By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — If someone made a highlight reel of 2013’s top area sports moments, the accompanying soundtrack likely would feature Helen Reddy’s 1972 hit I am Woman.
That’s not to say area boys didn’t have their moments.
But from Oneonta High’s girls soccer team winning its first state title, to the OHS girls basketball team nearly earning its third state championship, to Ray Preston becoming the state’s all-time winningest girls basketball coach, to Franklin senior Jordan Beers scoring her 2,000th varsity point, to Cooperstown’s Lucy Ford winning a state high jump title, area girls had a memorable 2013.
Perhaps it’s fitting, with all of it coming as Title IX celebrated its 40th anniversary. The law that passed in 1973 mandated that schools provide equal opportunities for female athletes.
Local girls teams and individuals seized their chances over the past 12 months.
Also turning 40 this past fall was the OHS girls soccer program.
It capped a 20-2-1 season in dramatic fashion, beating Marcellus, 2-1, in the state final on a goal by Madison Miller with about a minute left at Cortland State. The Daily Star selected the Yellowjackets’ title run as its top story.
The following is a rundown of the top 10 local sports stories as selected by The Daily Star’s sports department:
1, OHS girls soccer
The loudest roar of 2013 came from a Yellowjackets squad that was equal parts veterans and newcomers.
The loss of six starters to graduation, including a pair of all-state picks, along with injuries that sidelined or slowed starters Miller, Brieanna Baker and Taylor Hitchcock at various points of the season, didn’t deter OHS.
Nor did 1-0 halftime deficits to Hornell and Marcellus in the state semifinals and final, respectively.
On a wet and windy Nov. 17 evening at Cortland State, OHS received second-half goals from Mariah Ruff and Miller to earn that elusive first state title in girls soccer. The Yellowjackets reached the state final four times previously but lost each time, including a 1-0 double-overtime setback to Marcellus in 2003.
In 2012, OHS played in the state final and held a 1-0 lead with less than nine minutes left in regulation before falling, 3-1, in overtime to Greece Odyssey.
“It was just an amazing accomplishment to get here and win,” said junior Taryn More, who led OHS with 19 goals and 28 assists. “We finally fulfilled our quest for the season. It wasn’t just to get here and play in the final game at states, it was to get here and win the final game at states. We were able to do that this year and it’s amazing.”
The Yellowjackets also won Southern Tier Athletic Conference and Section Four Class B titles for the third straight season.
Ruff and More shared Class B state Player of the Year honors. Jerry Mackey earned Class B state Coach of the Year honors, and Miller (Second Team), Hitchcock (Third Team) and Meg Burns (Fifth Team) were named to the all-state team.
2, OHS girls basketball
Given the resume that Section One’s Irvington brought into a Class B state semifinal March 15 at Hudson Valley Community College, Oneonta’s girls didn’t appear to have much of a chance.
Irvington had two Division I recruits and won the last three Class B state titles.
When the Yellowjackets fell behind by 13 at halftime and then by 14 early in the third quarter, it seemed a highly successful season would end in a rout.
Looks were deceiving.
Ruff scored 21 of her game-high 26 points in the second half and Hayley Dower scored all eight of her points in the third quarter as OHS climbed back into it.
When Kelsey Baker hit a rainbow three-pointer from the top of the key with a minute left, the teams were tied at 50.
With seconds remaining, Ruff grabbed a defensive rebound and raced down the floor. She couldn’t get a layup to drop and teammate Natalie Vanderlaan-Meyering narrowly missed a putback at the buzzer as OHS fell, 55-53.
Irvington went on to win its fourth straight state title the next day by 38 points.
Oneonta’s 20-2 season included a 57-52 win over Utica Notre Dame in a state quarterfinal, a 57-56 overtime defeat of Horseheads in the STAC final, and a 41-33 win over Seton Catholic Central for their record sixth straight sectional title.
The Yellowjackets also beat Class A state champion Troy twice by double-digits, as well as beating Maine-Endwell — the team Troy beat in the state final — by 16 points.
Ruff earned First Team all-state honors in Class B and later announced she would attend Division I St. Bonaventure on a full scholarship.
Seniors Vanderlaan-Meyering and Baker earned Sixth- and Eighth-Team all-state honors, respectively.
Coach Matt Miller and Ruff have OHS off to a 6-0 start this season.
3, Ray Preston
Sectional victories are nothing new for Preston, but a Feb. 19 first-round sectional game against visiting Stamford brought with it extra meaning.
Preston, in his 34th season heading Davenport, won his 620th game to become the state’s all-time leader in girls basketball victories. Davenport’s 50-39 victory over the Indians gave Preston a 620-164 record. He passed retired Red Hook coach John Kuhn as the state’s winningest coach.
