Echo Cenci

If this isn't the happiest photo we publish all year, the editor will eat his hat! Echo Cenci of Naselle appeared on the podium multiple times for her success at the WIAA state track meet and was one of many local athletes demonstrating good sportsmanship and sharing credit with others.

And now the good news. Anyone who worries about the future of today's young people need not worry if the Ilwaco and Naselle high school teams are an example.

We can feel proud of them all: This spring's local track, golf, baseball, softball and soccer teams all exhibited admirable sportsmanship and good manners.

As one example, last week we were thrilled to devote two full pages to photos and stories of their record-breaking efforts and achievements at the WIAA state championships in Cheney. Long Beach resident Patrick Webb did a fine job of documenting the event.

The community should share great pride that Ilwaco boys placed third among all Washington 2B schools. And while the IHS girls and Naselle teams didn't quite make it onto their respective podiums, they put in terrific showings, placing well above their rival schools.

But the pictures and statistics of their physical exertions only tell a fraction of these student-athletes' success as human beings.

Echo Cenci, whose charming photo is above, was a joy to watch throughout three days of sun-drenched action last week.

As a freshman at Naselle, she likely has no idea how good she is. But her pace and endurance is almost secondary to her demeanor with other competitors. She raced multiple times, and after crossing the finish line of every heat and final she joyfully congratulated all the other runners — those she beat and those who were faster than her.

For the record, she was third in the 400m, seventh in the 200m and seventh in the 100m hurdles. On the podium to receive her medals, her pleasure in the shared accomplishment was a delight to behold, and almost more important than where she placed.

Naselle junior Monte Schell placed sixth in the 1B high jump and sixth in the 800m — always a very competitive event. As this mature teenager spoke thoughtfully about his desire to qualify again and perform even better in his final track year, he took time to commend Rob Baker and Scott Smith, the hard-working adult coaches who helped him along the way.

"It's a great experience," he said, gesturing around the Eastern Washington University campus. "My coaches are top notch. It's the best support I could ever have."

This was a recurring theme in other ambush-interviews as our local athletes came off the podium. In Ilwaco, Sarah Taylor, Dan Schenck, Christal Bell and Thad McMullen have provided consistently dedicated adult leadership.

As sprint star Alex Kaino accepted congratulations for his repeat 300m hurdles championship win, he too sought to pass on credit to others. "The support I have received is the best — it has been more than anyone could ask," the bright young man said.

This was the identical theme of Ebby McMullen, one of the most gritty athletes to don a Fisherman uniform in the last four years. Dogged by injuries in almost every season, she has fought back with considerable determination. Though her individual contributions have been memorable, she was determined to share any praise with others.

"I love my school, and the administration, the teachers and coaches have been so supportive," she said.

"The community of Ilwaco is like nowhere else. You can't replicate that kind of support. It's nice to be part of something that is a lot bigger than myself."

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