RaeQuan leads Marysville-Pilchuck to best ever showing at State

RaeQuan Battle

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Back in early December, the much-hyped boys basketball team of Marysville-Pilchuck high school (M-P) were in the midst of early season struggles after starting their 2018-2019 campaign with a disappointing (1-3) record. Incredibly, the bumpy start has been all but forgotten as the Tomahawks responded by winning their next 19 games in a row.

Led by Tulalip tribal member RaeQuan Battle, a 6’4 shooting guard and fourth best Washington State recruit*, the Tomahawks strong finish to the regular season proved the pre-season hype was legit. Their 19-game win streak included domination over their league foes when they stampeded through the 3A District Tournament (beating Shorecrest 64-42, Stanwood 80-50 and Arlington 65-47) en route to claiming back-to-back District Championships. 

After dispatching Kelso 72-51 at Regionals, Marysville-Pilchuck earned the #4 seed for the WIAA Hardwood Classic, Washington State’s Championship Tournament. The annual tournament took place February 27 – March 2 at the Tacoma Dome.

A hard fought battle with O’Dea in their opening round resulted in a 53-63 loss, the team’s first since December 10. In that game O’Dea attempted 26 free-throws compared to just 9 attempts for M-P. RaeQuan’s stat line of 24 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks proved he did everything possible to keep his team in the game

Alec Jones-Smith

The Tomahawks had no choice but to shake off the loss quickly with a matchup against Ingraham only hours away. M-P went up 36-31 at halftime, continued to build on their lead in the 2nd half, and won 80-68. RaeQuan double-doubled in the game, finishing with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Fellow Tulalip tribal member and high school junior Alec Jones-Smith received quality minutes down the stretch while chipping in 5 points.

Fourth place was on the line when M-P took on Kelso in the waking moments of March 2. In a tightly contested matchup, the Tomahawks jumped out to an early 16-9 lead in the 1st quarter. However, Kelso battled back by running play after play through their talented 6’6 center Shaw Anderson. Having no one on the roster capable of guarding the Kelso big man straight up, M-P trailed 26-31 late in the 2nd quarter.

Aggressive, fast-faced Tomahawk basketball ensued in the 3rd and 4th quarter. RaeQuan showcased his 3-point shooting touch by knocking down five long-range buckets and managed to block Kelso’s center for a huge defensive play to fire up his squad. After going up 50-38, the boys wouldn’t look back and claimed a decisive 71-60 victory.

The 4th place finish at State marks the best ever showing for a Marysville-Pilchuck team. 

Three Tulalip tribal members on the M-P
Tomahawks team are
senior RaeQuan Battle (holding trophy), junior Alec Jones-Smith (11th from left) and junior TJ Severn (4th from left).

“I’m so proud. This is a special group,” said M-P Coach Bary Gould postgame. “They played for the love [of the game] and made history. So much of what we do hinges on RaeQuan and when he lets the game come to him, he is incredible…he’s such a difference maker. The surrounding pieces all stepped up in a big way to put us over the edge.”

“Our journey to State was a total team effort and showed our mental toughness,” added RaeQuan. During the State Tournament, when competition is at its highest, he averaged a whopping 23 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks per game while leading his team to the history books.

“I was ready and prepared to play against this level of competition thanks in part to playing on the Nike AAU circuit last spring and summer,” explained RaeQuan. The four-star recruit has committed to the University of Washington. “Hard work really does pay off. Looking forward, my goals are to keep getting stronger over the summer to prepare myself for the college level.”

A huge congratulations to the M-P team on their history-making efforts, especially their trio of Tulalip hoopers: senior RaeQuan Battle, junior Alec Jones-Smith and junior TJ Severn. 

*Source: 2019 ESPN Recruiting Database

Regional battle on the hardwood – Tulalip vs. Muckleshoot

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The (20-4) Tulalip Heritage Hawks earned a #4 seed for the 1B Boys Regional Playoffs, the last stepping stone preceding Spokane’s annual State Tournament. Fresh off a quality Tri-District showing and decisive victory over inner-league rival Cedar Park Christian, the Hawks hit the road on Saturday, February 22 to the city of Mill Creek. Playing on a neutral site, Jackson High School, the boys were greeted by a rather large cheering section of home fans who journeyed off the Rez to root on their squad.

Their Saturday showdown opponent was the #5 seed Muckleshoot Kings (22-3) who were riding a 13-game winning streak. Being a fellow tribal school with a quick paced, high-intensity style of play that mirrors their own, Heritage coaches knew what to expect.

“Our keys to the game are to make sure we start off the right way. That’s been our struggle all year long is starting the 1st and 3rd quarters with focus and intensity,” said assistant coach Bradley Fryberg pre-game. “On defense, we want to be our usual aggressive selves to make their guards struggle. When we’re aggressive, especially on both sides of the ball, we are difficult to beat.” 

In the 1st quarter, Tulalip players were getting perimeter jump shot opportunities like they are used to, but those shots just weren’t falling. Missed jumper after missed jumper clanked off the rim as the boys found themselves quickly trailing 4-12. Unable to capitalize on long-range shooting, several Hawk players stopped settling and attacked the basket. Paul Shay, Jr., Josh Iukes and Alonzo Jones each scored layups from strong dribble drives. With seconds remaining in the opening quarter, guard Leno Vela knocked down the team’s first 3-pointer. After one quarter of play, Tulalip trailed 13-21.

