Sunday, December 24, 2017

Four Peat: Oregon 6A State Champions Again

Boys Oregon 6A State Champions - four consecutive years 
Girls Oregon 6A State Champions - second time in the past three years 
On November 11th, 2017, the Newberg High School boys water polo team won the Oregon 6A state championship title for the fourth consecutive year.  An hour later, the Newberg High School girls water polo team also brought home the Oregon 6A state championship title - their second in three years. It's hard to put into words the emotion of watching your child, their teammates, and their coaches make a dream a reality.

Newberg has been dominating Oregon water polo since its inception in 1983.  Jim McMaster, the genius who started the program in 1983, is STILL the head coach of the boy's team and the assistant coach of the girls' team.  He has coached his teams to 37 state championships in 34 years.  Let that sink in for a minute. 

Grant has grown up in the culture that is Newberg Water Polo.  The coaches place a high value on hard work, teamwork, and mentoring.  The older kids help coach the elementary teams and mentor the younger players.  All players are expected to volunteer at home tournaments, keep their grades up, and abide by a code of conduct that honors Newberg High School and Newberg water polo.  The bar is HIGH for these athletes and they willingly step up to meet the expectation. These athletes know they are a part of something unique. They are part of a dynasty.

The year Grant started high school Newberg had just graduated an all star group of seniors from their water polo team.  It created a unique opportunity for Grant and four of his friends to all earn varsity letters as freshman and help their team win an unexpected state championship with a roster full of freshmen.  They earned themselves the nickname the Fab Five and it stuck. The following year, each of these boys earned a varsity letter again and played a larger role in another state championship title.
Fab Five after their junior year banquet
This year was different.  All but one of the Fab Five's mentors graduated.  It was time for our boys to step up and lead the team - both in the water and mentoring the younger players coming behind them.  The first game of the season Grant had a hat trick (three goals in one game) and a big cheering section.  The article in the newspaper mentioned every single one of the Fab Five and a role they played in the victory.  The season was setting itself up to be epic.

Grant with his little buddy Payton.
Hat trick.
The Newberg fans are complacent. It's an unspoken expectation that the water polo teams will bring home the league titles and compete at a high level in the state tournament.  We have very few fans that come to the games, and no cheerleaders or fan fare, which is unfortunate because water polo is so exciting to watch.  But the rest of the state is not complacent when it comes to Newberg.  Opponents resent our success and EVERYONE wants to beat Newberg.  Our players carry the weight of this into every single game.  They can't afford be complacent.

Our boys rolled through the first half of their season, beating every Oregon team they played and only losing once in the championship game of a tournament to the reigning Washington 6A state champions. Then, the unthinkable happened.  Our boys went to Lakeridge High School and got beat 6-4 by a very strong, capable Pacer team.  It was the first league loss for the Newberg boys' team in FIFTEEN years.  It was humbling and just the reminder the boys needed that complacency is not an option.

We played Lakeridge again at home in the last game of the regular season.  For the first time since I've been watching high school water polo, Newberg fans - and even cheerleaders -  came out to support the athletes.  They PACKED the pool deck and stands, cheering wildly and creating an electric atmosphere. It was obvious this game should be a preview of the state championship.  The game was tense and close.  Grant scored a goal with one second left on the game clock to help his team win 7-4, settling the score with Lakeridge.

The win by the Tigers secured a tie for the League Champions and forced a play off game to determine which team would get the number one seed going into the state tournament.  Newberg scored the first goal and controlled almost the entire first half, but the Pacers scored at the end of the second quarter and the momentum shifted.  The two teams battled back and forth through the last two quarters, but Pacers all-star Terran Walker put the game away with a goal in the last minute to earn a 6-5 Lakeridge victory.  Both teams knew the showdown at state would be a good one.

