The end of the school year column always suggests one thing -- next year will get here quickly. For grownups (?), summers go a lot quicker than when they themselves were in school.
If 2012-13 is anything like its predecessor, it should be another great year. Nothing can top what immediately comes to mind as the "moment of the year:" on the last play of The Game, the block of St. Johnsbury Academy's extra-point kick by Lyndon Institute's Miguel Collazo Oct. 22, warding off what looked to be a certain tie and preserving a 14-13 win for the Vikings. It was great: LI didn't have the best year overall, but winning in this fashion, on its home field, over its archrival, made the 2011 Game perhaps the most memorable of them all.
Fall playoffs were chock-full of awesome games, with the Profile boys, and both Littleton teams coming right to mind. Fast forwarding, what about the Danville-South Royalton baseball semifinal from three weeks ago, when the Indians came from behind in the ninth inning to win.
But we digress. What indeed are the chances of the 2012-13 school year being as great? What schools might seem ripe for a down cycle? Anybody out there appear ready to soar deep into the playoffs?
Numerous local teams made the NHIAA tournaments, and figure to again. Both Littleton teams made hard runs at the D-IV soccer titles. They both lose front-line athletes such as Sam Brammer and Julia Winn -- but have key starters returning too. It's the same with Colebrook and Groveton. Way up there in northern N.H., tiny Colebrook Academy is also way up there in D-IV standings no matter what the season. Mohawk girls teams will feel the graduations of Morgan Oakes, Ashlynn Parkhurst and Leah Raymond, and the boys, three-sport stars Bryan Griffin and Ethan Hutchinson: but expect to see the Mohawks contending. As for Groveton, the Eagles weren't as prolific in some sports last season, but are never down for long.
Almost as big a thrill as Collazo's play in The Game, was seeing the LHS girls hoop team go all the way to the title. The Crusaders lose four-fifths of that starting lineup, and we'll quietly be rooting for them as the rebuilding process begins next year.
Lisbon and Woodsville -- again, the same. Andrew Knighton and Garrett McGrath, Jill Fifield and Tori Rosebush have been three-sport athletes for the Panthers, but those are the only key losses. Likewise, it's not a wholesale loss of athletes graduating in Woodsville either, aside from three-sport athletes Andrew Dockham and Jordan Wilson. The Engineers softball team, which has gone deep into the playoffs the last two springs, loses to graduation starters Kayla Griswold, Katie Hilliard, Taylor Morris and others.
Only with the Profile boys soccer team, do graduations have a telling effect. The Patriots lose eight kids from their outstanding 2011 team, which went 15-1 and was top seed in a power-packed D-IV. Girls sports ruled in Bethlehem this year, with the ski and tennis teams winning state titles, and the softball team narrowly missing out. Largely populated by underclassmen, all three teams should be in the thick of it next year, too.
It was the same with local D-III entry White Mountains Regional, where girls teams won three titles (basketball, softball track) with squads comprised largely of underclassmen. Bryanna Bennett is a key loss for the basketball team, while the track team graduates four regular scorers plus two other seniors. The softball team loses four starters, the most holes to fill of WMR's title teams.
In a nutshell, it looks to be more of the same in sports next year on the New Hampshire side of the river.
Dang what a great year it was! And what a year it will be too, if the number of returning athletes is any indication. That's not so much the case, however, on our three local football fields.
Of the 13 titles won by our local schools, six came in Vermont, St. Johnsbury Academy ruled the roost with four titles: two each in track and field, and Ultimate. Hazen Union won the fledgling D-III track and field title, while it was Danville winning D-IV in baseball.
A look up and down these rosters reveals that track and field, and Ultimate should continue to rule at SJA. Hilltoppers coach Josh Seamon is a true, Ultimate ambassador; the St. Johnsbury Invitational is the biggest in New England, and he's currently in Israel, where it was as hot there last week as it was here. "I'm enjoying lots of Ultimate in some pretty serious heat here in Israel," he said in a June 21 email. "I'm out here for five weeks working for Ultimate Peace." Check it out at UltimateJosh.com.
The track and field programs should continue to prosper. A lot of attention was given, rightfully, to the boys title-winning team; the girls team did well also, and returning athletes such as Quinn Bornstein, Johannah Driscoll, Robin Vincent and Erin Hudson could should help keep them near the top next year. As for the boys team, Record Athlete of the Year James Fitzhugh, Ben Bunnell, Elijah Doerfler, Shoshun Durham, Brian Fubler, Ethan Goss, Kevin Santora and others will be missed. The program has been on strong footing for many years and, with athletes like state champion Dage Minors, Brandon Legendre, Nate Solnit and others returning, will continue to be.
Finally, Danville is one of our favorite places to work. You know you're going to see a good ball game, baseball or softball, when you pull into that dirt parking lot. It's a treat, a perk of our job, to cover a baseball program like the Indians. Numerous kids will be back, and I'll also be pulling for the softball team.
Whenever possible we like to mention the commitment of time and body our student-athletes make. This fall will bring the dreaded early-season workouts, complete with 80-90 degrees and everything. That's not to mention the travel to and from games, leaving just enough time to get home and unwind much less do homework or other things.
It was a great school year for sports, and happy summer to all in the school/sports community.