Top 13 sports stories in 2013

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The year in Keizer sports news was as much about individual achievement as it was about great things being accomplished by teams.

From a stable of Celtic wrestlers dominating in their sport to a bowler who rose to the title of national gold medalist in two short years, Iris Capital athletes made headlines far and wide in 2013. Here are 13 of the highlights in no particular order.
McNary’s Andrew Lawrence makes a run for it in the game with McKay High School. (File)

McNary’s Andrew Lawrence makes a run for it in the game with McKay High School. (File)

Celt gridders on road to recovery

Here are a few of the things that had happened since McNary High School’s varsity football team won their last playoff game in 2008: the inauguration of the first African-American president, Michael Jackson died, the first iPad was released, the Arab Spring, and Justin Bieber’s career.

It had been a long wait for fans of Celtic football, but in 2013 the program appeared to be on the verge of reclaiming its former glory. The Celtics had their first winning season in five years and made it to the second round of the playoffs. The team took a beating up against the Central Catholic High School Rams (the eventual winners of the state title) in the second round, but held its own against some of the toughest talent in the Central Valley Conference and beyond.

While the program will lose a formidable contingent of seasoned players to graduation in June, the McNary junior class stepped up time and time again in the 2013 season. That gives many high hopes for continued success.

The McNary High School girls bowling team shows off its plaque and medals after claiming a district title. (File)

The McNary High School girls bowling team shows off its plaque and medals after claiming a district title. (File)

Lady Celt bowlers win district title

The McNary girls bowling team is used to being the dark horse in the high school bowling scene and 2013 was no different.

The Lady Celts fought through a difficult few frames in the final match of the district tournament to finish with strikes, spares and a district title in-hand.

Senior Tori Pike was named the tournament MVP in addition to All-Stars honors alongside teammates LeAnne Miller and Hannah Russell.

For the boys, Kyle Robinson and Scott Bridger earned spots on the All-Star team.

Swimmers 

land state berths

The McNary swimming teams had trouble stringing together the wins in dual meets last year, but by season’s end one of the boys relay teams emerged as district champs.

In the 200 free relay, Perry Groves, Alex Fox, Jeremiah Hamilton and Ben Johnson claimed a district title. Groves, Johnson, and Charlie Dennis took third in the 200 medley. Laura Donaldson placed second in the 50 free and claimed a state berth.

A $25K kick

On Friday, Oct. 28, McNary High School alum and current Keizer cop Andrew Copeland took to the football field of his alma mater and won a $25,000 check toward a new car from Withnell Dodge.

Copeland took part in the Pass-Punt-Kick Challenge and split the uprights after a perfectly-placed pass and punt. Copeland’s son Tyler held the ball for his father, and Tyler’s Pop Warner football team swarmed Andrew as the field goal attempt found its mark.

Copeland, 35, hadn’t kicked a field goal since college.

Celts grab nine district titles in track and field

McNary athletes topped the podium again and again in the district track and field meet in May. By the end of the two-day shindig, the girls had a team district title to go with the Celts’ seven individual district titles and two relay team titles.

For the girls, Jessica Darras claimed dual titles in the shot put and discus; Daysha  Simms-Garcia won the 400 meter just weeks after setting a new school record; Stacey Titchenal won the javelin; Danielle Lovejoy won the pole vault; Aerial Rice, Simms-Garcia, Laura Donaldson and Danielle Duran won the 4×100; and Donaldson, Kira Norton, Duran and Simms-Garcia won the 4×400.

In boys events, Daniel Brattain won the 110 and 300 hurdles (he also posted a third place finish in the state 110); Dakota Bovee won the shot put with a personal record in his first year in the sport; and Jake Herndon won the pole vault.

McNary junior’s efforts result in area’s first unified b-ball team

If you want to know how to change the world, Kalah McVay might be able to help.As a freshman, McVay volunteered in the Celtic Developmental Learning Center to help students battling developmental disabilities. The experience left her with a mission: find a way to include more DLC students in mainstream high school activities. Specifically, she wanted to form a unified basketball team with a mix of DLC students and mainstream athletes who could act as on-court coaches.

During the next three years, McVay held onto that dream and, last January, the team began practices. McVay found willing help in the forms of teachers Jim Litchfield and Dan Borreson as well as athletes Paul and Frank Rios and DJ Wilson.

Together, they competed in a Special Olympics tournament in March 2013. As far as anyone remembers, they were the first Salem-area unified team to do so.

