Outsider’s perspective (by Kevin Trudgeon): The season that was

Posted: March 15, 2013

The month of March always seems to go by in a blur for us in the sports department.

Professionally the month is one big sporting event after another, from the World Baseball Classic, to the start of NFL free agency and the MLB season, to a little college basketball tournament that has the tendency to make everyone go mad.

But what really makes March feel like one never-ending sprint from start to finish is the changing of the sports season.

The old saying about something being a blessing and a curse always comes to mind this time of year as we watch our local high school basketball teams extend their seasons in the playoffs while the start of the spring season quickly approaches.

The transition from fall to winter sports hasn’t been too bad in recent years and once spring sports end we’ve got the whole summer to gear up for the fall.

But the fact that we’ve had at least one basketball team win a state championship six of the last eight years has meant that our coverage of the winter sports season runs right up against the start of the spring sports season.

It leaves little time for compiling spring sports previews and hammering out winter sports athletes of the year, and even less time to reflect on the season that just ended.

And that’s a shame considering what unfolded.

Starting in late November and running through last Friday, the winter season saw two teams win state titles (both the SVCA girls’ and MVCA boys’ basketball teams finished atop the VACA) and three wrestlers bring home state championships (Handley’s Jordan Dowrey and Clarke County’s Ben Wallace and Ryan Huff).

Clarke County’s Emily Deem set records in both the 50- and 100-yard freestyle races at the Region B Swim Meet, Sherando’s Kelsey Dingman (seventh in the 50 free) and Millbrook’s Mark Graham (eighth in the 50 free) advanced to the championship round of the Group AA/A State Swim Meet in their respective events and Sherando’s Chris Smith won the high jump with a leap of 6 feet, 6 inches at the Group AA State Indoor Track & Field Championships.

In basketball the Handley boys won the Region II, Division 3 title, Judges junior Cameron Jackson and Millbrook senior Rze Culbreath (Region II, Division 4) took home Region Player of the Year honors and the Clarke County girls reached the state semifinals in Richmond.

There were buzzer beaters (Sherando’s Tanner Ruths broke the Pioneers’ hearts during the regular season while Handley’s Tre Brown did the same to Western Albemarle in the playoffs), undefeated runs (Dowrey finished a perfect 52-0 on the mat) and at least one maniac fan who came complete with his own box, face paint and ear-splitting scream.

There were freshmen phenoms (Sherando’s Lauren Reed dropped 38 points in her first-ever varsity game), transfer surprises (Millbrook’s Brenna Cook, SVCA’s Amanda Barlow, MVCA’s Brandon Pressley and James Kirksey and Clarke County’s Cody Taylor) and coaching departures (Millbrook’s Scott Mankins).

The Millbook girls’ basketball team’s historic run finally came to an end at 84 wins in a row, Winchester native Erick Green cemented his place in area lore by finishing as the nation’s leading scorer and ACC Player of the Year and James Wood sophomore Kaitlyn Crane took the floor just days after her brother’s death and had one of the most inspirational 15-point games you’ll ever see.

All told it was a winter season to remember for area athletics and one that many of the players, coaches and fans won’t soon forget.

Here’s hoping the spring season can measure up.

— Kevin Trudgeon is the sports editor at The Winchester Star