Injuries struck both starting center Rodney Barber (rolled ankle) and his backup Oliver (concussion-like symptoms) in the 1st half, leaving the Hawks without a true big man available to rim protect. With Tulalip forced to play small ball, Muckleshoot took full advantage by feeding their two post players, resulting in point blank buckets, and taking a commanding 33-16 lead late in the 2nd quarter. 

Alonzo did his best to spark a Heritage scoring run, highlighted by an emphatic block and then going coast-to-coast for a transition bucket. Heritage would cut their deficit to 10 points at halftime when they trailed 28-38. The shooting woes were exemplified by the 3-point numbers to that point with Muckleshoot knocking down six 3-pointers compared to Tulalip only hitting two.

In the 2nd half, Muckleshoot continued to execute their offense and score easy buckets in the painted area. In fact, their first six buckets of the half were all layups. Down 40-59 midway through the 3rd, senior Josh Iukes vented his frustration with an offensive barrage. Iukes scored 10 points in a span of three-minutes to give the Tulalip cheering section a jolt of excitement. 

Heritage would rally late to once again cut their lead to 10 points, 55-65, but Muckleshoot immediately responded with an 8-0 scoring run to ice the game. Trailing 55-73, Coach Bubba inserted his bench players. Sixth man Josh Miranda made the most of his opportunities and scored 9 points in the game’s final minutes.

Final score 65-76. Alonzo led his team with 15 points, Iukes scored 13 points, and Jr. Shay chipped in 12 points. 

“We really slowed down on defense, especially in the 2nd half and that did us in,” shared forward Alonzo Jones postgame. “It was really fun to play against a fellow tribal team because the crowd was excited and got crazy after each big bucket.”

“I know we can play so much better because whenever we stop playing as a team and lose focus we make it real difficult on ourselves,” added guard Josh Iukes. “I know as a super senior I’m back for a reason and have to do better at leading the team when we hit a rough spot. When we play together there is no one that can beat us. We’ll learn for this loss, keep our spirits up, and look forward to making a run at State.”

It was a disappointing loss for the Hawks, for sure, however with their high seeding they still advance to State. Their 1st round opponent is #12 seed Oakesdale. Game to be played February 27 at 7:15pm at Spokane Arena. 

Heritage Hawks take care of business at Tri-Districts, move on to Regionals

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

After an impressive regular season showing, the Tulalip Heritage Hawks took 2nd at the 1B District Tournament. Now, with an (18-3) overall record, the boys earned the right to host an opening round game of the Tri-District Tournament.

On Thursday, February 14, Tulalip hosted the Mustangs of Rainier Christian at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium. It was a sluggish start for the home team, as the Hawks fell behind 0-8 in the early going. Coach Cyrus “Bubba” Fryberg called a 1st quarter timeout to fire up his team and they responded in a big way. Led by guards Leno Vela and Paul Shay Jr., Tulalip righted the ship and went on an impressive 29-10 scoring run to take a 29-18 lead midway through the 2nd quarter.

With the defense clamping down and forcing turnovers left and right, Heritage was able to transition into their fast-break offense and score easy buckets. Being at the Tri-District stage, every team was more than capable of game changing scoring barrages to shift momentum. Early in the 3rd quarter the boys took a 42-29 lead only to watch it slowly fade away. Rainier Christian didn’t buckle and starting knocking down contested shots. What was once a 13 point lead was whittled to only 4 points, 46-42, with two minutes to go in the 3rd. 

In a pressure filled situation, in front of a raucous home crowd, the boys responded yet again. Shay, Jr. caught fire from long range to hit three consecutive 3-pointers, while Alonzo Jones was attacking the rim and finishing multiple acrobatic shots. A 27-11 run gave the Hawks a 20 point lead, up 73-53, with only four minutes remaining. The big lead allowed Coach Bubba to sub in his bench and let the team’s youngsters get a taste of the Tri-District playoffs.

Tulalip won 84-65. The team was led by Shay, Jr.’s game-high 20 points, while Alonzo and Isaac Comenote scored 17 points each.

“Our defense sparked on our offense in both halves,” reflected Coach Fryberg postgame. “Sometimes we get too comfortable shooting 3-point shots when we could be driving more and feeding our post players. When we force turnovers and are playing aggressive defense it carries over and allows us to be aggressive and attack the basket, like we did in the second half.”

Due to the snow days and resulting school district closures, Tulalip didn’t get any days rest like the Tri-District Tournament usually calls for. Instead, they hit the road the very next day and travelled to Port Angeles for a highly anticipated matchup with Neah Bay. 

The Hawks offensive momentum carried over from the day before, as they took a 15-13 lead after the 1st quarter. But everything changed in the 2nd quarter. One foul call after another quickly mounted and threw Heritage off their game. They only managed to score 6 points in the quarter and trailed 21-26 at halftime. 

