Another year, another wild 12 months of sports here on the Olympic Peninsula.
If Peninsula College's double-dip of NWAACC soccer titles doesn't qualify for the biggest sports story/stories of the year, I'm not sure what does.
The championships — and the accolades that accompany them — come on the heels of two superb seasons by the Pirates. In 2010, while the women's team kicked off their inaugural season by making the playoffs and hosting an NWAACC playoff game, the men's team won their first championship in school history. In 2011, both teams made the Final Four and the women's team qualified for the title game.
In 2012, led by a quartet of top-notch scorers and startlingly good defenses, the Pirates earned a rare double championship.
On the men's side, West Region MVP Daniel Gonzalez of Yelm and Alex Martinez, a freshman forward from Reno, Nev., proved to be an impressive combo, leading the Pirates to a 22-1-1 mark. Martinez knocked in the winning goal as P.C. topped Walla Walla in the NWAACC final to earn tourney MVP honors. Coach Andrew Chapman earned co-Coach of the Year honors.
On the women's side, freshman Briana Afoa and Kendra Miner fueled the NWAACC's top offense as they cruised to a 15-1 conference mark. The Pirates completed a 23-1 campaign with a shootout victory against Spokane, after Miner tied the game at 1-1 in the second half with a score.
Afoa went on to win the West Region MVP, tournament MVP and NWAACC Player of the Year honors. Her coach, Kanyon Anderson, took home the Coach of the Year award.
Both squads earned national rankings for the first time in school history.
According to the NWAACC, the dual school soccer championships mark the first single-school sweep since 1999, when Columbia Basin beat Spokane in both title games.
Here's a look at the other top sports stories of 2012:
Sequim High senior wrestlers Dakota Hinton and Clay Charley ended their prep careers at the state tourney, with Hinton earning a third-place medal for his efforts at 170 pounds. Also qualifying but not placing were junior Luke Mooney and freshman Kaylee Ditlefsen. Later in the year, head coach Len Borchers would step aside and former SHS grappler Jake Reichner would take over.
SHS sent a trio of divers to the class 2A state meet as Connor Christianson, Austin Clement and Cameron Harrison competed with other top divers. Christianson, a senior, was the Wolves' top placer in 11th place.
On the hard court, Sequim's boys found their nemesis in the Kingston Buccaneers, losing all three meetings — including a playoff seeding game that may have changed the Wolves' course. As it was, Sequim finished 16-9 and two wins shy of the state tourney. Senior Corbin Webb had a banner year and earned all-league first team honors; Gabe Carter and Jayson Brocklesby were named to the second team.
On the girls' side, the Wolves seemed to regress a bit, falling to 3-15 in league play and 5-15 overall. Two of Sequim's top players — Taylor Balkan and Haleigh Harrison — would not return for the 2012-2013 campaign, opting for club volleyball instead, and the Wolves would get a new coach as well: former SHS prep star Evan Still.
Sequim High's bowling squad struggled on the lanes but showed incredible acumen in the classroom, earning the state 2A academic bowling title.
At Peninsula College, the Pirates' men's hoops program raced to a 13-3 conference mark before falling in their final two games and placed fourth overall at the NWAACC tourney. They were led by post powerhouse DeShaun Freeman and USC-bound J.T. Terrell.
The P.C. women experienced a renaissance of sorts, earning an NWAACC tourney bid for the first time since 2009. Head coach Ali Crumb led Peninsula to a 17-9 overall record before the team fell twice at the tourney.
Repeating as fastpitch state champions wasn't going to be easy, though the SHS Wolves came close. With new coach Mike McFarlen in command, Sequim lost a pair of games to West Valley of Spokane — in the opener and their final game — but won four games in between to place fourth overall. Demiree Briones finished the season with a 13-2 mark and 62-12 record overall; before graduation she'd already signed on to play at Green Mountain College in Vermont.
SHS seniors Ryan O'Mera and Casey Torres capped their prep careers at the state 2A golf tourney. O'Mera placed in a tie for 27th. Fellow senior Hailey Estes finished in a tie for 28th at state, where she was joined by Maddy Fisher and Elisa Sallee. The state berths capped a spectacular season for Sequim golfers after both squads went 8-0 to win Olympic League crowns.
