The Best of the Best in 2017 was pretty good

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Rodney Harwood

We’re closing in on another trip around the sun and the Columbia Basin athletes and coaches did not disappoint when it came to athletic achievement in 2017.

It was a pretty difficult call at the top of the list of Best and Brightest performances, so I went with one team effort and an individual showcase. Without further adieu, here’s what came to me as I sat staring at a blank screen waiting for an intuitive thought.

1. Moses Lake wrestler Hunter Cruz: Having covered the Tri-State Tournament for a number of years, I know the talent level that Hunter blazed through to his second consecutive Tri-State championship.

The Moses Lake senior put on a showcase, winning all but one match by pin en route to his second consecutive individual championship. He adds this to a resume that also includes returning Washington state 4A champion. Cruz is certainly on track to win another 4A state title before he’s done.

1. Royal football team three-peats: The Royal football team made its third consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome where it became the seventh school in Washington state history to win three or more consecutive WIAA titles at the same level, and just the second 1A school to do so. The program currently is tied for the sixth longest winning streak (41) in the nation, according to Maxpreps.

As a side bonus, Knights head coach Wiley Allred improved his career record to 217-26 and will be inducted into the Washington State Coaches Hall of Fame in January.

3. Almira/Coulee-Hartline football: Head coach Brandon Walsh’s program won its second 1B state championship in the past three years. The Warriors (12-2) set the new 1B state records for most points scored in the championship game (84) and most total yards (722) with a 84-60 victory over No. 1 Sunnyside Christian.

4. Moses Lake swimmers set and reset school record: Chiefs freshman Zach Washburn erased a 15-year 100 backstroke record (54.84) Mike Maier set in 2003 when he touched in 54.46. It lasted five days before Noah Heaps swam 54.13.

5. Othello wrestlers benefit from all-star coaching staff: The Huskies room is filled with wrestling talent and none are more recognized than the all-star coaching staff head coach Rudy Ochoa II has put together. His assistants include Rudy Ochoa Sr., Wayne Schutte, Jacob Johnson, Freddie Flores, Sammy Rocha, Edgar Mendez and Rafael Ruiz.

6. River Dogs manager wins Lefty Gomez National Award: Randy Boruff has been instrumental to youth baseball in the Columbia Basin for over three decades, including serving as the host president for three Babe Ruth World Series in Moses Lake and four in Ephrata. The Northern Washington State commissioner and Columbia Basin River Dogs skipper was presented with the 2017 Lefty Gomez National Volunteer of the Year Award for his efforts.

7. Ephrata football turn around: The Tiger football program won just two games in 2016. But head coach Jay Mills and his staff turned things around. The Tigers opened 2017 with six straight wins, including defeating Ellensburg for the first time in 10 years. They made it all the way to the CWAC-GNL crossover game.

8. Columbia Basin River Dogs: The Columbia Basin River Dogs program had two teams in the 2017 Senior Babe Ruth World Series, where they came within one victory of playing each other for the national championship. Both the U18 and U16 teams made it to the semifinals. Both finished third in the nation.

9. Moses Lake cross country sends five runners to 4A state meet: The Chiefs qualified the most runners in the past 31 years since the entire team went to state in 1986. Zach Owens, Joshua Cooper, Carlie Gregg, Camille Carpenter and Mikayla Cooper competed in the elite race at Sun Willow Golf Course in Pasco.

10. Longtime baseball coach Pete Doumit retires: Big Bend Community College baseball coach Pete Doumit, who started his 45-year career in the spring of 1972, decided it was time to spend more time with the family, stepping down as the Vikings coach at the end of the season. Pete was part of the inaugural Big Bend All-Sports Athletics Hall of Fame class of 2017 when the school ushered in 14 individuals and four teams last spring.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer at the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at

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