In the 2nd half, Tulalip bounced back early. Alonzo Jones and Josh Iukes combined to score 13 of the team’s 17 points in the 3rd quarter. They held their team afloat but still trailed 38-45 going into the final quarter. Neah Bay took complete control in the 4th, while Tulalip struggled again to put up an offensive fight. The Hawks were outscored 6-21 in the game’s final minutes, resulting in a 44-66 loss. The 44 points marked a season-low in scoring for the Hawks. 

The loss to Neah Bay pitted Tulalip in a high-stakes matchup with league foe Cedar Park Christian in a 3rd round Tri-District game. A high seeding and berth in Regionals was at stake. The game took place Saturday, February 16 in Mount Vernon. 

Knowing the stakes and having confidence from beating Cedar Park decisively three times this season already, the Heritage Hawks (19-4) steamrolled for big time victory in front of a large Tulalip crowd that made the journey to cheer them on.

In the 1st quarter, Heritage jumped out to a 15-4 advantage thanks in part to a patient offense that probed Cedar Park’s zone defense. The patience led to uncontested jumpers from the outside or easy buckets at the rim. Leading by 11 points at the halftime, Tulalip hosed Cedar Park in the 3rd quarter by holding their opponent to a measly 2 points. Meanwhile, Paul Shay, Jr. once again caught fire from deep and made three triples to push his team’s advantage to 51-20. 

With a comfortable lead, Coach Bubba was able to get his bench players some run in the 4th quarter en route to a 61-31 blowout victory. Tulalip was led by Shay, Jr.’s game high 16 points, while Alonzo Jones scored 15 and Rodney Barber added 14.

“My team’s season is going great so far,” said senior guard Shay, Jr. following the win. “In the middle of the regular season we did struggle a bit with our mindset by letting little stuff get us down, but now that playoffs are here we’ve been playing really well again. We took a tough loss to [Neah Bay] that has us more than ready to chase a State title. We’ve come together as a team and a family. The mindset of us seniors is getting back to State and winning it all this time!”

The quality showing at Tri-Districts has boosted the Hawks to the #4 spot for all 1B schools in the state, according to the WIAA rankings. Next up, the Hawks will matchup with fellow tribal school Muckleshoot in a Saturday showdown at Jackson High School in Mill Creek.

Tulalip wrestlers put on a show at Novice Championship

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Of the many sports children can participate in, wrestling is perhaps the most misrepresented, misunderstood, and underrated. Each year hundreds of thousands of kids participate in this non-violent combat sport, yet the average person knows as much about wrestling as they might know about rugby or polo.

“Wrestling is perhaps the purest form of athletic competition to exist in the realm of organized sports,” explained Young Champions President Bill Campbell. “There are no bats or balls, or pucks or sticks. No pads or helmets or jerseys. There’s no time to rethink strategy, regroup, or even to catch your breath. There’s only you, and your opponent of equal weight and size. Experience, preparation and the will to succeed will determine the victor. There’s no doubt about it, wrestling tops the list of intense, highly competitive sports.”

Put that way, it’s no wonder why there is a multi-generational connection of Tulalip athletes who are coming up in the sport and finding serious athletic achievement and personal growth, on and off the mat. Coached by Tulalip tribal members and former wrestling standouts, Sam Davis and Tony Hatch, the Marysville Tomahawks wrestling program has amassed quite the youth following. They have wrestlers of all ages, skill level, and quite a few girls who prove wrestling isn’t just for the boys.

There are additional youth tribal members who are making quite the name for themselves while wrestling under the Punisher wrestling banner, located in Arlington. Regardless of team camp, the aspiring athletes are learning invaluable lessons such as self-discipline, hard work, skill building, and an inner strength that’s only developed over countless hours of practice. Plus, there are many social skills and benefits that come naturally for athletes who learn what it means at an early age to be part of a team. 

“To us, Marysville Tomahawk wrestling is our family,” shared Katie Lancaster-Jones, mother of two Tulalip wrestlers, Milo and Cole. “We started seven years ago when Milo was six-years-old and Cole was only four. They started with Tony Hatch and his family. Now, we work with coaches Sam Davis and Brandon Davis. From the coaches, athletes and families we are all here to help the youth move forward in life, not just the sport. 

“We motivate our wrestlers to keep their grades up, respect one another, and to stay healthy by being active,” continued Katie. “The team is here to teach and to learn from. Wrestling is a life style. There’s a lot of coordinating, planning, and fundraising that requires commitment by our athletes and their families. The team gives them a place to go; gives them goals to work toward. It’s all about our future generations learning how to handle tough moments on and off the mats.”

A large group of local wrestlers were invited to participate in the WWKWL 2019 Novice Championship, which took place on January 27 at Kirkland Middle School. The novice designation means only wrestlers within their first two years of competition. 

In front of family, friends, and hundreds of onlookers, the novice wrestlers competed in an all-day, round-robin style tournament. Win or lose, the collection of wrestlers demonstrated strong grappling maneuvers and a variety of defensive techniques. Several of the kids’ wrestling prowess stood-out even in a gym where eight matches were going on at any given time. 

