Puyallup: Sports

Despite heavy heart, ER’s Maxfield closed out career strong

Emerald Ridge High wrestling team captain Kendra Maxfield leads her teammates in a workout last month. Despite losing her grandfather to cancer in January, Maxfield overcame her grief to earn a fifth-place finish in the girls 170-pound bracket at Mat Classic XVIII last month.
Emerald Ridge High wrestling team captain Kendra Maxfield leads her teammates in a workout last month. Despite losing her grandfather to cancer in January, Maxfield overcame her grief to earn a fifth-place finish in the girls 170-pound bracket at Mat Classic XVIII last month. lgiles@gateline.com

Emerald Ridge High senior Kendra Maxfield closed out one of the program’s top wrestling careers last month at Mat Classic XVIII inside the Tacoma Dome.

After facing a tough field in the girls 170-pound bracket, Maxfield took fifth place, marking her second state placement over her three-year career. Maxfield, who also finished fifth in the 155-pound class last year, is the first girls wrestler from Emerald Ridge to make it to the Dome in three consecutive seasons, as well as walk away with a couple of placements.

Maxfield has had an incredible career at Emerald Ridge.

“Kendra was always a hard worker and tough competitor. The boys had a hard time wrestling her in practice,” Emerald Ridge coach Dani Andrews said. “She’s really grown. From someone having never wrestled before high school — having raw talent turn into results, and making it to state three straight years, is a great accomplishment.”

It’s a great feat for any wrestler to reach state so many times — and to walk away as one of the best is even harder. Maxfield accomplished both.

“(My) first year wrestling, three years ago, (I) never thought I’d make even it to state,” Maxfield said. “I feel accomplished with what I did and how successful I was.”

But Maxfield feels there was more to give out there this year. Heading into late January, she was on a roll, picking up wins and setting herself up nicely for the postseason. She had accomplished a lot during her high school career, and her senior season was set up for plenty of success.

But those accomplishments almost didn’t happen.

He practically raised me, and I looked at him as a father-type figure. He was supporting me — always teaching me lessons.

Kendra Maxfield, Emerald Ridge wrestler

Harsh times

Up on that podium on the meet’s final day, Maxfield had accomplished so much over the course of her high school career. Always the competitor, the senior never backed down from a match, never surrendering who she was.

Maxfield was a fighter.

It was how she was raised growing up around Melvin Taylor, her grandfather from her mother’s side of the family. Every day after school, Maxfield remembers, Taylor was there as one of her strongest supporters, teaching her lessons about the world.

My mind really clouded. I began thinking about how I shouldn’t wrestle anymore.

Maxfield

And often it was sports.

“He practically raised me, and I looked at him as a father-type figure,” Maxfield said of her relationship growing up with her grandfather. “He was supporting me — always teaching me lessons. I looked up to him all my life, and he would always be there for me.”

During the SPSL girls tournament at Rogers High on Jan. 3, Maxfield was entering the 170-pound championship match when the worst happened.

After years of fighting stage 4 lung cancer, Taylor passed away.

Instead of being there, knowing it was close to his time, Maxfield went out and did what any competitor does in those trying times: she wrestled.

“I put all my focus on wrestling at the beginning of the season,” she admitted. “I chose to wrestle instead of being there with him in the end. I regretted that decision. It drained me from wanting to do anything.”

“My mind really clouded. I began thinking about how I shouldn’t wrestle anymore.”

Maxfield felt alone. The world wasn’t the same anymore, and neither was wrestling.

It’s hard to console or be consoled in a time of grief, and everyone deals with it in their way. Some people hide away from the world, like the way Maxfield felt, and lose out on the opportunities that are so rarely afforded athletes.

Not many had the fire that resided inside Maxfield.

Her grandfather saw it. All of her coaches, past and present, saw that same flame flicker, too. As the days marched on, Maxfield began to see what everyone else knew: She was a competitor.

“I felt I needed to finish this season for him ... I needed to keep wrestling and not quit. That’s what my grandpa would have wanted,” Maxfield said. “He taught me how compete, and that it was important to see things to the end.”

And fight Maxfield did, as she reached the Dome and completed her quest.

“The most important lesson he taught me was to never give up on yourself,” she said.

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