Pair of grads are Spartans to remember
Addition by subtraction? Not this time.
As Hillsboro High School commenced the 2016-17 school year last month, hundreds of seniors crossed the stage, collected their diplomas and proudly took their first step toward their futures. But while all left memories in their wake, two exceptional athletes left legacies that will not soon be forgotten by the coaches, administrators and onlookers fortunate enough to have crossed their paths.
Makenna Gambee and Kennedy Taube saw great success on the track, soccer field, basketball and volleyball courts — and even the golf course. They boast a couple state championships, countless league accolades and now college opportunities as a result of their accomplishments both on and off the playing field.
"They're special athletes, but they're also both very special people," said Hillsboro High School Athletic Director Steve Drake.
Gambee, who's headed to Hawaii Pacific University to play basketball in the fall, was a standout basketball and volleyball player for the Spartans, and even played golf. While she always enjoyed and excelled at athletics, basketball was her first love and what she's enjoyed the most.
"Basketball was always my thing," said Gambee. "And as I got older I had family and coaches that pushed me to get better."
Specifically, Gambee mentioned her brother Jackson and her AAU coach, Laurie Vizzini, as pivotal to her growth on the basketball court. While talented, she built much-needed confidence the summer following her eighth grade year when she was allowed to play with the high school summer league team, an opportunity that showed her she belonged.
"I knew I could play, but seeing it on the court with the older girls gave me confidence going into high school," Gambee said, something she parlayed into two Northwest Oregon Conference (NWOC) honorable mention selections, a NWOC second-team selection and a NWOC first-team and honorable mention all-state selection her senior year.
"Her combination of work ethic, attitude and competitiveness makes her a very special student-athlete," said head Hillsboro girls head basketball coach Sara Harsin. "It's been a pleasure coaching her and watching her grow up over the last five years."
In addition to her success on the hardwood, Gambee garnered two NWOC first-team volleyball selections, and this past season was selected as the NWOC volleyball Player of the Year.
In addition, Gambee qualified for this year's state regional golf tournament at Trysting Tree Golf Course in Corvallis, and while things didn't go exactly how she would have liked, her coach, Mark Ganter, couldn't be more proud.
"For the last three years it's been my pleasure to be Makenna's golf coach," said Ganter. "As she closes this chapter of her life and starts a new one in August, I'm excited to see what college and beyond looks like for her. I bet she does it with a smile."
Not to be outdone is Gambee's classmate, Kennedy Taube.
Her 200-meter title at last May's OSAA 5A State Track and Field Championships at Eugene's Hayward Field was the cherry atop an already decorated Hilhi career, and one that left Steve Drake nearly in awe.
"In my time at Hillsboro, which began in the early 1980s, she is one of the school's top three female athletes," said Drake, "not to mention a scholar and leader. She's outstanding."
The two-sport (track and soccer) standout's list of athletic accomplishments — in addition to her 200-meter title — includes a 2015 state 4x100 meter relay championship, nine top-three finishes at the state meet and 11 league championships in sprints and relays. She was elected track team captain and most valuable athlete twice, led the team in points-scored twice, won the Randy Feitish Sportsmanship Award and was voted top newcomer her freshman season.
Then there's soccer, for which Taube gathered a NWOC honorable mention and first-team selection during her time at Hilhi. Her coach, Dean Miyama, spoke glowingly of "Ken's" time at Hillsboro, and while acknowledging her talent on the field, spoke even more highly of who she was off of it.
"I've been blessed to share many highs and lows, both on and off the field with Kennedy and her older sister Kylee, and they have become part of my extended family," said Miyama. "Needless to say, she is one of those special student-athletes that we get to experience — the ones who touch our lives as teachers and coaches and allow us to feel grateful for the chance to work with them."
Taube credited her sister Kylee with inspiring her as she grew up, and also cherished the opportunity to run with her for a season in high school. The two ran as part of a 4x100 relay team that placed third in the 2014 state meet, an event that Kennedy would go on to win with teammates Anna Dean, Krissy Thomas and Maddy Ellsworth a year later at the 2015 state championships. But it was the individual title that both eluded and motivated Taube prior to the 2017 season.
"I wanted to win an individual state championship so bad," said a chuckling Taube. "I told my coach before the year started that was my goal, and I did it."
Her coach, Tim Kasper, knew what he had when Taube showed up at Hilhi, but later learned she had the work ethic that makes good athletes great.
"Kennedy was a super talented kid from day one," said Kasper. "But she was also a person who worked real hard to achieve her goals."
Kasper said Taube talked openly prior to the season about wanting that individual championship, and together they thought the 200 meters was her best shot. She worked on the track and in the weight room toward that goal, and to no surprise to Kasper, "she did it," the coach emphatically said.
Now Taube heads to George Fox University in the fall, where she's slated to run track for the Bruins.
"I'm really excited," said Taube. "I really like the coaches there and they've always been really up-front with me. Even before I decided to go there they told me that if I didn't think this was the place for me, I should probably go somewhere else. And that told me a lot."
Kasper thinks Taube has a lot of room to grow on the track and believes she'll blossom under the quality coaching and training she'll get at George Fox.
For Taube, when it comes to high school, she only has one regret.
"It was not being able to run my best at this year's Elden Kellar Invitational," she said. "I was really sick that day and my coach was like, 'I understand if you can't run,' but it's such a special meet and the Kellar family has been so great, I was like, 'I'm running.' I just really wish I could've been at my best."
That says a lot.