Shannon Bendiksen (1994) and Samantha Gudger (1996)

alumni sisters

Sisters Bendiksen and Gudger followed different career paths but came back to their hometown  

During their high school years, sisters Shannon Bendiksen (Timberline ’94) and Samantha Gudger (Timberline ’96) were both three-sport athletes. They attended Lakes, Woodland, Nisqually and Timberline.

Bendiksen remembers recovering a stolen ball and going the entire length of the court missing a wide open lay-up shot. “That was embarrassing in and of itself,” said the former Blazer. “But I didn’t realize I was actually shooting at the opponent’s basket, not ours!”

While they both played volleyball and basketball, a love of sports seemed to be where the similarities ended after the pair went to college. Bendiksen received a full ride scholarship to Brigham Young University before transferring to University of Portland where she earned a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. Gudger stayed closer to home, attending Western Washington University and earning a degree in Creative Writing.

Bendiksen: From teacher to officer

 “I’ve always been very interested in teaching and coaching,” said Bendiksen, who returned home after college and began substitute teaching and volunteering as a coach for the Timberline girls basketball team. Later, a family friend of Bendiksen who was in law enforcement recruited her for his agency with the Washington State Patrol. “It completely caught me off guard,” she remarks. “I looked into the career and found many benefits so I decided to submit an application. I was hired the first time through the testing process!”

Bendiksen has worked for the Washington State Patrol for just over 14 years. She started as a trooper, catching speeding cars, investigating collisions, and helping people with broken down cars. “I really enjoyed helping people and driving fast with lights and sirens on!”

Being promoted to a supervisor position as a sergeant, Bendiksen now works at the WSP training division where she trains new recruits to become troopers. “I supervise a group of instructors who teach firearms and control tactics (self defense and impact tool training),” she explains. “ I enjoy watching the recruits through the learning process and interacting with those I work with.”

Gudger: Writing remains her true passion

Off the court, Gudger took advantage of her writing assignments as she was always looking to sharpen her skills. She took an after-school creative writing class in 4th grade and many creative writing courses in high school. “I’ve always loved to read and write,” Gudger said. “From the time my first grade teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew I wanted to be an author.”  

Being a female athlete, Gudger always looked for books featuring female athletes as the protagonist, but never found any. “All the sports books were geared towards boys,” she recalls. “It’s important for me to write about strong female characters, especially athletic girls.” Gudger has published one book called A Game Worth Watching and is currently working on the sequel as well as several other stories. During her senior year she entered a writing contest and won first place! She was very excited until she learned that the first place prize was free tickets and dinner for the Sadie Hawkins dance. “I didn’t have a boyfriend and was extremely shy around boys,” she admits. “So, what did I get for winning a writing contest? The daunting task of asking a boy to a dance -- made me rethink entering any more writing contests!” Today, Gudger works full-time as a Grant Writer for the Boys & Girls Clubs of South Puget Sound. Writing books is something she does in her spare time. “The thing I enjoy most about being an author is writing about stories and characters that matter to me. I also love talking to young people who have dreams of being authors. I remember what it was like to be in their shoes and I love seeing their excitement about writing.”

“Remember who you are”

Now grown up, both sisters still share a love of sports, reading, movies – and the occasional indulgence.

“I do have a bit of an addiction to Big Mac's, French Fries, and Dr. Pepper,” Bendiksen admits. “Although I limit myself to eating it only once or twice a month. I always have chocolate in my house to snack on too!”

Gudger treats herself to her husband’s lemon chicken and hot lava cakes.

Both sisters also have some advice to share for future graduates of NTPS.

“Remember who you are and remember that the decisions you make today could affect you for the rest of your life,” said Bendiksen, now the mother of two daughters herself. “Although it is important to be young, have fun and experience new things, there are some things that will keep you from reaching your goals.”  For example, she says, if you want to be a law enforcement officer, a doctor or pilot, you cannot have any criminal convictions on your record. “Currently, the Washington State Patrol will automatically disqualify a recruit from getting hired if they have taken an illegal drug just once in their life.”

Gudger urges young writers to follow their dream and don’t give up. “The world is in need of your individual voices,” she said.  “My advice to young people wanting to be an author is to keep reading, keep writing and have confidence in yourself. Find the love in revising because it is the most important part of the story.” 

For more information on Samantha Gudger’s book, A Game Worth Watching click here.




Previous Stories

Last Modified on April 1, 2014