Time to call it a wrap after 13 years

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After 13 years at the helm, it’s time to hand the metaphorical Bee sports editor baton off to the next guy, Kyle Cajero, to fill the pages with local sports. His first official day will be Monday.

A lot of cool stuff has happened on the Bonner County sports beat since 2005, and now seems like a good time to stroll down memory lane, recall the great athletes, teams and coaches during that time, while thanking the highly worthy people who help make it all succeed.

Fret not, an aversion to I/me/my style writing will spare you a first person retelling, but there’s plenty of cool stuff to look back on.

Were this a résumé, a top line item would be having the privilege to write about Sandpoint native Jerry Kramer over the years. From soliciting Bee readers to write reasons why Kramer should be in the Hall of Fame nearly a decade ago, and then hand mailing them to the Hall of Fame selection committee, to being wowed like everyone else at his Hall of Fame induction speech this fall in Canton, it was a fun ride.

A couple years ago a feature imploring Idahoans to write the NFL Hall of Fame Senior Selection committee was picked up on the AP Wire and ran in hundreds upon hundreds of news outlets nationally, from U.S. News and World Report, to papers like the Houston Chronicle, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Washington Times and San Francisco Chronicle to name a few. Seeing something from the Daily Bee go national was pretty cool.

But hearing from Jerry’s daughter Alecia Kramer that her dad was moved to tears upon reading the story mattered far more.

It seems like just yesterday that Jack Nicklaus was flying into Sandpoint to reconfigure Hidden Lakes Golf Course to his liking, putting his touches on The Idaho Club, still the only Nicklaus Design course in Idaho.

How lucky to get to interview the Golden Bear, on everyone’s Mt. Rushmore of golf, not once but twice, and then to see the Bee’s story appear the next day on ESPN.com.

As sports beats go, Sandpoint packs quite the per capita punch. Getting to write an in-depth preview for a winter Olympian every four years is not something every small town sports editor gets to do.

Snowboarding great Nate Holland cut his teeth at Schweitzer, before going on to compete in four Winter Olympics games in Snowboardcross, while also winning seven X Games gold medals. Along with parents Rebecca and Don Holland, and brother Pat Holland, the Bee had an inside look into one of the pioneering greats of snowboarding.

Along with Kramer and Holland, another top pro athlete from Sandpoint made a name for himself, as Brian Farber rose to the highest levels of pro soccer, ultimately becoming one of the most decorated indoor pro players in U.S. history. After several years with the Portland Timbers, Minnesota Thunder and Los Angeles Blues in the pro outdoor game, Farber has been dominating the arena brand for the San Diego Soccers.

It was fun to watch the local pro camp he started grow in the past decade, today routinely drawing more than 200 local kids for the week long camp.

CLOSER to home were a wealth of great high school athletes from 2005 to present. There was Sam Levora, who re-wrote the SHS distance running records before going on to compete at the highest college cross country level for Pac 12 power Washington State.

Bulldog swimmer Paulina Gralow, who still holds the Idaho state record for the breaststroke, went on to compete for four years at the Big 10’s University of Wisconsin. More recently, it was Payton Bokowy racking up state swimming titles, as the fastest swimmer in the state for the better part of four years is now shredding water for Pac 12 Washington State.

Highly athletic running backs Cody Hecker and Anthony Gold were fun to watch tearing up the turf at Barlow Stadium, as the pair helped lead the Bulldogs to the state title game. Hecker, a big and fast back with the skills to do back flips and hand springs, was memorable for jumping over runners. Gold was pure lightning and quickness, and the two made a unique backfield.

More recently, the Bulldogs had a rare 3-star high school quarterback fall into their laps when Davan Norris moved to Sandpoint before his junior season. He only got one year pulling the trigger in the offense, but what an entertaining year it was as the athletic, strong armed QB obliterated the SHS passing records and led the Bulldogs to the brink of a state championship and memorable game in the Kibbie Dome.

The coach of that team, Satini Puailoa, needs no introduction to local football fans. Getting to not just cover, but ultimately befriend Coach was one of the highlights of this job. It’s startling what that guy accomplished here in his two coaching stints.

Top soccer athletes included Daniel Anderson and Tanner Williams, the latter of whom is now playing pro soccer, and Nan Kiebert, Corinne Ariss and Riley Walkington, all of whom played at supreme levels. There’s a reason why the soccer teams win so many state titles in Sandpoint, and it starts with upper echelon athletes.

Speaking of which, Madi Schoening and Grace Kirscher were a joy to watch on the hoops court, both currently playing in the Big Sky Conference, and Stefan Buratto and his high scoring mid-range game were memorable on the boys side.

HUGE and humble thanks go out to Jason Duchow, as good a photographer as you’ll find anywhere, who makes the pages come alive with incredible action shots.

Big thanks to SHS teacher Wendy Auld, who has volunteered to keep the football stats for a long time, coming back to the Bee on Friday night to type up the stats and help beat the deadlines.

How lucky to work with stellar athletic directors like Cheryl Klein, Tom Albertson and most recently Kris Knowles. Huge respect to the lot of them, who do so much more than meets the eye.

Big thanks to all of the coaches who take the time to call in results and highlights, for without that, it’s tough to capture the games.

Much appreciation to the venerable Mark Nelke, who set the Bee sports coverage bar high during his decade in a half at the helm before moving to Coeur d’Alene. Having your handiwork compared favorably to his is high praise, and something to be proud of.

Lastly, thanks to all of the loyal readers of the Bee sports page.

Enjoy the games, and take her easy.

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