Changing of the Guard
Head Football Coach Mark Speckman, who led the Bearcats for 17 seasons, stepped down recently to become the head football coach at his alma mater, Menlo College, in Atherton, Calif.
“I will always be thankful that Willamette gave me a chance to be its coach,” he says. “It has been an honor.”
Taking the reins for Bearcat football will be Willamette alumnus and program veteran Glen Fowles ’96. Last year, Fowles completed his 14th season as the offensive coordinator and his 16th overall with the Willamette team. He was named national coordinator coach of the year in 2008, when Willamette went undefeated during the regular season and finished the year 11-1 after qualifying for the NCAA Division III playoffs.
Fowles, a native of Canada, came to Willamette as a transfer student in 1994 and started two years at offensive tackle. He was drafted as a junior by the Ottawa Roughriders of the Canadian Football League, but he chose to return to Willamette as a senior and picked up a conference honorable mention despite missing half the season with a broken leg.
“For me, Willamette is home,” Fowles says. “I’m a product of Willamette, and I have a passion for this place that transcends football.”
Track to Ice
By Jamie Timbrell ’06
Jamaica had Cool Runnings, a film about former track stars making an unlikely quest for Olympic glory in bobsled racing.
Maybe they’ll make something similar about Nate Dick ’11. The former sprinter for Willamette’s track and field team, and fullback for the football team, earned the top score in September’s U.S. Bobsled/Skeleton Combine in Park City, Utah. Dick’s performance secured him a spot in the USA Bobsled & Skeleton Federation’s Sledding School, at which he will attempt to make the American Olympic skeleton team.
Dick, a longtime athlete, came late to skeleton. “I’ve had to put a lot of time and money into this,” he says. “I don’t have time to do these things and just hope they work out — I’ve got to make them work out. It’s still far away, but I am doing this to make an Olympic team.”
His sights have never strayed lower than that. During his last year of track eligibility at Willamette, his mother watched the 2010 Winter Olympics and told him, “You could compete with these guys. You can do this.” And so it began.
When Dick broke it down, he realized that he excelled at everything that would be tested at the U.S. Bobsled/ Skeleton Combine.
After graduating with a degree in sociology, he spent the summer training one or two hours a day under the guidance of expert and coach Jeremy Senn ’99. Dick focused on building his power and explosiveness — key elements in the competition — through a high-intensity weightlifting regimen.
When the three-day combine finally arrived, Dick outclassed his competition in the eight events that test for speed and power and scored 751. Any score over 600 puts an athlete in direct consideration for the Olympic team.
He launched the default 12-pound shot-put out of the sector, so officials gave him a 16-pounder.
Dick attributes his gung-ho attitude to his experiences at Willamette in track and football. In 2010, he was part of the 4 x 100-meter relay team that won a Northwest Conference championship in 42.11 seconds and ranks second all-time in Willamette’s record book. He is most proud of helping Willamette win the 2009 Northwest Conference team title in track and field.
And who knows where we’ll see him next?
The Skinny on the Skeleton
The skeleton, a stripped-down cousin of the bobsled, is alluring for its simplicity as well as its danger.
Competitors lie three inches off the ice atop a razor-honed skid no bigger than their torso. There are no provisions for steering or braking. The event demands both strength and compactness, because an explosive running start and streamlined aerodynamics during the slide down the winding track are crucial.
Racers are allowed to wear shoulder or arm pads, but few do because of the air-resistance tradeoff.
The skeleton has only been an Olympic event since 2002. So far, the U.S. leads in the medal total (6), with Great Britain (5)close behind.
The Paths They Take
By Robert Mckinney
Joseph Jackson ’15 and Talanoa Smith ’15 are the future of Willamette men’s basketball. Still in their first year, they are nevertheless linked as closely as any leading pair should be.
But, until now, nobody would have guessed that their paths should ever cross.
Jackson was home-schooled in Portland through high school, and Smith grew up in American Samoa. They were, literally, a good portion of a world apart.
Paths the they take Jackson’s parents wanted him to have a complete high school experience that would keep him involved and active, so he played basketball at Hillsboro High School. Athletics linked Jackson to others his age.
