Top sports stories in 2012

SPORTS COMPLEX A REALITY — BRAG finally celebrated the completion of a new sports complex in Bridgton. Youth sports play will begin in 2013. At a community celebration were project supervisor Jim Quinn (left) and umpire for the day, Lenny Fox.

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

2012 was full of sports hits and near misses.

Titles were won by talented individuals, while some teams came up just short of capturing the ultimate prizes.

Local athletes, past and present, were recognized for their dominance in their respective sports, earning the highest honors bestowed.

And, one young lady’s passion and commitment to track enabled her to overcome medical issues to claim six state titles.

The Top 10 stories in the Lake Region in 2012 were:

#10. B, not C. After a 0-8 season in 2011, Lake Region AD Paul True proposed the idea of dropping the football program to Class C, a move also contemplated by neighboring Gray-New Gloucester. The idea was to allow the programs to rebuild by dropping down a class, and thus facing teams that sported similar roster numbers. One drawback was that the teams would not be eligible for the playoffs. Once the program regained numbers and improved on the field, the team could return to Class B.

Although the overall record over the past five years would point to a need to make such a move, LR players disagreed. They felt a switch would be admission of failure. Players promised to renew their commitment to the game and recruit classmates to bolster depth. After tallying a player/community survey, True dropped the idea.

Although the Lakers played with a lot of heart, numbers were again a problem. Due to injuries and ineligibility, the Lakers had one football game “called” when the score was out of hand and player safety was a concern. There seemed a possibility that the team would not be able to finish the regular season schedule, which would put the program in jeopardy of suspension the next fall. To the credit of players and coaches, the Lakers completed the full schedule. Players showed great heart, and turned in several competitive efforts. That effort paid off when the Lakers avoided another winless fall by defeating Gray-NG — yes, the same team they were paired with to drop to Class C (both teams needed to pursue the shift to be approved).

With the graduation of several key players, the Lakers will again face a challenge in 2013 to turn around their fortunes. Change could again be on the horizon as state officials consider realignment, so the football landscape could undergo a serious revamping — this time, the Lakers will be told what “class” they will compete in.

#9. Let’s play ball. The “vision” finally became a reality in late September when Bridgton Recreation Advancement Group (BRAG) and community members heard the magical words, “Play ball!” at the new Kendal and Anna Ham Sports Complex, off Route 302. After giving the grass a year to mature, play is expected to take place in 2013.

BRAG members remained determined to take a plan off the drawing board and make it a reality. Hats off to this committed group and all those who contributed financially or volunteered their services to create a first-rate sports complex that will be enjoyed by many generations.

MATT HANCOCK was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

#8. Hancock in the Hall. Matt Hancock joined a select group of outstanding athletes in February to be named to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. A member of the Lake Region Hall of Fame, Hancock was a member of the last state champion basketball team, helping the Lakers to a victory over Dexter in 1985. A two-time All-American, Hancock went on to a record-setting career at Colby College, leading the nation in scoring one season and setting 15 career records in Waterville, including:

Points in a season: 853

Points in a career: 2,678

Points in a game: 49 vs. USM in 1990

Points average in a season: 31.6 in 1987

Points average in a career: 26.2

Free Throw %: 91.5

Hancock maintains a hand in the local basketball scene, coaching an AAU team, which hosted a historic game at the Casco Gym this summer, playing against a touring team from Japan.

#7. No tripping up Carla. When Carla Tripp first cracked the Fryeburg Academy varsity softball line-up, her speed and bat control made her a major threat in the lead-off spot. She had 21 hits her rookie season, 19 of which were bunt singles. Even though teams know she will likely bunt, Tripp still manages to beat out well placed hits. A key player in the 2011 drive for the

CARLA TRIPP, a junior catcher at Fryeburg Academy, was named the Western Maine Conference Player of the Year in 2012.

school’s third state championship since 2008, Tripp emerged as the complete player in 2012, adding power to her hitting repertoire. No longer could teams play their defense in tight as Tripp ripped several triples and hit over .800 early in the season. She finished as the team’s top hitter, and despite a bad shoulder, she again was the top catcher in Class B West. Tripp was named the conference’s “Player of the Year,” leading Fryeburg Academy to its fifth straight WMC title.

