were named the Wildcats Athletes of the Year for 2001-02.

Seniors Valerie Hartman, Brent Thompson and Jon Garcia won the honor at a school-wide assembly on June 7. Thompson was pleased to achieve the honor and also happy that he and Garcia shared the award, the first time that it has been split since 1995.

“It was great, I kind of knew that something was up when I saw my family at the assembly,” he said. “It was a sense of accomplishment. I think it was great that Jon got the award too, It couldn’t have been any better.”

One constant among all three of the winning athletes was hard work. Each put in a tremendous amount of time and energy to succeed in their athletic endeavors.

“Valerie improved every year,” said Wildcats head basketball coach Dwight Lundstrom about Hartman. “She played a lot of ball in the summer, went to camps and played on club teams. She just built up her game and confidence every year.”

Hartman lettered all four years as the Cats’ point guard and helped the squad make it to the state basketball tournament for the first time. She was also a four-year letter-winner in softball and a three-year letter winner in volleyball where she leaves as the Wildcats’ all-time assists leader.

The quick guard was a rock in the backcourt all four years for the Wildcats. A deft ball handler, Lundstrom didn’t have to worry about other teams pressing the Cats when Hartman had her hands on the ball.

“For four years I never had to worry about the press,” he said. “She was so good at beating it that teams couldn’t press against us.

“She’s a very confident young lady. She knows what she wants and goes after it.”

In basketball, Hartman was the playmaker on a squad that improved from 4-16 in 2000-01 to 17-3 in 2001-02 during the regular season. The Wesco All-League first-teamer led the Cats to the Wesco North Division title and helped to establish a foundation for success in the Wildcats basketball program in the future.

“We had a real good team this year and me and the other seniors helped by being patient with the younger players and just being good leaders,” she said. “When I started here we were not that good and to have success this season felt great. It feels like all the hard work I did paid off.”

Oak Harbor’s head wrestling coach Brian Farmer, who mentored both Garcia and Thompson, was happy that his team captains won the award.

“They’re both class-act individuals,” he said. “It will be extremely difficult to replace them. They were the cream of the crop and it was a privilege to coach them. The rest of the kids really responded to their leadership.”

Thompson was a four-year letter-winner in wrestling and captured the district and regional championships in the 145-pound weight class this season. He made it to the state mat classic in Tacoma in both his senior and junior years.

Garcia was also a four-year letter winner in wrestling and made it to state as a junior and a senior. He capped this season by placing third at the state tournament in the 119-pound weight class, arguably the toughest division in the state.

Farmer credits both of his captains as being intense workers who led by example.

“Both are tenacious on the mat or on the field,” he said. “Brent wears his heart on his sleeve while Jon is more reserved, but they both work extremely hard.”

During the wrestling season, Thompson also played premier soccer for the WJC Whatcom Futbol Club based in Bellingham. The team was the third-ranked team in the state’s toughest division of premier soccer.

“During wrestling I was also playing soccer too,” Thompson said. “I would have wrestling practice during the week, wrestling tournaments on Saturdays and then soccer matches on Sundays - I had a pretty full week.”

In the spring Thompson was one of the top players on a Cats team that made the district playoffs for the first time since 1994. A first-team All-Wesco midfielder, he helped the Wildcats finish third in the hotly contested North Division.

“He has been with us for four years and I have the upmost respect for his abilities as a player and a person,” said Oak Harbor head coach Steve Barker. “He and the other seniors have left us with a lot to shoot for. He made an enormous contribution for four seasons.”

Highlights on the season for Thompson were scoring four goal in a 9-0 win against Arlington and posting the clinching goal in a 3-1 triumph over Mount Vernon that sealed a playoff bid for the Cats.

Garcia was one of two Wildcat tracksters to make it to the state meet in the pole vault, the first time in 21 years that a Cat track athlete has made it in that discipline.

Despite not having the typical lanky frame of a pole vaulter, Garcia was able to make it to state by doing what he does best - working hard.

“We got a lot of compliments from opposing coaches that said that they liked to watch Jon and teammate Ezrael Comicho vault because they were something different,” said Seth Hodges, the Wildcats’ cross-country coach. “They are short with good upper-body strength and they fly down the runway. Both of them were fun to watch.”

The district meet at Stanwood typified Garcia’s tenacity. Working with a borrowed pole that he was using in competition for the first time, Garcia cleared 13 feet for the first time to make it to the state meet in Tacoma. Garcia was also a member of the Cats’ 4X400 relay team that narrowly missed out on going to state.

“We are in a world where kids are specializing in sports now, and Jon is a guy who is a true three-sport athlete,” Hodges said. “He wrestles, he runs distances, he pole vaulted and he was on our relay team. He is a guy who can do it all and do it all well.”

Garcia also ran cross-country in the fall as a means of getting in shape for the wrestling season. According to Hodges he proved to be a very capable distance runner. He made the Wildcats’ district team and was named Most Inspirational after the season.

“I think that Jon recognized that if he wanted to be a good wrestler that he needed to be a better athlete than his opponents,” Hodges said. “He was out there with a purpose and I think that the other runners saw that and respected that.”

All three plan on participating in athletics next fall as they move on to college.

Hartman is going to Whitman College in Walla Walla and will play basketball. They asked her to play volleyball but she wants to focus on hoops and her studies. The Whitman basketball team struggled this season, but Hartman hopes that her and the rest of the incoming freshmen can turn things around - a role that she is familiar with.

“They don’t have a real good program right now but there are a lot of good freshmen coming in so it’s similar to high school,” she said. “Hopefully we can turn things around.”

According to Hodges, Garcia will attend Central Washington University next year where he plans to wrestle. Hodges thinks that he could do track as well.

“I’ll drop an email to the track coach over there to tell him that he has a pretty good pole vaulter and sprinter that he should take a look at,” he said.

Thompson is attending Skagit Valley College next year where he will play soccer. The Cardinals could build a powerhouse with several members of Thompson’s Premier League team joining up as well as three players from the undefeated 4A state champion’s Decatur.

Thompson thought about the award at the beginning of the school year and was happy to cap his high school career on the wall of fame.

“I guess I had a dream about it at the beginning of the year,” he said. “I wanted to do my best and if it happened it happened. I worked really hard and pushed myself all year and it paid off.”

That could be said about all three award winners.

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