Rockne Roll/News-Register##
McMinnville’s Garrett Sutton competes in the 100-yard freestyle during a home meet Jan. 25 at the McMinnville Aquatic Center. Sutton won the 50-freestyle state title in 2018.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## McMinnville’s Garrett Sutton competes in the 100-yard freestyle during a home meet Jan. 25 at the McMinnville Aquatic Center. Sutton won the 50-freestyle state title in 2018.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Kalina Rojas, center, and other Dayton players lift the championship trophy following their victory in the Class 3A Basketball State Championship against Salem Academy March 3 at the Pirate Palace in Coos Bay.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Kalina Rojas, center, and other Dayton players lift the championship trophy following their victory in the Class 3A Basketball State Championship against Salem Academy March 3 at the Pirate Palace in Coos Bay.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Dayton’s Catie Jacks celebrates with the OSAA Class 3A Softball State Championship trophy following the Pirates’ 3-2 victory over the Rainier Columbians June 1 at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Dayton’s Catie Jacks celebrates with the OSAA Class 3A Softball State Championship trophy following the Pirates’ 3-2 victory over the Rainier Columbians June 1 at Oregon State University in Corvallis.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##
Sheridan’s Ronni VanZant smiles as she sees her winning time in the final of the 3A Girls 100-Meter Dash at  the 2018 Track and Field Championships May 18 at Hayward Field.
Rockne Roll/News-Register## Sheridan’s Ronni VanZant smiles as she sees her winning time in the final of the 3A Girls 100-Meter Dash at the 2018 Track and Field Championships May 18 at Hayward Field.
By Logan Brandon and Rusty Rae • of The News-Register • 

Top sports stories of 2018

No 1)

An extraordinary journey finished with a fitting conclusion.

On March 3, Dayton’s seven senior girls’ basketball players, with a healthy dose of assistance from three juniors and two freshmen, capped an amazing four-year stretch with their third Class 3A state championship, a 35-26 triumph over Salem Academy.

The Pirates’ defeat of the Crusaders, one of only three Class 3A programs to have beaten Dayton in the past four years, officially closed the history books on three Oregon championships, four West Valley League titles and 110 combined regular season and playoff victories.

Veterans Shawnie Spink, Kalina Rojas, Malina Ray, Jaden Moore and Gabby Shadden, all who played vital roles in the past four seasons, and fellow seniors Cami Helvie and Beth Shirley, completed their stories in style.

According to Ray, the players’ faith never wavered.

“Trust kept us in this whole game,” she said. “We knew we were going to handle the pressure, and we believed that we had it. We spent this whole year working our asses off, and it paid off.”

Shawnie, who earned Class 3A State Player of the Year honors three times, couldn’t hold back her excitement late in the game. In fact, as she walked toward the free throw line with 1:01 remaining and her team leading by seven, her happiness illuminated the Pirate Palace. Proudly wearing one of her biggest smiles, she sank two free throws to put the Pirates up 33-24.

Reflecting on the Pirates’ newest title, Coach Spink added, “It was pure joy. For our girls to work this hard this year, come away with the victory tonight, their third in four years, it’s pretty darn cool.”

Scott officially retired as head coach following his 14th season. He coached the Pirates to six league championships, three state titles and 110 combined regular season and playoff victories in the past four years.

While that March night may have concluded an era, it certainly ended appropriately. Sharing laughs and tears of joy, the extraordinary Pirates left together one final time.

As champions.

No. 2)

Eight former Linfield volleyball players, including previous captain and McMinnville High School graduate Taylor Petersen, filed a joint Title IX harassment claim against current Wildcat head coach Josh Davis. Raegan Barr, Tessa Doerfler, Destyni Grace, Anikalea Keliiheleua, Mattie Kelly, Taylor Souza, Brianna Sanford and Petersen signed the document. All quit the team in October, alleging harassment, retaliation and verbal abuse by Davis.

In their formal complaint, the student athletes cite a nine-page report detailing the reputed behavior by Davis.

While the college conducted multiple interviews with players, coaches and parents, no changes have taken place on the volleyball staff.

Linfield’s initial response to the eight players’ departure stated, “Changing coaches and coaching style, in any sport, often involves a growth process for both players and the coach. Linfield will continue to communicate openly with everyone involved in this transition, and is confident the result will be a successful on-court team and a positive and supportive learning environment for our student-athletes.”

On Oct. 15, assistant coach Alfred Agcaoili voiced his concerns to Linfield’s Human Resources. He said Davis’ behavior, as detailed in the players’ report, caused him to come forward in support of the volleyball athletes.

Petersen, a 2015 Mac High grad, left the squad Oct. 9, following a team meeting which outlined Davis’ return to the program after a brief four-day medical leave. Kelly and Doerfler also quit after Linfield’s Oct. 12 match against the University of Puget Sound. 

