The principal who was then at North Thurston High School said Kasey Keller would have to repeat his senior year.
Keller said he had missed 86 days of school playing with the U.S. U-20 national soccer team — taking him to Chile, Russia and Guatemala. He credited former superintendent John Gott for considering that the once-in-a-lifetime experience might not need to cost him a diploma.
“How can we work with this student-athlete to achieve so much more than we can teach him in the classroom?” recalled Keller, a 1988 graduate of North Thurston.
“So much of my future success came from just a little bit of intervention from a forward-thinking school superintendent, who allowed me to do what I needed to do as a senior in high school to then go on and do what I did after that.”
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Keller is one of the greatest athletes to come from Thurston County. The three-time Parade High School All-American from North Thurston was honored Wednesday as a member of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s 2015 Hall of Fame class.
The WIAA honored 13 inductees in total from its 2015 and 2016 classes, headlined by Keller and former University of Washington women’s basketball player Megan (Franza) Carlson, a Cascade of Leavenworth graduate who went on to be drafted into the WNBA by the Phoenix Mercury.
Jan Kirk, the former Fife volleyball coach who compiled a career record of 637-154, was inducted, as was Jim Meyerhoff, a Puyallup High School graduate, University of Puget Sound wrestler, Franklin Pierce wrestling coach, WIAA assistant executive director, co-director of Mat Classic (the state’s wrestling tournament) and founder of the first girls wrestling invitational tournament — which led to the sport being sanctioned by the WIAA.
Kirk spoke of her appreciation for the changes made as a result of Title IX and how without it, she was barred from participation “even though I was an excellent athlete.”
Instead she went on to coach Fife to 18 league titles, 20 state appearances and four state titles in 24 years — including a stretch from 2005-10 where her team never lost a league match. Fife didn’t even lose a set in league play over her final three years.
“I always gave my athletes the Title IX speech because I didn’t want them to think we’ve always had it,” Kirk said. “I would go tell the upperclassmen, ‘The day of my Title IX speech, you can be late to practice.’”
But no WIAA inductee had a more recognized career, around the world, than Kasey Keller.
Keller’s father, Bernie Keller, was a standout baseball and basketball player at North Thurston who went on to play both sports at Centralia College and pitch at Washington State University.
So Kasey Keller wasn’t sure what led him to soccer — which took him from Lacey to Leicester City, Rayo Vallecano, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, Borussia Monchengladbach and Fulham before Keller ended his career in the U.S. as an MLS goalkeeper of the year with the Seattle Sounders.
“(My father) didn’t quite understand why I was giving up other sports to play a sport that didn’t even have a professional league in America at that time,” Keller said. “I had this crazy youthful arrogance of ‘Don’t worry, Dad. It’s OK. I’m going to be a soccer player and hopefully down the road to play in England.’
“It wasn’t until after I retired that I realized that I was the first American to go play in England on an American passport.”
Somebody had to be.
As he put it, it might as well have been “an egg farmer’s son from Olympia.”
Keller’s No. 18 North Thurston soccer jersey is retired — alongside former Washington Redskins fullback Mike Seller’s No. 44 jersey — after playing on four U.S. World Cup teams, being a three-time U.S. soccer athletes of the year and two-time MLS All-Star.
Others inducted into the WIAA’s 2015 and 2016 Hall of Fame classes included Seattle Times sports journalist Sandy Ringer; Seattle Academy history and speech teacher Joel Underwood; Garfield track and field coach Greg Brashear; official Cindy C-Wilson; Pasco basketball and track and field coach John Crawford; Juanita music teacher Bruce Gutgesell; Monroe, Colfax and Cashmere administrator Dick Langum; Newport of Bellevue swimmer Ugur Taner; and Eastmont baseball coach Dan White, a graduate of Mark Morris High School.
KENTLAKE HIRES BASKETBALL COACH
Brad Valentine will take over as boys basketball coach at Kentlake High School next year.
Valentine, a 2008 graduate of the school, spent the past five years as an assistant coach at Kentwood, which this past year reached the 4A state championship game. He replaces Godfrey Drake, who coached for four seasons.
Kentlake will join in the newly re-formed 4A North Puget Sound League in the Cascade Division, competing against Hazen, Kennedy Catholic, Kent-Meridian, Kentridge, Kentwood, Mount Rainier and Tahoma.
ANNIE WRIGHT HIRES AD
Mike Finch is leaving his post as the football and track and field coach at Charles Wright to join Annie Wright Schools as its next athletic director.
Finch is a 2002 graduate of Wilson and a 2006 graduate of Harvard.
Annie Wright Schools includes Annie Wright Day School (preschool-eighth grade) and Annie Wright Upper School.
Peninsula’s Chance Stolz signed a national letter of intent to wrestle at Arizona State University next year. The school held a signing ceremony for him Wednesday. … Curtis’ Donnell Diego was selected by the Pierce County Chapter of the National Football Foundation as a scholar-athlete for backs (quarterbacks, running backs, linebackers, defensive backs) in a ceremony on Sunday. Wilson’s T.J. Hazen earned the same honor for linemen (offensive or defensive). Both received a $1,500 scholarship.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677