Top sports stories of 2016

Improbable postseason run: The William and Mary baseball team finished the regular season 25-28 and lost to host College of Charleston in the first game of the Colonial Athletic Association Baseball Championships before improbably marching to within two games of reaching the NCAA Super Regionals.

To get there, the Tribe won four straight elimination games to win the CAA tourney including a 9-8 win in 12 innings over UNC Wilmington that featured a seven-run rally to knot the score in the ninth inning, plus a 27 1/2-hour rain delay.

W&M then eliminated regional host and reigning national champion Virginia before being topped by East Carolina in the regional title game.

Pitcher Nick Brown, designated hitter Ryder Miconi and outfielder Ryan Hall made the all-regional team and pitcher Joseph Gaouette, outfielder Josh Smith and first baseman Charley Gould were just as central to the effort.

Tribe AD leaves post: In October, William and Mary Athletic Director Terry Driscoll announced his retirement, effective in June.

In 21 years on the job, W&M teams under Driscoll's watch won more than 100 CAA titles and facility upgrades have included the construction of Plumeri Park and the renovation of Zable Stadium.

The All-American at Boston College, fourth player taken in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons and grandfather of five said when he announced his retirement in the fall that the timing was right. "I reached a time in my life where there are things that are important to me," he said, "and at this particular time, the things that are important (to me), and to my family, are not really as compatible as they have been with being an athletic director. The time is a big part of it."

New pool: It wasn't the perfect remedy for solving the overall lack of quality swimming facilities in Williamsburg, but it was the one thing the Williamsburg Indoor Sports Complex lacked: an aquatics facility.

WISC broke ground on a 20,000-square-foot, $3.5 million facility in the summer that will feature an eight-lane, 25-meter by 25-yard pool pool that is expected to host local high school and club meets and practices, with space for bleachers to accommodate 400-500 spectators.

Pool time in Williamsburg will remain coveted, but WISC's new 7-foot-deep pool should at least allow local high schools an occasional home meet with water deep enough to dive into. It will also serve as the home of 757swim club.

Halko in Rio: When the Jamestown student body gathered for an assembly to honor junior Alexa Halko's Paralympic Games medals, it serenaded the budding adaptive sports star with chants of U-S-A when athletic director Kenneth Edwards remarked he expects Halko to bring gold back home from the 2020 Games in Tokyo.

That was one of the most impressive things about Halko's silvers in the T34 classification 800- and 400-meter wheelchair race along with her bronze in the 100: Really, those Rio Games showcased the potential of the 16-year-old who has cerebral palsy.

Upon returning from Brazil with Halko, her local coach Drew Mearns said, "To get three medals and be on the podium three times as somebody who just turned 16 was just really exciting for her. … As she begins to be more mature, more powerful and to work on her start, she is going to dominate this sport over the next Olympic cycle."

State championships: Warhill softball, Jamestown boys and girls swimming and Walsingham Academy girls outdoor track and field each won state team championships in 2016.

Warhill won its first softball state title in school history led by a stellar defense around the horn, the centerpiece of which was ace pitcher Keely Rochard.

Walsingham clinched a share of the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division 2 title to stake claim of its second straight state championship. The winning 4x400 relay team of Cammie Mann, Delaney Riggs, Kiely Curran and Sarah Benson clinched the tie. The 4x100 squad featuring Mann, Riggs, Carolyn Schumacher, and Angel DeModna also won gold, as did Denise Danegleit in the 100 hurdles. Jack Grimson won the boys 800 and joined Mathias Cannon, Petr Ptrovich and Chris Correll to win the 4x400.

The Jamestown girls won their third consecutive swim title while the boys claimed their first since 2008. Colin Wright led the boys individually with two golds that accompanied two more on the 400 free relay with Corey Shideler, Ben vanTasel and Ryan Boll and the 200 free relay with Shideler, Jaq de Leon, and Ben vanTasel. For the girls, Abby Larson and Joelle Vereb each won two individual titles in addition to combining for gold with Hannah Clymer and Margaret Williams in the 400 relay as well as the 200 relay team that swam a record 1:36.09.

Lafayette's 200 girls medley relay (Grace Olsen, Emma Freiling, Jessica Beattie and Tawni Hatcher) also claimed gold, as did Rams senior Jenna Beattie in the 500 free.

Other individual state swimming champs included Bruton's John Morrow (100 free), Caroline deJager (100 breaststroke), Caroline Helwig (100 backstroke), and Morgan Whaley (100 fly).

In the 4A boys indoor track and field and meet, Jordan Willis of Jamestown won the long jump title and Lafayette's Michael Tyler claimed the high jump. In 2A, Bruton's Clara Wincheski won the 3,200-meter title before taking the outdoor title in the spring. The Panthers' David Danek also won the outdoor high jump.

And finally, Jamestown's Anna Walter closed a fantastic career by winning her second 4A girls tennis singles title in a row. Walter, appearing in her third straight final, defeated sophomore Eli Gallier of Liberty Christian in the title bout 6-3, 6-1 on Liberty University's courts and left Jamestown as the school's all-time leader in girls career wins.

Holtzman can be reached by phone at 757-298-5830.

Copyright © 2017, The Virginia Gazette
41°