Nelson, Lee & Stangler are CK's best

From left, Olympic’s Jarrell Nelson, Klahowya’s Rory Lee and Central Kitsap’s Sheena Stangler are coming to the finish line of their high school careers but not before they were named the 2003 Central Kitsap Reporter’s Student-Athletes of the Year. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
From left, Olympic’s Jarrell Nelson, Klahowya’s Rory Lee and Central Kitsap’s Sheena Stangler are coming to the finish line of their high school careers but not before they were named the 2003 Central Kitsap Reporter’s Student-Athletes of the Year.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

It wasn’t easy to pick the best of the best student-athletes in the Central Kitsap School District this year. Thanks to all of those who e-mailed, called and faxed in their nominees, the never-easy decision process turned into a lengthy debate over who is more worthy to be the 2003 Central Kitsap Reporter’s male and female Student-Athletes of the Year.

So in the end, the selection committee decided that two young men — Olympic’s Jarrell Nelson and Klahowya’s Rory Lee — should rightfully share the honors of male Student-Athletes of the Year and Central Kitsap’s Sheena Stangler would be our female Student-Athlete of the Year.

Each of the honorees are exceptional students in the classroom and already have plans for moving on to college where they’ll carry on their athletic endeavors starting this fall. Stangler has a 3.9 grade point average and a scholarship to attend The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. Lee has a scholarship to the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma where he’ll fit right in on the football team with his 3.8 grade point average. And Nelson has a 3.5 grade point average that he’ll take with him to a college track program when he decides where he wants to go.

The secret to their classroom success, each said, can be summed up in two words — time management.

“I try to do my homework in class,” said Lee, who starred on the football field, the wrestling mat and on the track for the Eagles. He added that it’s a struggle to be a year-round athlete with few chances for a break in the action.

“You get tired a lot. There’s long bus rides where you get home late and you try to do some problems before going to bed. Then you have to fight off sleep deprivation in class before going off to practice.”

As great as they are in the classroom, these three shone especially bright in their athletic endeavors in whatever sport they were in.

Ms. Consistency —

Sheena Stangler

The somewhat shy Central Kitsap High senior is a three-year letterer in fastpitch and basketball for the Cougars, going about her job quietly as others have taken the spotlight.

“Sheena is Sheena,” said CK fastpitch coach Bruce Welling, who has coached Stangler in both select and high school programs. “What you see is what you get. You ask her something and she says ‘yes,’ you know its going to be done. You ask her something and she says ‘she’ll try,’ you know it will be done very well. She’s that kind of kid.”

“She’s so humble,” CK girls basketball coach Denise Baxter said. “She plays for all the right reasons. Sheena was a real key to our success this year as a quiet factor because she’s always making the right decisions and she’s consistent with her attitude.”

What made her stand out above the rest of her peers to the awards committee was how her teams did when she wasn’t playing. The usually durable Stangler was into her third minute of play at the state Class 4A basketball tournament in the Cougars’ first appearance in a decade when she fell to the court with a severe ankle sprain. That sent her (with her 75 percent free-throw average, 42 percent field-shooting average and 498 career points) to the bench as a spectator and the Cougars’ season came to a crashing halt.

“I felt so sad for her to get all the way to state and have that happen to her,” Baxter said.

Yet the basketball season still has the brightest memories for Stangler.

“We had landmark wins against Port Angeles (for the No. 1 seed into the Narrows League tournament) and Capital (to win the Narrows League title) that I’ll remember the most,” she said.

That injury lingered through the first half of the fastpitch season for the Cougars’ captain as the young CK team struggled with only ace Jackie Quint to shoulder the pitching load.

“I had to sit and watch Jackie take on everybody by herself out there on the mound,” said Stangler, who became the team’s unofficial cheerleader on the bench. “It was hard because everyone high expectations. Not just us as players or Bruce as a coach — all the other schools made such a big thing of beating us.”

Stangler, whose parents Bob and Angie are her biggest fans, said she’ll continue playing fastpitch throughout the summer before going to Holy Cross.

Mr. Everything —

Rory Lee

Despite current appearances, life didn’t start easy for Klahowya’s all-time leading rusher.

