When The Beachcomber learned late last week that former islander Abi Kim had been drafted to the professional soccer team the Orlando Pride, it was clear to all of us in the newsroom that this was definitely deserving of some space in the Jan. 23 edition.
Kim’s story is one that sets herself apart from other islanders and young athletes. A native of Liberia, she grew up on Vashon and started playing soccer in the second grade. She attended McMurray Middle School — where she also participated in track and field —but didn’t stay on the island for long, attending Seattle Christian, where she signed her letter of intent her sophomore year to play soccer for the University of California-Berkeley Bears. She went on to participate in the Women’s All-Pac 12 and, most notably, the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
After The Beachcomber’s glowing 2018 profile of Kim, one islander wrote a letter to the editor dubbing her “the greatest athlete who ever lived on Vashon.”
While Kim’s draft to the Orlando team is certainly something worth congratulating her for, it’s worth noting that there are numerous individuals on the island who have helped make Vashon’s sporting community great — or went on to greatness themselves.
This includes the Blomgren brothers, Anders and Per-Lars, who have both been wrestling coaches at Vashon Island High School for the last two decades. Their father, Carl, who died in 2013, was also a wrestling coach.
Another coach for the Vashon Pirates, Paul “Big Wally” Wallrof, led the University of Puget Sound Loggers for more than 30 years, helping the team to achieve a 60.8 winning percentage. He was inducted into the Tacoma-Pierce County Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Wallrof’s legacy also transcended family generations, as his grandson, Matt Overton, went on to play for the Indianapolis Colts. Wallrof passed away at his island home in 2018.
Islander H. William Kirschner wasn’t known so much for speeding down the majestic slopes with skis as he was for making them. In 2001, Kirschner was inducted into the U. S. National Ski Hall of Fame where he was honored as “one of the great ski entrepreneurs of the 1960s, the golden years of the United States ski business,” according to his obituary. Kirschner died at the age of 87 in 2006.
But just as this island continues to see the loss of an older generation of pros, new faces continue to emerge on Vashon’s athletic scene — including Sarah Deal, who, at age 26, became the Vashon Island Rowing Club’s head coach just last year. Her age is significant, given that she coaches a sport that is popular with a lot of people who are decades older than her.
So it is clear: Kim’s story is just one patch in the quilt that is Vashon’s sporting community. She, as well as the coaches, players and professionals that came before her, can inspire young athletes on the island to be the very best they can be — both on and off the field.