The applause and the cheers are just echoes. The last days of 2010 count down. Here are 10 of the best or the most memorable local events and stories as judged by my sports staff colleagues.
You can argue with their order and what made the list and what didn’t. You can’t argue with the impact they made.
1. Seth Wescott wins gold again:
You didn’t have to understand the difference between a skateboard or a snowboard to appreciate the effort and confidence of one man to start in last place and finish first. Wescott won gold in men’s snowboard cross in his second straight Winter Olympics.
“It was just so cool to be in the moment and feel that ease of executing,” said Wescott. “For me, the race was really such a powerful moment.”
It was all so new when he won in 2006. New Olympics event, no expectations. Four years later, Wescott let himself take it all in and shared it with us.
“This Olympics was so much more emotional for me. I caught myself at least 10 times in front of the television watching (friends in other events) and just bawling my eyes out.”
2. Maine Red Claws sell out every game in first season.
It’s difficult to believe now, but before the Red Claws played their first NBA Development League game in Portland, there was cynicism. Similar ventures had failed. The novelty of minor league basketball in Maine would wear off quickly as it had before, I heard.
Who would care enough to reach for their wallets? No players with direct Maine ties were on the opening-day roster. What’s more, it was difficult to become familiar with players. They were coming and going as Coach Austin Ainge juggled personnel, looking for winning combinations.
No matter. The team president, Jon Jennings, was selling the pro basketball experience. His decision to play in the Portland Expo, with its limited seating, character, and noise, paid off with full houses game after game. The Red Claws just missed the playoffs in their first year but didn’t miss with their fans.
3. Scarborough girls complete three perfect seasons.
The Scarborough girls’ soccer team was “The Perfect Storm.” Unbeaten, unscored upon, except for a lone penalty kick late in the season. The Red Storm won the Class A title for the first time after winning in Class B. On a raw, late fall day, Scarborough beat Bangor 3-0 to complete the triumphs that began earlier in 2010 with the championship basketball and lacrosse teams.
“Unfortunately you’re not going to give a team like that two goals (and expect to win),” said Bangor Coach Joe Johnson. “They haven’t given up two all year.”
Remarkably, Scarborough succeeded with teamwork rather than superstars. Theirs was a team to enjoy and appreciate.
“I don’t think we ever felt pressure (to win, to keep the shutout streak alive),” said Abby Van Note, one of the goalkeepers. “I’m sure the bond we had as teammates helped. This team was so close.”
4. Cheverus wins first football title in 25 years.
Cheverus beat Bangor in the state championship game at Fitzpatrick Stadium but for many looking back in hindsight, the title was won the week before on the Stags’ home grass. Cheverus choked off a Deering rally to win the Western Maine championship 35-34 after leading, 29-6.
That game turned into a showcase of quarterbacks with Peter Gwilym of Cheverus and Deering’s Jamie Ross engaged in a physical and emotional game of one-upmanship. Each respected the other; both became finalists for the Fitzpatrick Trophy, which goes to the year’s best high school senior.
The next week’s game for the state title was a victory for the team and a statement of the success of longtime football coach John Wolfgram. Cheverus became the fourth Wolfgram-coached team to win a state football title.
5. Mark Rogers makes first start for Milwaukee Brewers.
You cheered not only reaching his goal of making a major league start but the journey as well. It took six years since he signed a multimillion-dollar contract out of Mt. Ararat High to reach his goal. Two of the years were spent on the sidelines, coming back from surgeries that might have derailed his promising career.
Instead, the 2004 Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram High School Athlete of the Year backed up a nice three-inning debut against the Marlins with an impressive five-inning performance against the Reds, striking out six of the 18 batters he faced, walking one and allowing two hits.
He turns 25 next month and heads to spring training in February with new expectations.
6. Portland Pirates are staying, leaving, staying . . .
The ongoing negotiations between the Pirates’ president, Brian Petrovek, and Cumberland County, owners of the Civic Center, made loyal hockey fans reach for their antacids. The Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y., wanted a hockey tenant for its building and while Petrovek considered his options, Pirates Nation waited. And waited. And waited.
Instead of getting the long-term lease and all the added revenue streams he wanted, Petrovek finally signed a two-year lease to stay in Maine. Which means the next installment of this saga is coming soon.
7. Cheverus boys win state basketball championship with Indiana Faithfull.
Much like story No. 6, fans sat on the sideline to find out if Indiana Faithfull could continue his career playing basketball at Cheverus High or not. At issue was a semester in a high school in Australia while he waited to transfer to Maine. Did it count toward his eligibility to play in Maine or didn’t it? The Maine Principals’ Association, lawyers and a judge all had their say and after sitting for the last part of the regular season, Faithfull was on the court for the playoffs.
He scored 23 points as Cheverus beat Edward Little 55-50 for the title. Little has been resolved since.
8. Bowdoin field hockey team wins NCAA championship. Again.
Field hockey may not appear on the radar of many fans, but Bowdoin’s success in this sport is significant. Bowdoin beat Messiah College of Pennsylvania 0-0 on penalty strokes to win its third title in four years. A collegiate dynasty in Maine.
“I joke with my family about all the other milestones in life that are supposed to be best moments,” said Coach Nicky Pearson. “Like getting married, having kids. They will all come in second and third.”
9. Yarmouth wins football and boys’ soccer state titles.
It’s never been done, if research of state records is correct. No Maine high school has won championships in those two fall sports in the same year. The amazing thing is Yarmouth’s first varsity football season was played in 2007.
Yarmouth football beat Stearns to complete a 12-0 season. In 2007 and 2008 the Clippers won one game.
“It was like, ‘Whoa, do I even belong here?’ ” said Coach Jim Hartman. “Do we (continue to) run this system? Do I quit? What do we do? The kids finally believed.”
On the other side, Yarmouth soccer won its second state title in three years with a 5-0 victory over Ellsworth. “We played the whole game like it was 0-0,” said the captain, Luke Pierce.”
10. Maine reaches Hockey East final, led by third-string goalie.
For the better part of four seasons, Dave Wilson was either the backup or the seldom-used third-string goalkeeper for the Black Bears. In the final weeks of his college career, he got his chance to show he was better.
With Wilson in net, Maine eliminated UMass-Lowell, beat Boston University and met Boston College in the conference final. Wilson faced a barrage of shots. Maine lost but earned newfound respect, mirroring Wilson’s comeback story.
CUTTING ROOM FLOOR: Johnny Clark of Hallowell won a record fifth PASS Series title, Maine’s Gustav Nyquist was a Hobey Baker finalist and baseball returned to The Ballpark in Old Orchard Beach.
Joey Gamache’s 10-year quest for justice ended in a New York court when a judge ruled the New York State Athletic Commission did not handle the weigh-in of Arturo Gatti properly the day before his knockout of Gamache. The Portland Sea Dogs provided a number of players who aided the Red Sox during their injury-riddled season and Abby Leonardi of Kennebunk won her third state cross country title and ran well in regional and national competition. The fishing season was expanded to 12 months.
Staff Writer Steve Solloway can be contacted at 791-6412 or at: