A look into the history of sports throughout Yelm’s lineage


Editor’s note: This year, Yelm will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the city’s official incorporation, which took place on Dec. 8, 1924. Every month this year, the Nisqually Valley News will present an aspect of the city’s history since its incorporation. Sports within Yelm is the focus for the fourth volume of the series.

Throughout the 100 years since Yelm’s incorporation, many triumphant sports teams and athletes have graced the red and black colors. To celebrate Yelm’s centennial anniversary, the Nisqually Valley News took a closer look at some of the legends of sports within the city.

Patsy Walker

In one of Yelm High School’s greatest showings of perseverance, triumph and heart, Patsy Walker won the 1A state championship in 1977 single-handedly. She placed first in all four of her events during her senior year to give the Tornados their first girls track state championship.

Walker’s Tornados narrowly defeated Port Townsend, 40-37, after she won the 80-yard low hurdles, 220-yard dash, high jump and long jump events. Between 1973 and 1977 at YHS, Walker won seven individual state titles and set numerous school records.

In 2024, Walker still holds school records in the 200 meters (24.7 seconds), 220-yard dash (26.34 seconds), 400 meters (56.9 seconds), 80-meter hurdles (33 inches, 10.84 seconds), high jump (5 feet, 10 inches), and long jump (19 feet, 10 inches). Her school shot put record was broken by 2019 YHS graduate Carissa Stovall, who set a new record with a throw of 42 feet, 6 inches in 2018.

“She was a great athlete in an era when women were pushed aside and not taken seriously in athletics,” former Yelm coach Mike Strong told The Olympian in 2009. “There were few others who were gifted in this state at that time.”

After her senior high school season, Walker won a national championship in the pentathlon event at the USA Junior Outdoor Track and Field championships. She’d later compete for UCLA and Houston’s track programs. She won heptathlon and pentathlon national championships at Houston during her senior year in the program. In 1984, Walker served as an alternate on the 1984 Olympic team.

Her athletic efforts led to a Washington state High School Hall of Fame induction in 2003, which marked YHS’s first inductee.

B.O. Barn

Yelm sports teams from the 1930s to the 1970s competed in the B.O. Barn, known to some who grew up in Yelm as the “big blue gym” or the “big old gym,” according to YHS teacher and Yelm historian Ed Bergh in a column submitted to the Nisqually Valley News in 2015. Bergh noted that it might have been the largest building in Yelm during that time period.

As part of a Works Progress Administration project of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal program, as cited by Bergh, the building was constructed in the 1930s by local residents. The creation of the building also stimulated the local economy as it provided work for residents and a public benefit with the addition of a gymnasium.

In 1939 and 1940, the building housed the Pierce County B League jamboree, which featured Yelm, Fife, Orting, Federal Way, Eatonville, Roy, Kapowsin and Clover Park high schools. The building also housed the 1958 2B state championship boys basketball team’s home games.

In Bergh’s 2015 column, he cited Ed Ecchtles who listed the number of uses in the B.O. Barn.

“I played on the high school basketball team and all home games were played there,” Ecchtles said in Bergh’s column. “Also there was a stage and all high school plays were performed in it and assemblies, concerts and graduation was held in it.”

In the column, Michael Crumley seconded much of that. “Basketball games (some on donkey back), dances, wrestling matches, assemblies, voting, concerts, graduations (until 1978) and general hi-jinx, good times in that old building.”

History of teams

Yelm athletics have been successful in several different sports in recent years, including the 3A state championship boys track team in 2023, and the 3A state championship football team in 2022. But Yelm’s earliest state championship took place in 1958.



According to the WIAA’s website, the Yelm Tornados boys basketball team secured the 2B state championship in March of 1958. According to Bergh’s column to The Nisqually Valley News, the team, led by Coach Ward and athlete Dennis Kinney defeated Odessa, 46-43, on March 5, 1958. The team then defeated Willapa Valley, 52-49, on March 7, 1958, to qualify for the 2B quarterfinal matchup.

