Sports column by Andy Kirkaldy: 2013 proved to be a remarkable year for teams
This past July I typed out a column picking the top 15 high school teams I’d seen in my nearly two decades of covering sports here at the word factory.
It didn’t take long for that list to become dated. As a fellow pickup basketball player pointed out this fall after the undefeated Middlebury Union football team steamrolled its way to the Division I title, it’s already time for a do-over.
And he wasn’t factoring in the Mount Abraham boys’ soccer team’s record-setting 17-1, D-II championship season. Those two teams will crack the top 15 when the dust settles, and a case could also be made for the D-II champion Eagle field hockey team, as well. That group would at least end up on the bubble.
And before this fall three 2013 teams that won D-II crowns already had graced my personal top-15 list: the undefeated Vergennes boys’ basketball squad, and two one-win groups, Otter Valley baseball and Eagle girls’ hoop.
For sure, the Tiger football team and Eagle boys’ soccer team will crack my next formal top 15; exactly where on the list and who gets knocked back onto the bubble is a story for another day.
But what the addition of those two teams does for sure is highlight just how remarkable the past 12 months have been here in Addison County.
And that’s not even counting four Middlebury College teams reaching at least the Elite Eight in NCAA Division III tournaments — women’s hockey reached the final, men’s basketball and field hockey the final eight, and women’s soccer the final four.
Nor is that counting a number of other high school teams having outstanding seasons: MUHS boys’ basketball earned a top-four D-I seed, MUHS girls’ lacrosse reached the D-I final again, VUHS baseball claimed a top-four D-II seed, and VUHS softball gained the D-II final.
Nor does that count the many individuals who had outstanding seasons. Vermont Sports Media Association monthly honors went to Mount Abe’s Ashlie Fay, Otter Valley’s Ryan Kelley, MUHS graduate Kaitlyn Kirkaldy, and Middlebury racecar driver Todd Stone. Fay and fellow Mount Abe senior Cale Thygesen were the Lake Division Players of the Year in girls’ basketball and boys’ soccer, respectively; they were among many who earned league recognition.
Meanwhile, league coaching honors went to Mount Abe’s Connie LaRose and Mike Corey; Pete Quinn of VUHS; Tim Mitchell of OV; Dennis Smith of MUHS; and Bob Ritter, Missy Foote and Peter Kim of Middlebury College. OV’s Pattie Candon didn’t win another coach of the year honor, but probably made do with winning her 300th game as the school’s softball coach.
But as long as we are counting, that’s five teams, including at least one from each local school, in one year — chronologically, VUHS boys’ hoop, Mount Abe girls’ hoop, OV baseball, Eagle boys’ soccer and MUHS football — that are among the best 15 I’ve witnessed.
I’m sure 2014 will bring many memorable moments, great plays, and dramatic wins. And with any luck, the athletes we root for will enjoy the same kind of success as in 2013.
But odds are it will be a long time before we see another year like that.
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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