Kaitlin Howard wins our small-school Three-Sport Athlete award for 2013-14

by: THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - Howard helped the volleyball team to back-to-back state tournaments, holds the career record for blocked shots in basketball and was the state runner-up in the high jump during track season.Portland Lutheran High’s Kaitlin Howard stands 6-foot-1-inch tall, so her role in sports has always been clearly defined. Get your hands up and get in the way. On the volleyball court it showed in her dominant play near the net, turning back opposing hitters whenever they dared come into the middle. Often times, opponents would simply avoid her part of the net, knowing an attack there was pointless. The same proved true in basketball where she patrolled the paint and ended her career with single game, season and career records for blocked shots.

“I’m tall and can use that length in my body,” Howard said. “It’s just reaction, just sudden movements. You have to get that aggressive mentality to stuff it back in their face.”

“Having that inside presence really helped us,” Portland Lutheran basketball coach John Roady said. “Just her being there altered what other teams would try to do.”

During her senior year, Howard also achieved the unexpected.

The first moment came during senior night on the basketball court. It was also her birthday, and she knew just the perfect gift — a 3-pointer. Spending most of her time in close near the basket, Howard had only attempted one long ball in her career.

On this night, she would try three.

The first attempt rattled the rim and popped out, her second chance didn’t hit a thing.

“An air ball — it was really embarrassing,” she said.

But a red face wouldn’t stop her from trying.

Later in the game, she was left alone near the edge of the court on a fastbreak. This would be her best chance.

“Danica (Roady) was driving down the other side, and I was wide open waving my hands,” Howard said. “I got the ball and threw it up there. The whole crowd stoop up, no one expected me to make it. I was shocked. I jumped up and down a few times and stood there for a moment to soak it in.”

The Blue Jays finished the season as the runner-up in the Valley 10 playoffs and earned a spot in the 1A state bracket — quite a jump from her first two seasons that saw the team go a combined 10-22 (.313) in league.

Howard was part of a similar turnaround on the volleyball court.

The Blue Jays lingered near the bottom of the Valley 10 before Howard and her talented class of athletes arrived at the school in 2010.

The wins would come with them.

Portland Lutheran went 54-8 (.871) in her four years at the school, never finishing lower than second place. The success amped up her junior year when the Blue Jays won a share of the league title and travelled to Redmond for the 1A state tournament.

“It was an eye-opening experience with two courts going at once and the big crowd,” Howard said. “You walk into that and its doesn’t take long to realize this is something special — you are in the final eight.”

Still, Howard and her teammates had unfinished business going into their final season together.

“Our goal was to go undefeated in league and we did — her intensity carried over to her teammates,” Blue Jays coach Rory Rush said.

Portland Lutheran accomplished that feat, winning all 16 matches in straight sets, and ended the year with a return trip to Redmond. Howard was named to the all-tournament team.

“We were used to winning in middle school, and we made it our goal to be that team that would make it to state,” Howard said.

Volleyball is the sport she will pursue in college, originally committing to Pacific Lutheran before choosing to stay closer to home and play at Mt. Hood Community College instead.

“Volleyball has always been my passion — it creates a different type of energy,” Howard said. “If basketball, you make a big play and you still have to rush down the court and play defense. In volleyball, you make a big play and you have a chance to celebrate with your team.”

Howard finished her prep career with another display of her versatility, winning the district high jump title just moments after crossing the finish line for the 3,000-meter final. Imagine jumping over your recliner after walking in the door from a 2-mile run around your neighborhood.

But she wasn’t done.

The following week, she had her eye on taking home a medal from the 1A state meet in Eugene.

“We were all coming in with around the same marks, and once I started to see people dropping out, it became real that I had a chance,” Howard said.

She matched her personal-best by clearing 4-feet-10-inches and took home second place.

“I’ve played multiple sports my whole life. I like being overly active. I couldn’t see myself just sitting around without something to do,” Howard said. “Doing sports has made me more pro-active and it’s taught me to be good at doing a lot of things at once.”

She also served as student body Vice President her senior year and graduated with a 3.50 Grade Point Average.

Other top nominees included Corbett's Simone Ballard, Devin Weien and Lindsey Woodward; Portland Lutheran’s Samantha Howard, Ayde Alvarado, Andrew Hinkel and Jonathan Parrish; Damascus Christian’s Rachel Roach.

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