One such wrestler was 8-year-old Julie Blevins. Representing Tomahawk wrestling, Julie’s limber frame and quickness caught spectator attention as she went heads-up with the boys. She held her own in every match, not allowing herself to be pinned nor giving up any points easy to her male counterparts, and came away victorious in the hearts of her adoring fans.

“She found wrestling naturally because her dad (Jason) wrestled for coaches Sam and Tony back in his wrestling days. Now, he coaches for the Tomahawks program,” said Julie’s mom, Victoria Blevins. “It’s been so awesome watching Julie grow as an athlete. When she first started she was really scared and tentative, but now she pushes through even if she gets hurt or competes against boys tougher than her. Going up against the boys, Julie relies on technique more and that’s given her opportunities to learn some go-to moves. Her confidence has soared since she has learned she’s capable of picking up her opponent and slamming them for a pin.”

Wrestling, like any sport, has its share of phenoms; those that make excellence look like ease. Five-year-old, Tulalip tribal member Julian Lawrence is such a phenom. This year alone he has accomplished quite a bit, taking 1st place in several tournaments held in Spokane and Oregon. In fact, the day before the Novice Championship, Julian competed in another tournament and entered in two separate brackets. He dominated both and took home two 1st place medals for his efforts.

The dazzling five-year-old put on a show in front of community members who couldn’t help but gravitate to whatever mat he was competing on. Pin after pin, Julian overpowered his opponents en route to being crowned a novice champion and earning yet another 1st place medal.

“As parents, we couldn’t be any more proud of our son. Watching him grow stronger, faster and smarter…pushing himself to be the best that he can be…he has so much passion and heart for the sport,” beamed his mother Honeykwa Lawrence. “We are very proud of his sportsmanship, win or lose. Julian has grown into a polite, respectful little boy on and off the mat.

“He has grown so much within these past few months since joining team Punisher. He is constantly learning new things and he soaks it all up like a sponge,” continued Honeykwa. “After this tournament, Julian’s record is currently 50-4, so 50 wins and only 4 losses. We are looking forward to State coming up next weekend. We have high hopes for him and think he will take State title!”



Out of the local Tulalip/Marysville competitors, quite a few wrestled into a high placing or earned a 1st place medal at the Novice Championship. Julian Lawrence, Donte Luong and Conner Juvinel all took home top honors for their brackets. Karter Wright took 2nd place, Troy Blevins took 3rd, and his brother Jason Blevins took 4th. 

For any parents who are interested in getting their kids participating in youth wrestling, feel free to connect with Marysville Tomahawk Wrestling through their Facebook page or email Marysvilletomahawkwrestling@gmail.com

Heritage basketball place 2nd at Districts

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

Opening round: Hawks tame Cedar Park Lions, 52-32.

The Heritage Hawks boys basketball team steamrolled through the regular season and finished with an impressive (17-2) record. A high-octane offense averaged 74 points per game while a stingy defense only allowed 42 points to opponents, for a whopping average margin of victory of 30+ points. Prior to the season, these boys had one mission: win a State title. Nineteen regular season games later the mission remained unchanged.

District playoffs kicked off on Thursday, January 31. Heritage’s regular season performance earned them a #2 seed and with it came the rights to host an opening round playoff game at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium. Their opponent was the Lions of Cedar Park Christian. In their two previous meetings, Tulalip won both easily by 20+ points.

In front of an energetic home crowd, Heritage sputtered on offense to start. Midway through the 1st quarter Tulalip had yet to score and trailed 0-5. Coach Cyrus “Bubba” Fryberg called a timeout to light the fuse of urgency for his explosive team of young gunners. Did they respond? Most certainly. 

The Hawks locked in, took complete control of the playoff game, and went on decisive 26-2 scoring run spanning late in the 2nd quarter. From trailing 0-5 to leading 26-7, the home team gave their crowd much to cheer for. Junior guard Leno Vela led the charge with his combination of dead-eye perimeter shooting and ball pressure yielding steal after steal. Tulalip took a 28-12 lead into halftime.

In the 2nd half, the rout continued. Heritage held the Lions to only 6 points in the 3rd quarter while both Joshes, Iukes and Miranda, added to Tulalip’s scoring barrage from 3-point land.  Entering the 4th quarter, the boys had their largest lead of the game up 23 points, 41-18.

With the outcome only a formality Coach Bubba inserted his bench players to finish the game. The Hawks starters cheered from the bench as everyone celebrated the 52-32 victory.

Leno led all scorers with 13 points and 6 steals. Josh Miranda added 12 points, while Rodney Barber collected a game-high 10 rebounds.

Championship round: Lummi Nation keeps Hawks grounded, 64-77.

Following their opening round win, the Tulalip Hawks had two days to prepare for the much anticipated District Championship game versus Lummi Nation. These two teams were clearly the best of the Northwest 1B league and had split their two regular season matchups. Tulalip won by 9 points back on December 8, but Lummi won by 3 points just two weeks ago on January 15. Both teams entered the game riding winning streaks, four straight Ws for Tulalip and an eye-popping nineteen consecutive wins for Lummi.

Being the Championship round, the game was held at the much larger venue of Marysville-Getchell High School on Saturday, January 2. Fans of both teams flooded the gymnasium and packed the bleachers for a lively atmosphere befitting a battle of two highly touted tribal teams.