Soon he was team captain, and while considering college basketball, he attended a fateful Willamette game.
“I came to the last game of the season when the Bearcats played Lewis & Clark,” he says. Willamette upset the Pioneers 76-73 in a matchup that showcased Head Coach Kip Ioane’s high-pressure, up-tempo style, and Jackson noticed. “That style of play really fit with how I play.” He learned later that Ioane also emphasizes developing men with a solid future off the court.
“I prayed about it, and this was where I decided I could grow the most as a player and a person,” Jackson says.
Meanwhile, in the South Pacific, Smith was attending Tafuna High School in Pago Pago. He was born and raised primarily in American Samoa, though he spent the fifth through seventh grades in Orange County, Calif.
He played basketball all four years in high school, but circumstances were different than what Jackson experienced in the Portland Metro Area. “We didn’t even play on hardwood courts. We played on concrete,” Smith says.
Like so many other athletes, he refused to let conditions deter him. He got extra practice in games during youth nights at his church. He, too, started considering college.
“I was just looking for schools on the West Coast,” he says. “I sent a highlight video and an email, and Coach Ioane emailed me back right away. My parents really liked Willamette, too.”
Smith naturally stood out to Ioane, in part because of his basketball skills but also because he grew up in Samoa. The team has another player of Samoan descent in Avery Manu ’14, and Ioane shares the heritage as well.
“I was really glad to be able to come here because it’s tough to get recruited from Samoa,” Smith says. “Willamette is a lot different, but it’s a good fit.”
Today, Smith and Jackson, who met during Ohana — Willamette’s Opening Days program for first-year multicultural students — are working and learning together.
“The speed of play here was a shock at first,” Smith says. Jackson agrees: “It’s a very humbling experience. Each and every day you just have to work hard.”
Though Smith and Jackson are currently behind starters Trevor Bos ’13 and Terrell Malley ’13, the freshmen know their opportunity to lead is ahead.
“There’s a nice future here for both of them,” Ioane says. “They have both really bought into our team philosophy. That’s why they both came, and it’s why they’ll succeed.”
They're doing WHAT?
Former athletes shaking it up in much different pursuits:
Tara O’Connor ’04 (golf/exercise science): Currently director of ballpark operations with the Reno Aces minor-league baseball team (Arizona Diamondbacks affiliate). renoaces.com
Mark Hanken ’93 (soccer/psychology): Works as senior vice president of sports for Special Olympics Oregon, serving nearly 8,000 participants throughout the state. Hanken also serves on the Willamette University Alumni Association (WUAA) board of directors. soor.org
Ritch Price ’78 (baseball/physical education): Head baseball coach since 2002 at the University of Kansas. Price is the only coach to have led the Jayhawks to a conference championship. kuathletics.com
Mike Batlan ’75, MBA’81 (football/economics): Bankruptcy trustee and official for PAC-12 football. pac-12.org
News and Notes: Fall Wrap-up
Super Soccer Season
The Willamette women’s soccer team, picked to finish sixth in the Northwest Conference (NWC) preseason poll, finished third in the final standings. Willamette earned noteworthy wins at home over the University of Puget Sound and Whitworth, both perennial performers.
Head Coach Hillary Arthur, completing her fourth year at Willamette, was named NWC Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year.
Additionally, senior midfielder Stephanie Skelly ’12 was chosen NWC Women’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Year. She led the conference with 16 goals, making her career tally 35 (10 of which were game-winners).
(Still) Running to Nationals
Nine Willamette runners competed at the 2011 NCAA Division III Cross Country Championships in Winneconne, Wis. The Bearcats were represented by a team entry of seven runners in the women’s race, plus two runners in the men’s race.
The Bearcat women finished 29th in the country.
Senior punter and placekicker Mitch Rowan ’12 made Northwest Conference Football Special Teams Player of the Year. He was one of eight Willamette players chosen First-Team All-NWC.
Rowan averaged 36.7 yards per punt and forced opponents to take over inside their own 20-yard line 15 times out of 47 attempts. His longest punt covered 60 yards.
Bearcat football finished with a record of 4-6 overall, 3-3 in NWC play.
For complete news coverage, remember to check willamette.edu/athletics.