Created on Wednesday, 31 December 2008 Written by MATT HAMMOND
As 2008 comes to a close, it’s time to look back at the top local sports stories of the year.
This year’s number one story was not a tough one to decide. For the fifth straight year, Nicole Fawcett is the biggest local newsmaker with her achievements on the volleyball court.
Fawcett capped her career at Penn State with a remarkable final season. The Benjamin Logan graduate led the Nittany Lions to a perfect season and a second straight national championship.
The individual awards continued to pour in, including the biggest honor a college player can receive. On the eve of the national championship match against Stanford, Fawcett was named the NCAA Division I player of the year.
The award is the equivalent of a college football player winning the Heisman Trophy. To be named the country’s best player at the highest level of competition is an achievement that may never again be accomplished by a local athlete.
In addition to her national player of the year honor, Fawcett was named Big Ten player of the year and earned her third straight first-team All-American award.
While Fawcett made the biggest news on the local sports scene, there were plenty of other major stories in 2008. The following is a rundown of some of the biggest.
Bratka wins state title
Becoming the first West Liberty-Salem track and field athlete to win a state title in 24 years, Tigers’ junior Nate Bratka finished first in the discus at the state meet in Columbus. Bratka’s winning throw was a heave of 172-10.
Vito wins Grand Prix title
Louie Vito continued to shine in the world of professional snowboarding in 2008. Another big year for the Bellefontaine native was highlighted by winning the Chevrolet Grand Prix Series. Vito claimed two of the three events on the series to claim the overall championship. Among his prizes for winning was a new Chevy truck.
Thompson sets house record at T-P Lanes
Chris Thompson entered a new stratosphere at T-P Lanes in 2008. The Indian Lake High School graduate fired an 877 series to smash the previous house record by 40 pins. Thompson bowled games of 300, 299 and 278.
Fulton retires as Lakers’ head coach
Bill Fulton, a huge part of the Logan County prep wrestling scene, ended his career as head coach at Indian Lake. Fulton stepped down after 28 years of leading the Indian Lake program. He won seven striaght league titles and had 16 state placers during his career with the Lakers.
Triad, WL-Salem softball teams make memorable runs
A pair of local softball teams qualified for the state tournament in Akron during the spring of 2008. Triad earned its third straight appearance in the Division IV championship game. Unfortunately, the Cardinals again fell in the final, this time a 4-2 loss to Danville. WL-Salem suffered a tough 2-1 eight-inning loss to Wellington in the Division III state semifinals. The Tigers finished with a 31-2 record.
Pool leads local wrestler at state
Benjamin Logan’s Hunter Pool closed his prep wrestling career in impressive fashion at the state wrestling meet. Pool finished third at 152 pounds. He was one of four area wrestlers to place at the state meet. Indian Lake’s Thomas Taylor was fifth and WL-Salem’s Curt Levy and Travis Wooten each placed sixth.
Chiefs’ Brown, Lakers’ Jones shine in Columbus
Bellefontaine’s Tomika Brown turned in a memorable performance at the state track and field meet last spring. Brown finished second in the high jump and sixth in the 100 hurdles. Indian Lake’s Stacy Jones also made a big statement at the state track meet, placing third in the long jump.
Local runners fare well at Scioto Downs
Indian Lake’s Rachel Watt and Bellefontaine’s Mica Hatcher represented Logan County well at the state cross country meet this fall. Watt placed 15th in the Division II girls race to earn first-team all- Ohio honors. Hatcher placed 17th in the boys Division II race.
Morgan signs with Bowling Green
The first Bellefontaine football player to sign with a Division I school in eight years, Bellefontaine’s Keith Morgan inked a letter of intent with Bowling Green. The last Chieftain player to sign with a Division I school was Keith Roberts in 2000.
Knight wins Logan County Open
Jay Knight won the 2008 Logan County Open golf tournament, capturing his second title in three years. Knight became only the second golfer in the tournament’s history to win the tournament more than once.