The End Zone Seat: It was a Year to Remember
One thing that can’t be said about 2011 is that it was boring.
From January to December, the first three pages of each Rocket-Courier second section have been jam packed with sports news—good, bad and anywhere in between.
The accomplishments of the Wyalusing Valley and Elk Lake athletic teams over the past 12 months were memorable.
With one final chance for a Wyalusing team to win a Northern Tier League championship, the girls’ track team peaked at the NTL Large School meet and claimed the title with what can only be described as a team effort.
Shortly after that, the Lady Rams’ softball team, behind the pitching of University of Delaware recruit Brianna Jennings, went on a post-season run that garnered a District Four, Class A title and a spot in the PIAA semifinals where they dropped a heartbreaker to Minersville.
This fall, buoyed by Erika Huffman, who also played volleyball, the girls’ cross country team shared a piece of the NTL title.
Elk Lake also found team success, winning the Lackawanna League track championships and claiming the league and District Two softball titles.
The softball team, behind the strong arm of Brooke Darling, reached the PIAA quarterfinals before falling to Brandywine Heights.
In the fall, the Elk Lake girls’ cross country team won the Lackawanna League title and finished second in both the District Two and PIAA championship meets.
There were numerous individual accomplishments to remember.
Wyalusing’s Mike Cobb qualified for his third straight PIAA wrestling tournament.
Huffman and her teammate, Jessica Hotaling, won titles at the District Four track championships to qualify for the state meet. Huffman won the 1,600 and 800, while Hotaling captured the 400.
At the state meet, Hotaling broke her own 400 school record.
During cross country’s post-season, Huffman won the District Four, Class AA title.
Her teammate, senior Tyler Sutton, finally qualified for the PIAA meet with a gritty performance in the district meet.
Wyalusing’s football team had its struggles, but tailback Dan Frankenfield rushed for over 1,000 yards earning NTL Small School Player of the Year honors.
Elk Lake collected its share of individual hardware.
Adam Phillips won two medals at the PIAA swimming championships in March.
On the track, Elk Lake won eight District Two titles and collected five PIAA medals including individual ones for Mike Bedell, Sean Carney, Luke Jones and Cassie VanEtten as well as the boys’ 3200 relay team that included Will Bennett and Bryan Grosvenor.
During cross country’s post-season, Jones successfully defended his District Two, Class AA crown and went on to finish second at the PIAA championships in Hershey.
Besides collecting their second-place PIAA team medals, Maria Trowbridge and Jenny VanEtten also won individual cross country medals.
Outside of the high school arena, a tip of the hat has to go to John Johnson, a regular on the area’s running circuit.
Johnson fulfilled a longtime goal with his victory in the Camptown Races. He followed that up a week later with his fourth straight win in the Albany Valley Challenge 5K run.
There were certainly milestones to celebrate as Elk Lake softball coach Tony Blaisure notched his 400th career victory and Wyalusing wrestling coach Gary Haley recorded his 100th win.
Wyalusing’s Aaron Johnson scored his 1,000th career point in basketball last February as a junior and is seeking to climb higher on the Rams’ all-time list this year.
On a sadder note, long-time Wyalusing sports fans mourned the passing of former Ram great Bob Hanzok last January.
Hanzok, a true three-sport athlete, was the school’s first state champion in any sport, winning the PIAA high jump title as a senior.
Appropriately, the school honored Hanzok by re-naming the jumping area of the Peterson Stadium track after him.
As the year drew to a close, another demise of a different kind made the news.
Wyalusing Valley Motorsports Park, the local kart track in Homets Ferry, announced that it would close its doors forever because of problems procuring insurance coverage for the farm where it is located.
The track will be missed by its fans and by the drivers.
In an age where most of the responsibility for young athletes is being usurped by the coaches and adults around them, it was always good to wander the WVMP pits and see the youngsters working on the karts and small cars by themselves. For some of the youth, a valuable chance to learn about a work ethic and responsibility will be lost.
And how can we talk about this year without mentioning the weather?
Rain, snow and cold weather delayed the start of the high school spring sports seasons by a couple weeks.
Extremely wet grounds at Hornbrook Park in early June forced organizers to cancel the annual Veterans’ Appreciation Day and its accompanying 5K run.
A thunderstorm delay late in Elk Lake’s PIAA quarterfinal softball game may well have robbed the Lady Warriors of a win.
But that was nothing compared to the biblical deluge that struck the area in September.
The historic flooding not only forced numerous high school sports postponements, but the effects of the damage were so long-lasting that the North Branch Triathlon had to be canceled in October.
As we prepare to turn the calendar page on another year, I want to thank all of the readers who have been supportive of my efforts, modest as they may be, to bring you the sports happenings in our area.
I am blessed to have such a loyal following.
My wish to you is the same that was first expressed over 2,000 years ago.