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Looking back on the year in high school sports
December 28, 2012
Ever since Crook County High School dropped to class 4A three years ago, the school has had unprecedented athletic success.
Although a number of sports did well in 2012, the CCHS volleyball team once again tops our list of sports stories for the year. Other teams that achieved success include the wrestling team, which finished fourth after qualifying a record 22 athletes for the state tournament.
Girls tennis and golf each finished as runner-ups at state, while boys golf, and boys and girls cross country all qualified teams for the state championships. Girls basketball reached the first round of the playoffs while football just missed out on a playoff spot.
In addition, a number of individual athletes had banner years. Nonetheless, perhaps the biggest story of the year was the passing of former Crook County High School wrestling coach Russ Thurman and the subsequent naming of the high school wrestling room after him.
With so many significant athletic events occurring in 2012, we have chose to concentrate on the achievements of high school athletes, or those who have influenced them. Below are the top 10 high school sports stories of the year as chosen by the Central Oregonian’s staff.
1. Russ Thurman coached wrestling for 31 years — many of them in Crook County.
Thurman passed away in 2012, leaving behind hundreds of athletes and students that he touched during his lengthy career.
The popular coach and teacher left a legacy of integrity and honor as well as a coaching record that may never be topped.
Thurman coached for 31 years, many of them in Crook County. He finished his career with 509 dual meet wins, two state championships, and 18 district titles.
More than 100 athletes who wrestled for Thurman placed at the state meet. Although he retired years ago, Thurman left behind a tradition of wrestling excellence that continues in Crook County to this day.
To honor the former coach, teacher, and administrator, the Crook County High School wrestling practice room was named after Thurman in November.
2. The Crook County High School volleyball team continues to shine. The Cowgirls rolled through the state tournament without dropping a set to take their seventh-consecutive state championship.
The Cowgirls went undefeated in the Intermountain Hybrid League, went undefeated at the Summit Jamboree, won two tournaments, and finished second at both the West Linn Invitational and the 32-team Kent Classic.
Crook County finished the season with a 36-4-1 overall record.
Makayla Lindburg and Hannah Troutman were both named to the all-tournament first team and the all-state first team, while Annie Fraser was named to both second teams and head coach Rosie Honl was named the Class 4A coach of the year. In addition, Lindburg earned Class 4A player of the year honors for the third consecutive year and was recently named a medium school first-team All-American by MaXPreps.
The Cowgirls lose just three players to graduation, so they should have a strong team again next year.
3. Keeping with the theme of state champions, Catie Brown and Kayla Morgan won their second consecutive OSAA Class 4A/3A/2A/1A State Doubles Tennis Championship. The duo helped lead the Crook County girls tennis team to a second-place finish at the tournament. The Cowgirls’ other doubles teams of Ali Apperson and Lisa Pham, and Annie Fraser and Leslie Teater, each won matches at state, but failed to place.
Crook County’s lone singles player at the tournament was freshman Elsa Harris who won her first tournament match before later being eliminated.
The Cowboys also had a doubles team qualify for state. However, the team of Brady Slater and Jared Anderson failed to win a match during the tournament.
4. The Crook County High School boys and girls golf teams also had banner years.
The Cowgirls took first place in Special District 5, winning by 24 shots. Meanwhile, the Cowboys finished second in the Greater Oregon League to eventual state champion La Grande.
Once at the state championships, the Cowgirls played their best golf of the season. The team took a 17-stroke lead after the first day of state and was in contention throughout the tournament, finally finishing second. Senior Kirsti Kelso fired two of the best rounds of her career to finish fifth individually with a score of 76-79 — 155.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys struggled at the state championships finishing in seventh place. Senior Ben McLane played steady golf during both days of the tournament, finishing in 13th place overall with rounds of 82-80 — 162.
5. The Crook County High School Wrestling team had another solid year.
The Cowboys were dominant at the Greater Oregon League Championships, scoring nearly 300 points more their nearest opponent, and qualified a record 22 wrestlers for the state tournament.
Once at state, the Cowboys led for much of the first day, before faltering in the quarterfinal rounds. Despite having no individual state champions, Crook County held on to finish fourth despite losing several key wrestlers during the course of the season. What made the feat especially impressive was the number of freshmen and sophomores that the Cowboys qualified for the state tournament. Of the 22 wrestlers Crook County took to the state tournament, just six were seniors, while eight freshmen and four sophomores made the trip.
Freshman Colbran Meeker was the highest placing Cowboy, finishing second at 132 pounds.
The Cowboys have started the 2012-2013 season in even stronger fashion. The team finished a close second to defending Class 6A state champion Roseburg in their first tournament of the year and has dominated the remainder of their matches so far.
6. The Crook County High School dance team continued to be impressive in 2012. The Sparkles improved on their second-place finish from 2011, winning the third state championship in school history.
Crook County won three of their four regular season dance competitions, including winning the grand championship in Stayton.
The team then won the state championship with a score of 85.31 points. Astoria was a distant second with just 71.86 points.
Seniors Abigail Nyman, Randi Roberts, and Kara Merrill were all named to the all-state team while head coach Amanda Estes was named the 1A/2A/3A/4A coach of the year.
7. After more than 20 years without sending a cross country team to state, the Cowboys and Cowgirls have been qualifying teams for the state championship ever since dropping to Class 4A three years ago.
The Cowgirls won the Greater Oregon League championship while the Cowboys finished in second place.