Ben Biondi heads up the field in a lacrosse match last spring. (File)

Ben Biondi heads up the field in a lacrosse match last spring. (File)

Celt lacrosse makes big gains

After years on the fringe in the high school lacrosse world, McNary’s club team made its first big gains in 2013.A bevy of senior talent saw the team post the best record in club history, 8-10. The season started off with a three-win streak and losses only overtook the wins late in the season.They’ll be trying to break the 50 percent mark in terms of victories again this year, but one can hope the successes in 2013 will pave the way for continued good news out of the club.

Softball team storms to state quarterfinals

In its first season under new head coach Kevin Wise, the McNary High School varsity softball team made it to the quarterfinals of the state playoffs.

After a regular season that saw the team weather two three-game losing skids, the Lady Celts landed in fourth place in the Central Valley Conference. The Celtics annihilated Lake Oswego 14-0 in a play-in game to extend its season and advanced to the quarterfinals with close wins over Reynolds and Barlow high schools. The team’s edge was a “calm ferocity,” said junior Dani Saunders.

It was the Lincoln High School Cardinals who dealt the team its final blow with a squeaker 4-3 win.

In addition to some outstanding play, it was the girls’ level of sportsmanship that Wise was most proud of. When all was said and done, he was looking forward to the 2014 season even more than he had 2013.

“These girls grew a lot over the year, and I know they will grow even more by next year,” Wise said.

 

Celt wrestlers denied fourpeat, settle for six regional titles

When a program puts a wrestler as talented and hard-working as Devin Reynolds out on the mat, it’s easy for one individual’s accomplishments to drown out the noise being made by others.

Reynolds claimed second consecutive regional and state titles in 2013, but his teammates wouldn’t be denied.

Cody Ratliff, Zach Hammerschmith, Louis Palos, Mason Ross and Grant Gerstner all laid claim to regional titles in February 2013. Gerstner had to square off with teammate Rob Phelps in the final match at the regional tournament.

Top-10 placers included Hector Maldonado, Alvaro Venegas and Caleb Connor. The program graduated much of that talent in June, but Palos, Hammerschmith and Venegas are all looking to improve on last year in 2014.

Teen bowler takes national title

In August, 16-year-old Scott Bridger traveled to Hershey, Penn., to take part in the State Games of America. He returned home with a gold medal and a national title.Bridger, who had only been bowling competitively for about two years at the time, stormed onto the scene, besting talent from all 50 states. In addition to his gold medal, he turned in the highest tournament score for any bowler, 1,420, and beat a bowler coming off a perfect game for the win. Of 91 balls thrown, 51 were strikes. He beat the field at local, regional and state tournaments to earn the shot in the national games.“I told myself that I would put every ball on the lane and throw every single ball like it’s my last ball,” Bridger said. 

Vandalism, theft take toll on youth sports

The McNary High School concession building next to the football field was the victim of theft no fewer than four times in the past year. The most recent attack, in September, saw thieves make off with a bounty of McNary-related merchandise and left the McNary Athletic Booster Club with more than $1,500 in losses. The culprits have not yet been located.

Less than a month later, facilities and amenities at Keizer Little League Park were attacked over multiple nights by a group of four teenage boys. The foursome caused about $15,000 in damages that included tearing up a scoreboard and rendering a dugout all but useless.

Within weeks, the vandals were identified and, with their parents, are now working with the administration of the Keizer Youth Sports Association to restore the damage done. KYSA officials are choosing to work with the teens in lieu of formal charges, which could have yielded substantial punishment in light of the high cost of their actions.

Girls tennis sends duo to state

In a year of ended dry spells, the girls varsity tennis team was no exception.

After an undefeated start to the season, the doubles pairing of Sandy Childress and Alex Henriques da Silva took second place in the district competition to earn a berth in the state tournament. Childress and Henriques da Silva had a perfect record in the district tournament until the last match where they managed to take a set off of the top doubles team in the district.

“It was a chance to smash some balls, and I had been looking forward to that,” Childress said.

Childress is expected to return for her junior year this spring while Henriques da Silva returned to her native Frankfurt, Germany, after the school year ended.

Celt boys turn page on court

After several seasons, camping in the lower ranks of the Central Valley Conference, the McNary High School boys basketball team exploded back onto the court in early December.

The team has had a rocky ride in its most recent games, and it’s unknown whether they’ll be able to overcome the gap when they’re facing oversized opponents, but watching them ignite the crowd gave a glimpse of what we’ll hope is a sign of things to come.

A group of stalwarts showing consistency alongside up-and-coming juniors, sophomores and a freshman have many hoping to witness the return of Celtic boys basketball to the heights it once achieved.

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