No. 3)

Before the 2018 OSAA State Track and Field Championships at historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Sheridan’s Ronni VanZant felt her Spartan legacy in jeopardy. The senior sprinter finished top-three in Oregon an impressive five times entering this season, but a state title eluded her.

During the meet, VanZant easily erased all concerns. Incredibly, she earned three state championships – in the girls’ long jump, 100m and 200m – to engrave her name in Sheridan’s history books.

VanZant captured the long jump title, with a final mark of 16 feet, 11.25 inches.

 “It’s very exciting,” VanZant noted of her first title. “It was a little exhilarating coming into today. But I think I handled all of my emotions really well.”

After breaking the championship ice, VanZant returned for Day Two with her sights set on more titles. She posted a time of 12.66 seconds to defeat the field in the girls’ 100m sprint. She next won her third in 25.87 seconds, a season record, in the 200m.

“It’s so overwhelming,” VanZant said after the 200m. “Crossing the finish line and feeling like I just completed my senior year with three state titles, I can’t put anything past that feeling.”

Overall, VanZant remains thankful her outstanding performance directly influences her school and track team.

“I’m glad I get to leave (a legacy). I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to bring home a state title for my school. Now that I’ve brought home three, I hope it will make our track program stronger and that our younger kids will begin to realize their potential,” she said.

No. 4)

Willamina’s wrestling team stormed to the OSAA State 3A championship as Jordan Reyes at 106 pounds and heavyweight Keegan Cook garnered state titles and Ariah Fasana was named Coach of the Year. The Bulldogs outpointed their nearest rival, Nyssa, by 20 points.

Reyes finished his season with a 35-0 record while Cook was 24-9 on the year, but saved his best for last, pinning every opponent at the state meet.

“I’ve been working really hard for this. For two years I’ve lost in the state finals. To be that close and not get your goal – it hurts. So I wanted to win it this year,” he said after his title victory.”

Noah Sickles at 160 pounds and Jordan Mode at 220 pounds each finished second at the state tourney. At 120 pounds, Ethan Howard lost to the eventual state champion in the semifinals but earned third place in the consolation round.

Additionally, Dayton sophomore Blake Larsen upheld WVL and Pirate honor by taking a 9-3 decision over Glide’s Collyn Potter in the 195-pound final.

Mac’s Michael Abeyta and Jacob Barnes finished sixth and fifth, respectively.

No. 5)

Dayton’s Pirate softball team expunged the ghosts of two seasons of second place finishes with a sterling 3-2 victory over Rainier after the two top-ranked teams had split games in non-league play. The Pirates finished second place to the Columbians in the state tourney the previous two years.

Trailing by a 2-0 margin, the Pirates’ Catie Jacks gave Dayton new life when she smashed a two-run round-tripper off the scoreboard in left field.

In the bottom of the eighth, Dayton managed to score the winning marker – on perhaps one of the strangest plays of any state title game.

Maddie Fluke led off the inning, needing to reach base any way she could. She fouled off the first two pitches from Ranier pitcher Taleah King. Fluke whiffed on the third, but catcher Rylee O’Brien dropped the third strike. Fluke high-tailed it to first base while O’Brien fumbled around finding a grip on the ball.

O’Brien threw a bullet to first base – but it was high and ricocheted off the globe of the first baseman, finally coming to rest halfway between the right field and first base in foul territory. By the time the Columbian outfielder gathered the ball and tossed it in, Fluke had raced all the way to third base.

Emily Elliott was up for the suicide bunt, but head coach Rob Umbenhower decided with no outs and Fluke on third, the better choice was to let the diminutive Elliott swing.

“Emily’s a good contact hitter — but hitting it to centerfield wasn’t what we really wanted — their centerfielder (Jaedyn Larsen) has the best arm on the team,” he said.

Fluke beat the throw, sliding home just ahead of the ball with the winning run.

The Pirates ace pitcher, Ani Heidt, after giving up two runs was lights-out the rest of the way. She tossed strikes at a .681 clip, surrendering six hits, and a pair of walks while striking out six.

No. 6)

The Oregon School Activities Association (OSAA) admitted a Class 3A football rankings error incorrectly excluded the Yamhill-Carlton program from the state playoffs.

In the 3A classification, 16 teams make the state bracket based on district results and at-large qualifications. This season, Brookings-Harbor received the only at-large bid to the postseason after finishing as the 15th-rated team. However, an error by OSAA personnel incorrectly boosted Brookings-Harbor above the Tigers when both teams had identical 5-4 records.

OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber explained the mistake and subsequent tournament decision in a letter sent to Y-C Principal Cindy Schubert.

