Four year, three-sport athletes to be honored
A gifted athlete who has wowed Grizzlies fans on the football field, the basketball court, the baseball diamond and now on the track, Payne draws nothing but exemplary marks from all of his coaches.
Willie Graham, McMinnville’s varsity boys basketball coach, said it was this past basketball season that really added a new perspective to who Payne is.
By now, Payne’s broken right wrist has been well documented. He gutted it out during football, but the injury sidelined him from competing in basketball. Well, in games, at least.
“He did not miss a practice,” Graham said. “He went through every single drill we did. … There was no question he was an active member of the team. You have to give him a lot of credit. Not very many high school kids would stick it out.”
Payne, Graham said, would wrap his cast in all sorts of padding, then get in the thick of things during practice, competing against his teammates like it was a state playoff game.
“Some of my best friends were on the team,” Payne said. “I couldn’t just quit on them.”
Payne played three years of baseball, but this spring he hasn’t been able to play. Instead, he found another outlet for his athleticism: track.
“Here,” McMinnville track coach Vic Downs said, “he’s able to compete. He went through an entire season of not being able to compete, and when he got here, it was like pulling a cork off a bottle.”
So make that four sports in four years for Payne. He said there are multiple things that he’s learned through it all, including learning how to deal with even the rawest of circumstances thrown your way.
“You just have to love it,” he said. “Put the time in and I guess that’s what I’ve been doing for four years.”
Blake Egli follows in the footsteps of his older brother, Zev, who graduated in 2011 from Mac. Football, basketball and baseball were the sports Egli played in high school, but a lot of his athletic personality was shaped much earlier.
“That’s how I grew up,” Egli said, “just playing sports. Being competitive with my brother helped me a lot.”
Through his four years, Egli honed a keen sense of timing in his sports that served him well.
“He was always doing something to help us win,” Graham said. “The biggest thing about him, he’s a great competitor. He took a ton of charges. Just a tough, hard-nosed competitor.”
Egli said his favorite sport is the one he’s playing at the time, though one memory stands out. On May 13, 2011, the Grizzlies clinched a share of the Pacific Conference championship with a 3-0 win vs. Newberg. Egli poured out of the dugout and celebrated with Zev and the rest of his teammates.
Rylan Blair doesn’t know what he wants to do after graduation, but he does know one thing: Wrestling is a sport that helped define who he is.
“I found out more about myself in those six minutes on the mat than I did in an entire football season, in an entire track season,” Blair said. “Any of that stuff.”
A running back and scrappy defensive player in football, Blair also wrestled for four years. In his freshman and sophomore years, Blair played baseball, but after a tough start to his junior season, Blair walked on to the track team and took up the javelin. Blair’s throw of 165 feet, 1 inch in the javelin this season is top-five all-time in school history.
“We took that arm and put a different thing in it,” Downs said. “He’s been a great addition.”
When you compete for so long, of course the highlights pile up. For Blair they include winning a rematch in wrestling in front of his friends and family this season or the time he rushed for 128 yards and two touchdowns vs. Glencoe on Homecoming last fall.
Blair’s coaches all say the same thing.
“Solid kid,” McMinnville wrestling coach Shawn Keinonen said. “I’m glad he stuck it out and did it. … I have a lot of respect for Rylan’s work ethic.”
Lauren and Allyson Ulbricht
Fair or unfair, Lauren and Allyson Ulbricht have always been connected. Besides being twins, the two have shadowed each other through school. They played the same sports (volleyball, basketball, swimming, softball) and also participated in symphonic and jazz choir together.
They even sing the national anthem together at various McMinnville sporting events.
“We’re pretty good about finding harmony,” said Lauren, the oldest twin by approximately 50 minutes. “(Allyson) is pretty good at singing the melody, and I would just sing the harmony.”
Adds Allyson: “I don’t sing the melody every time. We switch, but people probably don’t notice that.”
Lauren and Allyson have just a couple of more weeks together playing sports, but they get to share it with family. First-year softball coach Courtney Seifert is their cousin, and she said coaching them has been a unique experience.
“They want to do well in whatever they’re doing,” Seifert said. “and I think that shows because they’ve been involved in so many things. They have a drive to be better than average at whatever they’re doing.”
“It just felt natural to always be doing something,” Allyson said. “It’s just a habit.”
Lauren added she liked it that way, and she’s leaving Mac High satisfied.
“I’ve done what I wanted to do,” she said. “There’s no doubt that we did it.”
Now the twins will face college without each other. Lauren plans to attend the University of Puget Sound to play softball. Allyson is going to Oregon State.