You can tell Bill Port is settling in quite well as News 18′s weekend sports anchor…his mental telepathy is completely tuned in. Here’s what I mean: while I was toiling away on some landscaping projects during some of my days off (exciting stuff…no question) I thought it would be great to get all of us in the department (myself, Bill, Stephen Kelley, Lee DeJarlais) to blog about some of our favorite memories from the 2007-08 school year. While I was thinking about it, Bill was actually blogging–so congrats to him!
Here are some of my favorite memories (I’ll limit this to WIAA and NCAA Division III Sports, and to games, athletes, and coaches I actually saw in person):
Eleva-Strum vs. Suring, Boys Basketball, WIAA Division 4 State Championship
I had the pleasure of being courtside for this one as the play-by-play announcer on the state-wide network…and there were several times I thought I’d lose my voice. The intensity of any state tournament game is always high, but this game was off the charts. Seeing Cardinals’ senior foward Nick Zander hurdle a courtside photographer and crash into the Eleva-Strum band’s bass drum is an image I’ll never forget. The Cards came out on top, but they got pushed to the limit by a very talented Eagles team.
Eau Claire Memorial vs. Superior, Boys Hockey, WIAA State Semifinal
Unlike the basketball tournaments, I haven’t been to every state hockey tournament since I arrived in Eau Claire in 1996–but this is by far the best state game I’ve witnessed. Most fans thought these were the two best high school teams in Wisconsin, and the Old Abes and Spartans did not disappoint anyone with the effort they put out in their semifinal matchup. Memorial managed to come out on top, much like the Abes did during the regular season, but the Spartans took ECM to the wire both times. The Abes’ advantage in those games: better depth, better defensive play, and better goaltending.
UW-Eau Claire vs. St. Norbert, College Football, NCAA Division III First Round Playoff
Dr. John Minahan Stadium in De Pere is a decrepit facility by high school standards–let alone the college level–but on a cold, gray, misty November 17, it was a near-perfect setting for an game that displayed Division III football at its best. The game was physical (UWEC quarterback Mitch Schaeuble finished the game despite sustaining a consussion), dramatic (Schaueble tossed the game-winning TD pass to Chris Hull with 0:46 on the clock), and meaningful (the Blugolds justified their at-large selection to the D-III bracket).
STUDENT/ATHLETES OF THE YEAR:
Lance Rongstad, Eleva-Strum, & Jefferson Dahl, Eau Claire Memorial
I tried to justify picking one over the other but that’s an impossible task. Rongstad won three state titles, but Dahl put up better stats. Both guys were absolutely essential to their state championship teams…beyond their impressive stat lines, Rongstad and Dahl were true leaders. Both were excellent high school students, both were year-round athletes who excelled in multiple sports, and both handled their time in the spotlight with total class.
COACHES OF THE YEAR:
Rich Roginski, Eleva-Strum Boys Basketball, & Mike Schwengler, Eau Claire Memorial Boys Hockey
Both coaches had to deal with incredibly high expectations but never let their teams feel the weight of that pressure. Watching the Cardinals cruise through the basketball season while the Old Abes were going unbeaten on the ice, reminded me of an old Barry Alvarez cliche: competing against the game. In other words, you don’t focus on your opponent, you simply try to get better in every single aspect. Beyond guiding their teams to unblemished records and state championships, Roginski and Schwengler imparted a lot of life lessons to their guys: the Cards and Abes won with class and handled themselves with humility.
(Honorable mention: Ted Alberson, Flambeau girls basketball)
MOMENT OF THE YEAR:
Jill Janke’s HR Wins NCAA Title
While I’m at it, I’ll nominate this for "Moment of the Decade." How can you top a game-winning home run in your final collegiate at-bat, that gives your team its first-ever NCAA Division III softball title? There may be a "no-cheering rule" in every working pressbox–but we admit to doing a lot of cheering in our work area at News 18 watching the web broadcast when Janke’s solo blast cleared the fence.
I’ll ask Stephen and Lee to post their favorite memories–but in the meantime, let’s hear from the fans. What will you remember most from the past year in local high school and college sports?
Posted under Hometown Sports
This post was written by bbradovich on June 30, 2008