With help from coaches, fans, media and local sports historians, SBLive has put together its lists of the best athletes — male and female — to emerge from every county in the state of Washington. We looked back as far as the turn of the 20th century, and we examined the totality of each athletes’ career, not only what they did in high school.
As comprehensive as our lists are, we also want to hear your opinions. Leave your comments below or hit us up on Twitter @sblivewa.
From Sadie Bjornsen to Jill Townsend, Okanogan County has produced several outstanding female athletes. Take a look at SBLive’s list of the top female athletes to ever come out of Okanogan County.
(The list is in alphabetical order.)
BEST FEMALE ATHLETES IN OKANOGAN COUNTY HISTORY
High School: Liberty Bell (class of 2008)
Sports: Cross country skiing
Notable Stats: A decade-long regular on the FIS Cross-Country World Cup circuit, Bjornsen is the first American woman to ever wear the designated-yellow tour leader bib.
(Sadie Bjornsen feature photo by Granada – Own work)
On the outskirts of the North Cascades mountain range is Methow Valley (along the Methow River) – a place that seems to attract world-class skiers.
Every day growing up, Bjornsen got to watch U.S. Olympic performers train – and eventually became one herself in cross-country skiing (2014, 2018).
Bjornsen started as an alpine skier, but switched because she got too cold riding the chairlift. It was a smart move – she has been one of the best U.S. long-distance skiers over the past decade.
She had her best season in 2018, not only recording her top Olympic showing (fifth in the 4×5 kilometer team relay), but she placed sixth overall in the World Cup points standings.
She has registered seven top-three podium finishes in international competitions.
High School: Okanogan (class of 2017)
Sports: Basketball, soccer, softball, track and field
Notable Stats: In her first full season as a starting guard at Gonzaga, Townsend was named the West Coast Conference women’s basketball player of the year in 2019-20. She was the seventh Zag to ever earn that honor.
It is appropriate that Townsend went from being one Bulldog (Okanogan) to another Bulldog (Gonzaga). It fits her personality.
A large part of that toughness comes from growing up on a farm with two older brothers who never took it easy on her. In turn, she’s been an unrelenting force on opponents, both in high school and college.
Townsend led her high school to undefeated back-to-back 2B state titles (2015, 2016). Three times, she was selected the state player of the year (including 1A in 2017 as a senior), and tallied 2,097 career points.
She also led Okanogan to a 2B title in girls soccer, and was named the 2B state player of the year in that sport. She also registered four podium finishes as a track thrower, including 1A runner-up in the shot put as a senior.
After playing in every game in her first two seasons at Gonzaga, mostly as a reserve, Townsend emerged as the conference’s top player, averaging a team-leading 12.2 points per game (and 5.7 rebounds) while shooting 49.1 percent from the floor – and 41.9 percent from 3-point range.
Jeni (Boesel) Freels, Brewster (basketball, tennis, golf, soccer) – She was once the state’s all-time No. 2 scorer (2,727 points), then was a JUCO All-American at North Idaho, and all-Big Sky guard at Idaho State.
Cicely (Clinkenbeard) Darling, Okanogan (track and field, basketball, volleyball) – Three-time WIAA champion was All-American jumper at WSU, winning Pac-10 triple jump title (2000) before becoming heptathlete.
Chandler Smith, Brewster (basketball) – Two-time 1A state player of the year is most heavily-recruited hoopster out of county, signing with Nebraska and ending at Gonzaga. Now a pro in Iceland’s premier league.