The city of Warrenton does not have a famous “turnaround.” Or a “roundabout.” But athletics at Warrenton High School in the 2018-19 school year could certainly qualify as some sort of reversal of fortunes, across the board.
Nearly every sport at the school made improvements over the recent past, with a few sports going where no Warrior team has gone before — at least in a long time.
“It was definitely the best year since I’ve been here,” said Warrenton athletic director Robert Hoepfl.
Part of it was competing in a new league, or a different level.
But the biggest factor in the turnaround has been the athletes themselves. Warrenton baseball coach Lennie Wolfe, who has been connected with athletics at the school since 1992, called it a “renaissance,” athletically.
Hoepfl said, “Starting in the fall, we had volleyball win a league championship (the first since 1978) and made state, football made state, and we had one of our best years in cross country.
“So we started the year really strong, then in the winter our boys basketball team made districts for the first time in a while (2011). Girls basketball was playing on the last day of the year and won a trophy (sixth place). Boys wrestling, we had a district champion, with Nic Pior. And our girls’ wrestling team placed higher than any 3A team in the state tournament, and was great across the board.”
A few of Warrenton’s swimmers, in their co-op with Seaside, also had good years.
“Then obviously the baseball team making our first state title appearance in 21 years was big,” Hoepfl said, as the Warriors took home the second place trophy from Volcanoes Stadium last week.
In track, “Mark (Warren) won a state championship and set a bunch of school records, and was top four in three different events at state,” he added. “Fernanda (Alvarez) did really well, and we had three other kids make it to state. So as a whole, this was a really great year in athletics for us.”
And — let’s face it — winning brings more fans on board. And more fans equals more community support.
“Our turnouts, the crowds and community support was better this year,” Hoepfl said. “Warrenton’s a really great community, so it’s nice to give them some teams to be excited about. I was proud of all the coaches and kids this year.”
Since 2006, the Warriors have watched as Astoria, Seaside and Knappa have combined to win 18 state team championships.
Finally, Warrenton may be on the verge of getting in on some of that state championship action. The highlight of the school year was Warrior baseball.
Despite coming up short in the final, Warrenton’s first appearance in a title contest in any sport since 1998 may just be a sign of things to come. Parades and escorts through town may become an annual sight.
Wolfe said Warrenton’s success on the field was matched by the community support off it.
“It’s really capsulized the season,” he said. “The community support, the parents, the alumni, the faculty and administration … everybody. The neatest thing is how everybody in the community re-connected with Warrenton baseball. I hope this becomes an annual thing.”
The team’s trip to Keizer for the championship, complete with an entourage of Warrenton fans, “was just incredible,” Wolfe said.
“From the fan support we had at the game to all the former players who were there. There’s too many to name, because I know I’d miss some. The baseball alums have really stepped up, and I’ve heard from dozens these last few weeks. It’s been very humbling and gratifying, for both (wife) Michelle and I. I’m proud to be from here.”
In addition, he said, “I really appreciate the parents and all they’ve done for us this year. We travel well.”
And Wolfe — who has coaching connections all over the state — heard from quite a few coaches this season. Needless to say, the feedback was all positive.
“I talked with a lot of opposing coaches who have complimented us and the program,” he said. “It just shows that when we play someone, we’ve gained some measure of respect. That’s really just the kids being classy and carrying it the right way. You can’t do it any better than how they’ve done it, all year.”