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Inslee shaped by experience as a high school athlete

Jay Inslee graduated from high school in 1969. But the '60s era of music and protest didn't shape him. Instead, it was athletics.

On Thursday night, Jay Inslee and Rob McKenna will debate everything from education to health care. Whichever candidate becomes governor will face issues that could not be predicted during the campaign. And that s why KING 5 wanted to learn more about who these candidates are. To do that, KING 5 went back in time to see how their high school years shaped who they are today.

Jay Inslee graduated from high school in 1969 -- the iconic year of the 1960s era of protest and turmoil.

But that was a faraway universe for the kids at Ingraham High. When you think of '69 you think of Woodstock, hippies and anti-war, and all the things that were going on -- and Ingraham was still like Happy Days, said David Horsey, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who was in Inslee's class.

Ingraham and the community its students lived in a bit of a time warp -- a bubble in the working-class suburbs of Seattle, a place where the kids were clean cut and the girls didn't play sports.

White, very pale is how Inslee described the time and place where he came of age.

It was sports that showed Inslee's leadership skills. The son of Garfield High football coach Frank Inslee, Jay Inslee's 6-foot height caught coaches' attention when he walked the halls.

Inslee was tapped as quarterback for the football team and earned a spot on the basketball team, which parlayed its zone press defense into a spot in the 1969 state championship tournament.

He was not a shooter. He took only those shots he thought he had to take. Usually those were open or available. He didn't force things. Very good defensive. Sound. And also very team oriented, said Walt Milroy, Inslee's basketball coach.

Classmate David Horsey recalls, Inslee was the jock. But not in sort of the cliche, bad jerky kind of guy. He was just a great all American kid who was good at this stuff.

The basketball team won the 4A championship in 1969, and Inslee made an important play against Hoquiam in the final seconds.

I remember I got Jay off the bench to go in on defense and it ended up being a great play because he stole the inbounds pass, remembered Coach Milroy.

With one second to go win a state championship, I really don't think it gets a lot better than that for an 18-year-old kid, it's something you remember your whole life, Inslee said.

It was at Ingraham that Inslee began wooing Trudi Tindall, the woman who would ultimately become his wife.

I remember often, we would take his younger brother Todd with us on a date, go to the zoo, and I thought this guy is really nice, he was willing to take his younger brother with us, Trudi Inslee said.

Inslee's political views at the time matched the Happy Days ethos Horsey described.

I was a high school quarterback, played on the basketball team, kind of a straight arrow kind of guy, right?, Inslee said. Law and order, whatever the president says, we're going to follow the president. President says we're going to war, we're going to war. My impression of the war resistance movement, were just sort of a bunch of undisciplined kids having a party.

While his political views evolved, Inslee said the lessons of leadership and teamwork that he learned at Ingraham helped him succeed in politics.

The role of a leader to create a common vision, and make sure everybody knows, what spot on the court they need to be to help their buddy, he said.

After graduation, Inslee headed to Stanford on a pre-med track. But after a year he was back at the University of Washington where he reunited with Trudi Tindall and wound up attending law school.

For Inslee, politics provides the competitive challenge that he got from sports. The former jock thrives on the campaign trail, said Joel Connelly, a veteran SeattlePI.com columnist.

The basic premise of the Inslee campaign is that voters will end up liking him more than McKenna, and this has been an article of faith that has sustained them through somewhat trying times earlier in the campaign, said Connelly.


More information about Inslee on KING5.com's It's Your Time section.

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