In the 1st quarter, both teams traded early baskets notching the score at 5-5. Then Lummi clamped down on defense, leaving Tulalip reeling. Lummi came up with two big blocks and several steals that they turned into easy transition buckets. Meanwhile the Hawks offense couldn’t muster any rhythm, which led to an 8-21 deficit after the opening period.

The Hawks trailed by double digits for most of the game. Early in the 3rd quarter, senior guard Paul Shay, Jr. kept the Hawks offense afloat by continually attacking the basket and drawing contact to get to the free-throw line. In fact, Jr. took eleven free-throws and connected on eight of them. When Isaac Comenote finally found a rhythm and hit back-to-back 3 pointers, Tulalip cut their deficit to just 9 points, 34-43 midway through the 3rd.

To their credit, every time it looked like Tulalip was getting momentum, Lummi responded with a bigger scoring run of their own. Whether it was inside with their post players or hot outside shooting, they always had an answer and pushed their lead back to double digits. Heritage trailed 36-52 at the end of the 3rd quarter en route to a 64-77 loss. Lummi’s 77 points was the most Tulalip had given up all season.

Paul Shay, Jr. led the Hawks with 19 points, while Alonzo Jones added 11 points and 9 rebounds.  It was a disappointing loss in front of a packed gym, but even so Tulalip still placed 2nd in the tournament and earned the right to host an upcoming Tri-District Tournament game. The time and opponent is to be determined. However, we do know the game will be played on Saturday, February 9 at Heritage High School. 

RaeQuan leads M.P. past Arlington in big-time rivalry game

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Marysville-Pilchuck gymnasium was packed with spectators who came out in droves to witness the highly anticipated matchup between the M.P. Tomahawks (13-3) and Arlington Eagles (11-4) played on January 23. After starting out the season just (1-3), the Tomahawks had been on a tear by way of riding an impressive 12-game winning streak led by 6’5” senior shooting guard and Tulalip tribal member, RaeQuan Battle.

RaeQuan is joined by fellow tribal members Alec Jones and T.J. Severn, both juniors on the much hyped M.P. squad. Arlington has a tribal member on its team, too, in freshman Quintin Yon-Wagner. The Tulalip ties gave even more significance to the regular season game, as many members of their families turned out to watch the athletic contest. Fortunately, everyone in attendance was treated to a very entertaining and competitive game that went down to the wire.

In the 1st quarter, Marysville-Pilchuck jumped out to an early 12-1 lead. Thanks in part to an engaged RaeQuan getting buckets from the perimeter, inside, and at the free-throw line his Tomahawks led 14-4 after the opening period. Alec, coming off the bench, provided instant defense and on-ball pressure for the Tomahawks’ backcourt. 

After enjoying a 28-18 halftime lead, M.P. saw their advantage disappear when Arlington caught fire from the perimeter and made back-to-back 3-pointers. Things took a bad turn midway through the 3rd quarter when RaeQuan took an accidental elbow to the head. The contact opened up a cut along his eye and forced him to the M.P. bench while receiving medical treatment. 

With their best player on the bench, the Tomahawks’ offense struggled. Meanwhile, Arlington hit several consecutive jumpers to give the Eagles their first lead of the ball game. Alec scored a transition layup for the Tomahawks, tying the game at 36-36, but at the end of the 3rd quarter M.P. trailed Arlington 36-38.

The 4th quarter was a back and forth thrill ride, with players on both teams trading clutch baskets for minutes at a time. However, it would be the University of Washington commit RaeQuan proving to all onlookers why he’s the number four ranked player in Washington State, according to ESPN.

In a one possession game, late in the final seconds, RaeQuan hit a dazzling step-back 3-pointer to put the Tomahawks up 54-50. Only moments later he followed up his offensive display with an equally as good defensive stop, chasing down an Eagle’s guard and soaring for an emphatic block to seal M.P.’s comeback victory. 

 “I’ve been a part of a lot of close games last year. That experience taught me to always be prepared so in those moments I don’t get nervous,” shared RaeQuan following the win. “It was tough building a double-digit lead against a solid Arlington team only to watch it disappear. As a team we have a lot of trust in one another. That trust makes us stay calm and we ended up going on a 9-0 scoring run after giving up the lead.”

Regarding those two game changing plays he had at critical stage of the game, RaeQuan said draining the 3-pointer was the sweeter moment because the team needed the points more. Makes sense, buckets win games.

Marysville-Pilchuck has two more regular season games left before the 3A District playoffs begin February 9. 

 

2 Wheels, 1 Engine, No Limits: Melissa Hammons thrives in arenacross racing

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News

High-revving engines, roaring exhausts, and non-stop adrenaline rushes…that’s the atmosphere of amateur arenacross racing. Think of it as action packed motocross, but taking place indoors. Within the non-stop, dirt bike racing scene is 15-year-old Tulalip tribal member Melissa Hammons is seeking glory on a dirt battlefield. 

“Racing arenacross is my passion, it’s what I love to do most of all,” declared the fierce teenager who has been riding dirt bikes and quads since she was just 5-years-old. “The sport of arenacross has changed my life because when I’m racing I feel free, nothing else matters.”

