Eastside Catholic baseball players give away special opportunity, Eastlake player makes comeback | Best of Issaquah-Sammamish Sports 2013

Recognizing the best, most inspiring and outstanding stories from 2013 in sports and recreation around Issaquah and Sammamish.

Humanitarian Recognition: Eastside Catholic baseball players help special needs student to Safeco Field mound

The Crusaders have made plenty of headlines during the past two baseball seasons under new head coach Kyle Larsen.

Eastside Catholic reached its first ever state title baseball game in 2012, narrowly missing out on a chance at the championship, before missing out on a return trip to the Metro League title game and 3A state tournament last year because of a rules technicality in a win over rival O’Dea.

But their most impressive feat had little to do with their own achievements on the diamond.

When the program agreed to play Newport at Safeco Field, the home of the Seattle Mariners, it also signed up for a for a joint-fundraiser and the chance to throw out the first pitch before a game.

Instead of using that opportunity for themselves, a group of EC seniors decided to involve the school’s Options program, which serves intellectually disabled individuals.

That led Jane Dickison to the practice field with the Crusaders and eventually, an MLB pitching mound, where she threw out the first pitch to an EC classmate.

Comeback story of the year: Rachel Ainslie, Eastlake girls basketball


Eastlake’s Rachel Ainslie during a game against Bothell last season. COURTESY PHOTO

Coming back from a heart condition was tough enough. But it was far from the last challenge for Eastlake’s Rachel Ainslie, a senior on the girls basketball team in 2012-13.

Her final prep season was no given after a devastating knee injury during an AAU game, but a return to the court gave her a final run wearing the Eastlake uniform she grew up dreaming of and helped her team to a postseason spot.

Person of the Year: Gwen Robertson, Issaquah cross country, track and field


Issaquah track and field and cross country coach Gwen Robertson. DON BORIN, STOP ACTION PHOTOGRAPHY

If it involves running, and Issaquah High School, odds are Gwen Robertson is somewhere in the fold.

Three-plus decades of coaching has made her the living legacy of the program, and offered a chance for plenty of her former athletes to return and become coaches.

That reality has been a rewarding one, as have the three cross country state titles, 12 individual state champions in track and field and numerous conference and district titles.

Robertson received induction into the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame in 2013, an honor befitting a career of dedication and excellence.