It’s that time of year to come up with a list of the top local stories of the year.
What’s your top story of the year?
Off the top of my head, I’ve put together a list. It’s in no particular order and I’m probably overlooking something.
Add to it if you’d like. I’ want to know what you think. Help me out. Give me your top five, or even top 10.
Ryan Villopoto: RV had one greatest seasons ever for a motocross/supercross rider. After badly breaking his leg in 2010, Villopoto won 6 of 17 in the AMA Supercross season to nail down that championship then rode off with 10 more victories in 24 starts to claim the outdoor Motocross trophy. He helped USA win motocross of champions., You know he’s big stuff when he gets a shoe (Vans) named after him.
Kitsap Pumas: The Pumas won a national championship in third year of operation, and pushed the Sounders to the brink in a U.S. Open Cup playoff game at Starfire. It didn’t come without some turmoil. Executive director Ben Pecora resigns at the end of the season and owner Robin Waite doesn’t bring back coach Peter Fewing. Pumas assistant and OC head coach James Ritchie is named head coach for the coming year. Rumor has it the Pumas are already guaranteed a spot in the U.S. Open Cup because of a change in format, but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case.
Nathan Adrian: The Bremerton swimmer — America’s best hope for a gold medal in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events at the 2012 London Olympics — continued to collect NCAA, national and international titles. The academic All-American from Cal has established himself as one of the elite swimmers in the world. I’ve got a hunch he’s going to be at the top of the list a year from now.
Willie Blooomquist: The Port Orchard native had his best MLB season, starting for Diamondbacks at the game’s most important defensive position — shortstop — in the heat of a pennant race. He batted leadoff, played well in postseason and was rewarded with a 2-year, $3.6 million deal (turned down $4.6M from Giants). A nice feel-good story for a nice, hard-nosed guy who finally proved that he’s a lot more valuable than a lot of people have given him credit for over the years.
Troy Kelly: A year after hip replacement surgery, he nailed down a PGA Tour card after finishing 11th on the Nationwide Tour. He won over $200,000 and now has a second chance to make a name for himself on golf’s biggest stage. He’s hired a personal trainer, dropped 15 pounds and those who know him say he’s mentally and physically in the best spot he’s ever been.
Erynne Lee: PNGA and Washington State Female Golfer of the Year played in the U.S. Women’s Open for a second time, got back to the quarterfinals in the U.S. Women’s Amateur, won a state high school title, a state women’s amateur title and is now a freshman at No. 1-ranked UCLA. Year ended on a sad note as her mom, Debbie Lee, died in mid-November after suffering a heart attack and stroke while in South Korea.
The U.S. Junior Amateur: The folks at Gold Mountain did another masterful job of putting on a national golf tournament on the Olympic Course. From the opening dinner on the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, which featured Johnny Miller, to the championship match, won by Dallas’ Jordan Spieth, it was a magnificent week. It’s possible an NCAA Championship could be in Gold Mountain’s future plans.
The Year of the Wrestler: The top high school story was about Kitsap wrestlers, who won 8 titles and had 13 wrestlers in the finals at Mat Classic. Pretty remarkable stuff for a bunch of the hardest working and toughest athletes around.
Kingston: The next-best high school story revolved around the Kingston Bucs, who went from doormat to a third-place finish in the Class 2A state tournament under the direction of first-year coach Blake Conley.
Kitsap Bears: The Bears, a collection of guys who are passionate about football, rolled out for weekly practices and dominated the local northwest semi-pro scene. The Bears reached the North American Football League title game. Three months later, owner Don Purser announced that the team will take the 2012 season off.
OC soccer: Men’s team comes out of nowhere and makes a spirited run to the NWAACC finals before coming up short in the title game. You had to be there to really appreciate what this team accomplished.
Drew Vettleson: Central Kitsap star, the 42nd overall pick in the 2010 baseball draft, got his professional career off to a solid start, earning MVP honors for his rookie-league team at Princeton (W.Va). You get the feeling it was just the start of big things for the likeable right-fielder who gained famed at a young age for his ability to pitch with either arm. The Tampa Rays player was rated the sixth-best major league prospect in the Appalachian League. Vettleson hit .282 for the Rays with seven home runs, 13 doubles, four triples and 20 stolen bases in 61 games.
Steven Gray: One of West Sound’s all-time best players capped a great four-year basketball career at Gonzaga, enjoying some of his best games against big-time NCAA competition. The All-West Coast Conference guard, a free spirit who grew up in Chimacum and Bainbridge, is playing professionally with a first division club in Latvia.
BlueJackets: Matt Acker, the only coach in BlueJackets’ history and a really good guy and good coach, resigns to spend more time with his family. The college summer team struggles to put fans in the seats, but you’ve got to give the local ownership group props for hanging tough. They said they’re in it for the long haul, and they haven’t waivered, even when it meant digging into their own pockets for more money. Olympic College head coach Ryan Parker, a three-year assistant to Acker, is the new coach and he immediately goes out and signs local products Andy Smith (North Kitsap/Bellevue CC/Liberty University, Va.), Tyler Baumgartner (Central Kitsap/Bellevue CC and he’s signed with Oregon for next year), and Daniel Jewitt (North Kitsap/Truman State, Mo.) to play for the Jackets. That’s a good start toward putting butts in the seats.
BMX King: Port Orchard’s Josh Klatman, a 19-year-old student at Olympic College, ends the year as the No. 1-ranked amateur rider in his age group for the second straight year. BMX is an Olympic sport and if Klatman wanted to pursue a berth, he’d have a chance to make the team. He’s that good.
Dave Villwock: How could I forget the Port Orchard unlimited hydroplane driver, the all-time winningest in the sport’s history? Super Dave, one of the most intelligent athletes I’ve come to know, keeps motoring along, breaking records and proving that he just might be the best to ever pilot one of those flying machines.