Arenacross races take place in sports stadiums and arenas all over the globe. They are run over man-made terrain courses with hills, jumps and tight turns. The scaled-down version of motocross features shorter, more technical temporary tracks and often attract large crowds. Recognized as one of the most strenuous sports in the world, it’s also one of the most fun. 

What draws a female like Melissa to a sport so physically demanding and potentially dangerous? For her it’s the excitement, the thrill of riding on the edge, of performing to peak potential and above all else beating other racers to the checkered flag.

“What matters most to me is getting that 1st place trophy,” explained Melissa. “This past racing season was my fourth on the amateur circuit and best season I’ve ever had. Sure, I had my share of crashes and DNF’s this season, but I’ve also placed in the top three a bunch. For me, taking 1st place twice this season in my women’s 16+ class and 1st once in my Lites class with boys is what I’m most proud of.”

That’s right, not only does the 15-year-old rider compete in higher age women divisions, she also regularly races with the boys…and wins.

“My girl is a badass!” boasted Melissa’s mom, Sara Hart. “She dominates the track even when competing against guys. As a mom, I still get nervous every time before she races with the men, but once she’s out there I have full confidence in her abilities.” 

What was once just raw ability and a fierce competitive spirit during her early racing days has since been honed in and given a laser-like focus based on countless hours spent practicing with racing coach Eric Waunch of E.W. MX School.

“I’ve been working with Melissa for about a year now, and she’s really put in the time and effort into making herself a better rider,” reflected coach Eric, a former long-time motocross pro. “Her commitment and willingness to always push her abilities to new limits is really a joy to coach and fun to work with. With Melissa, keeping her focus on the technical side of riding is most important. She’s so fast and fearless, but when she adds precision and controlled aggression to the mix her racing goes to a whole new level.”

This past season, Melissa has been placing (finishing top 3) regularly and adding to her countless bounty of racing trophies. She admitted that when she first started racing against the boys it was added motivation to win, but now that her skills have grown so much it no longer matters who or what age she is competing against. Also, it helps that she has a mighty large contingent of fans who follow her from race to race and are always cheering for her, win or lose.

“I am forever thankful for my support of family and friends, especially to my grandpa Don ‘Wheatie’ Carpenter who has always been my number one supporter,” shared Melissa. “If it wasn’t for my coach Eric, I wouldn’t be achieving the things that I am right now. I’ve learned you can’t just race and expect to go somewhere; you need to put in the time, work, and effort even if that’s blood, sweat and tears.”

Her skills were on full display on January 19 when she competed in WHR’s Northwest Arenacross Nationals that took place in Monroe. In front of family, friends, and numerous spectators, Melissa showcased her riding expertise while competing in two divisions: women’s 16+ and against the boys in Lites. 

Blazing around the track on her 250cc Honda 4-stroke, Melissa wowed the dirt bike enthusiasts in attendance with a level of speed and aggression she is known for. After a series of practices and qualifying races, the four-lap Final races were a go. Against the women, Melissa finished 2nd overall. In her race against the boys, when the checkered flag flew, she took 1st to the delight of her fans and family.

“Racing in a male-dominated sport and succeeding like she does proves she is a confident, strong and independent young woman,” said Melissa’s grandmother, Lena Hammons following the 1st place showing. “Her aggressiveness in the races says she will not settle for less in her life. Melissa is an amazing role model and her family is so proud of her.”

Looking to the future, the multi-trophy winning dirt bike rider has set her sight on bigger ambitions already. She wants to accomplish what many have been unable to do, become a professional motocross rider. 

“A female rider going pro, yeah a lot of people don’t see it,” admitted Melissa when pondering her future in the sport. “But all I know is I’m going to work hard and keep bettering my skills until it happens. Just wait, I’ll be 16 soon and have a driver’s license. Then I can really accomplish even more while chasing my dreams.”

Heritage Hawks continue dominant season with 81-17 win over Providence

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The Tulalip Heritage boys’ basketball team has been playing at a torrid pace all season, which has routinely resulted in lopsided wins over their opponents. Returning from holiday break with a (9-0 league, 11-1 overall) record, the Hawks were eager to pick up where they left off when they hosted Providence Classical Christian at Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium on Tuesday, January 8. 

Impact players Isaac Comenote, Alonzo Jones and Josh Iukes were scratched from the game day roster, leaving Coach Cyrus “Bubba” Fryberg to get creative with his starting five and player rotation. 

“It’s definitely good to get more playing time and reps for the younger boys,” said Coach Bubba about his roster adjustments. “This process helps our team by getting everyone ready when their number is called. This game will let us work it out the court and see who’s ready to contribute when they are needed later in the season.”

From the opening tip most onlookers weren’t able to notice a difference with several new faces inserted in the starting lineup because the team was scoring at will. In the 1st quarter, Leno Vela and Oliver Kallappa both connected on two 3-pointers each to give the home team an early 28-4 lead.

