Here are the top 10 local sports stories of 2012, as voted on by the Northwest Herald sports staff. There were no team state champions, but three groups who came close top the list.
1. Cary-Grove football: Cary-Grove was the Class 6A state runner-up after losing to Crete-Monee, 33-26, in the championship game. The Trojans were 13-1 on the season.
C-G was not seriously pushed in the regular season and advanced to the title game for the second time in four seasons. Although the Trojans came up short of their ultimate goal, it was still a historic season with fullback Kyle Norberg rushing for 2,218 yards and 27 touchdowns.
2. Marengo softball: The defending Class 3A softball state champion Indians made it back to the state title game, losing this time to Glenbard South, 2-1.
Pitcher Lindsay Melson, a transfer from Harvard, and right fielder Reed Karsten led Marengo back to the championship game. They became the first area team to play in back-to-back title games.
3. C-G’s Josh Freeman doubles: Cary-Grove’s Josh Freeman became the first boys athlete in area history to win two individual events at a state track and field meet.
Freeman won the Class 3A shot put and discus at the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet, coming less than 6 inches from the state-meet shot put record. After winning the shot, he later added the discus title to his résumé.
4. Richmond-Burton volleyball: The Rockets lost to St. Francis in the Class 3A state championship match, 25-21, 25-20, ending their best season with second place.
The Rockets, led by 6-foot-1 Ali Frantti, the Northwest Herald Player of the Year, finished 37-5 for the season. Their victory over Jacksonville 19-25, 27-25, 25-22 in the semifinals was perhaps their most dramatic of the season.
5. Harrah, Dechow win state: Crystal Lake Central’s Gage Harrah and Richmond-Burton’s Jack Dechow both were Class 2A state champions in wrestling.
Harrah (40-1) won the 195-pound title with a 6-2 decision over Grayslake Central’s Joey Valdivia in the final match. It was Harrah’s second consecutive title. Dechow (33-0) pinned Bloomington’s Stephon Rudicil in 1:53 to complete his perfect season.
6. Marian Central football: The Hurricanes were poised to bring home their first state title since 1989 with quarterback Chris Streveler leading the way and one of Marian’s fastest teams ever.
Marian drilled nemesis Montini, 49-24, in Week 7, but the Broncos exacted revenge with a 42-27 victory in the Class 5A playoff quarterfinal. It was the fourth consecutive time Montini has knocked Marian out of the playoffs. Montini went on to win its fourth straight state championship.
7. Woodstock North’s Jon Walsh: The Thunder’s senior pole vaulter became the school’s first state champion when he vaulted 15-0 to win the event in Class 2A at the IHSA Boys Track and Field State Meet.
Walsh jumped on one pole in the preliminaries and barely made the finals. He received a new pole the next morning and went out and won state.
8. Woodstock North football: The Thunder made school history by beating Sterling, 67-20, in the first round of the Class 5A football playoffs. It was North’s first playoff win in the school’s four years.
North made the playoffs in 2011, but was put against eventual state champion Montini in the first round. Coach Jeff Schroeder’s team scored on all 10 of its possessions in the game for a resounding win.
9. Adams, Baker in cross country: Marengo’s Katie Adams lost in only one race, while Crystal Lake Central’s Alex Baker lost to only four runners in the cross country season.
Adams finished ninth in the Class 2A girls race after suffering a sprained right ankle early in the race at the IHSA Cross Country State Meet. Baker was second in the Class 2A boys race, the best finish in Central’s history. Three of the four runners who beat him during the season were the Class 1A, 2A and 3A state champions.
10. Johnsburg switching conferences: Although it will not take effect until the 2014-15 school year, Johnsburg decided to leave the Fox Valley Conference and re-join the Big Northern Conference.
Johnsburg’s sinking enrollment was the major reason it accepted the BNC’s invitation. The Skyhawks have fewer than 900 students and could be close to 700 soon. When Johnsburg came to the FVC in the 2006-07 school year, its enrollment projections were for about 1,100 students by this point.