Champ makes believer of OSU coach


Six years ago, a young woman walked into the office of then-Oregon State soccer coach Tom Rowney.

'I would like to play on your team,' the woman told Rowney. 'But I think I only want to play one season because I want to try out for the Olympic bobsled team.'

'Well, great, that's awesome,' Rowney responded, all the while thinking, 'Yeah, sure.'

Last week, Jill Bakken showed Rowney and the world something, claiming the gold medal in the women's bobsled at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Born in Portland, reared through part of her childhood in Bend and graduated from Lake Washington High in Seattle, Bakken, 25, spent only one term at Oregon State before leaving to pursue her dream.

'She started some games for us at midfield,' says Rowney, now technical director for FC Willamette in Corvallis. 'She was a good, solid player with a great work ethic. She didn't just go through the motions.'

Adds Marian Vydra, OSU's associate athletic director/student services: 'She was one of those kids who had her head totally together. She was grounded. She had her eye on the bigger picture in life.'

At the end of the season, Bakken left school to train full time, eventually joining the Army and the National Guard. For a while, she partnered in bobsled with a soccer player from Utah, Shawna Rohbock, that Rowney had tried to recruit.

Last week, Bakken's bobsled efforts reached fruition.

'The gold medal is absolutely fun stuff,' Rowney says. 'I'm proud she did it. She followed her dream and had a fantastic achievement.'

• As part of an avowed commitment to making a better connection with the community, Bob Whitsitt met with fans last week at the Doubletree Lloyd Center in the first of a series of town hall-style meetings.

Bob Harding, an Army veteran from West Linn who has been a Blazer season-ticket holder since 1984, presented Whitsitt with a petition signed by nearly 100 fans asking that Rasheed Wallace stand still during the playing of the national anthem before games at the Rose Garden.

Most players and coaches, lined up along the foul lines as mandated by the NBA this season, stand at attention, or at least with a minimal amount of movement. Not Wallace, who is in almost constant motion.

'He is doing deep knee bends, flailing his arms, wiggling his head back, going through all these gyrations,' Harding says. 'It is disrespectful and embarrassing.'

Harding says he tried to call Whitsitt once but did not receive a return call. Harding says he talked with Blazer service representatives about 10 times. One told him that Wallace is not trying to be disrespectful, that he just has a lot of nervous energy and suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder.

'Doesn't wash with me,' Harding says. 'He should be standing still and showing respect for the flag. It's a minute-and-a-half song. If he needs to warm up, he should do so during pre-game warm-ups.'

At the town hall meeting, another fan asked Whitsitt about Wallace's actions. The Portland's president/general manager responded that he wasn't aware that Wallace was doing it (this despite the fact that Wallace stands directly in front of Whitsitt, no more than 25 feet away. How could he miss it?). 'I'm paying attention to the flag.'

'I have shouted (at Wallace) just before the anthem begins, but he just ignores me,' Harding says. 'I'll bet if they fined him one-82nd of his salary per game, it might get his attention.'

Approached by Harding after the meeting, Whitsitt said he will try to get a videotape of Wallace's behavior during the anthem and talk to Rasheed about it.

'He said he would give me a call or write me a note after he talks to Wallace,' Harding says.

In the interest of fairness, I told Wallace about the petition and asked for an explanation. He shrugged me off.

'I can't worry about that now,' he said.

• Timing is everything, and the stars were in alignment for Maurice Lucas' 50th birthday party Feb. 16 at the Benson. Among the 200 or so family and friends in attendance were his Portland coach, Jack Ramsay, and teammate Bill Walton, both in Portland as national broadcasters for the Blazer-Laker game the following day. Also attending were former teammate Bobby Gross, broadcaster Bill Schonely, team doctor Bob Cook and ex-Blazer Jerome Kersey.

'It was a lot of fun,' Lucas says. 'I was proud that so many of my good friends would show up.'

And how does it feel to hit 50?

'I don't feel a day over 491Ú2,' Luke says, grinning.

• Portland State got strength and speed when it landed Cleodis Floyd, a 6-foot, 280-pound defensive lineman from Seattle's Franklin High last week.

Floyd is a favorite to win the U.S. junior power-lifting title this spring and runs a 4.8 40. Coach Tim Walsh, who considers Floyd one of the top recruits he has signed in his 10 years at PSU, says the youngster had several offers at major schools, including one from Arizona State to play center. 'He wants to play defensive line,' Walsh says. 'If he were 6-3 or 6-4, we wouldn't have gotten him.'

Walsh also hopes to soon get confirmation from Dominic Dixon, a 5-8, 180-pound cornerback from Seattle's Bishop O'Dea who has told the Vikings he will sign if he doesn't get a Pac-10 offer. ESPN ranked Dixon as the nation's 24th-best prep cornerback, Walsh says.

• Steve Bobb doesn't claim to be an athlete, but what do you call a guy who walks 265 miles Ñ from Table Rock in Southern Oregon to Grande Ronde in the Northwest portion of the state Ñ in 13 days?

Bobb, 52, is a Marine veteran and member of the Grand Ronde tribe who is making the long walk in an effort to create awareness and raise money for a planned Veterans' Memorial in Grand Ronde. He started Saturday and hopes to complete the trip March 8.

For years, Bobb has been a regular walker who covers five miles a day, five days a week. Never before has he attempted something like this, though.

Worried about blisters? 'I went through the blister stage a long time ago,' he says. 'The feet are pretty much calloused up.'

Those interesting in contributing to the Veterans' Memorial fund should call 503-879-1305.

Contact Kerry Eggers at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..