In the 2nd quarter, the Hawks ran a heavy post-based offense around their bigs Samuel Fryberg and Rodney Barber. Both boys had their way in the painted area, scoring multiple layups and converting on put-back offense rebounds. Their combined contribution of 20 points and 16 rebounds in the 1st half pushed Tulalip’s lead to 49-12 at halftime.

The rout continued in the 2nd half, ultimately resulting in an 81-17 blowout victory for the Northwest 1B leading Hawks. 

Following the game Coach Bubba said, “Offensively, we’re moving the ball really well and finally starting to gel. Defensively, we’re getting a lot better. Moving forward our focus will remain on our defense so that come playoff time we’ll be locked in, playing hard and competitively.”

Next up, the Hawks hit the road to play at Orcas Christian on Thursday before returning home and hosting Lopez Island for a 5:00pm tipoff on Friday.

Glimpse of Glory: Tulalip Hawks create legendary moments

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Twenty-one aspiring athletes recently returned from a once in a lifetime experience in which they not only represented their Tulalip community with pride, but did so while playing the sport they love, tackle football. For these boys, football is much more than just a game. It’s a passion that teaches discipline, perseverance and commitment. And for those fortunate to play at the highest level, they got a glimpse of glory on the national stage.

Such was the case with the Tulalip Hawks 12-u youth football team. With a loaded roster of thirteen talented Tulalip kids along with Anthony Najera (Port Gamble S’Klallam) and Michael Abbott (Alaskan Native), the Hawks squad made history all season. They went undefeated, being crowned North Sound league champs and Northwest Regional champs along the way, before receiving a highly coveted invitation to play in the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Youth Championship hosted in Canton, Ohio. The Hawks were one of only ten teams in the entire country within their age bracket to be invited to play for a national title. 

“This is a special place for football, where only the best are called to play,” explains Rich McGuiness, Director of the Hall of Fame World Championship. “We think football is the greatest team sport and more than that, it is the most democratic. Height and weight, speed and strength all have their value, but those qualities alone don’t win games. Football is a great equalizer that way, in that regardless of color or socioeconomic status athletes have to play as a team to create a game plan and execute it on the field versus quality competition.”

With team sponsorship covered by the Tulalip Tribes, and a devoted group of team moms that fundraised nonstop for weeks, the Hawks were able to afford the hefty price tag and ancillary costs that come with a national tournament.

“I was very impressed with our parents who went out of their way to help fundraise for the trip. In total, we raised $13,000 in a month’s time with a variety of fundraising events,” said Malory Simpson, one of two official team moms. “The community support we received was amazing! As parents, we’re so thankful to have had the opportunity to travel with the boys and support them on their Ohio journey.”

The team spent nearly an entire day traveling across three time-zones before arriving in Canton on the evening of Tuesday, December 11. They got a much needed night of rest ahead of their introduction to a national viewing audience at Media Day. 

At the team’s Media Day, the young athletes moved as one cohesive unit with coaches in tow while taking in a number of unique experiences. They glimpsed the custom championship belts that would be awarded to the winners of each age bracket before being put on stage and interviewed about all the hard work that got them to this point. In a random chance meeting, the boys got to meet and take photos with former NBA slam dunk champion and Seattle-area icon Nate Robinson. Another highlight of the day was getting a quick lesson by a Hall of Fame educator detailing the history of football. Nearly each Hawk player got their mind blown when viewing football equipment used in the 1920s through the early 60s.

“It was cool to see the history of football helmets and the evolution of footballs,” said 13-year-old wide-receiver Jayden Madison. “After seeing how small and different old school cleats, helmets and pads were, I think it must have been pretty hard to play football in that stuff.”

“When I first saw that old equipment I wondered ‘what the heck is that stuff?’” added 12-year-old Image Enick. “The first helmet didn’t cover the whole head or have a chin strap. I wouldn’t play football if that was the only gear we could play in.”

Luckily for youth playing today, they have loads of gear that can be considered revolutionary when compared to what was used at the sport’s inception. The boys’ equipment includes one-of-a-kind Native American designs that is only befitting of the first-ever tribal team to qualify for the Hall of Fame’s national tournament.

During the afternoon of Thursday, December 13 the undefeated and multi-championship winning Tulalip Hawks made their Hall of Fame tournament debut versus the Georgia Bulldogs. In near freezing temperatures, the Hawks were on fire early. As a team the boys were executing their game plan and playing with the same style that had garnered them national spotlight. Lead running-back Gio Hernandez rushed for a touchdown on the opening drive and the Hawk’s stifling defense came up with a 4th down stop on Georgia’s next possession. After running-back Gaylan Gray rushed for a touchdown early in the 2nd quarter, Tulalip jumped out to a 15-0 lead.

They say football is a game of adjustments. Georgia didn’t wilt after the early deficit and adjusted their game plan to make use of their near 6-foot tall pass catchers. In combination with a bunch of Tulalip penalties, including costly turnovers and some that were very iffy, Tulalip saw their lead disappear. Georgia would score 25 unanswered points to finish the game, handing the Hawks a 15-25 loss. The stunning defeat was the Hawks first ‘L’ in two years under Coach James Madison. 

