It was only a few months ago that Lynden senior Miriah Brown wondered if her competitive basketball career was over.
In January in a rivalry game against Lynden Christian, Brown went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee.
"Because we were playing LC, it was a big crowd," Brown said in a phone interview. "It was kind of embarrassing."
Frustrating would probably be more accurate - and definitely heartbreaking.
The ACL tear was her second in her right knee in about two years and her third ACL injury during her high school career - she also injured her left knee in 2009.
"I was thinking college basketball was out of my options for a while," Brown said. "Then Whatcom (Community College) called and asked me if I wanted to come to an open gym. I did, and they ended up picking me up."
Brown has committed to play for the Orcas next year.
But it's not going to be an easy road for her.
Before she takes the Orca Pavilion court for the first time in a game, she's going to have surgery on both knees to clean them up.
She also plans to play her freshman year with the ACL in her right knee still torn, before having it repaired after the conclusion of the 2013-14 season.
"I played the end of my senior year without an ACL, so I'm kind of used to that," Brown said. "The first ACL, I played in a tournament or two without a ligament. You just have to know your limits and understand your body. You need to understand what you can and can't do so you don't re-injure yourself and work hard to stay healthy."
If anybody understands what Brown is going through, it's WCC coach Sara Bergner, who herself suffered ACL injuries in both knees during her playing career.
"She's battled through knee injuries, and the last two years she's had girls playing on torn ACLs," Brown said. "That's one thing I really appreciate about her. I already know I have the whole team behind me. It's nice to have that comfort and stability. I know they're going to push me."
Brown, a 5-foot-8 guard, managed to play in 18 games and averaged 3.4 points. She said her father, Adam, has been instrumental in inspiring her to continue playing basketball through all the knee injuries.
She said she is undecided on a major at this time.
"I'm just excited I get to keep playing basketball, and I get to do it close to home," Brown said.
EVANS TO SWIM FOR D-III POWER
During the fall, Squalicum senior Gus Evans was narrowing his list of college choices down to Allegheny College, the University Redlands (Calif.), Lake Forest (Ill.) College, Drury University in Missouri and Linfield College.
The in December, he dropped his time in the 100 breaststroke by two seconds into the neighborhood of 57 seconds.
"When I did that, I wanted to swim for a faster team, and I had the times to enable me to do so," Evans said in a phone interview. "I kind of had to re-evaluate everything."
Evans ended up deciding to swim for NCAA Division III power Denison University in Granville, Ohio.
All the Big Red did this year was finish second to rival Kenyon by 47.5 points in March. That came on the heels of winning two straight national championships in 2011 and 2012 to break up Kenyon's streak of 31 straight Division III crowns.
"I think it's pretty exciting to be going there," Evans said. "I think they have a really good combination of not only being really good athletically, but they also have a lot of success academically. Hopefully I'll fit right in. I felt really close to the team when I went to go visit."
Evans said he expects to continue focusing on the breaststroke in college and figures he might be the Big Red's top freshman breaststroker coming in.
After winning a Class 2A state title in the 100 breaststroke as a sophomore and finishing second as a junior, Evans focused on swimming for the Bellingham Bay Swim Team as a senior. He said he is not only swimming in the 57-second range in the 100 breaststroke, but also a 2:06 in the 200 breaststroke.
He said he plans to major in Business or Economics, something Denison has a strong program in.
"I'm really excited to get there," he said. "They have a brand new 50 meter pool, and they really treat their swimmers right there."
DEGRAAFF MAKES SMART COLLEGE CHOICE
Lynden senior offensive lineman Bret DeGraaff had some very specific requirements when he was looking for a college.
As a 4.0 student and likely to be one of three valedictorians at Lynden, DeGraaff said the school's academics was at the top of his list.
He found the perfect match for him in Whitworth University and has committed to play football and attend school there. DeGraaff said he made the selection over the University of Puget Sound and Lewis & Clark College.