On the track and in the field, Sequim put a crowd of athletes in districts and saw Emanuel Herrera, Jayson Brocklesby and a 4x100 relay squad in the state 2A meet. Brocklesby, who earlier in the season broke a school record in the high jump, placed third in the event and helped the relay team (with Herrera, Dylan Chatters and Judah Breitbach) place eighth.
Sequim's baseball squad had an up-and-down season — mostly up — in a tough Olympic League. The Wolves qualified for districts and earned two postseason wins, and perhaps best of all, knocked Port Angeles out of the running for a state berth. Catcher Tyler Campbell was named to an all-state squad and in the summer, he and teammate Jake Hudson — a knuckleballer — played in the 18U Senior Babe Ruth World Series with the Port Angeles-based Wilder squad.
SHS tennis duo Katrina Chan and Stacy Hanson earned their third berth to the state 2A tourney. They missed the medal stand by one win.
Sequim's boys soccer squad had a rare off year, finishing the campaign 2-6 in league play and 4-10-2 overall, their first losing season since 2001.
The North Olympic Discovery Marathon races seemed to go off without a hitch and be as popular as ever on June 3. Shane Ruljancich, a 35-year-old from Victoria, British Columbia, topped the men's field, while Port Orchard runner Ginger Gruber turned in the best performance among women participating in the marathon, clocking in at 3:28:12. In their 10th year, NODM races (marathon, half-marathon, kids marathon and more) saw about 2,130 participants.
In early June, the sports world lost a key player in the game when Hal Keller, a major league baseball player in the 1940s and 1950s who became general manager and vice president of the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1980s, died at his home in Sequim.
The Olympic Peninsula Eagles, a semi-pro adult football squad formerly based in Sequim but playing their home games in either Port Angeles or Port Townsend in recent seasons, came back for a single game in Sequim on June 23. The Eagles blew away Spanaway, 33-6.
Sequim played host to the first Dungeness Cup select soccer tournament at the Albert Haller Playfields on Aug. 3-5. More than 25 teams played on the newly finished fields set on 14 acres just north of Carrie Blake Park.
The Extreme Sports Park in Port Angeles hosted sprint boat races — and more than 8,000 people — for the second year in a row. The sports park also hosted the Run-A-Muck challenge in late September.
Hard-hitting Haleigh Harrison and counterpart Taylor Balkan led the SHS Wolves' volleyball squad to a state tourney appearance. The seniors were the top two vote-receivers on Olympic League postseason ballots, with Harrison taking home league MVP honors. Teammates Hannah Hudson and Alexas Besand were named all-league second-teamers. Sequim finished 19-3 overall, with two of those three losses coming at state.
Harrison later announced she's earned a scholarship to play at Western Washington University next season.
After two seasons of heartbreak, Sequim's boys cross country squad earned a spot at the state meet. Led by senior Adrian Clifford and a pack of underclassmen, the Wolves raced to a ninth-place finish at state. Sequim's girls qualified for districts, thanks to a gutsy performance by injury-riddled senior Jasmine McMullin at the league final.
Sequim's girls soccer squad ended a five-season playoff drought this fall, made all the more sweet by knocking off Port Angeles for the fifth and final district playoff seed. Leading the way were new co-head coaches Julie and Victor Lancheros.
Though they didn't advance any athletes to state, SHS's boys tennis team posted a perfect 8-0 league mark for a title and an 11-2 overall record.
Sequim High's girls swimming and diving squad struggled early but wound up winning their final two meets. Swimmer Dani Barrow earned district meet berths in two individual events and a relay, and diver Emily Van Dyken qualified for the state meet.
For the first time in nearly a decade, Sequim High's football squad was on the outside looking in during the postseason. Injuries and forgettable losses accumulated in a 2-7 season, head coach Erik Wiker's first losing campaign. The silver lining? A 34-7 romp against rival Port Angeles in the Rainshadow Rumble.