By Kaylyn Peterson • Kaylyn Peterson • 

The Linfield-Mac connection

Following in their fathers’ foot steps was more than a metaphor for seven McMinnville basketball players during the recently completed winter season.

Jeff Autencio, Sean Coste, Dan McMillan, Kris Olsen and Tony Vicknair — all Linfield College alumni — decided to make McMinnville their home after graduation, and they have raised their families here. Their connections run even deeper. The four played basketball for the Wildcats and have sons or daughters that played this season for McMinnville High School.

The Grizzlies boys and girls basketball teams both competed in the 6A state playoffs. The boys team matched up with West Linn on Feb. 26 but did not continue on to the next game after losing 74-55. The girls team played Feb. 27 against West Salem and lost 56-30.

n Jeff Autencio studied and played at Linfield from 1975 to 1979. The three-time letterman earned a degree in education and even went back to school for the Master’s program a year later. Jeff has taught for 32 years, the last 29 in the McMinnville School District. His sons — senior Nicholas Autencio and junior Tanner Autencio — played varsity basketball for the Grizzlies.

n Sean Coste was a three-year letter winner for the Wildcats and competed from 1985 to 1988. He earned a degree in education at Linfield, and he now teaches in McMinnville. Sean Coste also coaches the McMinnville girls basketball team. Coste’s son, Michael, is a senior on the Grizzlies varsity team.

n Dan McMillan was also a three-time letter winner at Linfield. He was teammates with Coste from 1984 to 1988. McMillan’s oldest daughter, Jessica, now plays for Linfield’s women’s team. His daughters, Grace and Audrey, are both on Mac’s girls varsity team.

n Kris Olsen also earned an education degree from Linfield College and made the transition from Lincoln City to McMinnville permanent. Olsen, who played for the Wildcats from 1979 to 1981, is the principal at McMinnville High. Junior Molly Olsen was a starter for the Mac girls varsity.

n Tony Vicknair joined the McMinnville education system after graduating from Linfield College. He was a Wildcat from 1985 to 1989. Vicknair met his wife, Jodi, at Linfield. Shortly after getting married, Vicknair received a job with the McMinnville School District. Except for a two-year stint as the assistant principal at South Salem High School from 2000-02, Vicknair has taught since 1989 in McMinnville. Vicknair’s son, Taylor, is a senior on the boys varsity team at Mac. His daughter, Madisen, is a standout volleyball player for the Grizzlies.

“After just a short time living in McMinnville, I realized that this was a great place to raise a family and have never moved,” Vicknair said. “I still believe that.”

McMinnville seniors Nick Autencio, Michael Coste, Taylor Vicknair and Grace McMillan, junior Molly Olsen and sophomores Tanner Autencio and Audrey McMillan have followed the athletic paths of their fathers. All seven athletes grew up participating in athletics but were never pushed so far as to feel much pressure from their fathers.

For the Autencios, growing up in a home where sports were the focal point had a great deal of influence in them continuing to play throughout their lives. As a coach for 32 years, Jeff Autencio said his boys were always playing something. Nick earned all-state honors and was named the Pacific Conference Player of the Year in soccer in the fall.

“The influence probably comes from just being around the game,” Jeff Autencio said. “It was either us watching games on the television or them coming to my practices since they were knee high. All my boys grew up with a ball in their hands; there was never a time when they weren’t involved in some sort of athletics.”

Molly Olsen had the same sort of influence growing up. Being surrounded by the game was just another thing she could bond with her father about.

“Because I am now a high school principal, I can no longer coach, although I coached Molly’s youth teams from about grades four through eight,” Kris Olsen said. “Because it was something we did together, I think she realized it was important to me, and as a result she grew to enjoy it as well.”

All seven McMinnville students knew growing up that participating in athletics came with knowing some of the expectations of being their fathers’ children.

“My dad did a lot of things in college that he wishes I could get better at and I continue to just practice to do that,” Michael Coste said.

Besides having the pressure of a father that knew the sport, these athletes also worked to do better than their fathers and live up to their well-known names.

“It’s kind of encouraging for me to play the sport living up to my dad’s expectations. My dad saw a lot of things when he was playing,” Nick Autencio said. “He strives for me to be better at the things he learned as he got older while I was younger and just to be better than he was at my age.”

While Molly Olsen, Tanner Autencio and Audrey McMillan have a couple more years on the team, the rest are starting to ponder their futures, some even with the possibility of continuing in their fathers’ footsteps.

Their legacies will continue as they move on to the next stage in their life, college. Taylor Vicknair said he was unsure to where he’d be attending college, both Nick Autencio and Michael Coste both said they were considering Linfield, just like their dads.

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