"Basically it came down to academics and the community there," he said in a phone interview. "They focus on academics there. When I heard it was one of the top schools in the state, I was interested. I visited and spent the weekend there, and it felt like home."
The fact that the Pirates are an improving football program that went 7-3 last year and finished in fourth place in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference didn't hurt, either.
"There is a lot of excitement there," DeGraaff said. "It reminded me of Lynden. They're a tight-knit group. It felt like I would fit in right away, because they're a good group of guys."
Among the offensive linemen DeGraaff likely will play with is Bellingham alum Gavin Horst, who should be a senior next year.
As a center, the 6-foot-1, 235-pound DeGraaff was an integral part of the big, physical Lynden front that powered the Lions to two straight Class 2A state titles.
DeGraaff said he expects to play center or guard at Whitworth, or "where ever they want me." The Pirates have asked him to work on putting on some weight while keeping up his speed so that he can come in and compete for a job right away.
Whitworth runs a pro-style offense and splits time between the shotgun and lining up under center.
"They are all zone (blocking), which is nice, because that's what we ran at Lynden," DeGraaff said. "It shouldn't be a hard transition for me to go to Whitworth."
DeGraaff said he is planning to major in Biochemistry with plans to move on to veterinary school, perhaps at Washington State, after he completes his undergraduate studies at Whitworth.
SQUALICUM'S PETERSON CHOOSES CARLETON COLLEGE
DeGraaff isn't the only area senior student athlete in line to be a valedictorian this year.
Like DeGraaff, Squalicum senior track and field athlete Zoe Peterson, who also owns a 4.0 GPA, weighed academics highly before committing to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.
"I went and visited last November, and I really liked the attitude of the whole campus," Peterson said in a phone interview. "I wanted a liberal arts school that is strong in the sciences, and I feel like I found that."
While finding the right academic fit was the No. 1 consideration for Peterson when weighing Carleton over Whitman College, Middlebury (Va.) College, Haverford (Pa.) College and Swarthmore (Pa.) College, Peterson said the track team also felt like the right choice for her.
"They have a super great coach," she said. "I got to walk around Carleton with some of the team members and spent the night with some of them. They were just super supportive and fun. They were really welcoming."
Peterson owns the second-best triple jump in the Northwest Conference this year (34 feet, 7 inches) and finished 13th in the event at the Class 2A State Championships last year and 12th as a sophomore. She also currently ranks ninth in the long jump with a season-best 15-9.25.
"It's pretty exciting, because their school record is right about where I'm jumping now," Peterson said. "It would be exciting if I can break it."
Obviously, Peterson figures to be one of the top jumpers at the school when she arrives on campus, but she said the Knights have a number of strong heptathletes.
Carleton competes in the NCAA Division III Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
Peterson said she is undecided on a major, but will probably focus on the sciences - perhaps Cognitive Science, she said.
In addition to being one of 10 Storm students in line for valedictorian honors, Peterson was Squalicum's Out Loud Poetry champion and advanced to state in the event as a junior. She also is the Storm's female representative for the Northwest Conference Leaders in Sportsmanship this year.
BENNETT FINDS THE PERFECT PROGRAM AT WHITWORTH
Senior Emma Bennett became involved with Ferndale's Sports Medicine program, and immediately found the perfect career for herself.
"I love being a part of the team and helping athletes feel better and get better," Bennett said in a phone interview. "When I started to think about it, I could see myself standing on the sideline somewhere and helping athletes. That's what I wanted to do."
That ended up being the deciding factor for her in choosing Whitworth University over Northwest Nazarene, as she plans to continue her track and field career with the Pirates.
"I met my coaches at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and he (head coach Toby Schwarz) seemed like a great guy," Bennett said. "He told me not to worry about how high I was jumping in high school. What he saw out of me, he said he could coach. So I went for a visit, and I went to a few classes, and I was sitting on campus saying, 'This is where I need to be.'"
