Fresh off his hiring as Juanita High’s new athletic director in late May, Jason Thurston was already on the sports scene as the Rebel softball squad competed in the 3A SeaKing District tournament.
He watched as the girls qualified for state with a 5-4 walkoff victory over West Seattle at the Southwest Athletic Complex. Thurston, who swung by the game with one of his young sons, wanted to be part of the Rebel community posthaste.
Thurston said the stands were packed and people were interacting with each other, and it was a special place to be that night. Megan Murray’s game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning was a treat as well.
“The stands are just as important as what goes on on the field. I think that spills over to the kids on the field,” he said.
Thurston, who was the AD at Ballard High from last January through the spring, is all in with the Rebel community. One of his former wrestlers when he coached in Texas has even made Juanita T-shirts for his family.
“We’re invested in it. It’s a lifestyle — not just a nine-to-fiver,” he said.
Thurston replaces Rob Luckey, who retired after two years as the Juanita AD and 37 years teaching in the Lake Washington School District.
Luckey covered the gamut in the coaching realm: head football coach at Kirkland Junior High for 16 years, assistant varsity baseball coach at Lake Washington High for 14 years, head varsity baseball coach at Inglemoor High for three years and head varsity softball coach at Bothell High for seven years.
“Not sure what’s next. Going to have a relaxing summer,” said Luckey, whose wife, Lynne, still teaches at LWHS. “I am very fortunate and thankful to have taught my entire career with LWSD – and to have coached my whole career in KingCo. My job as AD at Juanita was unbelievable. The Juanita community, the admin team and especially the FAB 4 I worked with are unbelievable. KingCo ADs are amongst the finest people I will ever know.”
Thurston’s sports resume includes participating in high school football, wrestling and track and field in New York and Florida and then attending Texas A&M University, where he met his wife and earned a bachelor of science degree in political science in 2004 and a master of education degree in curriculum and instruction in 2006.
Remaining in Texas, he was head varsity boys and girls wrestling coach at Waller High for four years and at Liberty High for nine years. His teams won two state duals titles — one for the girls at Waller and one for the boys at Liberty.
Even before he landed the Juanita job, Thurston and his wife enjoyed spending time at Juanita Beach, in Kenmore and in the surrounding cities.
“It feels like home. We come from the wide-open spaces of Texas,” he said. “When Juanita opened up, I said, ‘Hey, look where this job is.’”
The Thurstons were still living in Richmond Beach at the time of this interview and recently secured a home six minutes north of Juanita High.
Jason is set to fully become part of the Juanita High family in the fall.
“The big thing is community. We’re not individual sports and kids: We’re all Rebels — football, soccer, wrestling…” said Jason, noting that he wants to see athletes working and leading together. “A rising tide (lifts) all boats. John F. Kennedy said that about the economy, but I think it’s a sports quote, too.”