#6. Adjusting on the fly. Coming off a strong ending in 2011, the Lake Region varsity field hockey team expected to be a strong contender this fall. However, the unexpected departure of long-time coach Dagny Leland could easily have resulted in a tailspin, but it didn’t. Veteran JV coach Lisa Shane took over the helm, and guided the Lakers to a 13-game win streak and the top-seed in Class B West. Shane’s coaching style proved to mix well with a group of veteran players, led by Kate Cutting and Kayleigh Lepage, and talented younger players, such as Lucy Fowler and Meghan VanLoan, as the Lakers posted a 14-win campaign. The magical ride, however, ended with a semifinal loss to York — a team the Lakers had beaten twice in the regular season, both were tight games, something few LR teams in recent memory could boast.

#5. Ultimate title. When it came to throwing a Frisbee™, no team did it better than Fryeburg Academy, which won the Ultimate Frisbee title in May.

#4. Champions. Again, many local athletes saw hard work, commitment and dedication pay off in the form of state championships. Reaching the pinnacle as the state’s best were: Fryeburg Academy’s Connor Sheehan, wrestling, 113-pound class; Zach Sheehan, wrestling, 120; CJ Bartlett, wrestling, 160; Corinn Bedell, indoor and outdoor track, 400 meters.

#3. Back in the big game. For a time, Lake Region was a familiar face in the state title game, making three straight appearances. After a layoff, the Lakers returned to the Gold Ball game in 2012. The Lakers reached the finals in impressive fashion with a dominating 49-30 victory over Greely — a team that had beaten them on a last second shot late in the regular season — and a

BACK IN THE FINALS — After a hiatus, Lake Region was back in the state Class B girls’ basketball championship game after defeating Leavitt in overtime. Celebrating the West final victory were Abby Craffey (left) and Rachel Wandishin.

KATE HALL of Casco captured six state track titles in her freshman year.

thrilling 59-54 overtime victory against previous West champ, Leavitt. Again, the long bus ride home from the Bangor Auditorium was somber as the Lakers fell short in their quest for the Gold Ball, losing a heartbreaker to Presque Isle. The game was a gem as the Lakers and Wildcats produced a major thriller. The Lakers rallied to take a lead with four minutes to go, but the Cats answered with some clutch hoops from players who had been relatively quiet offensively but took and made the big shots with the game on the line. The Lakers saw a last second 3-pointer nearly go down for the game winner, but the Cats escaped with the Gold Ball. The Lakers are back in the hunt this season, starting 6-0 despite a rash of injuries. The emergence of some rookies, along with dominating play from all-conference center Tiana-Jo Carter and senior forward Kelsey Winslow, has the Lakers primed to make a bid for another shot at the Gold Ball in 2013.

#2. Familiar faces in the finals. “It never gets old,” is what Fryeburg Academy varsity softball coach Fred Apt told a reporter after the Raiders crushed Greely in the West finals — making it five straight conference titles. The Raiders pulled off an incredible comeback against upset-minded Gray-New Gloucester in the semis, scoring two runs in the final at bat to survive. But, the Raiders would fall short in their quest to win back-to-back titles, as they did in 2008-09, when they were mesmerized by pitcher Kendra Hayward, who struck out 15 FA hitters (a tough pill to swallow for a team that hit over .350 as a team during the regular season) to lead Old Town to a 4-1 victory in the Class B Finals in Brewer. With the return of several key players, including catcher Carla Tripp, pitcher Sarah Harriman and outfielder Maddie Pearson, the Raiders figure to again be a favorite to be in the championship conversation.

#1. Track dominance. The word “phenom” is often bestowed athletes way too soon. In Kate Hall’s case, she lived up to her early billing as a track athlete to watch as she made the jump to the high school level. The Laker freshman, who is diabetic and suffers from celiac disease, made a big statement by winning six state titles — three in the indoor (55 meters inn 7.27, 200 meters in 26.33 and long jump at 17-feet, 11.5 inches) and three in the spring — in her first high school track season. Now, the question is can she repeat the feats? It is very difficult, as Fryeburg Academy star runner Silas Eastman discovered. Eastman lost a thriller at the finish line at the state cross-country championship this past fall. Winner of Fryeburg Academy’s prestigious Headmaster’s Award, Eastman finished his cross-country career with two state titles and three conference crowns. Hall, who has a passion for competition, has the talent to shine as brightly, as long as she avoids the injury bug.