As the season progressed, Grant's strength morphed him into a defensive specialist. He was assigned to shut down the opponent's 2 meter/hole set position.  It was exciting (and a little scary) to watch him battle it out against some of the toughest and scrappiest players in the state.  The stuff that is considered "legal" in water polo is cray cray. Grant had a memorable and incredible performance in the semi-final game, scoring four goals and playing flawless defense.  It is a bit surreal to watch him play every second of these important games and hold his own against some of the best players in the state.

As expected, the Pacers and the Tigers both played their way into the state championship game.  Both teams were hungry for victory.  The Pacers were playing for their first ever state championship.  The Tigers were playing for revenge and to keep their championship streak alive.
team captain getting the fans pumped
Grant being announced before the championship game.
jumping in the water before the game started.
The sprint to start the championship game ended in a jump ball.  Newberg won the jump and went right down and scored a goal within the first ten seconds.  That goal set the tone for the entire game.  Newberg held the lead throughout the entire championship game and earned another state title for their school.
Raleigh winning the jump ball 
Then scoring seconds later to set the tone for the game.
Grant guarded All-League MVP Terran Walker, and shut him down for the entire game, with the exception of one goal.  Lakeridge double teamed our strong players, leaving Alex, our lone sophomore starter, open.  He took full advantage of this, scoring three crucial goals and earning the game ball for his stellar performance. With less than a minute to go in the championship game, Grant scored to put the Tigers up by three goals, a margin too big to tackle with the time remaining in the game.  Final score: Newberg 9- Lakeridge 7.

my boy doing his thing
getting ready for the second half 

It was a tough, physical game.  Well played by both teams.

final minute of the game - just before G scored to put them up by 3.
You did it!

one happy boy
our co-captains
State Champions (but missing a ton of our players in this photo)
Five of our starters earned All State honors, including our goalie Wilson Johnson, who also took home state MVP honors.

I had a Media Pass that allowed me access to the entire pool deck to take photos.  It was pretty cool to  be able to record the excitement of another championship for our boys and their parents.  Their senior year is going to be an emotional roller coaster for all of us.  Just take a look at this little video clip that shows the emotions that go into the semi-final and championship games!

Here is a video of the goals Grant scored in the semi-final and championship game. A huge thanks to my friend Heather who took all these videos while I was taking still shots.

Well done boys.  Four-peat State Champions.  You earned it and we are so proud.  Until next year....

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mirror Lake - Hiking in the Snow

The Kids
Thursday was an Adventure Day. I try to take the kids on one adventure day every time they have a break from school and periodically throughout the summer.  These days become more precious to me the older the kids get, because I have to ask them days in advance to set the time aside on their calendar.  As it was, Grant missed swim practice and Alli missed basketball practice just so we could all go.

Mt. Hood got hit with 20 inches of fresh snow on Tuesday so we opted to head there for a day in the snow.  It was a great choice since Newberg was socked in with an all day fog and it was crystal clear up at the mountain with bright blue skies. It just so happened that some of our best friends were vacationing on Mt. Hood, so we picked up Dawn and Jaci to go hiking with us.  (Blake and Davis were snowboarding and John was thrilled to have the afternoon to himself).

I have never purposefully hiked in the snow before and wasn't really sure what gear we would need aside from the usual backpack full of snacks and water.  When we arrived at the trail, temps were in the high twenties and the snow was abundant.  We all put our snow pants and winter coats on over our hiking gear and chose to wear our snow boots instead of hiking shoes.  This was the right choice, but it definitely made it slower going to hike in snow boots and full snow gear.

