A year of champions and triumphs
There's always great sporting moments in a place like Havre and all up and down the Hi-Line. It's a sports-rich area after all.
But 2010 was one year that will go down as legendary in sports for the area. The year was about championships, firsts, milestones and more, and it's one year which will never be forgotten.
Here's a look back at the Havre Daily News' Top 10 sports stories for 2010.
1. Marc Mariani in the NFL
Perhaps no one had a more intense, more exciting or busier year than former Havre Blue Pony Marc Mariani. In April, Mariani became the first Havre-born athlete to be drafted to the NFL when the Tennessee Titans took him in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft.
But things didn't end there. After an impressive training camp with the Titans, Mariani made the 53-man roster and has appeared in all 15 of Tennessee games to date. He is among the NFL leaders in kickoff returns and punt returns, has two touchdowns on the season and broke a 47-year old franchise record for most kickoff returns in a season making it a year no Hi-Line athlete has ever had before.
2. Chinook wins 8-man state title
Another first in the area happened on Nov. 20 when the Chinook Sugarbeeters destroyed top-ranked Wibaux 74-6 for the Class C 8-man state football championship on a bitterly cold and snowy day in Chinook.
The Beeters went 11-1 for the season, had a scintillating playoff run and made and won their first-ever appearances in both the semifinals and championship game, as no Chinook football team had ever played for or won a state championship in the school's long and proud athletic history. Chinook also wound up with seven Class C All-State players in 2010, including senior running back Tyler Molyneaux and junior running back Ben Stroh, who combined to rush for over 2,500 yards on the season.
3. Rocky Boy/Big Sandy bring state titles home on the same day
March 10 was the day the Hi-Line became title town. Thanks to the boys basketball teams from Rocky Boy and Big Sandy, the Hi-Line got not one, but two state championships that night.
In Great Falls, Rocky Boy edged Shelby 58-49 for the Class B state title, in what was Rocky Boy's first-ever state title in boys basketball. It was also the Stars first year in Class B sports. The win over Shelby also capped off a perfect season for the Stars, and gave them a coveted state championship after losing in the Class C state title game the previous two seasons.
Meanwhile, at almost the exact same time in Billings, the Big Sandy Pioneers staged a dramatic win, 51-49 over Northern C rival Power in the Class C state championship game. It was the Pioneers' first state boys basketball title in Class C, and it capped off an amazing four-year run in which the Pioneers earned a second a third and a fifth-place trophy in Class C before finally winning the title this year. It also gave head coach Roy Lackner his first boys state championship.
4. Havre wrestlers win four in a row
A three-peat really cemented the dynasty in 2009. But in 2010, the Havre High wrestling team showed just how incredible a run the program is on. In February in Billings, the Blue Ponies captured their fourth straight Class A state wrestling championship by scoring 215 points to surpass Central A rival Belgrade.
Many detractors had picked the Panthers to win the 2010 championship and end HHS's run. But behind state titles from Duell Stadel (112), Kent Pattison (152) and Mitch Schnittgen (HWT), as well as second-place finishes from Eli Hinebauch and Tyson Gruber, the Ponies had enough firepower to keep their reign atop the Class A wrestling world for another year.
5. Wagner leads Saints to title
In his sixth and final year of college football, former Havre High quarterback Gary Wagner did what he had set out to do so long ago. In December, Wagner led the Carroll College Saints to their sixth NAIA national championship. In his final game at quarterback, Wagner scored his team's only touchdown on an amazing 83-yard run as Carroll beat Sioux Falls 10-7 in Rome, Ga.
The win capped off an amazing year for Wagner. He was named the championship game's offensive MVP, was also the Frontier Conference Co-Offensive Player of the Year for 2010 and was one of 10 finalists for the NAIA Player of the Year.
6. Chinook wins more mat
It was quite a year for Chinook boys sports. And in February at the 2010 Montana All-Class wrestling state championships, the Sugarbeeters brought home another state title. Chinook scored 120 points to win its third straight Class C-only state championship, and the Beeters also finished fifth overall in the B-C Division.
Chinook also had three individual champions in the B-C Division in Willie Miller (152), Robert Stroh (150) and Ben Stroh (171). On a historic night in Billings for the Beeters, Robert Stroh, who now wrestles at the University of Wyoming, also won is his third consecutive individual state title.
7. HHS girls make another run
In March in Hamilton, the Havre High girls basketball team did it again. The Blue Ponies were making their third straight Class A state tournament appearance, and the Ponies made the most of it. After losing to Anaconda in the first round, HHS won two straight games, only to lose to the Copperheads and finish fourth in what was a great season. The Ponies also won a Monday-night challenge game at the Central A tournament in Great Falls just to get to the state tourney.
8. Big Sandy goes deep into the
The Big Sandy Pioneers were a young and inexperienced football team this fall. But that didn't stop them from reaching the Class C Six-Man semifinals after capturing the Northern Division regular season championship. Big Sandy eventually lost to Savage by a mere three points in a semifinal game back In November, but the Pioneers enjoyed a 9-2 record this season and a thrilling three-game postseason run on their home field.
9. Havre High boys swim to
One streak ended and another one began at the 2010 Class A state swimming championships in February in Great Falls. The Havre High boys swim team scored 10 points to beat out Billings Central for the state championship, while the HHS girls' run of 10 straight state titles came to an end. It was the HHS boys first state title since 2007.
10. Coaching changes on the Hi-Line
There are always coaching changes in high school sports, but two major moves took place this past year. At Havre High, former Blue Pony and MSU-Northern player and coach Jason Christienson took over the reigns of the Havre High football team this past fall, while legendary basketball coach Charlie Robinson moved from his longtime job first at K/G and then North Star to now coaching the Chinook girls basketball team.
- The MSU-Northern volleyball team had its best season in six years. The Skylights won 11 matches overall and played at a high level, winning four Frontier Conference matches. The Skylights also had to endure tragedy this season as junior Shaina Evans was killed in an automobile accident this past summer.
- Harlem's Trent Jones became the first Wildcat wrestler to win an individual state championship in over two decades this past February in Billings. Jones captured the Class B-C state championship at 189 pounds in his junior season.
- The Chinook girls tennis team won the school's first-ever state championship in tennis this past May in Missoula.
- The MSU-Northern men's basketball team finished off its fourth straight 20-win season and sixth in the last eight years this past spring with a semifinal appearance in the Frontier Conference playoffs.
- Five area teams made the 2010 MHSA football playoffs this fall. Havre played in the Class A playoffs, Chinook and Chester/J-I participated in the Class C playoffs and Big Sandy and North Star reached the Six-Man playoffs.
- Chester/J-I senior basketball player Jessica VanDyke made a big comeback in 2010. VanDyke led all of Montana girls basketball in scoring her senior year after missing the last two seasons with injuries. VanDyke is now a freshman at Carroll College.
- The Montana State University-Northern football team snapped a seven-game 2009 losing streak with a 20-3, season-opening win over UM-Western in August. The Lights were much improved in 2010.
Note: The top area sports stories were voted on by members of the Havre Daily News sports staff and the results do not represent the opinion of any single individual.