2012 in review: Many iconic sports days

Year brought several teams, coaches and athletes onto center stage

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

Published:

 

In one day, in just a matter of hours, Clark County became the talk of the girls basketball community throughout the state of Washington. A champion was crowned. Then another.

A month later, the community was still talking about Clark County girls basketball, thanks to a decision from an iconic coach.

These stories top The Columbian's list for the top sports stories of 2012.

There were plenty of other oh-my-goodness stories from our local athletes.

There was a baseball player who signed a million-dollar contract just days before he graduated from high school. There was the track and field athlete who reached the U.S. finals in the javelin, just a month after he graduated from high school. And a former Clark County high school athlete went to the Olympics — again.

Another standout from the region signed with Major League Soccer and plays on the other side of the river. You know, in Vancouver's biggest suburb, Portland.

Thanks to all who made 2012 so memorable.

No. 1:

Al Aldridge resigns as Prairie's basketball coach; takes over at Clark College.

Al Aldridge had been dreading this day for years.

He did not know when it would happen, but he knew one day he would resign, walk away as the head coach of the Prairie girls basketball team.

After 32 seasons, 710 wins, and six state championships, that day was Tuesday.

Aldridge said he is taking over the Clark College women's program.

Before that, Aldridge had to say goodbye to Prairie.

— April 11

No. 2:

On Saturday, March 3, roughly four hours apart on the same Tacoma Dome court, the Skyview girls basketball team won the Class 4A state championship, and then the Prairie girls won the 3A title.

Maybe both teams show up to a neutral site, say Esther Short Park in downtown Vancouver, and we invite every basketball fan in Southwest Washington for a celebration.

The players can sign autographs.

The coaches can sign book deals.

The mayor can sign a declaration, calling it girls basketball day.

The two biggest trophies for the two biggest classifications in the sport are now in our city. We'll take pictures. We'll post them on Twitter. Then post ads asking all the other teams if they would like Skyview and Prairie to hold clinics for them. You know, to show them how it's done.

— March 5

No. 3:

Union catcher Clint Coulter is drafted, signs a professional contract, then makes it back home in time to graduate high school.

Clint Coulter's week just keeps getting better.

After being selected Monday by the Milwaukee Brewers in the first round of Major League Baseball's First-Year Player Draft, Coulter signed with the franchise Friday in Milwaukee.

Colter, a senior from Union High School, signed for the slotted value for the 27th overall selection -- $1.675 million.

— June 9

No. 4:

Vancouver keeps producing top javelin throwers.

Kara Patterson, a 26-year-old graduate of Skyview High School, tore a knee ligament in the U.S. Olympic Trials. She still made the team, then she went to London for her second appearance at an Olympics.

"I did my best," she told Greg Jayne of The Columbian. "I am so thankful to all of the medical people at the training center … because they just believed in me so much to come here and try."

Meanwhile, less than a month after graduating from Heritage High School, Sean Keller finished eighth in the U.S. Olympic trials in the men's javelin competition in Eugene.

"I wanted to PR, but I didn't expect it to go that far," Keller told Paul Valencia of The Columbian.

His mark of 253 feet beat his personal record by close to 9 feet, and he advanced to the 12-men final.

Then there was 14-year-old Ethan Tonder of Vancouver, who won the youth boys division javelin title at the U.S. Track and Field National Junior Olympics Championships.

No. 5:

The Trail Blazers rebuild with a new coach, new GM, and a new point guard, Damian Lillard, who has taken the league by storm.

Lillard, the first-year player, won the starting point guard position even before training camp started. The love and devotion from Trail Blazers fan soon followed.

And for his next prize …

Well, the trophy for Rookie of the Year will not be awarded until the end of the season.

However, after performances like Sunday, when he hit the game-winning 3-pointer, … Lillard better prepare for more questions (about the award) because his lead in the rookie race has only widened.

— Dec. 17

No. 6:

Camas football makes a return trip to The Dome.

The Camas Papermakers became the fourth big school from Clark County to reach the final four in high school football in consecutive seasons. In their first year as a 4A program, the Papermakers went 12-0 before losing to eventual state champion Skyline in the semifinals.

Three Camas offensive linemen shook their heads.

It was difficult even for them to comprehend what they and the rest of the Papermakers just accomplished.

Winning in the Class 4A state football quarterfinals is one thing. It's an entirely different thing to destroy a talented squad.

That's what the Camas offense did Saturday night at Doc Harris Stadium … and the Papermakers routed previously undefeated Federal Way 65-32, advancing to the semifinals for the second year in a row.

— Nov. 18

No. 7:

There was some real reform in fisheries reform.

For decades, sport fishermen have wanted gillnets removed from the lower Columbia River. For some, it is about conservation. For others, it's about allocation.

In a stunningly fast fashion, the sport side got much of what it sought in 2012.

Sport-fishing and conservation interests got a measure on the ballot in Oregon that would have outlawed gillnets and tangle nets in Oregon waters — and much of the lower Columbia is on the Oregon side of the boundary.

In August, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber advanced a compromise to continue use of gillnets but only in the off-channel areas, plus prioritizing sport fishing.

On Dec. 7, Oregon adopted the Kitzhaber plan.

Washington officials will consider reform proposals in January.

Fisheries reform, which normally moves at a glacial pace, traveled at avalanche speed in 2012

— Allen Thomas, The Columbian's outdoors expert.

No. 8:

Timbers sign Camas grad and former University of Washington star.

Brent Richards of Camas has been impressing Gavin Wilkinson with his soccer skills for more than seven years.

Now the Portland Timbers general manager hopes Richards will impress well into the future.

Richards, 21, signed a Major League Soccer contract with the Timbers on Wednesday, making him the first MLS Homegrown Player signed by the club.

— Jan. 5

The Timbers would have a rough season, but the home crowd — including thousands from Clark County — still packed Jeld-Wen Field.

No. 9:

Seahawks go young, start winning, and rock the state.

Going into the NFL's season finale, the Seahawks are undefeated at home, with a wild fan base. One of those wins was the most controversial game in the NFL this season. Was it a catch? An interception? Interference. All Seahawk fans know is it was a win.

How to explain a club that has outscored its opponents 150-30 the past three weeks? A club that at one point had a 100-0 run in home games? A club that has left its past three foes in shock and awe?

The superlatives could fill a 90-minute episode of SportsCenter. So we'll leave you with just one more: Seattle joined the 1941 Bears as the only NFL teams to build a 24-point first-half lead in three straight games.

— Dec. 24

No. 10:

Camas girls cross country still rule Washington.

For the second year in a row, the Camas girls cross country team won the state championship. This year, sophomore Alexa Efraimson took home the individual title as well.

Neither title was really contested. Efraimson won her race by more than 30 seconds. The top five Camas runners finished in the top 32 of the 143-person field.

It was a double blowout for the Papermakers.

And after the high school season, the athletes competed as a club and shined at national events.

They will go for three in row in 2013.