At 6-feet tall, Peninsula High School’s Kirsten Ritchie turned heads immediately as a freshman, when she made the varsity basketball and softball teams for the Seahawks.
In basketball, especially, height is a luxury.
“It really helps with your presence,” Ritchie said. “In basketball, it’s obviously an important asset as a center. But also, in softball, as a pitcher, it’s helpful.”
But Ritchie was a still just a freshman, height aside. In the past couple years, as an upperclassman, the talent has caught up to the height, and Ritchie has gone from a tall contributor, to a primary focal point for the basketball and softball squads.
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She was second-team all-league in the South Sound Conference as a center for the basketball team, and as pitcher for the softball team.
In basketball, she averaged 9.4 points, 5.6 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. For the Seahawks' softball team, she compiled a 12-4 record with a 3.44 ERA. She struck out 96 strikeouts in 108 innings and batted .321 with two home runs and 15 RBI.
But beyond that, she was the ultimate teammate throughout high school: Selfless, hard-working, talented and supportive. Ritchie also graduated with a 3.98 cumulative grade point average.
She is the Gateway’s female athlete of the year from Peninsula High School.
“She’s an amazing teammate,” said Peninsula senior second-baseman Baily Paul, a close friend of Ritchie’s. “I knew she always had my back. She was the first one to make sure I was doing OK. She was always so positive and uplifting, always one of the most positive players in the dugout.”
Ritchie was an integral part of a culture shift in both programs at Peninsula High. Her freshman year, the basketball team won three games. While Belle Frazier has been the star of the show for the basketball team, Ritchie’s presence was a big reason the basketball team went to the state tournament for the first time in 29 years this year.
“Going from winning three games to being able to participate in the state this year, it’s interesting to see the atmosphere of the program change,” Ritchie said. “Every year, we were just looking to improve more and more. Now, the girls are looking to go even further next year. After freshman year, we were just determined to win more than three games. It was always about improving.”
Being a good teammate came naturally to Ritchie.
“I think that’s the most important part of being on a team — being able to work with your teammates,” Ritchie said. “Being able to be a leader on both softball and basketball team has been a big part of my athletics.”
It’s no coincidence then, that some of Frazier’s favorite memories from high school athletics are from time spent with teammates, rather than achievements on the court or the diamond.
“The times where you’re just hanging out with your team on bus rides, singing songs together or just the pep talks in the locker room,” Ritchie said. “Those moments were just as meaningful as the victories.”
Ritchie will be attending Western Washington University in the fall, where she is mulling over the idea of studying nursing, but is undecided. Reflecting on her high school athletic career, she’s thankful for everything that came from it.
“It was the biggest part of high school, for me,” Ritchie said. “It’s where all my friends have come from and where I’ve learned the most, about teamwork and leadership. … I learned to just enjoy every moment and make sure you always have fun.”