“Rory started out his life fighting,” his mother, Rose Lahti, said. “Born two months premature and only given a 50 percent chance of survival in the neonatal unit at Tacoma General Hospital, Rory had the drive to fight.”

Born to Lahti and Rob Lee, Lee has grown from a 4-pound, 6-ounce premie to a hulking 170-pound monster on the gridiron, the mat and the track.

He’s the school’s single-season record holder in yards carried for a season, rushing for 1,283 yards and 18 touchdowns for First Team All-Nisqually League honors. He wasn’t shabby at defensive back either where he was picked for the Second Team.

“Rory is a great kid who has contributed a lot to our school,” KSS football and wrestling coach Brad Hamblet said. “I recognized that he had the talent to be a running back as a freshman. He was so eager to do well that he’s done everything I’ve asked him to do to get stronger and better in the weight room and it’s worked out for him.

“He’s a fierce competitor with the inate ability to make people miss and you can’t coach kids that. He’s got the speed to run outside and the power to run through the middle if he has to.”

Running around and over everyone in his way, the Eagles came up just shy of a Nisqually League playoff berth when they lost to Steilacoom by a last-minute field goal 24-21 on Oct. 11, 2002.

Just talking about that night still leaves Lee with a bitter taste in his mouth.

“I saw all my work slip away and the playoffs were gone,” Lee said.

Putting football temporarily behind him, Lee bloomed under Hamblet’s first season of tutelage in the mat room as he learned to focus his natural strength to place seventh at state.

“I surprised myself,” Lee said. “I’d only been doing wrestling for three years. I just decided to work hard and see where it will get me since this was usually just a sport to stay in shape for me. So I figured in my senior year to try a little harder and that got me to state.”

Not done quite yet, Lee ended his preps career by putting his name in the Eagles’ record book one more time as he ran the 200-meter sprint at districts in 22.9 seconds.

Now he’s on to summer workouts and UPS —a school he chose so his family could easily come and see him play.

“He’s going to fit in at UPS well,” said Hamblet, who runs a similar offense to the Loggers. “Give him some time to learn their system and he’ll be a force in that League.”

Mr. Champion —

Jarrell Nelson

With his trademark cornrows and permanant smile, Nelson has been an inspiration to his Trojan teammates and a target for his opponents.

All through the football season he heard opposing defenses shout “watch 21, watch 21” even when the running back wasn’t even going to touch the ball.

“That’s one of the telling things how good of a football player Jarrell is because the opponents would always put the focus on him,” Oly football coach Carlton Cooper said. “And he still gained over 1,000 yards despite the fact most defenses were geared against him.

“He might’ve only gotten the ball 12 or 15 times a game, but he was still a threat and able to do some things even when he was just a decoy.”

By the numbers, Nelson, despite having defenses put everything including the kitchen sink thrown in his way, ran for 1,036 yards against brutal Narrows League defenses on 97 carries with 16 touchdowns. His attempts-to-touchdown ratio was 1-in-6 and the best in Kitsap County. He also caught 15 passes for 219 yards and three more TDs.

“I thought it was funny, Nelson said of the defense’s mantra. “They’d always say to watch me, but I wasn’t the only guy who could gain yards out there.”

And even though football is his favorite sport, he’s even better running sprints on the track.

He was a preseason favorite in 2003 to take home the gold in three track events despite not even getting out of the district meet in 2002 with a hamstring injury.

That disappointment fueled his passion this year and caused Simp and Rene Nelson’s son to focus on doing things right to avoid any injuries that would keep him from his goal.

“I didn’t want this year to end like last year,” he said. “I made sure I ate and stretched right, got enough sleep and kept myself hydrated to the point of carrying around a bottle of water all day at school.”

That effort paid off at Star Track when he was second in the 100, first in the 200 and the anchor for the Trojan’s championship-winning 4x100 relay team with his brother Andre, Ryan Benko and Jonell Hodge.

“I just about filled my dreams at state. If I had gotten the 100 it would’ve been perfect. I’m still happy with my performance.”

And from the looks of things to come, Nelson’s future is brighter than ever with races to run at the collegiate level.

“I’ll definitely do track in college but I’m still thinking about walking on the football team,” said Nelson, who wants to major in zoology.

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