George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Traditionally, Havre and the Hi-Line is packed full of great sports teams, great athletes, young and old, great sports venues like Blue Pony Stadium and the Havre Ice Dome, and just allaround greats sports tradition. Because of that, not a year goes by that sports aren't an important part of every day life in Havre and the surrounding areas, and every year is a memorable one. And 2008 was no exception to that. From the fields and gyms of Havre High and schools up an down the Hi- Line area, to the campus of MSUNorthern, even to Missoula, Helena and everywhere else local athletes compete, right down to the ice, the baseball and softball diamonds and soccer fields that our young athletes are honing their skills on, our little part of Montana had quite a memorable year in sports. Here's a look back at the Top 10 sports stories from Havre and the surrounding areas from this past year.
1. Havre High wrestling repeat The Blue Ponies captured their second straight Class A state wrestling championship in February in Billings. And this time, HHS left little doubt. The Ponies racked up a Class A record 282. 5 points to blow away the field at the Metra for a second straight season. Under veteran head coach Scott Filius, the Ponies sent six wrestlers into the fi- nals, and Chris Recio (105), Myles Mazurkiewicz (130) and Ethan Hinebauch (152) all brought home individual state championships. In all, HHS placed a school-record 13 wrestlers at the 2008 state meet, including 10 wrestlers who finished third or better, making the 2008 state championship one of the most dominant in all of Montana wrestling history.
2. Marc Mariani's junior season at UM To those that know him best, former Havre High three-sport star Marc Mariani's record-setting junior season as a University of Montana wide receiver might not have come as a surprise, but across the state and even nationally, the Blue Pony turned Grizzly opened many eyes this season for a Griz team that reached the FCS national championship game. Mariani had arguably one of the most productive seasons any former Havre product has had at UM in more than three decades. He racked up 1,308 receiving yards, the secondmost for a single season in UM history, caught 15 touchdowns, including a record-tying four in one game against Southern Utah, had 2,255 all-purpose yards, including two punt returns for touchdowns (including a school-record 90-yarder against ISU), and was named First Team All Big Sky Conference at both receiver and as a return specialist.
3. MSU-N men claim Frontier title In a loaded Frontier Conference the MSU-Northern men's basketball team had a season to remember in 2007-08. The Lights finished 10-4 in league play and 22-9 overall, and their stellar play at home, where they upended nationally ranked RMC, Carroll College, LC State and Westminster in a span of four weeks, helped the Lights to a fourway tie for the regular season conference championship. The Lights made it all the way to conference championship game in Butte where they were beaten by LC State 65-63, and narrowly missed out on a trip to the NAIA national tournament. But it was still one of the most successful seasons in recent MSU-N history under veteran head coach Shawn Huse, as Delvaughn Tinned and Travis Noble earned Frontier All-Conference honors.
4. Pony girls swimming breaks alltime state record It was no big shock that Havre High head coach Chris Inman's girls' swim team captured yet another Class A state championship in Hardin back in February. The Pony girls have been dominating swimming for over a decade. However, this one was plenty special. With their ninth straight state title, the HHS girls swim team broke the Montana record for consecutive state championships by a female sports team at the high school level. The Ponies scored seven points to Hardin's two to capture their record-setting state title and placed swimmers Kacie Johnson and Mary Beth Blankenship in the process.
5. Lights football finishes strong Two games won't define the kind of season the Montana State University- Northern football team had in 2008. With their 7-3 overall record and second- place finish in the Frontier Conference, the Lights and head coach Mark Samson wrapped up the second-most successful season in MSU-N football history. Northern lost twice to eventual NAIA national runner-up Carroll College, and suffered a setback at EOU, but also rode a stout defense, led by the Frontier's leading tackler, Stetson Koffman and Frontier offensive player of the year, running back Justin Moe to seven great wins. The Lights had 13 players earn all-conference honors and they finished strong, beating UM-Western and closing out the season with a special Friday night 35-3 thumping of rival Montana Tech in mid-November at Blue Pony Stadium.
6. Katie Mariani captures coveted singles title Winning a state championship in an individual sport is not even close to easy. It was something Havre High three-sport standout Katie Mariani had been chasing her entire high school career. But in May in Kalispell, Mariani finally caught that dream when she beat Livingston's Anna Arrasmith to claim the 2008 Class A girls singles title in tennis. Mariani became only the second Havre High girl to win a state singles title, and it was the culmination of one of the most successful tennis careers in Havre history. She finished second at the state tourney as a junior and also captured two Central A singles titles, while reaching the state tournament all four years of her career.
7. Rocky Boy, Big Sandy play for state basketball championships Neither was able to capture a state championship in basketball in 2008, but there's no arguing that the Rocky Boy boys and Big Sandy girls made sure that the Hi-Line was more than relevant in hoops last year. Both were 9C champions and the Big Sandy girls went on to capture the Northern C title before losing in a rematch with Highwood in the Class C state championship game last spring. Meanwhile, the Rocky Boy boys were close to having a season for the ages if it weren't for the Winifred Red Raiders. The Raiders beat the Stars in both the Northern C title game and the Class C state championship game, but it was still a season no one will forget around these parts for a long time, thanks to the Pioneers and Stars.
8. Pony gridders take back Central A football championship After narrowly missing the playoffs in 2007, the Havre High football team found its way back to the top of the Central A in 2008. The Ponies ripped off an undefeated Central A season on its way to the Central A title and a quarterfinal berth in the Class A playoffs. The Ponies, who dominated Central A opponents by an average margin of 26 points per game, were one of the best offensive teams in Class A football this season under head coach Kevin Sukut, and they were equally as stout defensively. Senior Ethan Hinebauch wound up earning the Central A's defensive MVP as HHS went 7-3 with its season ending with a close loss to Dillon at Blue Pony Stadium in the playoffs in early November.
9. Borges captures NAIA title Talk about avenging a loss. MSUNorthern 125-pounder Cory Borges stormed his way through injury and a loaded field to capture an NAIA national wrestling title back in March in Sioux City, Iowa. As a sophomore Borges lost the 125-pound final, but had a phenomenal junior season, capped off by a coveted national championship. Borges, a native of Hickman, Calif., beat Lindenwood's Dennis Kakrah in the 125-pound final, and his national title was the first for a Lights' wrestler since three Northern grapplers captured championships at the 2005 national tournament. Borges was one of three Lights to earn All-American at the national tourney this past spring.
10. Big Sandy girls three-peat On the track in May, no one has been better than the Big Sandy Pioneers the last three years. And this past May in Helena, Big Sandy captured its third straight Class C state championship by scoring 88 points to second-place rival North Star's 36. As expected, Pioneer junior Kourtney Danreuther stole the show in Helena, racking up five individual state championships on the track, giving her a whopping 14 Class C gold medals in three years at Big Sandy. Amber Amsbaugh also captured an individual state title for Big Sandy at the state meet. Editor's Note: This list was compiled by the Havre Daily News Sports Staff and in no way reflects the opinions of any individuals other than those of the HDN sports department.