FF 2023 Stueckle Family
Stueckle Family
One would have been plenty.
Two? That’s a crazy thought.
But three? Mind officially blown.
From the outset, Dan and Heather Stueckle knew they had three remarkably-talented and motivated daughters in athletics. Kayla, Kimmie and Karlee Stueckle were not only all-4A SPSL standouts in girls soccer but in track and field as well.
But to watch each of them go on and compete at the University of Washington was something neither parent ever envisioned.
“How?” Dan Stueckle asked rhetorically while simultaneously breaking out a big smile. “To have one of those out of four kids (go to UW), you go, ‘Wow, that is cool!’ To have two - ‘Wow, that is a blessing!’ When a third one goes on, as a parent, it just makes you proud and grateful for what they’ve accomplished.”
While the gist of the family’s appointment for the Tacoma Athletic Commission’s “First Family of Sports Award” is credited toward what this talented trio of sisters has achieved in soccer and track and field, it’s not difficult to trace a genetic tree of athletic excellence.
Dan’s father, Reuben, and uncles, David and Arnold, were all three-sport athletes at Lacrosse High School in Whitman County in the 1950s. Ruben and Arnold went on to play baseball at Whitworth University in Spokane.
Heather’s father, Bill Scobey, a former Los Angeles city high school cross country champion (Cleveland), was a four-time All-American distance and cross country runner at Cal Poly Humboldt in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Eventually, he was inducted into the university’s athletic hall of fame, and the longtime firefighter at one point set the all-time California time record (2:15.21) at the Western Hemisphere Marathon.
As a student at South Sound Academy (formerly Tacoma Baptist Schools) in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Dan’s first love was baseball. But at the end of his sophomore year, the teenager was talked into trying out for soccer by then-coach/future athletic director Rick Wells.
The sport stuck. As a junior, Dan was a starter at outside defender - and moved to forward as a senior when the school won the Sea-Tac League title and he was a top-10 goal scorer in Washington.
It earned him a scholarship to The Master’s University (formerly Los Angeles Baptist College), an NAIA college in California where he took home all-conference honors in both men’s soccer and baseball. He even played a semester on the school’s basketball team, and was named the school’s male athlete of the year in 1983-84.
After graduation, Dan spent two seasons as a graduate assistant for his alma mater’s men’s soccer team, which won a national championship in 1987. It was also at that time when he started dating Heather, a former four-sport athlete at Rincon Valley Christian High School.
The two wed in 1988 and moved to Puyallup a year later.
And despite Dan immediately jumping into the local soccer coaching scene - first at the club level, then as the first varsity coach at Emerald Ridge High School - the couple allowed their children to try different youth sports and activities.
First, it was gymnastics. Then, they branched out to softball - and eventually all played basketball in junior high school.
“I always felt supported by them, whether you were trying new things, sports or extracurricular activities,” said Kayla, the oldest of the four children. “It was never met by, ‘That is weird!’ but more like, ‘Give it a shot!’
“If I tried something and wasn’t comfortable, I never felt forced to continue to do anything.”
Eventually, Kayla, Kimmie and Karlee focused on soccer and track field while Kyle loved baseball.
The girls had an inherent path to soccer with Dan around. All of them played for local club teams, then for their father in the Emerald Ridges varsity girls program
How they were introduced to track and field was different: As seventh graders at Stahl Junior High School, students were run through a circuit of different events, just to see what they liked and what their natural skill gravitated to.
“Those Stueckle girls, they probably would have been good at anything,” said John Diseth, the hurdles coach at Stahl. “But they all seemed to enjoy hurdling.
“Kayla picked it up quickly … and was able to three-step (in between hurdles) early, which was rare for a boy or girl at that age. She was able to stride out and keep her speed.
“With her being the oldest and setting that example, I think the other girls saw that and wanted to emulate that.”
Kayla was the gifted, fluid long strider - both in soccer and track and field. She was a two-time all-4A SPSL forward and is No. 6 all-time in Emerald Ridge goals-assists scoring (23 goals, 22 assists).
She was even more accomplished in track and field, winning a school-record five WIAA championships at Star Track at Mount Tahoma Stadium, including three Class 4A titles in the 300-meter hurdles.
As a senior in 2010, Kayla had a state meet to remember - three wins in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles and long jump and placing third in the 200-meter dash. She scored a whopping 36 points by herself, leading her school to a fourth-place podium finish.
“She was a physical force every time she stepped on the track,” Emerald Ridge track coach Bob Frey said.
Kayla was in high demand by Pacific 12 Conference programs, but had her sights on staying close to home - and immediately accepted a full-ride track and field scholarship.
As the Huskies’ top 400-meter hurdler, Kayla was a four-time conference meet qualifier, a three-time West Regional qualifier and advanced to the NCAA semifinals during her junior and senior seasons, earning All-American honors.
