It was approximately five years ago that former Torrance High standout athlete Kim Blankenship died suddenly of a heart attack at 31 years old.
Blankenship was one of the South Bay’s top ever all-around athletes, excelling in volleyball, soccer and track and field at Torrance High, where she graduated in 1993. She totaled 12 varsity letters and four CIF titles in those three sports.
She went on to star in volleyball at Loyola-Marymount University in Westchester.
Blankenship, in fact, comes from a big period of top female athletes from the early 1990’s. It was a few years earlier that another of the top ever South Bay athletes, Lisa Leslie from Inglewood Morningside (graduated in 1990), starred in basketball, volleyball and track and field. Leslie would go on to lead the United States women’s basketball teams to Olympic gold medals in 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008, and key the Los Angeles Sparks Women’s National Basketball Association team to titles in 2001 and 2002. Leslie retired from the Sparks two years ago.
Leslie sparked the Lady Monarchs basketball teams to California State championships in 1989 and 1990, then keyed University of Southern California to one NCAA Division I final in 1994.
For the fifth straight year, 24 teams vied in the classic in her name and it was Team Pookie, that included a number of Blakenship’s old friends and sister, Christie Coplin, on the squad, that came out on top for the third time in the five times the event was held by hanging on for a 15-13 victory over Hexis, which consisted of several standouts from UC Riverside, Sunday at Hermosa Beach Pier.
“This year, we had 24 teams and we want to keep her (Kim Blankenship) name alive,” said Kim’s father, Mike. “This tournament is a charity to give scholarships to the Torrance schools (North, South, West and Torrance) and Bishop Montgomery (the major Catholic high school in Torrance).”
Members of Pookie included Heather Brook, Jeanne Vetter, Suzanne Radcliffe, Carrie Wright, Amy Moeller and Mardell Hully.
In the final, Hexis jumped out to an early five-point lead but the more experienced Pookie came back and pulled out the match.
Members of Hexis were Amanda Nillson (former North Torrance High standout and now at UC Riverside), Brittney Murray, Kelly Fink and Kelly Simpson.
In the high school division, it was South Torrance High that rallied from as many as 10 points down to top the North Torrance High No. 2 team, 29-27.
Members of the Spartans, who are a Pioneer League power in girls’ and boys’ volleyball and are expected to be one of the tops in their CIF-Southern Section division for the upcoming 2011-12 school year, included Natalie Sun, Skyler Ceballos, Desi Koleva, Katie Exum, Katie Moorefield and Tessa Fournier.
“It was a tough day,” Koleva, who will be a senior in the fall, said. “It was nice to come back. We should be CIF contenders this year. We hope to go as far as we can.”
The money from the tournament went for college scholarships for nine different Torrance area high school athletes. Those athletes receiving the scholarships were Brittany Quon (Torrance, basketball and volleyball), Kayla Goosby (Torrance, track and field), Kayla Mallett (West Torrance, volleyball and track and field), Neely Atamaniuk (South Torrance, soccer), Joslyn Barnes (North Torrance, CIF-Southern Section Masters champion and California state finalist in the high jump in track and field), Lindsay Thompson (Torrance, volleyball), Tori Takata (Torrance, volleyball), Emily Pryor (Torrance, soccer) and Amy Carr (Torrance, soccer).
Also in hand at the tournament was former South Torrance High soccer standout Shannon Boxx, who was a member of the United States’ women’s world cup soccer team that lost in the final to Japan a few weeks ago.
The tournament was first held in 2007, a year after Kim Blankenship’s death, at Knob Hill Beach in Redondo Beach, before being held the next two years at Torrance Beach, then last and this year at Hermosa Beach Pier.