On a summer day, the hike to Mirror Lake is an easy 1.4 miles on a well-graded trail to the lake from the trailhead.  Add maybe .25 miles to walk around the lake and you're back to your car in about 3 miles, give or take.  However, in the winter you can't park at the trailhead.  The closest parking was almost a mile up the highway at Ski Bowl.  The extra mile to and from the trailhead along the side of the busy highway through packed snow made a normally easy hike feel excessively long.  Alli forgot her backpack in the snow by the car, so she and I got a bonus 1/2 mile of hiking to retrieve her backpack before we even made it to the trailhead.  #goodtimes

The little bridge you cross to start the hike

With that said, this entire day was a blast. The forest was magical. All the trees were dressed in a blanket of snow.  The trail was easy to follow even though it was packed with thick snow.  We trudged our way up to toward the lake, soaking in the periodic views of Mt. Hood and the magic of the snow-covered forest.  We were all hot and sweaty in our snow gear, but we cooled off the second we stopped at the lake for lunch.  We definitely chose the right gear for the weather conditions.
majestic trees
Dawn with the kids
Grant, who is in the best shape of all of us, forgot his backpack with food and water in the car.  He was hungry and hot and hilariously whiny, laying down in the middle of the trail exclaiming, "I can't go on.  I'm not going to make it."  I fed and watered him, helped him to his feet, and he made it up the last few switchbacks to the lake.  Grant drug his $10 sled all the way up to the lake just so he could sled back down the trail to the car.  That was his favorite part.

The view of Mt. Hood from Mirror Lake was everything we hoped it would be.  We sat in the snow and ate our snacks, then took a video of the kids singing Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  Hikers on the other side of the lake heard them singing and joined in the song.  After they finished singing,  shouts of "Merry Christmas" rang back and forth across the lake between the two groups.  ("The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.") While Grant was sledding back to the car, we girls hiked and sang every Christmas carol about snow that we could think of.  It was really fun.

from the trail - that white patch is a cloud bank that had the valley socked in with fog.
by the time we got back to the car, it was twilight. 
This woman is a gem... one of my best friends. 
Grant being Grant.
The mountain and part of the frozen lake.
all photos copyright of Jodi Stilp Photography LLC.  Do not use without permission.
Dawn and me.  We had to BEG the kids to get up out of the snow and take this photo. 
On the trail 
copyright Jodi Stilp Photography LLC 
Alli eating lunch
Aren't they cute? 
frozen Mirror Lake 
The trail continues up the ridge to the top of this mountain on the Tom, Dick and Harry Trail.  

Our girls are BFF's which is pretty fun considering Dawn and I spend so much time together. 
We joined the rest of the Smith's at their hotel suite for a picnic dinner before heading home to tell Curt all about our day.  It was another memorable "Smilp Family" Adventure and we can't wait for the next one.

Merry Christmas and happy hiking.

#hiking #hikingadventures #hikinginthesnow #smilpfamilyadventures

Sunday, November 26, 2017

"Congratulations Dr. Stilp" - on becoming a doctor

This June something major happened for our family.  Curt became a doctor.  He graduated right on schedule, in three years, with a 4.00 cumulative GPA.  Highest honors for this scholar and he did this while working a more than full time, demanding job and excelling as a husband and father, and leader in our church.  Can I get an AMEN?
It's like senior portraits for grown ups.
He earned those stripes.
Curt is goal oriented and hard working.  Both of these character traits drew me to him when we were dating and continue to woo me the longer I know this man.  I met Curt when we were twenty and he knew then that he would become a Physician Assistant, work in orthopedics and eventually switch into higher education.  He has chipped away at this plan, one contemplated step after another. 

As Curt worked his way up the ranks of PA education, it became obvious that he would need his doctorate if he wanted to work in high level administration at a university.  We talked about when the best time would be for him to go back to school.  "Never" was the logical answer.  Since there was no good time, we decided to just do it.

He was accepted at Portland State University and started a Doctorate of Education (EdD), specialization in Post-Secondary Education and Education Leadership, in the fall of 2014.  Every other weekend he had class all night Friday and all day Saturday, with 25+ hours of homework assigned each week.  He added this to working at least 50 hours a week and commuting an hour each way to and from work. Doctoral school is NOT for the faint of heart. 
In April of 2014, the incoming class was invited to a  Look What You're Getting Into night for families and students.  Look how tiny our kids were! (I couldn't find the original photo, hence the Instagram scree shot).
But my Man... he just put his head down and did the work.  He stayed up until midnight (or later) most nights and every morning was up at 5 a.m. to read his Bible and start a new day.  Reading is hard for Curt because he's dyslexic, so he created a way to convert his text into an audio file that he could listen to during his commute.  He faithfully made a habit of tucking the kids in each night, listening to them recount their day's activities and praying with them at bedtime.  Then he'd come back down to his "desk" (the dining room table) and get back to work. His drive and determination are so admirable.  

