Dec 21, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Seems like we spend a lot of time at this time of year reminiscing – nothing wrong with that, if there are things worth reminiscing about.
And there’s plenty in 2010 that falls into the “memorable category”, so if you don’t mind I’ll spend the next couple of columns touching on the seminal moments of this sports year. This week, it’s the high school picture, and quite a pretty one.
Not in the decade-plus time I’ve spent at this desk as there been so many state champions to follow from the first day of practice to their crowning glory. And no two of them were alike, even if they were from the same schools and featured, at times, the same athletes.
Jamesville-DeWitt and Westhill both pulled off winter-spring state championship doubles. With the boys basketball Red Rams, it’s turning into an annual rite (three in a row now), and the threat for four and five is real with two more years of DaJuan Coleman.
J-D’s boys lacrosse heroes had it tougher, losing Jake Bratek to injury – but it still went to Long Island and rolled past Garden City, proving that a great team is far more than just one star.
As for Westhill, the key factors were obvious. With trademark defense and great senior leadership, Kevin King’s basketball charges beat everyone back as it gained a championship to match the last one it earned in 1997.
And with Kevin McAvoy’s live arm, the baseball Warriors avenged two losses to Bishop Ludden, then cruised the rest of the way to a second straight title in Binghamton – even through a state final four that saw a venue change and a last out recorded close to midnight.
You also had an ice hockey sweep. West Genesee somehow made it through 25 games without a blemish, capping it off with the miraculous comeback against Suffern in the semifinals and the title-game shutout of Saratoga Springs. New
Hartford had it tougher in Division II, needing overtime just to get out of the sectional finals, but then handling the rest to go back-to-back as it beat Queensbury 5-2 in front of the home folks in Utica.
The fall brought four more instances of great teams reaching the top spot. Three were quite familiar, while the other took the perfect route.
It was, of course, the Skaneateles boys soccer Lakers going 22-0 and winning it all in Class B. To do that required a deep and lethal offense, a superb defense (two goals allowed in the entire post-season) and some amount of good fortune. It also meant beating good local Class AA teams (CNS, West Genesee, CBA) and handling the pressure of staying
undefeated, which they did, to say the least.
For two other state champions, it was an event years in the making. Baldwinsville, in Class AA girls volleyball, had made the sectional title part routine, but had just missed in two previous trips to the state Class AA show in Glens Falls. This time, with a deep front line and two rock-solid anchors in the back (Brianna Stewart to set, Becca Maher to defend), the Bees survived the round-robin and two deficits to Webster Schroeder and pulled it out in five.
In the case of Cazenovia’s field hockey Lakers, it was the same story – a lot of sectional success, but nothing more, prior to 2010. It all fit this time, though, especially a record-setting offense where Tori Widrick, Belle Hoagland, Abby Eschen and Jillian Vogl supplied the goals. And it was Vogl, with two tallies in the state semifinal and the overtime game-winner in the finals, that had the final say to get her school a first-ever team state championship.
Now here comes the unfair part. Each of the above teams has made their communities proud, going as far as one can in our system, with no real chance to compare them to other great programs across the country.
Then there’s Fayetteville-Manlius girls cross country. Providing yet another exclamation point to yet another wondrous autumn of running far ahead of the pack, the Hornets went to Oregon and, when done there, brought home the Nike
Nationals top prize for the fifth year in a row.
Word has it that, in Portland, some of the other teams (and their supporters) openly whispered about the F-M methods as the girls won and the boys finished second. Everything from maniacal training to the old standby, steroids, was brought up. A bit jealous, are we?
Bill Aris, the coach responsible for this dynasty, clearly says otherwise. Yes, they train hard and they give up lots of typical teenage rituals to run, but it’s their own choice. They are self-motivated, and best of all none of them cares who gets the ultimate credit, as long as they all win.
Expect more of it, too. Courtney Chapman, part of all five of the championship journeys, is on her way to NCAA champion Villanova, but the other six that won this year – Christie Rutledge, Heather Martin, Katie Sischo, Jillian Fanning, Katie Brislin and Emily McGurrin – return for 2011. And the younger runners are bent on maintaining the streak.
So yes, 2010 was full of winning efforts at the highest level, and one wonders whether it starts a trend, or is just an instance where everything clicked, over and over.