Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Young Athletes Learn About Track & Field

Note...My newspaper editor is not publishing a lot of my stories these days, so this is the place where they will appear!

Just as sure as the flowers bloom, young athletes step onto the track or onto the field of athletic competition for the first time in local high school meets.

Toledo Sophomore Yaya Crocker traveled all the way to Ilwaco for her first track & field meet. “My big fear was what do I do?” laughed Crocker. “Am I own my own or do I have to do this all by myself?”

As soon as she got off the bus, those concerns drifted away. “I had a couple of friends doing the same events so I just followed them”, continued Crocker.

For a rookie, she had quite a day. Crocker threw the shot put 21”9” and the discus, her specialty, 69’6”. She also placed 3rd overall in the 200 meters and ran 15.57 in the 100 meters.

“The discus is my main event. That is what I am going to focus on” continued Crocker. As for the running events, she competes in those to “get back into shape”.

Toledo Head Track Coach Rene Ketchum encourages new athletes in track and field to sample the goods. “Try a lot of events. You don’t know what you are good at until you try it”.

Ketchum also noted other new Toledo competitors that had excellent days in Ilwaco. She was very impressed with the performances of Sophomore Gibb Freece and Freshman Mikhail Hopf who placed 2nd in the Two Mile.

In the meantime, Crocker will continue to learn the craft of discus and shot while getting into shape on the track.

Brothers With Bats

Outside the rain was driving, but inside Winlock Baseball Coach Brian Demarest instructed his 2010 Cardinal Baseball team on signs; Their communication on the field. “There will be a test on these tomorrow at practice. If we miss them, we will run” he says vehemently.

You would think he wouldn’t’ have much to worry about with a solid core of players that have played ball together since t-ball, but rookies sprinkle in among the older guys and there are challenges.

It is “those guys” that sooth Coach Demerast when asked his goals for the season. “I’d like to see improvement at least; 500 (winning percentage) is a good goal” speculated the coach about a team that won two games last season. Winlock’s reputation for winning has been replaced by a collective positive personality, attitude and humor. “I hate losing, but these guys make it easier,” Demarest smiled.

Coach Brian Demarest enjoys a light moment during a game at Napavine

“Our defense and pitching will be better,” continued the coach. Junior Travis McCarthy, Seniors Nick and Matt Hoven are potential first or second teamers at the league level while 6’5” Junior Collin Kupers will take over catching duties and easily ranks as one of the tallest catchers in the district.

Demarest also believes Junior Kyle Archer will have a great year as well.

Senior Mike Raupp will be moving from catcher to infield to get him ready for the community college level where he hopes to play ball next year.

Raupp recalled one incident that shows why he’s pleased to move from behind home plate. He described a serious collision with now Senior Buddy Smerek. “He plowed me over,” laughed Raupp.

Raupp will tighten up an infield that includes the diminutive Hoven twins Matt and Nick. They are fleet of foot and solid with the glove. In addition, they keep the mood light around the team.

It doesn’t take much to realize that this is a close group of young men that lead each other. Even though Smerek is occasionally confused as a coach by outsiders, he insists that leadership comes from many different directions on the team. “It (leadership) changes from game to game depending on the circumstance” says Smerek. “No one is above anybody until the game is over”.

Senior Nick Hoven recalled last year’s trip to Forks that included rain and hail as one of the memories he will have of Winlock Baseball. For these brothers with bats, memories of a senior season that includes a playoff run will make their narrative collection priceless.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Think Twice Before Planting More Holly in the Northwest

Area residents thinking about adding some form of Holly to your domestic garden display this year should consider it very carefully.

English Holly is an attractive plant at first introduction, but it wears away it welcome over time.

While the several types of Holly that are in the local area are not listed as an invasive species, it creates headaches for homeowners and heartaches for forest managers watching over the northwest’s’ most pristine forests.

It should be noted the English Holly and several other related species are not considered noxious weeds in Washington State. Most counties west of the Cascades, however, recommend their control and discourage planting.

Holly has more than a few positive attributes. Many people love the beautiful berries and the fact that it is an evergreen that lends color even during the drab winter grayness.

The berries of the European Holly are very attractive, but birds take them to other locations where they spread the plant from its intended domestic habitat.

It is those berries though that leads to a much wider problem. Birds eat the fruit and then completely process it in its natural habitat. (Translation...the bird poops it from the limb of a tree after acids make the seed viable). Holly is extremely adaptable. It can grow slowly in the darkness of a thick reproduction forest or at the base of a 400 year old cedar deep in a wilderness area.

Holly grows will in direct sunlight, but can also survive in the darkness of an unthinned reproduction forest like this example.

The latter is a problem for managers at places like Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks. Holly has been found in some of the most remote forests in Washington State.
The spiky, waxy leaves protect the tree from any natural predators so the it is left unfettered to grow where it takes root.

Residents that have Holly in their yard gain a fuming disdain for the tree over time as they try to manage it. Clipping one limb leads to the growth of many more in the same location. What should be a stately tree of holiday lore becomes an impenetrable bush of spiny leaves. The holiday romance of holly eventually disappears.

These residents have attempted to trim the base of their holly tree, only to find out that it sprouts back exponentially.

Removing Holly is a seemingly insurmountable task. Cutting the tree down will result in sprouts around the base. Pulling a small tree in moist soil may work eventually, but roots and debris left in or on the ground will surly sprout to form. Control may be achieved through an annual visit to pull the remaining parts of the plant. A larger tree will need the use of a pesticide after cutting. Applying herbicide freshly cut stump or a frilling method is most effective. Foliar herbicide treatment is not very effective due to the thick, waxy leaves. If you want to remove your holly trees with an herbicide, contact your local noxious weed control board for more information on the best methods.

We have learned from our mistakes and now its time to stop making them. While Holly has its own beauties and folklore, it has worn out its welcome here in the northwest. Gardeners should look for more environmentally responsible alternatives before adding more holly to our neighborhoods and yards. This is a tree that knows no boundaries and humans inflict little damage to the spread of this increasingly noxious plant.

Photos courtesty of GAP Photo

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Early Season Flowers Display Subtle Show

The dainty blooms of the Indian plum or Osoberry decorate the roads and transition zones of Western Washington forests.

The first flowers of the new season have arrived. Intermingled with the flowering cherry trees are some of the earliest native blooms. Osoberry or Indian plum, resemble a willow to the casual eye, but is actually part of the rose family. Small, distinctive blooms hang under new leaves that give new life to a rather drab, late winter scene.

These plants are most prominent in the shade, but are most visible along the local roadsides and fence lines in exposed sunshine.

The Osoberry can be upwards to 15 to 20 feet tall like this specimen east of Toledo, Washington.

Native Americans found value in the bark by producing a tea while chewed twigs served as a mild anesthetic when applied to a boo boo. In some cases, twigs were also considered an aphrodisiac.

Humans ate the fruit despite its bitterness, but birds, rodents, deer, bear, foxes and coyotes find the resultant berries an important part of their early season diet.
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