We all made sacrifices to get Curt through school.  Less help around the house.  Less time together.  More carpooling (thank you to our Village that helped me get the kids where they needed to be).  Tough decisions: homework vs. a water polo game.  Homework vs. a basketball game.  Projects that normally would get done immediately, went undone. We had to just let some things go and be okay with imperfection.  Each semester brought different challenges and different adjustments.  It wasn't easy, but through it all, God sustained us.

For three straight years, Dr. Stilp juggled his job, school, marriage, fatherhood and being an elder at our church.  He rarely slept, rarely complained, and never stopped working hard.  He kept his eyes focused on Jesus - gathering strength for each day from his time in the Word - and asking God to fill all the voids.  The passage he meditated on toward the end of our journey was from Deuteronomy.  

"Yet the LORD says, 'During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet'... I did this so that you might know that I am the LORD your God." - Deuteronomy 29:5-6

There is no way that Curt should have been able to keep the pace he kept for so long and not break down.  It was truly God's miraculous provision of strength, clarity of thought, focus and energy that didn't add up given how little he slept and how much of himself and his brain power he gave away each day. 

On May 11th at 2 p.m., Curt defended his dissertation.  I watched with pride as he summarized three years worth of research in a twenty minute PowerPoint presentation then fielded questions from his dissertation committee and members of the audience.  When he was finished they sent us out in the hallway to deliberate, then called us back in.  We nervously took our seats and Curt's dissertation Chairwoman stood to her feet.  Beaming, she declared, "Congratulations Dr. Stilp." It was all I could do to not burst into tears.  Three years of sacrifice to hear those words.  Thank you Jesus!!!
Presenting his dissertation defense.
So Handsome. 
Answering questions.
This June we gathered together to celebrate God's goodness to our family and Curt's incredible achievement. My Mom and her husband flew in from Arizona.  Curt's parents flew in from Minnesota.  We threw a big party and people from Our Village came to celebrate Curt.  They blessed him with words of encouragement and affirmation for a job well done.  I gave him a pair of Birkenstock sandals, to remind him that "his sandals did not wear out."
Curt's finished dissertation and his honor society medal.
Curt with his parents.
Greeting Grandma Ru and Grandpa Terry
I LOVE this man! 
June 18th was the Hooding Ceremony.  My Dad and his wife drove up from Bend and we all met at the Convention Center for the big event.  I had "a moment" in the parking garage.  Curt was standing behind our car methodically donning all his graduation regalia: his robe with the three stripes indicating he is now a doctor,  the tam with his graduation tassel attached, and the special tassels and a medallion from the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society to honor his 4.00 GPA.  These items had been hanging in our guest room for weeks, but as he put them on, it all became real.  THIS was really happening.  
Having a moment in the parking garage.
Ready to graduate.
These kids admire their Dad.
Grant told us after the Grad School Open house, "I'm driving you to your graduation ceremony."  Sounded ridiculous coming from a 7th grader but three years later, Grant drove us to Curt's graduation ceremony.
When the announcer called Curt's name to come on stage to be hooded, our entire cheering section erupted with loud hooping and hollering.  None of us cared if we were breaking protocol.  That was OUR man up there, being celebrated and honored by his peers and fellow scholars for his persistent determination and intellect, and celebrated by his family and friends for these things and the man of God that he is.

Dr. Curt C. Stilp EdD, PA-C

Thank you to our parents and friends for supporting us and loving us through this journey. Thank you God for sustaining us and giving us what we need for each day. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.