“We knew how big of a deal it was,” Davenport guard Sarah Haight said after scoring 14 points. “We’re really excited because we all wanted this for him.”
Preston has guided Davenport to 26 Delaware League division titles, 11 league championships, eight Section Four Class D titles, four appearances in the state semifinals and two state-championship berths. He’s also a member of the New York Basketball Hall of Fame and the Section Four Hall of Fame.
“Everybody knows if you have a team that’s full of talent what the expectation is,” Preston said, “but when kids have to work and kids have to improve, they see the reward of their hard work. That’s what coaching is all about.”
4, Unatego-Tioga football
Two numbers summed up the Section Four Class D title game Nov. 9 at Binghamton Alumni Stadium — 80-53.
Tioga scored 59 first-half points en route to winning its third straight sectional title.
But it was Unatego sophomore quarterback Josh Feyerabend who had the biggest individual day. Feyerabend threw for a state-record 581 yards and seven touchdown passes — one off the state record and the most by a Section Four quarterback. Feyerabend, who also rushed for a touchdown and kicked three extra points, finished 29-for-40 with two interceptions.
In the second half, with Tioga’s starters resting, Feyerabend went 12-for-15 for 353 yards with five passing touchdowns and one rushing TD.
Feyerabend surpassed former Duke point guard and ex-Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus’ state record for passing yards in a single game. Paulus threw for 543 yards for Syracuse-CBA in 2003.
“Not a chance,” Feyerabend said of having such a big game against a Tioga squad that surrendered 56 points heading into the sectional final. “We have guys who can go up and get it, and we have linemen who can block. I’m glad for it.”
Feyerabend finished the season with 2,253 yards and 28 touchdown passes for Unatego, which went 8-2.
Tioga lost to eventual state champion Randolph in the state semifinals.
5, Dave Kelly
Do you remember what you were doing in 1966? Were you alive in 1966?
That’s the year Kelly started coaching varsity football at Delhi. He traversed the Bulldogs’ sidelines every season since before retiring Nov. 20.
Along the way, he won 272 games, second all-time in Section Four to longtime rival Jim Hoover of Walton. Kelly and Hoover matched wits over the past 38 seasons. Hoover has won 298 games.
“I can’t imagine talking about Delhi football without talking about Dave Kelly,” Hoover said. “From my first year here, it’s coach Kelly in Delhi — that’s the team you’ve got to beat. If you only win one game per year, that’s the game you’ve got to win.
“We’ve had so many battles,” Hoover continued. “He’s always so well prepared. You never take anything for granted when you play Delhi.”
Kelly guided the Bulldogs to a Class C state title in 2001, a 12-1 season that culminated with a 39-21 victory over Cambridge.
With Kelly at the controls over 48 seasons, Delhi earned five bowl berths from 1980-92 and won four sectional championships during the state championship era (1993-present).
6, Oneonta Outlaws
New owner, new manager and plenty of local flavor highlighted the Oneonta Outlaws’ second New York Collegiate Baseball League title in three seasons.
Local business owner Gary Laing bought the club last December. He hired Oneonta High baseball coach Joe Hughes as manager.
The Outlaws’ roster included former OHS standouts Chris Pindar, Sean Getman and Mike Calkins.
“I think (the local flavor makes it more special),” Hughes said July 29, when the Outlaws beat the Hornell Dodgers, 6-1, to sweep the best-of-three championship series, 2-1. “Anytime you win a championship, it’s special, but when you have a local owner, local coaches and local players, it had an Oneonta flavor and that made it more special.
“The Oneonta community was awesome, the attendance was awesome and the fan-base was awesome,” Hughes continued. “Even tonight, we had a lot of fans here. When they were introducing the starting lineups, there were more cheers for our guys than the Hornell side.”
Hughes was named the NYCBL’s Coach of the Year. Outlaws Luke Crumley and Corey Kafka were named the league’s pitcher and reliever of the year, respectively.
Pindar hit .294 for the Outlaws. He also hit a school-record seven home runs in leading Oneonta High to the Section Four Class B final for the third straight year this past spring.
7, Sean Bernstein
The next time someone talks about an athlete’s speed, you might want to reply, “Yeah, but does he have Sean Bernstein-type speed?”
Bernstein earned three NCAA Division III outdoor track titles at Oneonta State, including two this past spring.
He won 200-meter national titles as a junior and a senior. Also as a senior, he helped the Red Dragons’ 400 relay team to a national championship.
On May 27 at Wisconsin-La Crosse, Bernstein won the 200 in 20.81 seconds. He joined freshmen Jake Alviene, Joe Carr and Thomas Wheeler on a 400 relay team that won in a school record 40.82. He also finished second in the 100 in 10.77 — .007 behind winner Thurgood Dennis of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect ending to my collegiate career,” Bernstein said. “So happy to have such amazing teammates and family here to support me.”
