Columns & Blogs

Who has been the Mid-Columbia's best athlete?

In the 23 years I’ve worked at this place, I’ve seen some great high school athletes.

Of course, I was too young to see Gene Conley, Ray Mansfield, Ron Howard, Ray Stein, Theartis Wallace, John Meyers, etc.

But here are some of the best male athletes I’ve seen:

I played basketball against Richland’s Brian Kellerman. I take that back. I was just on the court. He was doing all the playing. Smooth shooter, great rebounder and passer who went on to play at Idaho.

Bob Weissenfels was Mr. Everything at Hanford. He was a football and track star who went on the the Naval Academy then competed in the four-man bobsled in the 1992 Olympics.

It was easy to see back then that Walla Walla’s Drew Bledsoe would play in the NFL. He had a gun for an arm back in high school.

And for one short basketball season, Scot Pollard moved from San Diego to Kennewick with his mother and brother (who was playing for the Tri-City Chinook at the time) after his father had passed away. I realized how good he was when covering a Kamiakin-Central Valley game, teammate Tony Schumacher stole the ball at halfcourt, raced toward the basket, then stopped at the free-throw line. He tossed the ball straight up in the air, where Pollard caught it and slammed it home for a dunk.

The crowd went nuts (I might have too, never seeing anything like that before) as Schumacher ran back downcourt in front of the stands smiling with his arms outstretched as if to say, “Look at my new toy I get to play with.”

Richland’s Nate Holdren was a tough quarterback and linebacker for the Bombers, could shoot and rebound for the basketball team, and hit monster home runs for the baseball team. He went to Michigan for football and signed to play minor league baseball.

When Holdren graduated, Brian Edwards took over as Richland’s quarterback. He was much smaller than Nate (6-foot-4 to 5-10), but he was just as exciting because his legs never quit moving. Just when defenses thought they had him tackled, he would break out of it for a long TD run. He was also a good basketball and baseball player.

Kamiakin’s Ron Childs was also one of those standouts. He was the Braves’ stud running back and linebacker. And one of the toughest wrestlers I ever did see. But he wasn’t the best at either linebacker or wrestling.

The best wrestler was Richland’s Thomas Yamamoto. To this day the referee’s stalling call on him in the semifinals is an outrage. It cost Yamamoto, who could have had his fourth state title in as many years. He still was the best.

The best linebacker? Three-way tie here. Richland’s Garrett Venters, Pasco’s Robert Booth and Kennewick’s Jason Shelt. When keeping defensive stats during a game, I make note of the first defender who makes the play. Those three were always in double digits in tackles.

OK. I know I’ve missed someone. Tell me who.