Sports -- February 24, 2005

Published on Thu, Feb 24, 2005
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by Jack Kintner

Blaine athlete, Paul Kezes, to compete on World U.S. Cross Country Team

By Lowell Jackson

Paul Kezes, 25, Blaine long distance runner, has qualified for the World U. S. Cross Country team.  He placed seventh in the national championships held at Ft. Vancouver, Vancouver, Washington on February 12-13.  The top six individual finishers in all competitive races qualify for the national team.

Olympian Tim Broe, who runs for the Adidas team and placed sixth, opted not to compete on the world team due to prior commitments.
In the 12 kilometer race, Kezes’ time was 37 minutes 40 seconds. He was top finisher in the 4k race, with a time of 12 minutes 2 seconds.He will be competing at the World Cross Country championships on March 19-20 in Galimier, France, and earlier on March 4-5 in Florida at the Pan American Championships.

Kezes runs for team XO, an Olympic development track club.  The team placed second in 4k and 12k competitions. Fifteen teams from across the United States competed in all events. The championships included senior men’s short and long courses (in which Kezes competed), senior women’s short and long courses and junior boys and girls in 8k and 6k courses, respectively. Kezes’ coach is Bob Gray, who lives in Eugene, Oregon. “This win opens the doors for Paul to accept contracts with top shoe companies and to become a fully funded professional runner,” he said.

Kezes has been competing for 10 years. He ran in high school for Blaine and Sehome, for Clackamas Community College, Western State College in Colorado and Western Washington University in Bellingham.

He won the Seafair Torchlight 8k race two years in a row, in 2001 and 2002 and placed sixth at the USATF Club Cross Country

Championship in Portland, Oregon last December. Approximately 50 teams nationwide participated.

Kezes is the son of Neal and Marienes Johnson of Birch Bay Village. His parents own and operate Truffles Restaurant on Peace Portal Drive in Blaine.

Blayne Brandenburger comes in 3rd at state wrestling tournament

Blaine’s two heaviest wrestlers went the farthest of the nine Borderites wrestlers at last week’s state tournament, getting into the elite, sweet 16 of their respective weight classes. Blayne Brandenburger, a relatively small competitor for his 189-pound light heavyweight class, won four matches after dropping an opening day quarterfinal to eventual state champion Tony Lee to bring home a third place trophy. Corey Smith, also tightly packed compared to his opponents, lost to eventual runner up Ricky Hall, then won three straight before losing to Sam Zylstra of Nooksack, the eventual fourth place finisher.

Sam Abrams and Calvin Moore both had a victory as well to finish 1-2.
“Everyone who scored at state is coming back,” said head coach Craig Foster, “and the two freshmen, Jesse Kilthau and Mike Broyan, really battled tough against older and stronger guys. They’ll be back.”

Indeed. Getting to state at all is huge, but the Borderite freshmen have three more opportunities to go back to what can be a very intimidating meet environment, 24 mats going at once filled with the finest wrestlers in the state.

And hats off to Blayne Brandenburger, the second athlete to get to the state tournament level this year (along with cross-country runner Dominique Walter).

Mike Broyan (112): l to Robert Spackman (Riverside Chattaroy) p 5:10; l to Josue Gutierrez (Toppenish) 7-2
Jesse Kilthau (119): l to Brett Anshutz (Castle Rock) in 2:59; l to Justin Murry (Medical Lake) in 4:22
Sam Abrams (125): l to Brandon Butcher (Hoquiam) 12-4; p June Kim (Hoquiam) in 2:09; l to Aaron Anderson (Deer Park) 17-2
John Brady (130) l to Bryan Bosch (La Center) 10-2; l to Jason Gomez (Md Lake) 4-1
Calvin Moore (140) d Tim Barry (Hqm) 8-6; l to Maxx Simonet (Chelan) in :36; l to George Matranga (Rochester) 7-2
Matt Determan (160) l to Spencer Sharp (Hqm) :24; l to Ryn Phipps (Kion) in 3:25
Blayne Brandenburger (189) p Jason Streiff (Castle Rock) in 1:38; l to eventual champion Tony Lee 7-0; d Ben Niccum (Cashmere) 3-1; d James Bush (Ephrata) by default; d Gabe Warren (Rochest-er) 2-1; d Will Lomer (Castle Rock) 6-1 for third place
Corey Smith (275) l to Ricky Hall (Colville, eventual runner-up) in 1:42; d Andrew Morales (Grandview) 5-3; d John Dunbar (Forks) in 3:44; l to Sam Zylstra (Nooksack, eventual 4th place) in 3:18.

Foster named coach of the year

“This is the best team I’ve had,” said a beaming head coach Craig Foster after taking 10 wrestlers to the state tournament in Tacoma last weekend. The team finished in the middle of the pack, 27th out of 43 teams, but a dramatic turn around in team spirit and personal dedication was obvious to Foster’s fellow coaches and was primarily responsible for his being named AA Coach of the Year for Washington.

“I didn’t think it would mean as much as it did, but it really did,” Foster said after getting home from the weekend meet, “but it feels good to be acknowledged by your peers for this.”

Three years ago Blaine had exactly six boys turn out for the varsity wrestling team, which is when Foster and his staff of assistants began to introduce a more disciplined approach. Jim Rasar instituted a weight training program, and worked along with Blaine middle school coach and varsity assistant Scott Dodd and recent Blaine grad and assistant coach Richie Tewes to focus on motivating the athletes.

“It takes some kids to buy into it and believe that we could get better,” Foster said, “and it became really important to them. It’s been exciting to see them develop, to become a better team by bringing good personal discipline, not missing practices, wrestling and staying in shape in the off season. It’s nice that way because we don’t have to worry about who didn’t show up. We just don’t have those issues anymore.”

Foster, 48, knows something about discipline himself, growing up as the caboose child (by 10 years, he admits) of parents who were both WW II veterans. His father Art was a career officer and served in an artillery regiment during the Italian campaign, and his mother Fay was an Army nurse serving in a mobile army surgical hospital (MASH) unit. Both are retired.

“I lived all over the place, in Europe and Texas,” said Foster, but by the time high school came the family was living in southern California. At Mira Monte high school he was standing in line for basketball equipment when Roger Durant, the wrestling coach, pulled him aside and said “You’re going to be a wrestler, son.”

Foster grew to love the sport, and was a 177-pound collegiate All-American in 1976 out of Cypress College outside Los Angeles and again in 1980 as a student at Eastern Washington University.

Following college, Foster coached for two years in Shawnee, Oklahoma, under Mike Henry, a man he considers his mentor. He returned to Eastern as an assistant coach and two years later was named head wrestling coach, his tenure covering the period that the university “was making the push to grow into a division 1 program,” he said.

His wanderlust still not dimmed, a two-year stint at a community college in New York state followed, “but our families are out here,” he said, so 14 years ago he came to his job in Blaine.

Two years ago Foster, his wife Jeri and their children Chloe, Tanner and Tyson moved out to a five acre patch on Kickerville Road “and I guess this means we’re here to stay,” Foster smiled, “I like working the land.”
Foster’s never very far away from a wrestling mat even when the varsity season is over. His Blaine Barracudas program for boys from first grade to senior year goes from October through May, and he sponsors a “wrestling boot camp” in the summer.

The honor of being coach of the year, typically, is one he prefers to share with his dedicated team members, their families and friends. “The coach’s award only happens because the kids do what they’re supposed to do,” Foster said, “so this award is for them, really.”