Success founded on two, three sport athletes

There are a few shocking numbers that come to light when taking a closer look at the Banks High School athletics program.

The most impressive? They had 370 athletes participate in this last year. Given, that includes twice-counted athletes who have played more than one sport, but it becomes impressive when taken into account that Banks only has 386 kids total.

Banks' Athletics Director Jacob Pence put things in perspective: the track program alone has 80 athletes, close to a quarter of the school's population.

    Later in our conversation on Tuesday, Pence made a statement that, out of context, would seem bold.

“I want every kid to do some sport, activity or club,” said Pence.

But looking at the way Banks has risen to the challenge over the last few years, it seems like his goal has taken root. In the last year, the Braves have had three teams reach the top-three spots in the power rankings. Their softball team beat Cascade for the state title last spring with a sophomore-laden roster, and haven't lost since, dominating their way to a 10-0 record this season and a No. 1 ranking in Class 4A.

Volleyball, which featured six of the same players from their current softball roster, won the Cowapa League by a mile and finished sixth at the state tournament with two seniors, four juniors and five sophomores on the varsity squad.

And Scappoose will painfully remember their only run-in with the Banks football team this season, a 21-0 defeat in the driving rain for just their third shutout in the last eight years. The Braves finished ranked fifth in the division and won the Cowapa League title before being upset by Henley in the first round of the state playoffs.

That's impressive for a school that's little more than half the size of Scappoose. They've been forced to fund several of their sports purely by donations, including cross country, soccer, swimming and golf, all of which are coached by volunteers.

It might look a little bleak, but Pence remembers things were darker when he arrived. Tiny Banks High School couldn't manage nearly the same sports they can today. Soccer was an intramural sport and games were played on Saturdays against other club teams from around the Beaverton and Hillsboro communities.

And that wasn't back in the 1980s. That's where Banks was in 2003 when he was hired as the wrestling coach, making Pence's description of the soccer as “newer and growing” sound like a bit of a euphemism.

Soccer hasn't been the strongest of sports at Banks, with a definite emphasis on football, volleyball and softball, but it's difficult to ignore the relative dominance the Braves have been able to pull off in recent years, given the size difference they have to fight against.

Pence puts much of their success on the shoulders of the students, many of which excel in two or three sports. Scappoose has had their hands full with seniors like Garett Markham, who tore up the Indians from the backfield in football and dominated the front court in basketball a few months later.

He is just one example of why Banks has had such prosperity in sports. Pence says that “winning has been contagious” over the years, and that kids have been getting into sports at a younger age, often playing with the same group of athletes from the youth level all the way through high school.

In addition, Banks has been blessed with coaches like Ben Buchanan and Suzanne Alley in football and volleyball who have been around since the mid to late 1990s, and have made a concerted effort to invest in the youth programs, bringing continuity to the program from one end to the other.

They're also the little dog in a big fight, said Pence, something the community thrives on. With other schools looking over their shoulder, they can't take their fortune for granted. If they stop the hard work for a few moments or let the multi-sport athletes get burnt out the Braves could quickly succumb to the challenges that tend to face them on a yearly basis.

And for Scappoose, Banks makes a wonderful example. They're a town that seems to be tied in on every level to their school, with the community as a whole stepping up to support athletics and academics alike. They just finished building a new junior high school, and are planning to add back a few things that were cut due to budget issues in seasons past, including pay for assistant coaches and a few updates to aging facilities.

That's not to say that Scappoose hasn't gotten the backing of the town, but the involvement from the Banks community is downright impressive, and it's paid dividends into the positive experiences of the kids who attend there.

Ultimately, as Pence would say, it's up to the kids, but it's excellent to see a community do what they can to give the kids the best possible chance to do something special in their high school years.

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