It’s a good time to be a Gig Harbor High School athlete.
Every spring sports team is in the Class 3A state tournament. Some, like the Gig Harbor baseball team, expected to get to this point.
Others, like the soccer team that finished third in the South Sound Conference, are a bit more of a surprise.
But almost all the teams have something in common: Coaches who have been around a little while.
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The most veteran of the group is baseball coach Pete Jansen, 66, who has been at the helm for 28 years and won a state title in 1997.
Boys soccer coach Todd Northstrom, 49, has been the coach of the Tides for 15 years total, taking a three-year break in the mid-2000s. He has eight state tournament appearances. The highest finish was third place, which came in 2003, led by goalkeeper Tally Hall, who went on to play professionally in Major League Soccer.
Kevin Eager, 49, has been the head track coach for 14 years. He has won four team state titles with Gig Harbor: The boys in 2005, 2007 and 2012, and the girls in 2007.
The newby is 34-year-old softball coach Kara Dressel, who’s in her fourth year as the coach of the Tides. She’s made the state tournament three out of her four years.
Both the baseball and soccer teams will be playing in the state semifinals on Friday. Track is coming off district titles for both the boys and girls.
“All the kids at school are really excited,” said Jansen, who teaches math at the high school. “It just kind of speaks to our kids. We have a good athletic program and kids like playing sports. A lot of these kids are really good students academically. It’s great when kids are involved.”
School spirit, which Northstrom believes has tapered off in this generation, is booming this spring.
“I feel like it’s jacked up a little bit more right now,” Northstrom said.
The programs all pull for each other. “There’s no rivalry between the teams,” Eager said. “I don’t think anybody is talking about pressure right now, I think they’re talking about opportunity. And I think that’s the sort of thing that maybe catches fire.”
Eager — who, himself, would be the first to admit — is a bit of track nerd, and thus is generally busy with all things track and field. But he eats lunch with Northstrom every day at the school, so he’s followed the progress of the soccer team this year.
“I think they’re the inspiring ones in all of this,” Eager said. “They were scuffling for a while. They lost or tied some games that they felt they should’ve won. Then all of the sudden, it starts to come together.”
Northstrom, in turn, keeps tabs on the track team through Eager. But don’t expect the soccer coach to show too much interest when Eager launches into a 20-minute explanation of the physics and science behind the triple jump during the lunch period.
“He doesn’t talk to me about track as much anymore because he knows I don’t care,” Northstrom said, laughing. “But he’s great. Just look at his record. He just spots people in the hallways and thinks, ‘Oh, this person would be good at this event.’ He pulls them in and makes them successful.”
Dressel said she’s enjoyed learning from the other coaches.
“I really look up to all the coaches here,” Dressel said. “It’s nice to hear them speak in the meetings. I’m just surrounded by a lot of great coaches and a great school. It’s really fun that all these teams want to be successful. That’s how I grew up, always trying to strive for the best. The community is really behind the school and our sports. We love the athletes and we love the game.”
Northstrom admits he doesn’t share the same passion for coaching that Jansen and Eager do, and will likely step away soon. So who’s going to last longer: Eager or Jansen?
“Eager is a lot younger than me,” Jansen said. “So he’d probably be the favorite.”
But every spring, Jansen is back outside at Gig Harbor High, so don’t count him out just yet.
“It’s just fun to be out here,” Jansen said. “I still enjoy it, that’s the main reason I coach. I like sharing my knowledge of the game with the players, them being able to experience the joy of baseball that I did when I was playing. I think hopefully most of the kids enjoy it, too.”
Jansen has no timetable for when he plans to step down. Neither does Eager, at this point.
“Pete’s in his sixties — I better last longer than he does,” Eager said, laughing.