Top sports stories in 2014

By Wayne E. Rivet
Staff Writer
2014 saw the continued rise of a golden girl; the return of a gold ball after a 25-year hiatus; and the gold standard of athletics — win or lose, be a good sport — exists here in the Region.
Here’s the BN’s Top 10 sports stories in 2014:
#10. Three-peat for runners. When one talks about cross-country, Fryeburg Academy is seemingly always in the conversation as a “team to watch.” The Raiders, were in fact, the team to beat in the Western Maine Conference in 2014 as FA won its third straight boys’ Division II title at St. Joseph’s College. The Raiders rode impressive runs by Patrick Carty, TJ Rose and Jonathan Burk to the title. Carty placed second overall in 17:23 out of a field of 110 competitors. Rose and Burk were fifth and eighth respectively.
#9. Super Kids. Miranda Murphy remembered what it was like being a little kid, trying to keep up with older runners taking part in the annual Harrison 5K race. So, she did something about it. As part of her community service Senior Project at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School, Miranda organized and oversaw the first Super Hero Dash as part of the annual Old Home Days road race competition. Thirty-seven “super heroes” — youngsters wearing their favorite super hero’s attire — breezed along the cone-lined roadway led by 9-year-old Mason Stafford, who ran the half-miler in 4 minutes, 20 seconds. “It was definitely cute, and I was really excited to see the number of people who took an interest in the race,” Miranda said. “A lot of people have told me that they would like to see this race every year. They’ve said, ‘You need to keep it going.’ I’ll try.”
#8. Turning it around. It is very easy to question one’s ability after failing to win a single contest over the course of a 16-game schedule. Confidence can be a fragile thing. With a change in direction and a willingness to try a new approach, as well as sacrifice for the good of the team, Lake Region made a major resurgence in varsity softball play, turning an 0-16 mark into a 9-7 record, which included an upset win over second-ranked Wells in the regular season finale — against the same Warriors which won 13-0 on opening day and made it to the state Class B finals. The Lakers graduated six senior players (Jackie Laurent, Samantha Marrucci, Casey Heath, Destinee Durant, Nicole Marrucci and Amy Angelone), who rose to the challenges put forth by coaches and proved they had the talent to succeed. The team returns a solid nucleus and will look to continue to improve and return to the playoffs in 2015.
#7. Good sports finish first. Good guys and girls can finish first. While posting a winning record is the goal of most high school teams, coaches emphasize to players to always show good sportsmanship, especially when things don’t go one’s way. Three teams, despite poor win-loss records, carried themselves well and approached the game the “right way,” earning both respect and recognition from opposing coaches. Fryeburg Academy boys’ lacrosse and field hockey, and Lake Region boys’ soccer and football each brought home sportsmanship banners in 2014. “There is a great deal more to athletics than wins and losses,” FA varsity field hockey Coach Dede Frost said. “I tell them (our girls) that all the time. We talk about respect and control, attitude and sportsmanship. They know I have high expectations of them and I expect that they will respectfully represent themselves and their team at all times. It’s easy to be a good sport when things are going your way. The real test of character is when the chips are down. I hope they will take these lessons off the field with them. I’m proud of the athletes they have become, and this year, they won’t just have to take my word for it.”
#6. Angelic gesture. Angel Escalante is a highly-competitive athlete at Fryeburg Academy. He is a hard hitter on the football team, and is a mauler on the mat as a Raider wrestler. He also has a huge heart. Just before Christmas, Angel was wrestling in a meet hosted at the Academy where his opponent was a young boy from Monmouth Academy who has, in the careful vernacular of these times, Special Needs. Instead of quickly pinning the boy as an opponent might, Angel wrestled him with the body and spirit of a teacher, letting him score points and even allowing himself to get pinned. “When I first heard of this story at Christmastime, I marveled at how generous Angel was even in a sport defined by strategy, strength, and often, the fierceness that leads to winning,” wrote FA’s Tim Scott.
A few weeks into the New Year, at a match at Dirigo High School, Angel was to wrestle the young man again. Before his turn came, our entire team watched in disbelief while two opponents quickly dispatched the Monmouth boy, pinning him without a thought. Then, when it was Angel’s turn, he took his prior example to the next level, and without the boy knowing what was happening, they went three rounds, the boy scoring 24 points against Angel. He allowed himself to be flipped and pinned, and while at the end of the match Angel won by a few points, the Monmouth wrestler was beaming with the deep, and perhaps, unprecedented joy of having done so well against someone who was so good.
“Thank you, Angel, for reminding us that in the end, kindness trumps winning any day,” Scott added.