In the quarterfinals against Darrington on March 8, 1958, Yelm picked up the victory, 55-51, to punch its ticket to the 2B state championship. Darrington ended Yelm’s season one year prior in the 2B semifinals, 70-39, on March 8, 1957.

One year later on March 8, 1958, Yelm picked up its first and only state championship in boys basketball following a 48-41 victory over Brewster High School. According to the WIAA’s website, it took Yelm 25 years to place in another state tournament as the team took fifth place in 1973. The Tornados have not placed in a state tournament since.

Yelm’s girls basketball team has qualified for the state tournament six times in the history of the program, according to the WIAA’s website. The program’s last appearance in the state tournament was in 2013, where the team lost 61-48 to Highline High School.


The Tornados softball program has experienced most of its success since the turn of the millennium in 2000, according to the WIAA’s website. Yelm secured its first and only 3A state championship victory in 2004. The team opened up the tournament with a 5-1 victory over Sequim High School, followed up by a 2-1 victory over Shorecrest.

In the 2004 3A semifinals, the Tornados softball team defeated Skyline, 4-0, to earn its way into the state championship game. With a 3A state championship on the line, the Yelm Tornados defeated the Mt. Si Wildcats, 1-0, on May 29, 2004.

In recent years, the softball program took second place in 2017 following a 9-5 loss to Redmond High School. In 2018, the Tornados placed third in the 3A state tournament. The team was defeated by Redmond, 3-0, in the opening round of the state tournament. Yelm avenged its two previous losses to the Mustangs by defeating Redmond, 6-5, to earn third place.

In 2019, the Tornados finished in second place once again. Yelm was defeated by Garfield, 10-4, in the 3A state championship.


According to the WIAA website, Yelm’s baseball team last made the state baseball tournament in 2003. The team was one-and-done as a result of a 13-0 loss to Liberty of Issaquah in the opening round of the 3A state tournament.

The Tornados’ first baseball state tournament appearance occurred in May of 1974. The Tornados picked up its first of two WIAA state tournament victories in program history by defeating White River, 11-8. The Tornados’ next tournament victory came 27 years later in May of 2001 when Yelm defeated Bishop Blanchet, 4-1, in the opening round of the 3A state tournament.


Prior to the YHS football program and Kyler Ronquillo securing the WIAA 3A state championship in 2022, the Tornados went through early, humble beginnings. Yelm qualified for the state football tournament for the first time in 1987, defeating Monroe, 62-20, on Nov. 13, before being shut out, 25-0, by Tumwater on Nov. 20.

It took the Tornados 30 years to qualify for the district playoffs and 31 years before the team would reach the state tournament in 2018. Since returning to the state tournament in 2018, the Tornados have been playoff mainstays, including two quarterfinals appearances, second place in 2023 and a 3A state championship victory in 2022.

The Tornados defeated South Ridge, 51-7, on Nov. 11 in the opening round of the playoffs, before defeating Kennewick, 36-27, in the quarterfinals on Nov. 19. Yelm narrowly defeated Bellevue, 28-27, in the semifinals on Nov. 26, prior to defeating 3A powerhouse Eastside Catholic, 20-13, on Dec. 3 in the state championship game.


Yelm’s girls volleyball program has appeared in the state tournament three times in program history, according to the WIAA’s website. The team’s most recent appearance occurred in 1989 when the team picked up tournament victories over Mountlake Terrace and Eastside Catholic. The Tornados were eliminated by Tumwater High School.


The Tornados boys soccer program has made two appearances in the state soccer tournament, including most recently in 2010. The Tornados were eliminated by Shorecrest in the first round following a 4-3 loss.

Beginning in the fall of 2024, Yelm Tornados athletic programs will join the 4A South Puget Sound League, beginning a new chapter in the school’s storied sports history.