It was a great year to be a local sports fan, with many teams and athletes having unprecedented success – making it a wealth of riches for a Sports Editor. Trying to pick the Best of the Best is like asking someone to pick their favorite child, but in a year of standouts, these stars shined the brightest. Call it the lucky seven if you will, but the truth is I was the lucky one who got to write about all these folks. Congrats to everyone on this list – you are all winners!
1)Spa Catholic Golf – We called them “UNSTOPPABLE” in our cover story of October 2, and that’s what they proved to be…. The Saints’ linksters grab the top spot because of their unprecedented three-year run of excellence: a 59-0 record and three straight Section 2, class C/D Championships.
2)Saratoga and Schuylerville Football (tie) – Call it 2A and 2B, and don’t ask me which is which is which…. Both teams dominated on both sides of the ball, running rampant through their respective divisions, undefeated all the way to their first state title games, giving their fans thrills that they will long remember.
4)Alexa Rahman – This young equestrian champion gets my vote for local sportsperson of the year. Our November 13 cover story, Alexa at age 13 has already run roughshod over the show horse world – capturing 13 regional, national and world equestrian titles. We can’t wait to see what she has in store next! By virtue of her consistent winning record, she just noses out…
5) American Pharoah – OK, what’s a good sports story without a little controversy? Perhaps this award should go to the Saratoga Race Course itself (which solidified its rep as the ‘graveyard’) or to the fans that turned out in droves to see the first Triple-Crown winner in 37 years, inspiring a hashtag (#Pharoahtoga) in the process. Finishing second in the Travers, after a grueling race schedule and multiple cross-country trips to various tracks was certainly no disgrace, and credit should go to “the people’s horse” and his connections for even trying. A rested Pharoah showed he was a true champion, vanquishing all comers by 6 ½ lengths in the Breeders Cup Classic on October 31.
6)Ballston Spa Soccer – We caught these guys early, on a September 18 cover story and rode with them as they rolled through the regular season undefeated (a big improvement from the previous years’ 8-8-2 record), capturing the Section 2, Class AA title in heart-stopping fashion as they bested Shaker on penalty kicks on November 2…. They came from behind to defeat top-ranked Ithaca in the state semi’s and finished 20-1-1, their only loss coming to Walt Whitman in the state final… In many other years, this would easily be the top local sports story.
7)Hugh Dempsey – A 14-year-old skiing prodigy (ninth grade at SSHS) who will be part of a team from the Lake Placid/Adirondack region that will venture to Innsbruck, Austria next month, to participate in the 2016 Winter International Children’s Games – making him an early favorite for a spot on 2016’s best list!
Happy Holidays to everyone, see you next year!