Carly Hibbs led a pack of Cowgirls taking fifth place at district. She was followed closely by Katie Lee (6th), Natalie Stenbeck (9th), Irene Morales (11th), Ashton Morgan (12th), and Charsie Brewer (13th).
The Cowboys were led by Grayson Munn (2nd), and Luis Rivera (4th).
Led by Hibbs and Stenbeck, the Cowgirls went on to finish 10th at state. Munn was the highest-finishing Cowboy, taking 15th place as Crook County finished 12th in the boys competition.
With just two members of the girls team graduating and the entire boys team returning, Crook County should be even stronger next year.
8. After qualifying for the state tournament in 2010-2011, the Crook County High School girls basketball team had high hopes for the 2011-2012 season.
Despite playing much of the season against Class 5A opponents, the Cowgirls finished the season with a 14-12 record. The team demolished Baker in their play-in game to qualify for the playoffs.
However, the Cowgirls came up short, falling to the Mazama Vikings in the first round.
The Cowgirls finished the season with a 9-3 record against Class 4A opponents.
Senior point guard Brooke Buswell, who averaged nearly 20 points a game during the last half of the season, was named honorable mention all-state.
With a solid nucleus of players returning, the Cowgirls had hoped to have another banner year in 2012-2013. Unfortunately, the team has gotten off to a slow start so far. Crook County was 3-5 going into the holiday break. However, they have shown improvement, winning three of their last five games.
9. The Crook County High School track and field team continues to be strong.
The team took second in both the boys and girls competition at the Greater Oregon League championships, qualifying 18 individuals for the state championships.
Six Cowboys and one Cowgirl scored points at the state meet.
Tevin Cooper led the Cowboy charge, setting a school record in the javelin with a throw of 175-10, good for fifth place at state. Chance Sutfin also had a solid meet, placing sixth in both the shot put and discus. The Cowboy 4x100 relay team of Alex Greaves, Tyler Hulick, Alonzo Lopez, and Hunter Bourland took fourth at state, giving Crook County a 16th- place finish in the team scoring.
The lone Cowgirl to place was Marci Johnson who finished eighth in the shot put.
Like so many of the other Crook County teams, the 2012 track and field team was young with a solid core of individuals returning this year, so watch for big things to come.
10. Although they failed to reach the state tournament, the Crook County High School football team provided lots of excitement this fall.
The Cowboys showed a dramatic improvement from 2011, finishing with a 5-4 record.
During a three-game winning streak in the middle of the season, the team averaged more than 50 points a game, including a thrilling 60-58 victory over the Madras White Buffaloes.
The Cowboys faced the White Buffaloes again at the end of the season in a play-in game. However, this time, the result was different. Crook County had a slim lead midway through the fourth quarter, but was unable to hold on as Madras went on to win the contest 33-21.
These stories are by no means a complete list of the significant sports stories of 2012. Several other stories also deserve attention.
For the fourth consecutive year, the Crook County School District is not fully funding athletics. The community has rallied behind the athletic teams, supporting fundraising efforts, which has allowed programs to continue.
However, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to fundraise, especially for some of the smaller sports.
Rodeo has always been prominent in Crook County and that was true once again in 2012.
Seven Crook County members of the Tri-County rodeo club qualified for the National High School Rodeo Association Finals.
Jessie Maley-Loper led the way, winning the state championship in goat tying. James Beatty also won a state championship in the shooting events, while McKennan Buckner and Dayton Stafford qualified for nationals in team roping. In addition, Courtney and Carly Hibbs each qualified in goat tying, while Harley Byrum made it to nationals in barrel racing.
Former CCHS steer wrestlers Sean Santucci and Christian Radabaugh are making a name for themselves on the rodeo circuit. Both qualified for the Columbia River Circuit finals and for much of the season, Santucci was in the top 20 in the nation.
Team roper Charly Crawford had another solid year, qualifying once more for the National Finals Rodeo.
The Rimrock Nationals OVC volleyball team also had a banner year. The team composed of high school athletes from throughout Central Oregon qualified for the national AAU Open Championships in Orlando, Fla., where they finished in 37th place with a 7-4 record.
Braiden Johnston, Kirsti Kelso, Kelsie Kemper, and Makayla Lindburg all played on the team.
Johnston and Kemper have both gone on to play college volleyball where they are part of a growing group of former CCHS players who are having a huge impact in college ranks.
Johnston played this year for College of Southern Idaho, which won the Junior College National Championship. Western Oregon University star, Krissi Kemper, was named a NCAA?Division II third team All-American, while Eastern Oregon University teammates Kaitlyn Duncan and Casey Loper were both first team all-league in the NAIA Cascade Conference.
The Crook County High School baseball and softball teams both suffered tough losses in play-in games, just missing out on the state playoffs. However, the Cowgirl catcher Taylor Walker was named Intermountain Hybrid Conference player of the year while Cowboy shortstop J.D. Larimer was the boys player of the year. Larimer was also first team all-state.
Also of note, both Crook County High School baseball coach Terry Larimer, and softball coach Reggie Holcomb resigned at the end of their seasons.
Larimer has been replaced by former CCHS assistant coach Frank Martinez while former Hillsboro High School head coach Gary White has been named to replace Holcomb.
Crook County High School wrestlers Trayton Libolt, Alex Urrea, and Brendan Harkey all qualified for the national age group championships in Fargo, N.D., where Libolt and Urrea placed in the top six, becoming All-Americans.
One other story to watch for is this year’s Crook County High School boys basketball team. The Cowboys have already won five games this season, two more than they won in all of the 2011-2012 year.