The long wait is finally over for six Camas and Washougal high school sports teams.
The local schools’ cross country, boys tennis and boys golf teams began their 2020-21 seasons this week, after more than 14 months without competition due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The teams traditionally compete in the fall.
“We won’t have a state tournament this year, but I’m just excited that we’ll get to have some kind of a season, and I know the boys are as well,” Washougal boys golf coach Greg Lewis said. “It won’t be the nice fall weather that we’re used to, but the message will be, ‘We’re playing and competing, so let’s enjoy it.'”
Camas cross country
The Camas boys cross country team doesn’t quite have the depth that keyed its run to the 4A state championship in 2019, but it does return two of the best runners in the state — Evan Jenkins, who took fourth place in the 2019 state meet, and Sam Geiger, who placed sixth.
But the success of the squad as a whole could be determined by the performances of Connor Hayward, Porter Craig, James Puffer and Mitchell Hayward, who Porter is counting on to develop as first-year varsity runners.
“(Evan and Sam) probably would have been in the top three (at the state meet) for sure,” Porter said. “We definitely don’t have the team we had last year, but we are building again, and I do see (Connor Hayward, Craig, Puffer and Mitchell Hayward) stepping up.”
The Camas girls return five runners from their 2019 team which placed second at the 4A state meet.
Sophomores Natalie Peddie and Gracie Buzzell are entrenched in the No. 1 and No. 2 spots. The remainder of the lineup will most likely include some combination of Allison Robertson, Bella Distante, Ashley McKinstry and perhaps Katelyn Flolo, who is rehabilitating an injury, and Cameron Mock.
“Natalie and Gracie have both thrown down 18 minutes and some change. Both of them are doing really well,” Porter said. “If we were able to go to state, I think we could have had a state champion girls team.”
Washougal cross country
The Washougal cross country program has a new leader and two new top runners.
Panthers coach Tracey Stinchfield has pencilled in two freshmen — Samuel Grice and Elle Thomas — to lead the boys and girls teams, respectively.
“If we had a ‘normal’ season, I could see them both breaking records,” Stinchfield said. “This team is incredibly talented, young and has a chance to go very far. I wish we had a state race this year because we would definitely plan on being there.”
Stinchfield will rely on seniors Ted West and Ethan Mills to provide depth on the boys side.
“Trey Keyser and Blake Mattern are also returning, and I’m hoping to see great things from both of them,” Stinchfield said. “Trey is good at pushing Samuel. He’s got a real competitive edge.”
Sidney Boothby, Savea Mansfield and Meryl Keeler — who all competed at the 2019 2A state meet — will round out the girls squad.
Camas boys tennis
Camas boys tennis coach Jonathan Burton believes that his team will be “competitive” this season.
“We are a young team, and most of our players can look forward to enjoying a full season in the fall, I hope,” Burton said. “This season is a little up in the air. It came about suddenly, and I expect that a lot of players won’t participate due to the fact that the season was unexpected. Our biggest enemy at this point is the weather. Tennis courts need to be dry to compete, and low temperatures and high humidity make it difficult for the playing surface to be ready for our matches.”
The Papermakers won’t have the services of Akash Prasad, who won the 2019 4A District 4 singles competition, but return Shiva Narayanan — who lost to Prasad in the 2019 district title match — as well as Sunny Wang and Naoto Uemura.
“All of these players are very consistent,” Burton said.
They will be joined by Spencer Loucks, “who has played a lot in the offseason and has improved tremendously,” according Burton, and freshman Riley Potter, who the coach said “has solid skills.”
Washougal boys golf
Oliver Evers and Chase Baldwin return to lead the Washougal boys golf team. Their performances in the 2019 2A District 1 tournament qualified them for the 2020 2A state tournament, which was eventually cancelled.
“The best way to describe both of them is that they’re ‘grinders,'” Lewis said. “Both put in a tremendous amount of time working on their game. They’ll play nine holes at practice, then go hit a bucket and chip and putt. They’re still at the course long after everyone else has left.”
Lewis will pick from a group of returning players and newcomers to “step up and fill some shoes from last year.”
“Carson Chase and Colby Mings had a little bit of varsity experience from last year, so we’re expecting them to get even better. Cole Vaughan has also improved a bunch from last season and is going to be fighting for one of the varsity spots,” he said. “We’ve also got three freshmen that are looking really good so far — Keagan Payne, Brayden Kassel and Corwin Whetzel. (They) have some junior golf experience, and it’s been showing.”
Camas boys golf
The Camas boys golf team returns eight varsity players from 2019 — Owen Huntington, Eli Huntington, Even Chen, Caleb Shira, Leo Cassel, Cameron Miller, Easton Rheaume and Carter Koranda.
Owen Huntington, a senior, and Eli Huntington and Chen, both sophomores, have already proven themselves as three of the best players in the region, averaging less than 40 shots per nine-hole round during the 2019 season.
The Papermakers won the 2019 4A District 4 tournament by 42 strokes and placed four players in the top five — Owen Huntington, Eli Huntington, Chen and Shira.
Camas coach Ed Givens didn’t respond to a request for comment from the Post-Record.
Washougal boys tennis
The Washougal boys tennis team will be looking to improve on its performance from the 2019 season, when it posted a 2-9 record.
Washougal boys tennis coach Angela Watts didn’t respond to the Post-Record’s request for comment.