Camas athletes get ready for shortened winter, spring seasons

Coaches focus on 'providing great experiences,' training for 2021-22 season

With no season-ending state championship events to prepare for, Camas High School’s traditional winter and spring sports coaches are adjusting their priorities as they ready their teams to begin truncated 2021 seasons this week.

Some are emphasizing the value of relationship-building and memory-making, especially for their seniors.

“My goal is to provide my (players) with great experiences over the next two months,” said Camas girls basketball coach Scott Thompson. “So much has been taken from them, and we have faced so many obstacles just to get to this point. We are going to primarily focus on giving back to them as much as possible. (But) we will work just as hard as any season. We owe it to the girls to go big every day we step on the court; anything less would be cheating them out of the opportunity to be the best version of our team.”

Others, meanwhile, are using the season to prep for 2022.

“With COVID restrictions and a limited season, we will be focusing on building a solid team and readying ourselves for the state tournament in 2022,” said Camas girls golf coach Robert Foster. “It is unfortunate that the playoffs were canceled this year.”

Following are previews of what’s to come in Camas this season:

Girls basketball

The Camas girls basketball team is loaded with talent and in a normal year would have high hopes of improving on its performance from a year ago, when it advanced to the 4A Hardwood Classic but didn’t place.

The Papermakers will be led by seniors Faith Bergstrom, who will continue her career at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California; Jalena Carlisle, who signed a letter of intent with Seattle Pacific University; and Katelynn Forner.

“Faith is the best center in the state of Washington,” Thompson said. “Jalena is a two-way player that was crucial to our state run last year. Katelynn, the school record-holder in assists in a season and steals in a season, is a lockdown defender and known for her relentless style of play.”

That group will be joined by sophomore Anna Mooney, whose performance improved as her role expanded during the team’s postseason run last year; and five freshmen.

Girls golf

The Camas girls golf team will have a different look after placing fourth at the 2019 4A state meet.

The Papermakers will be led by seniors Elizabeth Gilllespie and Ashley Gillespie, who qualified for the state meet as sophomores. Another senior, Ella Carous, “will be a solid player,” according to Foster. Callie Wengler also returns to the squad after earning varsity time as a freshman two years ago.

“We are going to be very experienced and somewhat young, with three sophomores and a freshman in the mix and pushing the veterans for match time,” Foster said. “Ella Kim, Julia Strandemo, Susanna Gillespie and Christiana Cai are all sophomores with great upside. (Freshman) Jacinda Lee is a special player and very advanced in the game of golf. She will be a big part of Papermaker golf in the coming years.”

Wrestling

The Camas High wrestling team will enter the season without one of its best grapplers, senior Jacques Badolato-Birdsell, who sustained an injury earlier this year.

“However, we have a strong junior class that we have strong expectations for,” said coach Cory Vombaur. “A good portion of our junior class has been competing in tournaments around the country.”

Three of the juniors qualified for the 2020 Mat Classic — Porter Craig (132 pounds), Devin Padilla (138) and Andrew Weber (145). Dominic Fujihara, another 2020 state tournament qualifier, also returns to the squad.

Vombaur is also excited about the prospects of a pair of varsity newcomers — junior Roscoe Garcia and freshman Jackson Lougen.

“Several of our wrestlers have been doing a lot of club wrestling, and I think that is going to give them a big advantage throughout the course of the season,” Vombaur said.

Track and field

The Camas track and field team will feature a bevy of talented athletes, many of whom most likely would’ve competed for a championship if there was a state title this year.

Evan Jenkins (distance), Sam Geiger (distance), Shaelyne McGee (pole vault), Anna Bedont (pole vault), Mark Harimoto (javelin), Ella Wilks (hurdles), Isaiah Spear (sprints), Mitchell Hayward (distance), Connor Hayward (distance), Gracie Buzzell (distance) and Paeton Lesser (distance), among others, should once again enjoy successful seasons, according to boys coach Jon Eagle.

Hunter Greene, a transfer, should also make an impact in the shot put and discus events.

“Our distance crew is always strong, and this year is no different,” Eagle said. “Camas track always battles for the team title. We expect to have about 150 athletes out and will plug them in to put together a strong team.”

The team also welcomes back new girls coach Alisa Wise, who served in the role from 2005 to 2017.

“I am happy to say I am excited to be back and to once again be called ‘coach,'” Wise wrote on the Camas track and field team’s website. “Track and field is where I love to be.”