“It’s tough because it was our first loss in two years, but we are using it as energy for the next game. I’m using that loss as motivation for sure,” insisted defensive end Ryelon Zackuse. “We’re representing Tulalip and that feels good because we’re a small tribe and we’re the only tribal team that made it here playing against teams from states like Georgia and New York.”

With a quick turnaround, the Hawks had no choice but to get over their disappointing first game ahead of an early morning matchup with the Las Vegas 49ers. The determined Tulalip football team did use the previous day’s loss as motivation to showcase their skill and game breaking ability. In 30-degree weather, versus a loaded Las Vegas squad, the Hawks earned an impressive 30-14 victory backed by a stellar defense that came up with two interceptions and two forced fumbles. They represented the Tulalip/Marysville community with pride, showing their resilience. With the ‘W’ the boys proved they can compete with the very best in the country.

“We stood tall, played hard, fought hard and gave both games everything we had. I couldn’t be prouder of any set of kids in my life,” beamed head coach James Madison. “The greatest thing I saw out of this whole trip is seeing these boys step up and play the best competition in the nation. To have the season we had, it’s beyond a dream come true. I want to thank everyone who has sponsored us and supported our kids all season long. It’s been one amazing achievement after another and we did it all as a family.”

Only teams that went 2-0 in their opening games continued to play. The Hawks’ 1-1 record left them out of the remaining tournament games, but even so they left the national platform with a top eight ranking among the best of the best. 

The boys had a lot of fun at Media Day, made memories galore exploring the Ohio area and Hall of Fame complexes with their family and teammates, and had their competitive spirits fulfilled with a historical win. The glimpse of glory allowed them to dream bigger and set loftier goals with their football futures. 

“It means a lot to me making it all the way to the Hall of Fame tournament and especially good when we were all on stage together at Media Day,” shared Hawks standout Gaylan Gray. “My goals are to return next year and win it all, then my focus will be to get good grades in high school and make it to the NFL.” 

“It’s been really cool to be in Ohio to play football and win a game with this team because we play as a family. We protect each other and always have each other’s back,” reflected 13-year-old cornerback Adrian Jefferson, who has played football since he was just 5-years-old. “What I’m going to remember most is how we worked so hard just to get here and experiencing Ohio as a team, but I’m ready to be back home. I’ve missed school, I mean football means a lot to me, but school is more important. Being gone a week means I have a lot of homework to make up.”

Joseph Davis and Jacoby James journey to Ohio

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

The recent big buzz around the reservation surrounded the Tulalip Hawks 12-u team and their performance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame World Youth Championship. However, they weren’t the only Tulalip tribal members vying for a national title. Youngsters Joseph Davis and Jacoby James were also in Canton, Ohio at the same time playing under the Marysville Tomahawks banner.

Marysville Pilchuck’s feeder team, the 11-u Tomahawks, won-out in their age bracket at Northwest Regionals and in doing so earned an invitation to the Hall of Fame tournament. The Tomahawks feature Joseph at lead running-back and middle linebacker, while Jacoby plays special teams and back-up safety. 

“It’s been really fun traveling with the team and just exciting to be here in Ohio,” said Joseph at his team’s Media Day. “We’ve been practicing in the cold weather back home to get ready for the games here. We’ve gotten used to it and I’m looking forward to having fun and kicking some butt.”

“It’s good to get our program on the map and make it so we get more good football players,” added Jacoby. “I’m excited because it’s a once in a lifetime experience to play football in Ohio.” 

From December 11-16, Joseph and Jacoby, along with their families, got in on the Hall of Fame experience both on and off the field. Their first game was played against the Louisiana Knights. The 1st half was all defense as neither team found the end zone, leaving the score tied 0-0 at intermission.

At halftime, Jacoby’s grandmother Verna Hill shared her thoughts on what Ohio meant to their family. “For both boys to represent their family name and their tribe is a wonderful thing,” she said. “I have twenty grandchildren and Jacoby is the only athlete out of all of them. Watching him play is amazing! He is one of the two smallest players on the team, but his energy and quickness give him an edge.”

Moments into the 2nd half, tragedy struck for the Tomahawks when their do-it-all player Joseph absorbed a helmet to helmet hit that knocked him out of the game with concussion-like symptoms. Without Joseph his team wasn’t able to compete at the level they are used to. The Tomahawks went on to lose to Louisiana, and struggled again without Joseph in their next game versus the Columbus Bucks.

  Off the field, the Davis and James families made the most of their time in Ohio, no more so than when together they toured the Hall of Fame museum and were awed by Native American sports legend, Jim Thorpe’s exhibit and bronze statue. 

“It was an amazing trip and I’m thankful to spend the time with my boys,” reflected Joseph’s father, Sam Davis. “Ohio was something they’ll remember for the rest of their lives. It meant a lot to Joseph to travel with his team and play on the national level. It was a proud dad moment for me to watch my son lead his team because he works so hard all year round to be in that position. Football has allowed him to grow not just into a well-rounded athlete, but a leader as well. Even injured, he was on the sidelines with his teammates cheering them on and keeping his guys pumped as best he could.”

Joseph’s final message before departing Ohio was, “Thank you to everyone back home for all the support in getting us here.” He’s already looking forward to next season and coming back to lead his Tomahawks team to victory.