The sportswriter’s year is like the teacher’s year or the fiscal year. It starts with a mellow July, really cranks up in August and September, and ends with a controlled chaos in May and June.

In other words: It’s over. Not sure whether to request a moment of silence or raucous applause.

So this past week was like Christmas. We get to reunite with our families, spend excessive amounts of money on our kids, remind our wives that we exist, and above all, breathe.

And now we’re coming up on New Year’s Eve. Time to reflect upon the year that was, take inventory of what we did or didn’t, perhaps make a few haphazard resolutions …

Oh, and roll out one of those Top 10 lists that keep every self-respecting columnist afloat when he’s desperate for a topic over the holidays. Without any additional fanfare, here they are: Ten Accomplishments Worth Remembering About the 2009-10 High School Season.

(Yup, 361 days and I couldn’t dream up a better name.)

10. (tie) Poland cheerleading, St. Dom’s boys’ soccer, Lewiston girls’ tennis. Yikes, you wouldn’t think any team winning a state championship would struggle to make the list. But yes, it was that good a year in this neck of the woods. Congratulations to all.

9. Lisbon and EL track. No tri-county teams won a state title this year, but the Greyhounds and Red Eddies showed us the power of the sweep. Lisbon walked away with both the boys’ and girls’ Mountain Valley Conference crowns for the fifth year in a row. And the EL girls, second in the state, accomplished the unthinkable by claiming all seven places and the corresponding 34-point windfall in the Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference triple jump. EL also swept the boys’ and girls’ conference titles.

8. Telstar softball. Sixth straight trip to the Western Class C finals and second state title in the last five years couldn’t happen to a nicer guy than longtime coach Jim Lunney.

7. Lisbon wrestling. Three straight Class C titles. Seven in the last 10 years. At press time, several of the same Greyhounds are tearing it up on a tour of Nebraska. What always strikes me about Mark Stevens and his program is that they get it done with eight or nine amazingly determined kids, all while practicing in an old elementary school cafeteria.

6. Allison Fereshetian and Emily Chase. Leavitt Area High School’s Fereshetian smashed the Class B track and field state meet record in the 100-meter hurdles. Dirigo High School’s Chase won the same event at the Class C meet before withdrawing from the 300 due to illness.

“The last thing I would be able to do is run a race,” said Chase’s father, Ray. “Not only did she manage to run, she really blew the field away and set her personal best and a new school record.”

Chase suffered from flu-like symptoms the next three days before checking into a hospital, where it was discovered that she was suffering from acute kidney failure. At last report, Chase — also a soccer and cheerleading standout — was on the mend.

5. Mt. Blue skiing. Wondering why the Cougars are so high on the list? I’m grappling with why I didn’t put them in the top three. Anything else you consider a dynasty in Maine high school athletics is a flash in the pan compared to this program. Mt. Blue’s girls won their sixth straight Class A championship and 17th in the last 19 years. The boys: Merely four in a row and 10 out of 11, those slackers.

4. Edward Little boys’ basketball. The Red Eddies survived Bangor and Brewer to win a brutally tough Eastern Class A tournament for the second straight year. I consider them state champions, too. Far as I’m concerned, they are the team and the school that played by the eligibility rules in the spirit they are written from start to finish.

James Philbrook and Cam Leary’s two-headed monster in the paint, Yusuf Iman’s explosiveness and flair for the dramatic and Timmy Mains’ true grit were a perfect storm. Mike Adams is a terrific coach and a better man who has built a tremendous program. Somehow I don’t think the run is over yet.

3. Matt Verrier and Oxford Hills baseball. How often does the team with the far-and-away best player win it all in any high school sport? In most games, the opposing coaches can concoct a defense to shut down the star and force his teammates to beat them. Other times, that star treatment infects and breaks down the team shy of its ultimate goal.

Big problem for the Vikings’ Class A opponents: This is baseball. You can only intentionally walk, unintentionally walk and plunk a guy on the bicep so many times when it means pitching to Nate Dubois, Andrew Keniston, Cody Hadley, Ethan Davidson, Jordan Croteau, et al.

Bigger problem: Verrier is perhaps the most unassuming, unselfish Division I scholarship player you’re ever going to meet. He cared about the little, unnoticed details of being a catcher more than he sweated accumulating the statistics befitting a slugger. That’s why he won the John Winkin Award as Maine’s Mr. Baseball, and it’s the reason the Vikings won a state title.

2. Josh Strickland and Leavitt football. It’s a team sport, and you could see the team spirit and skill growing from the time this year’s seniors were sophomores. It’s also hard to go undefeated and win a state championship when the bull’s-eye is affixed clearly to your shoulder pads from the third Monday in August. The Hornets handled being odds-on favorites with a lunch-pail work ethic, though, and walked off with a zero in the loss column and a Gold Ball in the trophy case for the third time in 15 years.

But I’d be remiss — no, check that, a fool — not to single out Strickland by name. The guy rushed for nearly 1,000 yards in the playoffs and singlehandedly dragged his team to paydirt in a manner I’d never seen, and I’ve been covering state title games since I was younger than Strickland is.

1. The Dirigo boys. I didn’t specify a sport because, well, I didn’t really need to. The Cougars won Class C championships in football and baseball. Even after Tom Knight graduated and took his giant shadow to Notre Dame, Dirigo emerged from it and ruled Western Maine for the second straght year. Last time a school that size reached the state final in all three sports? The Twelfth of Never, basically.

Nic Crutchfield was a finalist for the Fitzpatrick Trophy and had his football number retired. Tyler Chiasson was a semifinalist for Mr. Basketball. Alex Miele was a wrestling state champion. Dirigo’s collective success speaks to a school system, a community and families that are doing it right. It was an honor and privilege to follow them the last four years.

And the beauty of this job is that with every passage from spring championships to summer camps, there’s a new school about to take its place at the top of the mountain; a new senior class poised to accomplish stuff we’ll never forget.

Can’t wait to get started. Happy New Year, everybody.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected]


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