A state-winning football coach. A college baseball team on the comeback from a season-ending deficit. A PAC-12 rower with a passion for the water. Now in its third year of operation, the Thurston County Sports Awards seek out South Sound players, teams and unforgettable moments that embody the local athletic community.
Created by the Olympia & Beyond Sports Commission, a division of Experience Olympia & Beyond, the Sports Awards are a recognition of the rich sports scene cultivated throughout Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater and surrounding areas. After a thorough nomination process spanning multiple rosters, ages and team positions, the eight recipients of the 2020 Thurston County Sports Awards have been announced.
“Our Sports Commission Advisory Committee did an outstanding job reviewing all 62 nominations,” says Jeff Bowe, senior director of tourism development for Olympia & Beyond Sports Commission. “This was the most nominations we’d ever received, but the committee was very thorough in their evaluation of each candidate. It was a tough conversation as all of this year’s nominees are worthy of an award but only one could be selected.”
Men’s Sports Star of the Year And Women’s Sports Star of the Year
Saint Martin’s University (SMU) student, Brandon Madsen, is the Men’s Sports Star of the Year recipient for 2020. A forward for SMU Men’s Soccer, Madsen was an offensive star during the 2019 season. Madsen scored in 13 of the season’s 19 games, setting a college record of 18 goals. In conference play, Madsen excelled, lighting up the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) with nine goals and three assists. By the end of the season, Madsen tied for second overall in the NCAA for goals scored and was awarded a legion of honors, including being named the GNAC Player of the Year and voted as a Division II CCA Second Team All-American.
The 2020 Women’s Sports Star of the Year, Taylor Buell, is student rower at the University of Washington. Hailing from Olympia, Buell is a graduate of Capital High School, where she served as captain for both the swimming and tennis teams during her senior year. As a college junior at the University of Washington, Buell is currently studying in the Bioresource Science and Engineering program. In addition to her studies, Buell is a Division 1 athlete, invited as a walk on to the UW Women’s Rowing. As a freshman at the UW, Buell competed on the Freshman 8+ boat and helped the UW defend its PAC-12 Championship rowing title. Buell was initiated into the school’s varsity rowing team her junior year, on the third Varsity 8+ and the second Varsity 4+ boats.
Boy’s Sports Star of the Year And Girl’s Sports Star of the Year
A student at Olympia High School, William Christenson is a two-time USA Swimming Scholastic All-American and the 2020 Boys Sports Star of the Year. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, Christenson medaled at the Washington State Senior Short Course Championships and in 2019, qualified for the USA Swimming U.S Open Championships. In the past year, Christenson attended the Toyota U.S. Open, the PNS Short Course Championships and the Winter Junior National Championships West, producing personal best times in the Short Course and National Championships West competitions.
Regarded by her principal as a “once in a decade student and athlete,” recent Black Hills High School graduate, Megan River, is the 2020 Girl’s Sports Star of the Year, serving as the captain for both her basketball and soccer teams from 2018-2020. As a point guard for the Black Hills High School basketball team, River was the 2A state record holder for assists in the 2A state tournament. River was also a league MVP for Girls Basketball and the voted to the 2nd team All-Area Girls Basketball during the 2018-2019 season. As a soccer star, River was selected for both the 1st team All-League Soccer and 2nd team All-Area Soccer for the 2019-2020 season.
Contributor of the Year
The Tumwater High School football coach and 2020 Contributor of the Year, Bill Beattie, led his team to 2nd in State in 2017 before winning the school’s sixth State Championship in 2019. A longtime football coach, Beattie previously coached at Tenino High School, led the comeback of the Elma High School football team, and coached for over two decades at Olympia High School before becoming head coach at his alma mater, Tumwater High School. Beattie is part of the hall of fame at Tumwater High School, Olympia High School and the Washington State Football Coaches Association.
Sports Moment of the Year
The 2020 Sports Moment of the Year is awarded to Saint Martin’s University Men’s Baseball. The SMU men’s baseball team accomplished a comeback victory at a Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) tournament in May of 2019. The team defeated the #2 and #3 teams in the GNAC to reach the team’s first conference championship game. Facing elimination from the competition, the Saints overcame early shortfalls in both games, winning 3-2 over Northwest Nazarene University and 9-2 against Western Oregon University.
Thurston County Sports Legend
Tim Smith, the founder of local semi-professional soccer club, the Oly Town Artesians, is the 2020 Thurston County Sports Legend. As a resident of Thurston County for over three decades, Smith was a longtime youth sports coach, leading numerous teams for Lacey Parks & Recreation, the YMCA, and Olympia High School (OHS) as part of the OHS Youth Basketball program and the OHS Summer League for Varsity and JV Basketball. Most recently, Smith founded the Oly Town Artesians franchise in 2014, including a semi-professional men’s indoor soccer team and outdoor soccer team. In late 2019, Smith founded the Oly Town Artesians women’s indoor semi-professional soccer team.
Presented by the Sports Commission Advisory Committee, a special recognition was posthumously awarded to Father Gerard Kirsch, a Saint Martin’s University booster. Through post-season play, or crushing defeat, through inclement weather or springtime practices, “Father G” demonstrated unwavering care and support for St. Martin’s University athletes. “Father G” was one of the athletic department’s biggest supporters and consistently attended volleyball, basketball and baseball games for over three decades. In 2018, “Father G” was initiated into the St. Martin’s Hall of Honor for his dedication to the college’s athletics.
To learn more about the Thurston County Sports Awards nominees and winners, visit the Experience Olympia & Beyond website.