Not bad for the family trend-setter.
“I wanted to find success for myself … but also set a good example for them (Kimmie and Karlee) following in my footsteps - not giving up and trying to reach full potential as far as athletics,” Kayla said.
A year younger, Kimmie admitted she “admired” Kayla as a role model - but was a more polished soccer player in high school.
And whereas Kayla was smooth in her movements, the shorter second sister was a fiery competitor who bulldozed through contact on the field - and was pure power on the track.
“Mom would say they were scared when there were a bunch of bodies in the way (in soccer), and I’d run right through them,” Kimmie said. “But that’s really my personality in life - I try to avoid confrontation. But in sports, I was like that.”
The three-time all-4A SPSL first-team forward knew how to put the ball in the back of the net. She’s the school’s No. 2 all-time leading points scorer (51 goals, 29 assists).
In track and field, Kimmie was a short-distance sprinter. She didn’t run the 100-meter hurdles until her junior year. The five-time state medalist set the school record in the girls’ triple jump.
And yet, when it came to college - and sport - choice, she did follow Kayla’s lead, even if that meant joining as a walk-on with the Huskies.
“As I’ve said before, track was a thing for me to stay in shape, so I never dreamed I would do it after high school,” Kimmie said.
She was a two-time conference-meet qualifier in the 100-meter hurdles, and advanced to the NCAA West Regionals as a junior. She was also the UW’s top 60-meter hurdler during the indoor season, and was eventually placed on scholarship during her senior year.
“Kayla was pretty reserved and ice cold, in all the right ways. She was just really even, and didn’t get rattled at all,” said Raul Sheen, the Huskies’ sprints and hurdles coach at the time. “Kimmie wore her emotions more on her sleeve.”
If Kayla was unequaled finesse, and Kimmie was unbreakable force - the youngest sister was the perfect blend of both styles.
Karlee also took plenty of mental notes on what her sisters were doing.
“I was a sponge, absorbing it all,” Karlee said. “The things I noticed about them didn’t take words. They showed me how to prepare - at home and in their athletic surroundings.”
At Emerald Ridge, whatever Karlee touched - in both soccer and track - turned to gold.
In soccer, she was a four-time all-4A SPSL forward, leaving as the No. 4 points scorer all-time (52 goals, 19 assists) in program history. She also starred on the Issaquah Gunners club squad that won the prestigious Surf Cup.
She was the model of high-level consistency in track and field, earning 11 career state medals, including three WIAA titles (two in 300-meter hurdles, one in 100-meter hurdles).
“I’ve always been known as the daredevil in my family,” Karlee said. “I would not have run track if the hurdles had not existed.”
As a senior, Karlee set the state’s all-time fastest mark in the 300-meter hurdles (41.76 seconds), breaking future NCAA champion Ginnie (Powell) Crawford’s record (42.12) while becoming the only girl ever to break the 42-second barrier. Her time was ranked No. 8 in the nation that spring.
“For sure, she’s the best athlete among all of us,” Kayla said. “Her high school times tell you that.”
Unlike her sisters, Karlee did not take the direct path to UW.
An original soccer commit to Boise State, she longed to be closer to home - and pivoted to joining the Huskies’ track and field team on scholarship as a 400-meter hurdler.
As the months went on, her heart was still in soccer. She told her parents she intended to transfer to another school to play.
On a whim, she sent a text message to former UW women’s soccer coach Lesle Gallimore and inquired if there was room on the roster. There was, but as a walk-on player. The teenager accepted.
“I didn’t want to quit (track), but I wanted to be back playing soccer,” Karlee said. “The experience taught me a lot about myself.”
After one walk-on season, Karlee spent her final three seasons on the UW soccer team on scholarship - and enjoyed a productive career at forward, scoring her first career goal against No. 17 TCU (2019), tallying an NCAA Tournament goal against Liberty (spring of 2021) and totaling five goals as one of the team’s leading scorers as a fifth-year senior (2022).
“When I was playing soccer, other girls asked me if I missed track,” Karlee said. “I told them, ‘No! But I did miss the science behind it.”
With all three Stueckle sisters past their college careers, Kayla, 31, is a flight attendant for Alaska Airlines, and just ran in her first Boston Marathon with her husband, Brad.
Kimmie, 29, is also a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines. And Karlee, 23, is back in Puyallup as a first-time track and field assistant under Frey at her alma mater as a possible first step into becoming a personal trainer.
What was it like growing up around three sisters so dynamic in two sports, both in high school and college?
Kyle, 26 - the lone brother who played baseball and football at Emerald Ridge - had a front-row seat to it all.
“At first, it was cool they were all D1 athletes,” Kyle said. “But then you kind of expected it after a while.”
2023 Distinguished Achievement Award Recipients