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The 2019-20 school year, in particular the ending, was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before.

I've talked about storylines in the past and how they normally come in one of four realms: the start of a storyline, the continuation of one, the likely culmination of one, or a storyline totally out of the blue.

While different, the 2019-20 school year again offered a variety of storylines, including the continuation of a few impressive storylines, the likely culmination of a couple more, and one story that was definitely out of the blue.

Without any further ado, I give you, from No. 7 to No. 1 (and Plus-1), the Valley Sports Report Super 7-Plus One Storylines of the Year:”

7. Waverly cross country runners make history:
Both the Waverly boys and girls cross country teams enjoyed good seasons, but the postseason gave three individuals a time to shine.

Junior Collin Wright became the first harrier in program history to qualify for the New York State Championships in consecutive seasons, while seniors Sheridan Talada and Elizabeth Fritzen made it three Wolverines at the State meet in frigid Plattsburgh.

Sheridan became the first Lady Wolverine to ever medal at the State meet, and Wright had his best finish.

Wright returns next year in hopes of writing the final chapter in this storyline.

6. Waverly volleyball returns to Section IV finals in Sinsabaugh’s final season:
Coming off the program’s first-ever Section IV title, Waverly finished the 2019 regular season with a 10-5 record and earned the sixth-seed in the Class C playoffs.

The Lady Wolverines upended third-seed Lansing in the quarterfinals for coach Kesha Sinsabaugh’s 100th career win in her ninth and final season, then made their way through semi-final pool play to earn a shot at defending their title.

With four starters graduating, and Sinsabaugh stepping down, any further chapters in this storyline would have to be considered a sequel.

5. Another historic wrestling season: The Valley wrestling teams continued a remarkable string of postseason success, sending 10 grapplers (six Tioga, three Athens, one Waverly) to States, with eight (five Tioga, two Athens, one Waverly) of them earning state hardware.

Last year, all six Valley wrestlers to advance to States earned medals, and the year prior five of the nine Valley wrestlers to compete at States earned hardware. In the last four years, the Valley has produced 32 state qualifiers and 23 state medal-winners.

Tioga returns five state qualifiers, including four place-winners, in 2020-21, and Athens returns to two-time state place-winner Gavin Bradley. None of the six returning state qualifiers, will be seniors next year, so this story has at least a couple chapters remaining.

5B. Athens seniors unexpectedly qualify for States:
In the feel-good story of the winter season, Athens seniors Keegan Braund and Alex West capped career-best seasons with trips to Hershey.

West’s journey ended quickly, but Braund defied the odds and capped the fairy-tale postseason with an eighth-place medal.

4.  Waverly’s Atanasoff caps brilliant career; Wolverine swimmer continue dominance: Waverly senior Mike Atanasoff capped a record-breaking career with a pair of state medals, including a third-place medal in the 50-yard freestyle, which matched the best place-finish in program history.

Atanasoff, who won three state medals in his career, graduates with school and IAC records in the 50 free (21.1 seconds) and the 100 free (46.61 seconds), and is second all-time at WHS in the 200 free (1:46.51).

Atanasoff, who also recorded his 200th career win this season, helped Waverly to its third consecutive unbeaten regular season as it ran its win streak to 43. The Wolverines have won three straight IAC regular-season titles, and three of the last four league championships.

Atanasoff’s portion of this storyline comes to an end, but the Wolverines return a plethora of talent, so the team portion of this storyline could continue next year.

3. Athens girls soccer repeats as District 4, Class AAA champions: In his first two years at the helm, Athens girls soccer Rich Pitts suffered through frustrating opening-round losses, but that only made his resolve stronger.

Pitts strengthened his non-league slate, and back-loaded his schedule. It worked, and the Lady Wildcats won back-to-back District 4 titles.

Athens graduates eight seniors, so if there’s another chapter to be added to this storyline, Pitts will have to do it with a young roster in 2020.

2. Tioga football wins eighth Section IV title in nine years:
When the season began most pundits viewed Walton as the team to beat in Section IV’s Class D, but a pair of wins over the Warriors, including a 44-36 class in the championship game, lifted the Tigers to their third straight Class D title and eighth in nine years.

Tioga went on to win its eighth consecutive Regional championship, before seeing its season end in a heart-breaking 28-27 loss to defending state champion Clymer / Sherman / Panama in the state semifinals.

The Tigers graduate a strong senior class, but all-everything sophomore Emmett Wood and a very strong sophomore class return to make a run at making it nine Class D titles in 10 years. A couple additions to the Class D ranks in 2020 will make it tougher, but don’t be surprised if there are a few more chapters to be written in this storyline.

1. Tioga wrestling continues historic success: Kris Harrington took over the Tioga wrestling program prior to the 2016-17 season. Since then, the Tigers have won four Section IV, Division 2 titles, two of the three Section IV Duals titles, and the last two team titles at the New York State Division 2 Championships.

In Harrington’s four years, Tioga has had 18 state qualifiers, including 11 Section IV champions. The Tigers have had 13 state medalists, including three state champions, two runners-up, and a third-place finisher.

Tioga advanced six wrestlers to the New York State Division 2 Championships, with five reaching the podium, led by 8th-grader Gianni Silvestri, who became the youngest champion ever from a Valley school. It marked the second time in three years, Tioga has sent six wrestlers to States.

Again, all five of Tioga’s returning state qualifiers are underclassmen, and none will be a senior next year. The Tigers also have a wealth of talent at the junior high ranks on the way as re-enforcements. This storyline is far from complete.

Plus-1: Covid-19 pandemic wipes out 2020 spring sports season: The fall season went off without a hitch, and the winter season finished without incident for Valley athletes, but New York and Pennsylvania both saw some of its postseasons canceled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ultimately, the entire spring sports season — on both sides of the border was canceled.

Let’s hope this is a storyline that is not repeated again in our lifetime, or those of our children.

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