#5. Overtime thriller. The Lake Region boys’ basketball team showed the importance of never giving up and playing hard until the final buzzer sounds. In likely one of the more memorable Class B playoff games inn 2014, the Lakers connected on two buzzer beaters — by seniors Mark Williams and Sam Smith — to force a three-overtime session at the Portland Expo against Morse in the quarterfinals. Ultimately, second-ranked Morse pulled out a 63-61 thriller as senior guard Liam McDonough sank a shot from the top of the key with 1.4 seconds left.
“It was a very emotional experience. I told them I was very proud of them and our community was very proud, as well,” Coach Yorkey said. “I told them that it’s going to hurt real bad for a while, but at some point they will be able to appreciate what an amazing high school basketball game they were a part of.”
The Lakers hope that experience will benefit them the next time around in 2015.
#4. King of the mat. Trevor Henschel joined a long line of Fryeburg Academy wrestlers by capturing a state title in 2014 in the 182-pound class. “You have to have a lot of determination and perseverance.  I don’t like to lose. And even if I’m losing, I keep going. Multiple times, I’ve been predicted not to win or been down and it’s just been pure determination to win. I’ve been wrestling a long time and it’s about quickness and strength and what’s in your head,” Trevor said in a Raider Profile interview. “Peoples’ concept of wrestling is that it’s pure strength, but it is very much a mind and technical sport.” He went 43-4, and as a senior, he went over 100-win mark at the start of this season. Could a repeat be in the works? Stay tuned.
#3. Ruling the paint. Few girls dominated the basketball court in 2014 the way Tiana-Jo Carter did. The Laker center set a school record in early February when she eclipsed the 1,000 point mark — just the second time in LRHS history for that to happen, the other being Dana Wheeler) to go along with 1,000-plus rebounds. The 1,000th point came early in the game against Poland, resulting in stoppage of play as fans donning “This is Carter Country” t-shirts saluted the soft-spoken, but highly competitive “T.”
“Seeing the number of people who came here tonight and their response was really cool, unbelievable,” Carter said. “It is so awesome to be part of such a great community, where people are so supportive. I am so grateful, to my teammates who helped make this all happen and to the community for always being there to cheer us on…I really don’t like the focus on me, I’d rather it be on the team. It’s never about one person. We succeed because we are a team.”
Tiana went on to score 20 points that night, but would enjoy even greater moments as her senior season unfolded. She garnered the Class B West MVP, was a Miss Maine finalist, and scored 21 points in the state championship game. Tiana is now a Great Dane, and has played significant minutes for Division I University of Albany (N.Y.).
#1B. In a class of her own. When it comes to keeping track records, either state or school, one should use a pencil, not a pen until Kate Hall graduates in June 2015. While some athletes break a record and never quite get back to that mark, Kate remains a rising talent. She continually rewrote the record books in the long jump and sprints, while adding to her long list of state titles (three in indoor), as well as strong showings at the New England (a second) and national events. Kate finished third in the 100 meters at the New Balance Nationals in Greensboro, N.C.; she placed eighth in the finals of the 200 meters with a time of 24.01. In the trials, she ran 23.98, which smashed her Maine all-time best set last week and made her the first high school girl from New England to break the 24-second barrier. She qualified for the long jump finals with 19-feet 0.5-inches on her third jump for eighth place. On her second jump of the finals, Kate went 19-feet 4.25-inches to move into sixth, where she stayed. That mark gave her All-American status. That jump was just shy of her state all-time best of 19-feet 6.75-inches.
Kate recently announced she will attend Iowa State University on a full athletic scholarship. With her college choice out of the way, Kate is focused on competition. She is presently ranked #1 in the country in the long jump after a competition this past weekend in Rhode Island (see story). Indeed, Kate Hall is a special talent whose star is still rising.
#1A. Finally, they struck gold. For the Lake Region girls’ basketball program, the hunt for their Holy Grail — a Gold Ball — took 25 years to realize. Oh, they were ever so close several times since Paul True arrived in Naples after a successful stint in Skowhegan, but cruel twists of fate kept the Lakers from finally grasping the Gold Ball and holding high for all to see. Frustration and disappointment ended in 2014 as Lake Region shed its always-the-bridesmaid role and became the queen of the party in Bangor by knocking off East champ Mt. Desert Island 56-47. Tiana-Jo Carter helped Lake Region snap a 0-for-6 state championship, losing streak with a 21-point, 15-rebound and 6-blocked-shot effort. She even overcame a late ankle injury and returned to the court, hobbled but determined to be sure this time the blue and gold would not fall short of winning it all. Finally, all of the pieces fell together and the Lakers were champions.
“A number of thoughts went through my head in a short period of time. I heard Coach Webb behind me emotionally say, ‘We did it. We finally did it!’ I thought of my dad and how proud and happy he would be. I thought of my mom, who I couldn’t be more pleased that she was able to be at the game. And, my wife, who I knew would be an emotional basket case, who does so many things being the scenes. Family, community and all the kids who have put on the uniform that didn’t get to celebrate that moment. I thought about all of those kids,” he said.

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