"I'm really trying to put my whole heart into it"
Lofstrom steps into coaching position, invests in a scrappy team’s “intensity and grit”
December 7, 2023
Wahkiakum alum Ross Lofstrom is proving to be agile in big shoes. This year he stepped into a role relinquished by a giant of a science teacher in Jeff Rooklidge, who retired after 37 years at Wahkiakum High School. Now he’s filling the size 11 trainers vacated by Coach Rob Garrett, to lead the girls basketball team.
While Garrett turns his talents loose on the boys basketball program, Lofstrom is hoping to reenergize the girls program, which has struggled with low turnout in recent years. The whys and wherefores are hard to ascertain, but as the world slowly emerges from the pandemic so perhaps do the number of female athletes.
This year, 10 athletes turned out, just enough for a varsity team.
Four eighth graders will see some playing time, along with two seniors, three freshmen, and one sophomore.
A senior and the lone sophomore, Amirah Abdul-Kariem and Jessie LaFever, are the two most experienced players and are already team leaders. The rest of the starting line up will be filled out by freshmen Brienna Cothren and Sam Dela Cruz, and eighth grader Payton Mendez.
The other senior on the team is Maddalena Fontana, an exchange student from Italy who loves the sport but hasn’t played at this level.
“She’s picking it up fast,” Lofstrom said.
“We have a very young team,” he added. “Very scrappy. I’m hoping for a really good year this year, but I think long term we’re going to really be great. It’s tough because we don’t have very much size or numbers, so we have to make it up with intensity and grit.”
“I’m trying to hold on to a lot of expectations and culture that Rob has instilled because he is a great coach,” Lofstrom said. “I’ve learned a lot from him. He is like a mentor to me. He’s been incredibly helpful. I’m trying to keep a lot of the stuff the same, but add my own flavor to it.”
Lofstrom is joined this year by assistant coaches Jansi Merz and Charlie Ashe. The two played for Garrett for years, and as the new head coach says, “bring a lot of great culture and energy and just great stuff to the team.”
“I’m really trying to put my whole heart into it and give the team everything,” Lofstrom said. “I’m just going to stay as positive as I can. I know it’s going to be a tough year, but I think we are scrappy enough to get a few wins out of it.”