New OHHS sports medicine facilities named for Pete Hulswit

Pete Hulswit (left), shown above with Jimmy Miller in 1986, was honored posthumously last week by the Oak Harbor School District.  The new training room at the high school was named for Hulswit.   - Photo courtesy of Helen Hulswit
Pete Hulswit (left), shown above with Jimmy Miller in 1986, was honored posthumously last week by the Oak Harbor School District. The new training room at the high school was named for Hulswit.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Helen Hulswit

Pete Hulswit, a 30-year volunteer for the Oak Harbor School District sports medicine program, was recognized posthumously Friday, Oct. 23, when the new athletic training facilities at the high school were named in his honor.

At the dedication ceremony, current Oak Harbor High School sports medicine instructor Trevor Reed said, “I would like to thank Pete for getting this program started. Now we have a first-rate facility for our first-rate athletes.”

Hulswit, a native of the Netherlands, completed his instruction for physical training and massage in 1939. From 1939-42 he helped with the Dutch Resistance during World War II. He was betrayed to the Germans in 1942 and held at a concentration camp until being liberated in 1945.

Hulswit said his knowledge in physical therapy helped him survive his ordeal.

In 1957 Hulswit moved to the United States and settled in Oak Harbor.

Hulswit was the beginning of the sports medicine program at Oak Harbor High School. In 1970 then-track coach Eric Lindberg heard about Hulswit’s “magic hands” through a parent of one of his athletes and asked him to work on an injured runner. The following season Hulswit, according to Lindberg, “mothered two of his injured quarter-milers” through late-season injuries and enabled them to compete at the state meet where they teamed up with two other Wildcats to capture the state mile relay championship.

For the next 20 years Hulswit was a fixture in the OHHS training room.

Dr. Warren Howe, a local physician at the time and current team physician for Western Washington University athletics, began working with Oak Harbor athletes in 1971, and he teamed with Hulswit to develop Oak Harbor’s first sports medicine program.

Hulswit worked with all athletes, particularly those in wrestling, track, and football. He attended every state wrestling championship beginning in 1974 and most state track events. Hulswit’s reputation for helping athletes with his massage therapy began to grow outside Oak Harbor, according to Howe. He said, “He was known island wide, state wide, even internationally.”

Former Oak Harbor High School wrestling coach Rich Linsenmayer said, “Pete had great hands, but he had the greatest heart I have ever seen.”

At state meets Hulswit would work on any athlete, not just Oak Harbor’s, who requested his assistance. Howe said, “A lot of athletes would not have been able to compete without him."

One athlete Hulswit worked with at the state track meet was Lincoln of Tacoma runner Keith Tinner. With Hulswit's help, according to Lindberg, Tinner won four individual titles.

Tinner went on to run for the University of Washington and mentioned Hulswit's work to head Husky coach Ken Shannon. For several years Shannon brought injured athletes to Oak Harbor to be worked on by Hulswit.

In 1999 Hulswit was inducted in the Washington State High School Wrestling Coaches Association Hall of Fame as a contributor to the sport. He was also honored by District I (all high schools from North Seattle to the Canadian border) for his work with high school athletes.

Hulswit’s touch on athletes was more than physical. Scott Peck, Oak Harbor graduate and current sports medicine instructor at Olympic High School, has twice been named Sports Medicine Instructor of the Year (1997, 2009). He was a student trainer under the instruction of Howe and Hulswit from 1976-80.

Peck said, “Pete was very instrumental in my career choice of sports medicine and athletic training. He was my mentor and very good friend who always had time to teach me the care of injuries through his hands. Looking back over 30 years, Pete was one of the driving forces that pushed me into the medical profession. His work ethic, positive demeanor, dedication, and willingness to help others inspired me.”

The new training facilities at Oak Harbor High School are three times the size of the current location, according to Reed, and should be ready for use in December.

Fittingly, these new facilities have Hulswit’s name over them. Howe said, “There are a few things in life that feel genuinely right. This feels genuinely right.”

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