Bennett is currently tied for fourth in the Northwest Conference with a personal-best high jump of 5 feet, and she expects to fit right in with a close-knit Whitworth program.
"They're really competitive," Bennett said. "It surprised me, because everybody says Division III is nothing more than high school sports. But I got to go to a meet, and I saw firsthand how competitive it is and how they treat each other. They all compete to the best of their ability. I was looking it up, and their best jumpers are going 5-8. That's not that far off of what Western Washington jumpers at D-II or even the UW jumpers are going. The only difference is they don't devote their entire life to track."
Fortunately, Bennett already knows exactly what she wants to devote her life to - Sports Medicine and helping athletes feel better.
STADT DECIDES TO KEEP PLAYING AT SKAGIT
Nooksack Valley senior post Melissa Stadt committed to the University of Puget Sound women's basketball team before the start of her senior season.
But shortly afterward, she started to see that it might not be a good fit.
"I started to look at Simon Fraser or UW without playing basketball," Stadt said in a phone interview. "But as I played, I realized how important basketball was to me and how much I wanted to keep playing."
At Skagit Valley College, she'll get that opportunity.
Stadt said she made her decision to play for the Cardinals over North Idaho College, WCC and Bellevue.
"I like that the coach has been there for about 30 years and they have a really competitive program," Stadt said. "I was also very interested in the fact that I'll be able to come in and play."
The 6-foot Stadt led the Pioneers and all Whatcom County girls' players with 13.5 points per game as a senior and was a force on the boards. She was selected All-Northwest Conference by the league's coaches.
She isn't only a standout on the court, though.
Stadt also is in line to be one of two valedictorians at Nooksack Valley.
She said she plans to major in Chemical or Biomedical Engineering.
"I wanted to play basketball, but I also want to focus on my academics," Stadt said. "Skagit has an awesome physics program. It's going to give me a jump-start on where I want to go."
SWANSON TO FACE FORMER TEAMMATE WITH ORCAS
Stadt hasn't seen the last of former Nooksack Valley senior teammate Lindy Swanson, but now the two will be on opposing benches.
Swanson recently signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Whatcom Community College - a rival of Skagit Valley College's.
"We've been talking about that a lot," Swanson said in a phone interview. "We're going to have a little competition to see who can win. It will be fun to see how that turns out in the end."
The two probably won't go head-to-head all that much, as Swanson plays on the wing, though they did match up enough in their few years with the Pioneers practices and played together long enough that Swanson said she knows "most of Melissa's moves."
Swanson said she chose the Orcas because they were close to home and offered her a chance to continue playing the sport she loves.
"My hope is that I can get a good education there first and then move on to a university in the program I'm interested in," she said.
That area of interest is Pharmacy, Swanson said.
The 5-10 Swanson was second on Nooksack Valley to Stadt with 7.0 points per game last season, and she should fit in quickly with the Orcas.
"I really like the coach at Whatcom," Swanson said. "Sara Bergner is an awesome coach. I'm really looking forward to being able to play for her."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com at 360-715-2286.
