Tuesday, January 3, 2012/lk
The past year was a crazy one for local sports. At the high school level, severa; individual athletes won state championships and some teams had their best seasons in years. National events remained a big draw, including the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic and Columbia Gorge Marathon.
It was a fascinating year to cover, full of fun and competitive personalities and exciting finishes.
With that, here is a look back at some of the stories which defined the local sports scene in 2011:
1. Out on top: Robert Frasier was set on a state wrestling championship from practically the moment he stepped onto the mat to begin the 2010-11 season. By the end of the campaign he left his name at or near the top of most of the HRV season and career records list and got his state championship in the process.
After making it to the semifinals the previous two years, Frasier ensured a spot in the finals when he knocked off Abrahim Rodriguez, who had beat him in the district finals. In the final match, Garrett Urutilla of Lebanon stood no chance. Seconds into the second round Frasier had his opponent on his back, and was able to celebrate a state title to wrap up his HRV career.
2. Twice the titles in track town: Nothing was going to stop Olivia Campbell or Ian McNoughton this year. Not weather, not sickness and certainly not their competition. The pair highlighted a field of 20 HRV athletes at the state trac, championships.
McNoughton took first place in the 5A 400-meter race and Campbell easily won the 5A pole vault title at Hayward Field in May to put HRV competitors atop the medal stand.
McNoughton used a final burst of energy in the last 50 meters to hold off Will Lawrence of St. Helens to win his first state championship. Meanwhile, by the time Campbell got to her state winning vault, she was the only competitor left in the field. The rest of the competition scratched at 10 feet 9 inches, leaving Campbell all alone at 11 feet 3 inches for the state title. She easily cleared the mark, and wants to push even higher this year - meaning a second state title may very well be coming this May
3. Heck of year to be a Hawk: Horizon Christian made a name for itself across the entire sporting spectrum last year. After making it to the 3A/2A/1A soccer tournament in the fall of 2010, the Hawk basketball team had its best-ever finish at the state tournament in Baker City, taking fifth. A few weeks later many of those same athletes were out for baseball, which returned to Horizon for the first time since 2006. The Hawks blew away many of their competitors, winning their home-opening doubleheader by a combined score of 45-11. The Hawk baseball team eventually lost in its district playoffs.
4. What a race: Olympians Clara Hughes (of Canada) and Kristen Armstrong (USA) headlined the field for the 2011 cycling classic and the matchup lived up to its billing with Armstrong edging out Hughes for the overall jersey. That was not to say the rest of the field didn't provide fireworks though. Armstrong's Peanut Butter and Co team won every stage but one and took the team title. In the men's field, Michael Olheiser thrilled the downtown criterium crowd with a spectacular performance which saw the mustachioed rider, decked out in stars and stripes, lap portions of the field and win the stage by a whopping 26 seconds.
5: Going my way: The Hood River Valley softball and baseball teams both made the state playoffs in the spring, and both wound up in the same place - West Albany - playing at the same time. The Eagle softball team was not expected to reach the playoffs with a young team featuring only one senior. But compete they did. The "Baby Birds" finished fourth in the league standings, but beat Wilson and Milwaukie to make it to state for the first time since 2006. The HRV baseball team, meanwhile, hammered Liberty to make it to the state bracket for the first time since 2008.
Both teams eventually lost to West Albany, but hope to use the experience to build for years to come.
Bringing back the bucket: After two years on the wrong end of the score, the HRV football team blasted The Dalles 56-6.
Swimming supremacy: The HRV girls swim team used the switch to 5A to show off what a few years of rebuilding can accomplish as the team finished fifth.
A beautiful brace: After not scoring his entire HRV varsity career, Josue Barrera picked a heck of a time for his first two career goals. He tallied two scores in three minutes for the HRV boys in a state play-in game. The Eagles wound up beating Franklin and advancing to the state playoffs for the sixth consecutive year.
Rebuilding schmebuilding: Like the HRV softball team in the spring, the HRV girls cross country team was young and inexperienced. Also like the softball team, it didn't much matter as the Eagle girls won the Columbia River Conference title and sent the girls team to state.