2009: An odyssey of titles

Posted 12/29/09

The victory capped a season in which the Panthers crowned nine regional champions and sliced through the competition with an 18-0 dual record.

While the Panther wrestlers may have been the biggest winter story in town, they were hardly the only …

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2009: An odyssey of titles



Powell High School wrestler Auston Carter celebrates his third state title in as many years. The success of the Panther wrestlers in February was just one of many title tales from early 2009. Tribune file photo

Championships highlight year in sports

(Note: This is the first in a two-article series recapping the past year in Powell sports. This installment covers January through June 2009. The second installment will appear in Thursday's issue of the Powell Tribune.)When sports historians look back upon 2009, it might be to fair refer to it as the year of championships. For one community, it certainly seems as though fate smiled favorably upon Powell in 2009.

The championship parade started early in the year as the Powell High School wrestling team was crowned repeat state champion following a dominating performance in Casper. Senior Trevor Donarski, junior Auston Carter and freshman Olie Olson were crowned state champions while helping the Panthers score a 37.5-point margin of victory in the final team standings.

The victory capped a season in which the Panthers crowned nine regional champions and sliced through the competition with an 18-0 dual record.

While the Panther wrestlers may have been the biggest winter story in town, they were hardly the only story in town early in the year.

The Powell High School girls notched their first win in three years against Jackson in February, rallying from eight points down in the third quarter to win on a Hannah Pollart layup with 5.8 seconds remaining. Weeks later, the team repeated the performance to capture the regional title and earn a No. 1 seed at state.

The two schools met again in the state championship contest, with the Broncs picking up the season split by relegating the Panthers to 3A state runner-up status.

Not to be outdone, the Panther boys were generating a hoop buzz all of their own. After scaring top-seeded Buffalo during an opening-round overtime loss, the Panthers put together a two-day run that will long be remembered in these parts.

Trailing by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, Powell fought back to earn its first state tournament victory since the 2001 season over Newcastle. The next day, they fought back from 14 points down to win the consolation championship contest.

Other winter winners included swimmer Jackson Miller's state title in the backstroke and the Northwest College Trapper wrestlers crowning four All-Americans, including a national runner-up in freshman heavyweight Landon Harris.

Erik Rodriguez earned a title of a different nature after drawing the attention of judges to a scoring error at state diving competition.

Although the correction prevented Rodriguez from continuing in competition, he was honored for his honesty with the 2009 State Sportsmanship award.

The Trapper men's basketball program started 2009 on a roll, winning eight of nine games, but suffered a swoon as the team was upset on a last-second shot in regional competition. The Trapper women, after a 1-1 regional basketball performance, found themselves the center of attention as they sought to find a new head coach following the resignation of Chad Oletzke.

The vacancy prompted a record number of 82 applicants to Northwest College. After extensive interviews, the college announced Janis Beal, the school's all-time career scoring leader as a player and a Big Horn Basin native from Lovell, would return to the NWC campus as head coach.

The introduction of Beal was one of several early-year coaching moves. Karen Roles stepped aside after eight years as Powell High School girls' swim coach. Panther cross-country coach Cliff Boos was honored as the 3A state cross-country coach of the year while PHS volleyball coach Cindi Smith was named the North All-Star coach for the Wyoming All-Star volleyball contest in the summer.

Trapper head basketball coach Andy Ward was named the Region IX North Coach of the Year for men's basketball. NWC athletic director Jim Zeigler announced he was stepping aside after serving in that capacity for two years.

The busy end to winter and hectic start to spring only helped set the stage for some drama on the track in May. After battling head-to-head throughout the season with Park County rival Cody, the Panthers found themselves heading into the final event of the 2009 track season with the state title riding in the balance.

As expected, the Powell and Cody 4x400 relay teams jockeyed for position at the front of the pack on the Kelly Walsh track. In the end, it was the Panthers' Patrick Sullivan holding off the Broncs' anchor leg to dramatically deliver Powell's third state track title in four seasons for the community.

Northwest College tie-down roper Casey Good finished fifth at the College National Finals Rodeo. Teammate Gus Thoreson missed joining him in the finals after falling in the last round of the saddle bronc competition.

The early year wasn't all about winning championships, however. The first months of 2009 also saw several from the community honored for previous accomplishments.

Jesseca Cross, Dennis Havig and Eddie Kawano had all been honored previously by having their jerseys retired by Powell High School.

The trio was further honored in February by being unveiled in the Hall of Fame corner in the Powell High School gymnasium. The threesome was joined by longtime Powell sports icon Keith Bloom, who had his jersey retired during a midgame ceremony, as the inaugural members of the corner.

Dan Mortensen, a former rodeo team member at Northwest College, was named a member of the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame's 2009 class.

Mortensen's honor came after a career that saw him win seven world titles and become the first rough stock competitor to surpass $2 million in career earnings.

The early year also saw its share of sports rarities. Shawn Chouinard began the parade of oddities in January when he bowled three consecutive games of 180 at Classic Lanes. Making the trifecta of consistency even more bizarre was the fact that, at the time he accomplished the feat, Chouinard's average was also 180.

Less than one month later, Daren Hanson rolled a perfect game during the City Bowling Tournament.

Golfer West Hernandez turned in an even rarer feat on Easter Sunday. A late-day decision to sneak in a round of golf turned into a lifetime memory for Hernandez after his three-wood tee shot on the 10th hole cleared the trees, found the green and settled into the cup for a rare hole-in-one on a par 4. The odds of such a shot, according to Golf Digest magazine, are 1-in-1 million.

As the first half of the year came to a close, the Powell Pioneers delivered back-to-back one-hit pitching performances and a championship in the Heavy Metal Classic to extend their winning streak to 13 games. It was merely a hint at things to come in the second half of the year.