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June 1, 2011

The Pres' Palouse Park Bench - And Then There Were Nine

It's the first day of June and that can mean only one thing: it's still late winter in Seattle. I'm a little perturbed by the rather distinct lack of warmth in this little corner of the globe. Last summer, we had one of the hottest on record, and now, we've had two straight months with near record cold. I've talked to people who have lived here their entire lives and they can't remember a spring more miserable than this one. I know I've complained about this before and as a Scandinavian this doesn't really make too much sense but I do appreciate the warm summers after the somewhat cool winter we had.

Besides my complaints about the weather, the turning of the calendar into June means most of the athletic programs at Washington State have wound down. But the end of the year allows for all those excellent Cougar athletes to be recognized by sports publications and even the conference gets into the awards game. As usual, plenty of Cougars have been recognized as being some of the best in their respective sports at WSU.

We start with perhaps the most disappointing spring sport, baseball. They weren't able to play consistent enough ball all season to earn themselves a spot in what would've been their third consecutive trip to the postseason. There were many problems with the team this year, chief among them was the fact that not only weren't they pitching well, they weren't hitting to compensate for it either. Nor were they backing their pitchers up with good defense. But redshirt sophomore Taylor Ard still led the conference with 10 round trippers and drove in 55 runs while hitting at a .337 clip so he earned himself a spot on the All-Conference team. Meanwhile, junior outfielder Derek Jones received an honorable mention for his eight home run season. Although I'm sure both of them would've traded their conference distinctions for a shot at the postseason.



The football players are making their way back to Pullman for summer workouts to begin next week and Phil Steele has given six of them a few extra bragging rights as they get re-acquainted with their teammates, naming them to his All Pac-12 Conference teams. BJ Guerra, Travis Long and Freshman All-American Marquess Wilson were each selected to the second team, John Fullington to the third team and Deone Bucannon and Alex Hoffman-Ellis were each put on the fourth team. My initial reaction is to point to just how good the young guys really are. Three of the Cougars honored will be sophomores this season. That's absolutely outstanding and formulates the possibility that the future of this team might not be so dim.

The fact that Jeff Tuel was left off any of Steele's teams speaks to only one thing and it isn't discrimination against Cougars. Although I believe Tuel is one of the best quarterbacks in the conference, consider for a moment all the signal callers in the league that are still better than him. Andrew Luck, Darron Thomas, Nick Foles and Matt Barkley. All of those guys are easily better quarterbacks than Tuel. You could argue about Thomas not being a true or traditional quarterback but the fact that Tuel isn't ahead of any of those guys isn't really a slight. In fact, knowing Jeff, I'm sure he'll use it to fuel the fire to get even better. We should consider ourselves very lucky that we know exactly who the quarterback will be this fall and next. And he's a damn fine quarterback.

What's amazed me over the years is how Jane LaRiviere has been able to build such an outstanding rowing program in the middle of the Palouse. It cannot be easy to recruit some of the best rowers in the country to a place where it's sub-freezing for much of the winter and the on-water facility is a 35 minute drive away into a windy, cold canyon on the Snake River. In spite of all that, she builds a national contender every year and this season was no different, as the Cougars finished 12th at the NCAA Championships last weekend in Gold River, CA [near Sacramento]. This constantly astounds me. I don't know how Coach LaRiviere does it but I have the utmost respect for her given the challenges in recruiting to Pullman. Based on that alone, she has to be one of the finest coaches in the country.

Finally, we come to a young man who will be gunning for his third individual national championship. Jeshua Anderson has qualified for the NCAA Championships and will look to continue his unprecedented domination at the 400 meter hurdles. This will be the last race he runs with the Cougar print on the front of his shirt and I, for one, am sad. Every chance I got while in school, I'd watch him run. Anderson is a guy who makes hurdling look like a breeze. And let me tell you, as a person without an athletic bone in their body, it isn't easy.

Anderson isn't the only trackster to qualify for the national championships in Des Moines, Iowa next week. Both Marissa Tschida and Courtney Kirkwood will gun for a title tossing the javelin and Anna Layman and Joe Abbott will have a run (literally) at the 800 meter crown. The men's 4x100 relay - consisting of Brett Blanshan, Greg Hornsby, Nate Washington and Marlon Murray will also be in the fray in Iowa.

What these Cougar athletes are here to remind you of is the fact that even though Bohler is largely closed for business this summer, there's a lot of reason to hope not only in the short term, but the long term as well.

Who Cares Pick of the Week: I convinced no one who was a Supersonics fan cares about the NBA Finals. And neither do I.

Miami Heat in 6.

Dunderhead of the Week: A melancholy dunderhead to the benign tumors removed from Cougar legend Ryan Leaf's brain just a few days ago. Leaf has really turned his life around from the low point a few years ago concerning some drug charges and to lose him to tumors would've been a tragedy. Luckily for Leaf, the tumors look to be benign and although he'll have to be on his toes for the rest of his life, all is well for now. All the best to you Ryan, I hope you get well very very soon.




+++++++sponsored by Greg Davis Sports Photography+++++++++

The 2010-11 athletic season continues to be here…and you know what that means…It's time for a whole new season of Cougar Athletics! Baseball, track and field and rowing, just to name a few, are playing their 2011 seasons. If you need "game action" photographs for your newspaper, magazine, web site, blog, etc., then Greg Davis Sports Photography should be your choice for all things "Cougar" and "Pac-10 Conference"! Coverage for specific athletes or upcoming events is also available. Check out the images from games, practices and events from last season, and be sure to come back often for uploads from all of this season's action.


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