Ferndale's Conley to play at Whitworth

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 16, 2013 

Ferndale graduated senior running back Alex Conley knew he wanted to find the perfect place to combine his two passions - motorcycle racing and football.

As strange as it might sound, Conley found a way to do both when he committed to play football at Whitworth College in Spokane. Conley said he chose the Pirates over Pacific University and the University of Puget Sound.

"They were the best school I looked at in football, and they also had the degree I wanted," Conley said in a phone interview.

That major was mechanical engineering. He hopes to add a minor in business and someday use that to open his own dirt bike company.

Conley has been racing bikes in the C class at Hannigan Speedway and now is trying to make the jump to the B class. Though he got away from the sport after breaking his foot in 2008, he returned this summer and claimed his division title on June 9 in the Goldstar Series Motocross.

"I probably enjoy motocross more," Conley said. "I don't get the chance to race as much, but I really like football, too."

And he's definitely excited to play this fall for Whitworth, which finished 7-3 last year.

"I went and watched practice and it seemed fun," Conley said. "The players and coaches seem like nice people. Practice was a lot like what I was used to at Ferndale."

The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Conley, who also played defensive back for the Golden Eagles last year and was a first-team All-Northwest Conference selection on both sides of the ball, certainly made the most of his time in Ferndale blue and gold. He finished fourth in the Northwest Conference with 1,331 yards on 153 carries (8.7 average) and scored 26 touchdowns to help the Golden Eagles reach the first round of the Class 3A State Playoffs.

The Pirates, who play in the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference, run a little more balanced attack than Ferndale's Wing-T, but that is just fine with Conley.

"It's not going to be like Ferndale where we run all the time," Conley said. "It's going to be fun going out and catching passes and getting the chance to run some spread. ... They said they don't red shirt, so if I can show them some talent and drive, hopefully I'll be able to get into a couple of games this year."

BOGART TO HEAD FOR THE CALIFORNIA SUN

Lynden graduated senior Isaac Bogart wanted to go somewhere sunny and warm and someplace he could continue playing soccer, a sport he has participated in since he was 5.

The University of Redlands turned out to be the perfect place.

Bogart committed to join the Bulldogs, choosing the member of the NCAA Division III Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference over Northwest Nazarene and Oregon State.

"I've wanted to go to college and play soccer my whole life," Bogart said in a phone interview. "It's going to be nice going to a nice place and playing soccer for a highly ranked Division III school."

Redlands went 12-6-3 under coach Ralph Perez last year, finishing second in the SCIAC.

Bogart, who not only played four years for Lynden and was part of the Lions' Class 2A state championship squad in 2011, but also played for the Whatcom Development League, Whatcom Rangers, Northwest Nationals in Seattle and the Crossfire A team in Seattle.

He said he expects to play either center midfielder or on defense for the Bulldogs next year.

"I think I'll fit in really well," Bogart said. "They have a style of playing that really flows. That's what I like to play in."

Bogart led the Lions with 11 goals and seven assists this spring and was selected first-team All-Northwest Conference by the league's coaches at midfielder. He was second-team all-state as a junior and first-team all-state this spring.

"I think playing for the Crossfire really helped prepare me to play college soccer," Bogart said. "They taught me a lot about discipline and how to make better defensive movements and overall how to be a better player."

Bogart said he plans to major in international business or marketing.

DEVERE GETS CHANCE TO CONTINUE PLAYING AT BIOLA

Though she looked at Seattle Pacific, Oregon State and Washington State, Squalicum graduated senior Andrea DeVere said she had her sights set on attending Biola University in La Mirada, Calif., for quite a while.

"I had a friend whose parents went there," DeVere said in a phone interview. "I heard all about it, and it's been my dream school for quite a while. It just so happened that I could play soccer for them, too."

DeVere said she didn't really look to play women's soccer in college when she started her search, but decided to try out for the team and earned a spot with the Eagles, who play in the NAIA's Golden State Athletic Conference. Biola went 12-7-1 last fall and advanced to the championship game of the GSAC tournament.

"I went down twice to visit and I got to stay with some of the girls on the team," DeVere said. "The team chemistry was awesome, and they were really welcoming. The coaches are great, too. I'm excited to be a part of a team that is so close like that."

DeVere scored a goal and logged two assists for the Storm last fall and was a first-team All-Northwest Conference selection at defender by the league's coaches.

She said the Eagles will likely use her either on defense or at forward.

"I'll play pretty much anywhere they want me," she said. "Those are the spots they're looking at right now. I really don't have a favorite. Wherever they want to put me is great."

DeVere said she plans to major in kinesiolgy with an emphasis in physical therapy.

"I've been in sports my whole life, and I wanted to do a career that allowed me to continue doing something with it," DeVere said.

WILKINSON GETS TO PLAY VOLLEYBALL CLOSE TO HOME

Sehome senior Alex Wilkinson knew she wanted volleyball to continue to be a part of her life, but she also knew her options were limited.

Wilkinson continues to battle some undiagnosed stomach and pelvic ailments that create a lot of pain for her. She had to battle through the pain just to play her senior year with the Mariners.

