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Friday, February 26, 2021

Best sports memories from notable Bellingham figures

Stanford’s David Shaw, others recall favorite Bellingham moments.

WWU’s 1996 coaching staff which included Shaw (bottom row, fourth from left) // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics
WWU’s 1996 coaching staff which included Shaw (bottom row, fourth from left) // Photo courtesy of WWU Athletics

By Jordan Stone

Bellingham is not known as a sports town. 

While it has had its fair share of great athletes come through, the absence of a major college or professional team has kept it from being a bustling hub for sports. 

But what it lacks in big-name athletics it makes up for with a rich history of being a place that people remember for a lifetime. 

Just ask Stanford head football coach, and former Western assistant coach, David Shaw. Or ask the University of Oregon’s assistant basketball coach, Jodie Berry (known as Jodie Kazcor when she played at WWU). Berry was inducted into the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame this year after a standout basketball career.

For some, that mark has been so strong they have stayed to serve their communities, like State Rep. Alex Ramel and longtime Bellingham Herald sports writer Jim Carberry.

We asked them about their favorite sports memories in Whatcom County.

David Shaw, Stanford Football head coach

“People that don’t visit the Northwest don’t realize how absolutely beautiful it is from the late spring, through the summer to the early fall,” Shaw said on Oct. 20. during his weekly Zoom press conference with the media.  “To come in before training camp, there are a couple places on campus where you can overlook the water. It’s just absolutely gorgeous and peaceful.”

Shaw began his coaching career in 1995 at Western, when he joined Rob Smith’s staff as the outside linebacker coach. He stayed for a second season in 1996, coaching the tight ends, before moving on to several jobs in the NFL, then landing at his alma mater,: Stanford.

“We had a lot of success [at Western]. We made it to a national championship game,” Shaw recalled. “We had so many guys that were really smart, good students, good guys and good football players.”

Shaw has emerged as one of the best coaches in college football. During his time at Stanford he has won four Pacific-12 Coach of the Year awards, three Pac-12 titles and two Rose Bowls — which is nicknamed the granddaddy of them all. Shaw is the winningest coach in Stanford football history.

“I was really spoiled my first two years coaching football. To really have success, yes, but to have a great group of guys that I still hear from this many years later. It was a positive experience for me. I just learned how to work in this profession. I’m really grateful for my time there.”

Not a bad resume for a guy who began his career in Bellingham.

Jodie Berry, University of Oregon women’s basketball assistant coach

“My favorite — or most memorable — moment was when we [Western] went to the Final Four,” Berry said. “It was in Arkansas … so it was just obviously a very unique environment and experience when you are competing for a national championship.”

Berry is the women’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 210 in her Western career. Berry and the Vikings fell to eventual national champion Northern Kentucky in the 2000 Division II Final Four. Her Hall of Fame induction ceremony was supposed to take place in May, but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think what is so special about Bellingham is its community,” Berry said. “I remember every year going out and supporting people [in the Ski to Sea race]. I think that the community of Bellingham is just so fun and outdoorsy and supportive of one another.”

Berry joined the University of Oregon coaching staff after spending 11 years at Gonzaga. Berry and the Ducks were ranked No. 2 in the country in 2020 before their season ended abruptly due to COVID-19.

Alex Ramel, House of Representatives for Washington’s 40th District

“I can tell you about the Bellingham Sportsplex and the adult soccer leagues that I would play in before the pandemic, when it was safe,” Ramel said. “I look forward to doing it again in the future.”

Ramel was appointed in January to fill a vacant position through the calendar year in the Washington State House of Representatives.

“It’s adult [recreation], Sunday sports. So it’s fun, it’s competitive, but not cutthroat,” Ramel said. “It is a great way to get exercise and get engaged in something that is competitive and feels really important, but is also just fun.”

Jim Carberry, former sports reporter, Bellingham Herald

“In 1984, I covered the class A girls basketball state tournament. As always, the Lynden Christian girls were really good, and that night I was covering them in the semifinals,” Carberry said. “They were playing Cle Elum, which at that time was the three-time defending state champion. It was to be a great game, and it was.” But for another reason.”

To understand why that game was so memorable for Carberry, you need to know his backstory. Carberry was hired by the Herald in 1978 and worked there until 1996. These days he runs a website called Whatcom Hoops, where he covers local high school basketball.

“Just before the game, I saw a friend named Brenda Bierlink, now known as Brenda Iverson, at the gym door,” Carberry said. “Brenda had been one of the stars on the last Lyncs [Lynden Christian] team to win state in 1980. When I saw her, she introduced me to her friend, Nadine Baar, who I’d never met, but knew was a friend of Brenda’s and who also played on the 1980 state championship team.

“The game was all it was made out to be between two of the best teams in the state,” Carberry said. “It came down to the final seconds when Lynden Christian star Melinda Mellema, now known as Melinda Kaemingk, hit a jumper from the corner to give LC a 47-45 victory.”

Carberry met Bierlink and Baar at a Denny’s after the game. 

“After listening to Nadine, I decided that she was really nice,” he said. “So the next week I asked her out. A year and a half later, I married her. 

“And now, thanks to Melinda Mellema’s game-winning shot, Nadine and I have been married 35 years.”

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