Class of 2004
Sharon Brandon - Coach
There is no better description of Sharon Brandon than that as matriarch of Kiona-Benton girls volleyball. Sharon literally built the program at Ki-Be and for 25 years, she led the Bears to the post season every single year a remarkable feat at any level. There is much more to Sharon than her on-the-court accomplishments, however.
Sharon was a living example to her players of strength, determination, and courage in the face of adversity, having survived not one, but two bouts with breast cancer. During both ordeals, Sharon never missed a practice -something that undoubtedly left an impression on her players. In turn, both current and former players were there for her during the long days of chemotherapy.
The fights with cancer and little things like painting herself blue from head-to-toe, all led to the matriarchal image Sharon projected. In posting a career record of 569-145 at Kiona-Benton, Sharon also made life-long friends of her players.
Brandon grew up in Walla-Walla and graduated from DeSales High School in 1968. She graduated from Eastern Washington in 1972 and immediately went into the coaching profession, leading the girls basketball - and establishing - the girls volleyball programs at Wishkah Valley High near Aberdeen. She began her long run of success at Ki-Be upon her arrival in 1978, where she also pulled double duty, coaching both girls basketball and volleyball.
Bear volleyball squads under Sharon's tutelage won 12 conference and 5 district titles, while making 15 appearances at state placing all 15 times; winning the 1992 1A State Championship and culminating with the 2002 2A State Championship.
J.D. Covington - Coach
J.D. Covington became head coach of the Richland Bomber football team in 1971. The program has been a perennial power since. The Bombers, whom many west-side state coaches feared meeting in the playoffs, were 111-40 under Covington, highlighted by a one-point win over Kentridge in the 1981 State Championship played in Seattle's Kingdome.
After a two-year stint as Richland's Junior Varsity Football coach, Covington stepped in and immediately served notice that Wenatchee's dominance of the Big Nine Conference was about to end. From 1971 to 1985, Covington's Bombers won the Big Nine title four straight years from 1975 to 1978, and once again in 1980. His teams were in the state playoffs six times and were twice in the state finals.
Coach Covington's record of excellence earned him a nomination to the Washington State Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1992, an honor bestowed on him by his peers. Covington's outstanding career at Richland was also highlighted by Big Nine Coach of the Year awards in 1976 and 1978.
CJ Mitchell - Umpire
Nearly every kid and coach who has participated in any form of organized baseball in Central Washington during the past 40 years, has encountered (and probably learned a thing or two from) CJ Mitchell. CJ has been a fixture in youth, amateur, interscholastic, intercollegiate, and even professional baseball, serving as one of our region's greatest sports officials ever.
Mitchell came to the Tri-Cities area to work on construction - he ended up constructing one of the most impressive resumes a baseball umpire can have. From the start of his umpiring career in 1964 through his recent semi-retirement, "Mitch" has umpired at virtually every level of baseball.
Among the many highlights in his career are:
- 35 years as a Pac 8 and later a Pac 10 umpire
- Umpiring in four College World Series'
- Umpiring 10 NAIA World Series'
- Umpiring 6 American Legion World Series'
- Umpiring 4 Washington State High School Baseball Championships
- Umpiring 12 years in the (professional) Class A Northwest League
Another highlight of Mitchell's umpiring tenure was working a game in Richland featuring the 1984 U.S.A. Baseball Team. In fact, if you look up upon entering Dust Devil Stadium today, you'll see a large photo of CJ umpiring that game - there's also a couple of other guys in the photo too, Mark McGwire and Will Clark.
Among CJ's many commendations are being selected to the Washington State High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, where he is the only umpire ever selected - a pretty lofty honor from guys who love to kick dirt on umpires. Also, CJ was inducted into the Amateur Baseball Umpires Association's NCAA Umpires Hall of Fame in 2000.
Though umpiring baseball was his primary diversion, CJ also refereed basketball and football throughout the region, working 16 state basketball tournaments and 14 regional state playoff football games (plus two state championships) in his long and distinguished career.
Though CJ doesn't work nearly as many games as he did in the past - filling in only occasionally at the high school and college levels, he still contributes to officiating through training up-and-coming officials and organizing and scheduling established ones.
