What were the 10 biggest sports moments of the 2013-14 high school sports season in Madison County?
There were a number of memorable events and unforgettable moments that took place this past school year, but a select few stood out above the rest. The Madison Press sports staff sifted through a mountain of newspaper clippings and email feedback to rate the top moments. This is the second of a two-part series, counting down spots 10 to one.
10. Football coaching changes
9. Lady Roughriders hits six home runs in one inning
8. Golden Eagles make first district golf tournament
7. West Jeff’s Caleb Ferguson is drafted by Los Angeles Dodgers
6. MPHS’ Jeff Spradlin dies unexpectedly
5. Sarra Taylor ends cross country career as All-Ohio
She will go down as the best female distance runner in school history and London’s Sarra Taylor bounced back in a big way at her last cross country meet.
The Miami University-bound standout who won the Division II state title as a sophomore, was a disappointing 44th at the meet as a junior, but ran a tactical race and placed a satisfying fifth in 18:42.6 at the race run at National Trail Raceway in Hebron.
London coach Andy Crawford knows he has had the pleasure of coaching a truly special individual in Taylor.
“There have been some male cross country runners, and some track and field athletes of both genders that can still make a legitimate claim at being the most successful runner in school history, but in terms of women cross country, Sarra stands apart,” the coach said. “I’ve considered it the greatest privilege to be able to call myself her coach. As great a runner as she is, I think she’s been a better ambassador for the sport. She’s always been the first one to wish an opponent luck at the starting line, the first one to congratulate her at the finish. Other coaches praise her personality and her class first and her athletic ability second. This program will never be the same once she’s gone.”
4. West Jeff football returns to state Final Four
Playoff football has become an expected thing every fall at West Jefferson High School, so when the Roughriders failed to make the postseason following the 2013 season there was some serious disappointment.
Coach Shawn Buescher made it a point of getting his team back to the place where he felt his team should be, and the squad did just that in 2014. Not only did the Roughriders post a 12-2 record and return to the playoffs, they advanced all the way to the Division V state final four before ultimately falling 35-10 to Coldwater.
The West Jeff ride through the playoffs was fueled by a coach who was determined to get his program back to playing the way he thought they should be playing, and a group of dedicated seniors who wanted to help atone for the playoff miss in 2013.
“We have a lot of tough young men,” Buescher said of his squad. “They fought through a lot of adversity and never gave up.”
3. Alder baseball advances to another state tournament
Making it the state tournament isn’t an easy thing. But the Jonathan Alder baseball team has made it seem that way with the success they’ve had over the past decade.
The Pioneers (28-5) advanced to the D-II state tournament for the fourth time in five seasons this spring, but just like on two other occasions in that span the squad won its semifinal game but dropped a heartbreaker in the state championship game.
Alder was upended by Bloom-Carroll 9-0 in the D-II final, breaking the hearts of many Pioneers fans. But despite the way the season ended, getting back to the state tournament and proving yourself as one of the very best baseball programs in the state is something the team should be proud of.
“There’s a lot more pressure than people understand when you’re playing in a state championship game,” Alder coach Craig Kyle said following the loss. “The pressure is magnified times a million. Things have got to go your way at the beginning of the game and things did not go our way and we just got behind. They came in with a knockout punch early in the game, knocked us down and we couldn’t get back up off the mat.”
Despite losing a handful of talented seniors who played major roles this season. The Pioneers are poised to return a whole group of key players next season and likely will be poised to make another push deep into the postseason.
2. Pioneers stun defending champs, advance to softball final
Many figured the Jonathan Alder softball team’s run to the first state final four in program history was the icing on the cake of a fantastic season.
Not many outside of the village of Plain City thought the Lady Pioneers had a remote chance of beating defending Division II state champion Licking Valley in the semifinal played in Akron’s Firestone Stadium.
But Alder (29-2) took advantage of a couple Valley miscues and pulled off the major upset with a 4-3 victory. The team played loose and free as if it had not a care in the world and a post-game comment from Alder freshman Sasha Hamlin spoke volumes about the Pioneers mindset entering the game.
“I think being the underdog helped us,” Hamlin said. “We had nothing to lose, nobody expected us to win this game. They were the defending champions and everybody expected them to win it. They had the pressure on them, they knew they had to beat us.”
Alder’s 28-game winning streak ended a day later with a loss to Lima Bath in the D-II state championship game. But getting to the final and coming up just short will likely be a key motivator next spring as the team is scheduled to return most of its lineup.
1. Troy Caldwell reaches the mountain top
It hasn’t been confirmed, but Jonathan Alder’s Troy Caldwell just may have cold water running through his veins.
The 220-pound Pioneers wrestler, never got excited, never got too high and never seemed phased by the thousands of fans in the crowd for the championship final at the OHSAA state championship tournament.
Caldwell fought his way through the 220-pound bracket, but found himself in a world of trouble in the state title match with Uhrichsville Claymont’s Garrett Harding. Trailing 3-0 and having showed absolutely nothing to his opponent, Caldwell came to life in a big way with a reversal and pin to become the first state wrestling champion at the school since 1986.
“I think it’s important to keep your composure,” a low-key Caldwell said afterward. “It makes it easier on yourself and you don’t make as many mistakes, you try and wrestle it like any other match.”
While he did admit that being down against a tough wrestler in the state final wasn’t the best position to be in, he had confidence in his abilities to come back.
“I knew I needed to pick it up,” Caldwell said. “But I knew he was getting tired too. I knew the first period I was tiring him out, he was coming at me hard. I know it was taking a lot out of him, but not really out of me.”
After getting to the state tournament the year before and failing to place, Caldwell’s only goal going in was to get on the podium, well he did that in a big way.
“I wanted to go for first place,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to let myself leave this year without getting on the podium. I had a whole year to think about it.”
Chris Miles can be reached at (740) 852-1616, ext. 1618 or via Twitter @MadPressSports.