Two Sequim High head coaches who led their teams to state tourney berths in recent years are stepping away from the hardcourt and pitch.
Linsay Rapelje, who in her second stint as head coach of the Wolves’ girls basketball team led Sequim to a state tourney appearance in 2018-2019, said in late June she is stepping down from the role as well.
The main change is my own children are getting older — they’ll both be in middle school — and I have limited time with them,” Rapelje said last week. “I want to be part of their activities and things.”
Derek Vander Velde, who led the SHS Wolves’ girls soccer team to its first state tournament appearance in 2018, resigned his position on June 21.
Vander Velde was unavailable for comment for this story.
Sequim has hired Ken Garling, who leads the SHS boys varsity soccer program, to take over the girls’ program in the fall, while the district does not yet have a replacement announced for Rapelje’s position.
A Spokane native who played collegiate basketball at Western Washington University from 1996-2000, Rapelje coached at Edmonds-Woodway and Meadowdale high schools after her time at Western Washington before moving to Sequim in 2002 to teach English.
Rapelje coached girls soccer and girls basketball at Sequim High; her basketball teams qualified for the postseason in both of her seasons as varsity head coach, going 15-9 in 2004-2005 and 10-11 in 2005-2006 before she stepped away from coaching.
Two games into the 2018-2019 season, then head coach Larry Brown resigned and Rapelje took over.
“When I got back into coaching, it was unexpected … (but) I’m glad I did. It’s something I took year by year,” she said.
The squad went on to go 8-4 in league play, win three of four games at districts, upended Foster in spectacular fashion — a 26-0 second half run to close out a 54-44 victory — at regionals to qualify for the state 2A tourney.
In 2019-2020, the Wolves went 10-2 in league play — their only losses coming to Port Angeles — and finished 17-7 overall, winning two of four at districts and falling short of state by a single game.
In last season’s abridged 2020-2021 campaign, Sequim again won all but two games — again, falling only to league powerhouse Port Angeles — as they placed second in the Olympic League regional standings, finishing 11-2.
Rapelje said she had a strong group of sophomores in her first year back whom she wanted to see through to graduation.
“I thought this was probably the best time (to step down),” she said.
“I’m not going to miss the bus rides and missing time with family,” Rapelje said. “I’m definitely to miss the girls. The strongest connection with students is (through) coaching. You connect. You learn about their lives; it’s just so valuable.
“I’m going to miss those connections with the players … but we’ll stay in touch and I’ll support them, see them grow.”
All told, Rapelje’s basketball teams have a cumulative record of 68-37, including 43-17 in her most recent three-season stretch.
As for her replacement?
“My hope is that there would always be some strong female coach would come in,” Rapelje said. “Ideally that’s who I would want but, (but the new coach would) just hopefully be someone that knows basketball and is good with the girls.”
Her assistant coaches from last season — Joclin Julmist and Sven Wiker — are invested in the program, Rapelje said.
Rapelje said she doesn’t plan to return to coaching for a third time. As her children grow into their middle school and high school sports ages, she said, Rapelje doesn’t want to be so tied up with coaching that she misses those experiences.
“I’m never going to rule it out, because life happens, as we’ve learned,” she said.
“I think I’ll be done, but you never know.”
Vander Velde joined a soccer program in 2016 that hadn’t posted more than six wins in the past 10 years and hadn’t seen the postseason since 2012.
The Wolves in that first year went 7-5 in league play and won one of three games at districts, missing a state berth after falling to rival Port Angeles in a penalty kick shootout. For his effort in guiding Sequim to an 11-8 overall record, Vander Velde was named the league’s Coach of the Year.
The next year Sequim missed the playoffs but still posted an 9-7 overall record, and in 2018 the Wolves started slow but reeled of six wins in seven games to eke into districts, where they swept three foes for the West Central District crown and their first state tournament berth. Sequim lost a heart-breaker to Ellensburg, falling 4-3 on penalty kicks.
The Wolves repeated their state run in 2019, using another second half season run to qualify for districts and going 2-1, losing only to Port Angeles in the district final before falling to Ridgefield in the state’s opening round.
Sequim went 4-5 in the abridged 2020-2021 season.
In his six seasons with the Wolves, Vander Velde led Sequim to a 45-36-2 mark.