"I knew I needed to stay close to home because of my medical issues," Wilkinson said. "But I also knew I still wanted to play volleyball. It's been such a big part of my life."

By signing a letter of intent to play volleyball at Whatcom Community College, Wilkinson will get to do just that.

Wilkinson said she's already talked to Orcas coach Angie Short about her challenges and what it could mean for the Orcas.

"I think my teammates are the ones who get me through - my team and my family, and especially my coaches," Wilkinson said. "They were so great at Sehome. They pushed me to be my best and to go 100 percent, even if I didn't feel 100 percent when I was hurting. When I'm on the volleyball court, I kind of forget about the pain. It just changes. It's kind of weird, but it goes away. ... Volleyball gives me a break from the worries of life, and that's why I wanted to keep playing."

Wilkinson said she's been playing since she was in seventh grade.

"I've been playing non-stop for six years now," she said. "It's where I've made so many friends. They're family to me. They've supported me through some pretty tough times. Volleyball had kind of been a remedy for me."

Wilkinson said she played mostly on the back row last year for Sehome, a role she anticipates doing again while at Whatcom.

Though Wilkinson is undecided on a major, she said she would like to do "something where I'm working with people and get to use my love for different languages."

SCHMITT, MCMILLEN REUNITED AT SKAGIT

After claiming his third-place medal in the 200 meters, fourth-place medal in the 4x100 relay, fifth-place medal in the 100 and eighth place medal in the 400 at the 2012 Class 1A State Track and Field Championships, former Meridian standout Jake Schmitt thought he was done with the sport.

"After high school, I was sick of track," Schmitt said in a phone interview. "I didn't want to do it anymore."

But after taking a year off from school and working at grocery story, Schmitt talked to former Trojans teammate Relijah McMillen, who not only showed Schmitt how much he missed track, but also convinced him to commit to run at Skagit Valley College next year.

"He said, 'Dude, you should go to Skagit with me,' and I said, 'You know what? That's a good idea,'" Schmitt said. "I missed track."

The Cardinals definitely should make out with the pair joining their ranks.

Schmitt turned in personal-best times of 10.98 seconds in the 100, 22.38 seconds in the 200 and 50.68 in the 400 in 2012.

McMillen, meanwhile, just placed third in the long jump at the 2013 Class 1A State Championships with a personal-best leap of 21 feet, 11/2 inches, placed third in the 200 in 23.11 seconds, finished 13th in the 100 in 11.78 seconds and helped the Trojans 4x100 relay finish 12th.

"Jake has so much talent, I didn't want to see it go to waste," McMillen said in a phone interview. "We have great chemistry and stuff. We ran together for three years, and it's going to be great going together again."

The duo could join with Squalicum standout Kyler Reed, who also has committed to Skagit, to form three quarters of a pretty good 4x100 relay next year.

"It's going to be fun," Schmitt said. "It's always fun running with guys you know."

Schmitt said he plans to major in criminal justice so that he can become a state trooper or work for the police.

McMillen, meanwhile, plans to enter the firefighting program at Skagit, which is something that drew him to the school.

"I was trying to pursue football, but with my size, I decided it was more rational to go out for track," McMillen said.

GOLF THE BEST ROUTE FOR RAUTENBERG

Though golf is big in her family, Meridian graduated senior Abbi Rautenberg didn't pick up the sport until she was a sophomore.

"I just started because I wanted to be active through the spring and not sit around and do nothing," said Rautenberg, who played soccer and basketball all four years she was at Meridian. "I just figured I'd give it a try, and I ended up excelling at it really quick."

In her first year, she just missed making the cut to go to the Class 1A State Championships. A year later, she placed 10th at state.

As a senior, she won a district title, placed seventh at the tri-district tournament and finished 14th at the state championships at Lake Spanaway last month after shooting a two-round total of 184.

With results like that, it's no wonder Rautenberg explored her options to continue playing golf in college.

"Soccer and basketball, you have to be pretty stellar to play at the college level," Rautenberg said in a phone interview. "I really didn't think I was good enough. Plus with golf, the passion for it runs through my whole family."

Though Rautenberg looked at attending Washington State and Eastern Washington for academics only, she said Lewis & Clark College was the only one that she seriously looked at to play golf.

Rautenberg is one of six high school players to sign with the Pioneers this year, giving the NCAA Division III Northwest Conference school its first scoring team since 2009.

"It's pretty much a brand new team," Rautenberg said. "It's pretty exciting to think we'll get to build this program from the ground up."

Rautenberg finished 10th in the Northwest Conference this spring with 203 Stableford points this spring.

She also was awarded the NWC Just Play Fair Leaders in Sportsmanship Award for character and sportsmanship and two weeks ago received the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Cliff Gillies Student Award in recognition of her achievement in academics, sportsmanship, citizenship and participation.

Rautenberg said she plans to major in criminal law or criminal justice while in Portland, Ore., so that she can go into law enforcement and possibly work with K-9 dogs.

To let us know about a Whatcom County student athlete that plans to continue their athletic career at the college level, email david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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