A look at the Whatcom County student athletes who either have signed or are planning to sign National Letters of Intent to be student athletes in college:
Student athlete High school Sport College
Rachel Albert Sehome Basketball Western Washington
Natalie Anderson Sehome Cross Country/Track Lewis & Clark College
Bo Banner Sehome Football Central Washington
Kelli Bannerman Ferndale Soccer Saint Martin's
Emma Bennett Ferndale Track and Field Whitworth University
Grace Bills Ferndale Volleyball Whatcom Community College
Ashley Bolick Blaine Softball Lewis and Clark College
Brooke Bonsen Lynden Softball Bellevue Community College
Tom Bradley Blaine Cross Country/Track San Francisco
Brooke Branigan Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Jeremy Brockmann Meridian Baseball Centralia College
Miriah Brown Lynden Basketball Whatcom Community College
Aaron Burke Bellingham Baseball Oregon Tech
Joe Charbonneau Bellingham Cross Country/Track Seattle University
Alex Check Bellingham Baseball Bellevue College
Luke Christianson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Noah Cyr-Moore Sehome Basketball Westmont College
Bret DeGraaff Lynden Football Whitworth University
Josh DeVenere Ferndale Cross Country Skagit Valley College
Cambie Edwards WCC Basketball Southern Oregon
Gus Evans Squalicum Swimming Denison University
James Fakkema Blaine Football Central Washington
Marcus Fakkema Lynden Lacrosse University of Great Falls
Gina Flint Squalicum Track Washington
Brittany Gappa Squalicum Cross Country/Track Boston University
Patrick Gibson Squalicum Cross Country/Track Stanford
Mario Gobbato Blaine Football Montana State Northern
Daniel Goebel Sehome Baseball Westmont College
Sydney Gray Meridian Cross Country/Track Pepperdine
Patrick Gregory Sehome Swimming Cal Lutheran
Alexa Harrington Squalicum Tennis Upper Iowa University
Maddi Hommes Lynden Volleyball Bellevue College
Bella Hoyos Bellingham Tennis Whitworth University
McKenzie Impero Nooksack Valley Volleyball Whatcom Community College
Kahokuloa Kauhi Sehome Volleyball Everett Community College
Devon Kollmyer Lynden Soccer Simon Fraser
Tyler Knutsen Sehome Baseball Hawaii-Hilo
Josh Kraght Lynden Football Portland State
Bridget Kruck Lynden Christian Softball Mesa (Ariz.) Community College
Charlie Linneman Sehome Basketball Carleton (Minn.) College
Erika Locker Ferndale/WCC Basketball Central Washington
Brice Longanecker Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Forrest Longanecker Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Jake Manson Sehome Baseball Yakima Valley
Max McGuinn Meridian Football University of Puget Sound
Meagan McIntyre Sehome Cross country/softball Scripps College
Nathan Meppelink Lynden Christian Basketball Biola University
Matt Meyer Lynden Football Washington State
Larkyn Nelson Bellingham Soccer Peninsula College
Caleb Newman Lynden Football Army
Daniel Nielsen WCC Basketball San Diego Christian
Tanner Olson Lynden Baseball Lower Columbia College
Audrey Orem Bellingham Golf Western Washington
Bree Park Meridian/WCC Basketball Southern Oregon
Zoe Peterson Squalicum Track and field Carleton College
Dillon Quintana Mount Baker Cross country/Track Gonzaga
Austin Rapp Sehome Football Washington State
Matt Richard Bellingham Baseball Linfield College
Palmer Sandel Blaine Football Western Oregon
Dak Shagren Lynden Basketball Northwest University
Rachel Short-Miller Bellingham Soccer Hesston (Kan.) College
Austyn Sprague Ferndale Baseball Everett Community College
Melissa Stadt Nooksack Valley Basketball Skagit Valley College
Zach Stalin Mount Baker/WCC Basketball Masters College
Michael Steele Ferndale Soccer Oregon State
Brooke Steinberg Bellingham/WCC Soccer Western Oregon
Lindy Swanson Nooksack Valley Basketball Whatcom Community College
Amanda Tapia Lynden/WCC Basketball Vancouver Island University
Hanna Tarleton Sehome Track and field Claremont McKenna College
Kayla Tiemersma Lynden Christian Basketball Whatcom Community College
Thomas Vazorka Bellingham Football Idaho State
Cody Velthuizen Lynden Chistian Cross country/Track Trinity Christian
Zach Vis Lynden Football Montana
Emily Visser Lynden Christian Cross country/Track Dordt College
Ryan Wallen Blaine Golf Wyoming
Sydney Wasilewski Meridian Volleyball Walla Walla Community College
Corrie Wilson Ferndale Softball Saint Martin's
NOTE: To report a Whatcom County high school student athlete that is planning to continue their playing career in college, please contact David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.