BRATTLEBORO — During a year when Steve Harvey shocked everyone by incorrectly naming Colombia's Ariadria Gutierrez as the Miss Universe winner, it really shouldn't come as any surprise when I announce the Reformer's 2015 Sports Story of the Year.
After losing offensive stars Sarah Wells and Cassidy Santorelli to graduation, the Bellows Falls varsity field hockey team went 12-2-2 and won the program's first state championship since 1991. BF's march through the Division 3 Tournament included a 3-0 victory over Montpelier, a 4-0 win against Missisquoi Valley and then a 2-0 decision in the title tilt versus Stowe.
"These girls worked very hard all season, played a hard schedule and never let down. They learned from each game. They pushed each other harder in each practice. They found a hunger that can't be taught," said Bellows Falls coach Bethany Coursen.
Leia Robinson and Molly Kelly each scored seven goals to lead the Terriers offensively, while Abbe Cravinho followed with six burials. The back line of Paxton Santorelli, Emily Stoddard and Murphy Hicks only allowed 28 shots all season long, helping goalies Brigid Hodsden and Emma Lober team up for an amazing 14 shutouts.
"It was an amazing experience for these girls and us as coaches. The outpouring of support has been incredible," stated coach Coursen.
The Reformer runner-up is Spencer Knickerbocker, who spent his freshman and sophomore years at Brattleboro Union High School, for winning the Pepsi Challenge by soaring 93 meters during the annual Harris Hill SKi Jump in February.
On the first day of the event, the 22-year-old scored 224.5 points to claim the gold medal. He defeated Cooper Dodds, Andrew Urlaub, Nate Mattoon and Hunter Smith.
Knickerbocker would then earn silver in the Fred Harris Memorial Tournament on Day 2. He had a jump of 88.5 meters and took second to champion Chris Lamb.
Next on the list is the regular-season meeting between the Leland & Gray and Twin Valley varsity boys soccer teams on Sept. 17, when TV's 39-game winning streak and run of 28 home victories in a row both came to a sudden end.
The Wildcats were coming off of back-to-back perfect seasons. But Bryce Karg wasn't intimidated at all — he tallied twice, with assists from Owen McDonald and Clayton Sanderson, to lead the Rebels to a 2-1 upset win.
Twin Valley would get revenge in a Division 3 semifinal, however, by riding Justin Hicks (3 goals, 2 assists) to a 5-1 victory over Leland & Gray on Hayford Field.
Rob Lind, 29, of Brattleboro, placed second in this town's two most popular road races — the BIll Powers Memorial Firecracker 4-Miler and the Turkey Trot.
The locals swept the top five spots in the Memorial Park to Brattleboro Common race. 1992 Brattleboro Union High School graduate Jason Dunklee finished first and was followed home by Lind, Ryan Gilligan, Patrick Gilligan and Jonah Koch.
Lind was clocked in 16:51 and was beaten only by New Yorker Cole Rooney (16:46) in the late November three-miler on Upper Dummerston Road. Tammy Richards, 41, of Williamsville, three-peated as the female division champion.
The Brattleboro Swim Team, which captured the Division 2 state crown in White River Junction in August, is the No. 5 area sports story for 2015.
Drew Brooks won the 50-yard freestyle and 100-yard freestyle to lead the champs. Mike Fernandez, Matt Dulmaine and Cameron Wright also struck individual gold.
Will Hill also had an excellent state meet, finishing second in the 25 freestyle, 50 freestyle and 25 butterfly. Isabelle Magbie and Harper Baldwin each stood on the podium three times to lead the Brattleboro girls.