Don Monson - Coach
There are only a few individuals that can truly be labeled "icons" in the history of basketball in the Pacific Northwest Don Monson is one of them. From his start as a high school basketball coach in eastern Washington, to his NCAA tournament success at the University of Idaho and finally to his orchestration of a complete turnaround of the University of Oregon's basketball program, Don Monson has been both a winner and a teacher to his players.
Though born in Minnesota, Monson grew up in Idaho and attended the University of Idaho, where he lettered for three years as a player. Upon graduating from the U of I and eventually gaining his Master's Degree at Eastern Washington University, Monson began his coaching career down the block from EWU at Cheney High School in 1958. At CHS, Monson compiled a 105-69 record in nine years, including four league championships. He parlayed his success into a head coaching position at Pasco High, where he led the Bulldogs to a 161-66 mark. His teams went to the regional finals eight of the nine years while he was at Pasco.
Monson's high school coaching success drew the attention of colleges and in particular, another coach with Northwest ties, Michigan State's Judd Heathcote who coached at WSU and Montana State. During Monson's two-year stint as an assistant coach, MSU won a Big Ten Championship with a youngster named Earvin "Magic" Johnson.
All his success led to a homecoming in 1978, as Monson accepted the head coaching position at the University of Idaho. It took him little time to make the Vandals a contender. In only three years Monson led the U of I to its greatest record ever, 25-4. Monson topped that mark the next year, leading the team to a 27-3 record and second straight NCAA tournament appearance. Fresh from 1982's appearance in the "Sweet Sixteen" and guiding the Vandals to as high as eighth in the national rankings, Monson was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Kodiak National Coach of the Year.
Monson's success at Idaho prompted his hiring by the Pac-10's University of Oregon in 1983. At Oregon, Monson led the Ducks to their first winning season since 1977-78 and a birth in the National Invitational Tournament. Monson's winning ways continued at Oregon for eight more years, until he retired with a 482-319 record.
Willie Turner - Track & Field
The Fastest Man in the World." You don't often get to meet someone with that moniker, but in the late 1960's, a man from Yakima, Washington wore that title.
Willie Turner, who attended Davis High School and later Oregon State University, still is known as Central Washington's greatest sprinter ever. In his years at Davis, Turner was the state champion four times. His prowess continued into his years at OSU where he won both Pac-8 and NCAA championships in the 220 yard dash (before races were measured in meters).
Willie's claim to the mantle of "Fastest Man" stems from his three world record tying performances in the 50-yard and 100-yard dashes and in the 100 meters. These times, posted in the late sixties and early seventies had everyone abuzz and made Willie a top candidate for the U.S. Olympic Teams. Unfortunately, injuries prevented Turner from making the team that went to Mexico City and featured Tommie Smith and John Carlos, as they did an early attempt to qualify for the 1968 games. Turner did however become a member of the 1967 relay team that set U.S. American record in the Pan American Games.
After further injuries thwarted Willie's attempts at joining the U.S. Olympic Team in 1976, the 28 year-old Turner finally decided to retire. Most of his records at Davis and some at OSU still stand, and people in the region will always remember the remarkable career of "The Fastest Man in the World."
Talmadge "Duke" Washington - Football
Pasco's Duke Washington is still thought of by many as the greatest running back in Pasco High School history. His accomplishments at PHS and later with the Washington State Cougars in the early and middle 1950's compare to other great backs of his day. It is not for this that Duke is best known, however, though his accomplishments warrant mention in any list of Central Washington football greats. Duke Washington is best known, at least around the country, as the first black man to ever play in the University of Texas' Memorial Stadium.
Washington, a captain on the 1954 WSU squad was given the option to not play against the Long Horns in their home stadium, which had an "unofficial" rule that forbid blacks from playing either for or against Texas. Washington said "no" and despite having to stay at a private home instead of with the team in the hotel the night before, Duke played and played well in the Cougar loss. In addition to becoming the first black athlete to play football in Memorial Stadium, Washington also became the first black athlete to score a touchdown in Memorial Stadium, torching the Longhorn defense for a 73-yard touchdown - much to the delight of the Texas crowd.
Duke Washington's momentous color-breaking game and touchdown run are just one of many accomplishments he achieved on the gridiron. He played in the 1954 East West Shrine Game, helped the Cougars beat Washington three out of four times, and ran for 115 yards in a win at Oregon State. Duke's career at Washington State was good enough to attract the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles, who drafted Washington in 1955.