Sports: High-schoolers turning out for winter athletics and most off to good start

Winter sports are “off and running” in Lebanon, as Warriors Athletic Director Kraig Hoene puts it, and news is good, out of the gate.
“The numbers are just up again this year, which is nice,” Hoene said, noting the increase in roster sizes and participation from the past 18 months.
The Dick Weisbrodt Invitational, hosted by Lebanon, which was the season-opening wrestling tournament for many schools in the valley, drew some 90 female competitors as the sport’s growth is mushrooming across the state, he noted.
Referees are still in short supply, but the numbers are better than they have been over the past year and a half, he said.
“Most of our officials associations aren’t up to where we want them, but it’s not too bad. I think some people out there are looking to make money. They’re not at their ideal numbers, by any stretch of the imagination, but most of the the officials I’ve talked to, the numbers are better than last year.
“Now, if I could just find some bus drivers.”
The latter are in such short supply that Mid-Willamette Conference schools have moved their evening sports starting times back half an hour to allow for later departures, Hoene said, “because we can’t get buses earlier.”
“I can’t typically get a bus out of town until 4:30,” he said. “It’s just part of a big old puzzle, this year more than most.”
He said he’s thankful that most Warrior fans have played by the rules, in particular, following mask mandates indoors.
“If we want kids to participate, we have to do the right thing,” he said.
Hoene said he’s hoping “the pendulum will swing back and things will get back to normal,” but he’s been “pleasantly surprised” that “for the most part,” fans have cooperated.
“I don’t want to have to stop a contest because an adult in a building is not doing the right thing. I’m not going to penalize kids if adults can’t follow the mandate.”
So, how are local teams doing after a week of compeition?
East Linn Christian’s boys basketball players are looking strong, with a 4-0 start going into their Dec. 10 game at St. Paul. The closest margin in the Eagles’ first four games was 37 points.
Lebanon’s boys were 2-1 and, other than a 20-point loss at Oregon City Dec. 8, were looking good as Junior Henry Pointer led them with 35 points, 11 rebounds and three assists against Hillsboro, after scoring 21, including the game-winner, in a 54-53 season-opening win at Thurston.
Pointer was named the OSAA Boys Athlete of the Week for Nov. 29 – Dec. 5 for those performances.
“I think he’s a kid who will be in the discussion for us as an All-League type of kid,” Hoene said.
Lebanon’s girls had a 1-3 record going into a road game at Sprague Dec. 10, but two of those losses, at Crook County (54-52) and at Hillsboro (54-51), were close and Thurston, which beat the Warriors at home in their opener, 61-49, “is going to be a pretty good squad,” Hoene predicted.
“We don’t have a ton of depth but we have quality girls,” he said. “Mardy (Benedict) will have them in the hunt coming down the stretch.”
East Linn is off to a slower start, 0-4 going into a road trip to St. Paul on Dec. 10.
Lebanon has added at least one girl to its wrestling roster, which won its first dual at Silverton Dec. 8. The Warriors have good numbers in the boys, Hoene said.
“Obviously, Crescent Valley and Dallas in the league are going to be really tough,” he said. “This is just a tough league in any sport and Crescent Valley being what they are and Dallas being a powerhouse, it’s just that much tougher.”
In swimming, coaches have been “pleasantly surprised” by the turnout, Hoene said, adding that some spring and fall athletes have apparently decided to take advantage of the chance to stay in shape.
“Our numbers are up. Our total of boys and girls is 27. It’s not only a sport for kids who love swimming, it’s a phenomenal transition sport for other kids.”