“We became aware and confirmed the error had taken place on Wednesday, October 31, and spent that day working through the impact the error would have had on the rankings. After reviewing the information, we determined that had the information been entered correctly by OSAA staff, Yamhill-Carlton would have been in the 3A football state playoffs ... The mistake was made by OSAA staff, not another school, and it wouldn’t have been prudent, from a safety standpoint, to put your student-athletes in that situation on less than two days’ notice.”

Y-C head football coach Brennon Mossholder, when asked to comment on the situation, expressed disappointment in the error, but understood the choice to keep the bracket intact.

Mossholder admitted several players and parents expressed displeasure with the missed postseason opportunity, but noted, “My message to the kids and community is that this shouldn’t take away anything from what we accomplished this season. We’re still a playoff team and the OSAA has acknowledged that. Human errors happen and they’re unfortunate, but our anger won’t change anything.”

No. 7)

Garrett Sutton, a Grizzly who turned into a shark when he hit the water for McMinnville’s swim team, earned McMinnville’s first individual state title since 2010 with a sparkling 50-yard win over seven of the fastest sprinters in the state.

His 20.71 time cut a few more tenths off the school and Mac team record he set two weeks earlier at the GVC district event, which qualified him for All-American status.

With the 50-yard swim, a two-length all-out sprint, the smallest error in technique can be the difference between victory and second place.

Sutton was near perfect. He broke to the lead off a superb start and finished a tenth of a second ahead of Sunset’s Casper Corbeau – and he did it with just one breath of air.

While it might sound easy, Sutton notes, “It’s one of those mind over matter things. I’m still learning to get my mind to control my body – but it worked out great today.”

No. 8)

In a two-part feature, the News-Register examined the impact of club basketball, specifically the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU), on athletes in Yamhill County.

The first release chronicled the rise of Dayton’s Benjie Hedgecock and his club organization, Team Jones.

Hedgecock is not only one of the most recognizable faces in Dayton, but in the entire Yamhill Valley.

A 1981 Dayton graduate, Hedgecock planted his basketball roots over 20 years ago, and continues operating his organization from his hometown.

“I initially started this to help the small-school kids. Now, I coach 10 or 15 kids in every school in the county and my organization has branched out to areas as far away as Nyssa and Medford. We currently schedule and coach 30 teams at the high school and youth levels,” observed Hedgecock.

But while Hedgecock’s specific small-town solidarity stands out, his main goal for Team Jones still appears surprising, yet encouraging.

“My ultimate goal is to teach every kid how to coach his own kid,” said Hedgecock. “I’ve sent 260 kids to college, more than anyone in AAU outside of the Portland-metro Nike-sponsored ICP group. But if you’re not going to make it to the NBA, then I want you to have the skills to coach your kid someday.”

In part two, high school coaches Joel Magill, Tom Anderson, Cliff Toney and Ron Hop and Linfield college coaches Shanan Rosenburg and Joseph Smith outlined their concerns with AAU and club sports.

Most coaches felt the money aspect of club organizations was directly harming many local athletes. The sports leaders also cited a desire for cross-training – the involvement in multiple sports year-round – to return to prominence.

The coaches interviewed for this series were often quick to qualify Hedgecock as one of the “good guys” of AAU basketball. But within those same conversations, their anxiety over specialization becoming the norm was also palpable.

No. 9)

McMinnville High School removed three varsity boys’ soccer players and suspended five others for three weeks for involvement in a hazing incident that occurred Aug. 30, following the team’s road match at West Salem.

McMinnville police have made three arrests in connection with the hazing incidents. They were each charged with one count of harassment, a Class B misdemeanor.

Their names were not released by McMinnville Police because they were all under-18 at the time of the offenses. After juvenile petitions had been filed, the News-Register received the names of the teenagers following a request to District Attorney Brad Berry; however the paper generally prints names of juvenile offenders only in felony cases.

Interviews of 42 players and coaches commenced shortly thereafter. A meeting with parents of Grizzly soccer players occurred Saturday, Sept. 1. Families were notified of the gravity of the hazing, and informed about the team-wide interviews. 

First-year boys’ soccer head coach Jose Milian was involved in halting the incident and reporting the matter to district officials.

No. 10)

Zane Fodge continued his assault on McMinnville middle-distance and distance records during the 2018 track season, breaking both school and personal records in the mile and 800-meter runs.

Finishing seventh at the Nike/Jesuit Twilight Relays last spring, Fodge pounded out a 4:13.55 mile, shattering the 21-year old school record of Grant Robinson, while at the same time lowering his personal best time by more than five seconds.

In the Grizzlies season-ending team meet, held the week after the state meet, Fodge broke the 38-year-old school record in the 800-meter event, breaking the tape at 1:54.24. In setting a personal best, Fodge slayed an old dragon, Wilson’s Alex Slenning, who he beat for the first time in the 2018 season.

“I’ve had kids trying to break that record for 29 years,” said head track coach Vic Downs. “Zane finally got it done.”

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