Then in July at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, Bernstein won gold medals in the 100 and 200. The Maccabiah Games are an Olympics-style event held every four years in Israel.
Bernstein won the 100 in 10.53 on July 24. The next day, he won the 200 in 21.31.
8, Pit Run
There’s always some mystery surrounding the Pit Run.
With the annual road race in Oneonta awarding cash prizes for its featured 10-kilometer race, there’s a high possibility of elite professional runners showing up.
But you never know until race day.
Well, because of the government shutdown in the fall, the Pit Run had four Ethiopian-born standouts cruising through the streets of Oneonta on Oct. 6.
Race winner Haile Mengasha broke a decade-old course record by 20 seconds. He finished the 6.2-mile race in 29 minutes, 53 seconds to smash Paul Mwangi’s 2003 record.
His training partner, Ayele Feisha, placed second — five seconds behind Mengasha.
Girma Gebre placed third in 31:20.
The women’s champion, Meseret Basa, won in 36:36.
Mengasha, Feisha and Basa were scheduled to run a half-marathon in Virginia on Oct. 6. That race, however, was postponed because of the government shutdown, so those three wound up dominating the Pit Run.
9, Jordan Beers
She wears No. 23 and answers to Jordan.
Fittingly, she has a knack for winning and scoring points in bunches.
Last season, Beers averaged an area-best 26.7 points in leading the Purple Devils to a 20-1 season and the program’s first sectional title, a 51-37 victory over Morris in which Beers scored 33 points.
This season, she became 11th girls basketball player in Section Four history to eclipse 2,000 points. That happened Dec. 19 during Franklin’s 56-44 victory over visiting Milford.
Beers needed 12 points and reached the milestone early in the second quarter.
She didn’t stay in 11th-place for long. By game’s end she had 39 points and finished the night with 2,027 points, passing 2011 Tioga graduate Kara McDuffee, who finished with 2,017 points.
“She’s been the face of Franklin basketball for the last (six) years,” Franklin coach Mike Dutcher said of Beers. “As good a basketball player as she is, she’s 10 times better as a person. She’s just a great teammate. She makes people around her better.”
Next on the list is 2007 Harpursville graduate Lindsay Kimmel at 2,082 points.
In her sixth varsity season, Beers will quickly climb to No. 2 on Section Four’s scoring list, barring injury. Megan Shay, a 2005 Candor graduate, is second in Section Four with 2,205 points.
No. 1 in Section Four is Hannah Kimmel, a 2011 Harpursville grad. She scored 2,692 points.
Beers will play basketball for Ithaca College next season.
10, Kevin Thayer/Lucy Ford
Unatego’s Thayer won a Division II state wrestling title at 152 pounds in February and Cooperstown’s Ford won a Division II state high jump title in June.
Thayer came from the seventh seed in the state tournament to earn his title. He gained a spot at the state tournament on a wild card after falling, 9-7, in the Section Four Division II final to Chenango Valley’s Kyle Halladay.
Thayer capped a 4-0 run state-tournament run with a 6-5 decision over Phoenix senior Rowdy Prior, the top seed.
Thayer fell behind, 5-4, in the third period when Prior secured a cradle that led to three back points. But late in the period, Thayer broke free and scored a two-point reversal before riding out Prior for the final 20 seconds.
“I may be a little biased, but I thought that was the most exciting match of the night by far,” Unatego coach Mike Hamilton said. “He just showed a lot of heart. He worked hard and he’s in great shape. He wasn’t tired after the match. He could have wrestled another six minutes. That kid loves wrestling.”
It capped a 39-3 season for the senior.
Thayer joined Andrew Sherman (171-pound D-II title in 2005), John Leech (130 D-II title in 2004) and Nick Muzashvili (overall 177 title in 1995) as Unatego wrestlers to win state titles.
Ford’s state championship seemed nearly as unlikely as Thayer’s.
She injured her left ankle while clearing a school-record height of 5-foot-4 1/4 in winning the high jump in Cooperstown’s Don Howard Invitational on May 4. Ford spent the next two weeks in a walking boot.
Ford cleared 5-2 at the Section Three State Qualifier to get into the state meet at Middletown.
The junior was successful on her first two heights at the state meet, but missed on her first two attempts at 5-2. Ford cleared the height on her final attempt and then got over the bar on her second attempt at 5-4.
That left two D-II competitors — Ford and Middleburgh’s Amanda Roney.
Ford then cleared a school record 5-5 on her first try. Roney failed to make the height as Ford became the first Cooperstown girl to win a state title in track.
“It’s still sinking in,” Ford said a day after the competition. “It’s really exciting and I’ve gotten a lot of congratulations.”
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.