FROM THE PRESS BOX: PANDEMIC LEADS TOP TEN STORIES OF 2020
I’m sure 2020 will long be remembered as a year no one wants to repeat.
The year began like any other, and the winter season culminated with another very successful season for Valley wrestlers. However, on March 13, all postseason tournaments that were still on-going on both sides of the border were postponed, and eventually canceled, due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
High school fall sports in Pa. was delayed slightly, but seasons were played in each sport, and state championships (somewhat modified with fewer teams and individuals qualifying) were held. New York student-athletes, especially those in Section IV, weren’t so fortunate.
As I've said in the past, lists are like ... well, everyone has one.
Here is one person's list - from 10 to 1
- of the “Top 10 Storylines of 2020;”
10. Athens girls and boys soccer teams see long runs atop NTL come to an end:
The Lady Wildcats had won eight straight NTL titles heading into the 2020 season, while the Athens began the season with six consecutive league championships under their belts. Both streaks came to an end this season.
Technically, the girls streak could still be alive, considering no league champion was crowned. Athens (9-2-1), Wellsboro (8-1-1), and Troy (7-2) had similar records, but Wellsboro and Troy never squared off on the field in 2020.
The Lady Wildcats split a pair of contests with Troy, beat Wellsboro once and tied the Lady Hornets in their other match. Their second loss was at Wyalusing.
The Athens boys were 11-2 in the regular season, but both losses came to eventual league champ Wellsboro.9. Unbeaten Athens boys cross country team repeats as division champs:
The Athens boys cross country team won its second straight NTL Large School Division crown, this time posting an unbeaten 10-0 record.
The Wildcats edged powerhouse Wyalusing by 1 point in their regular-season dual meet, but missed out on an overall league title at the NTL Coaches Invite — finishing 1-point behind Wyalusing.
Athens finished fifth at the District 4 Class AA Championships, and, thanks to the PIAA reducing the number of state qualifiers due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a trio of Wildcat runners — Connor Dahl, Kyle Anthony, and Matt Gorsline — missed out on a trip to the state meet when in normal years they would have qualified.8. Athens girls basketball exceeds expectations:
The Lady Wildcats entered the season with quite a bit of experience, but some questions.
Senior Avery Priester, who was the most improved player in the area, answered the biggest question at point guard, while junior Kayleigh Miller, sophomore Caydence Macik, and senior Haley Barry formed a dynamic 1-2-3 punch, and everything else fell into place.
The Lady Wildcats posted a 22-6 record, won an NTL Large School Division, and an NTL Showdown title, then finished second in the District 4, Class AAAA playoffs to earn a berth in the PIAA playoffs.7. Athens football posts strong turnaround in 2020:
Coming off a dismal 1-10 season in 2019, coach Jack Young directed the Wildcats to a 5-1 regular-season mark and a match-up against eventual state runner-up Danville in the District 4, Class AAA semifinals.
The Wildcats opened the season with a hard-fought, 10-7, win over arch-rival Sayre in the annual Rusty Rail rivalry game. They also posted wins over Wyalusing, Towanda, South Williamsport, and Montgomery.
Their lone regular-season loss came at home again Canton, which enjoyed an unbeaten regular season.
The Wildcats’ 43-0 loss to Danville in the playoffs looks a little better in hindsight after the Ironmen followed with a win over state-ranked Montoursville, and Archbishop Carroll (42-21) in the state semifinals.6. Athens volleyball makes deep playoff run:
Third-year coach Heather Hanson directed a senior-laden team, led by Kayleigh Miller, Taylor Field, and Leah Liechty, into the championship game of the District 2-4, Class AAA Sub-Regional playoffs.
Hanson has led a steady improvement in the Lady Wildcats, who had not qualified for the postseason in 10 years before her arrival. She has led them to the playoffs in each of her three years on the bench.
In Hanson’s first year, Athens went 8-8 in the regular season, and lost in the opening round of the playoffs. In 2019, Athens finished 11-8, and eliminated from postseason by eventual state champion North Penn-Liberty.
With just two Class AAA teams in District 4, the Lady Wildcats were forced to qualify through District 2, but — as the seventh seed — responded with wins at second-seeded Greater Nanticoke, and at sixth-seed Greater Nanticoke, before falling to top-seeded Berwick in the finals.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 earned hardware at States. In the last four years, the Valley has produced 32 state qualifiers and 23 state medal-winners.5B. Athens seniors unexpectedly qualify for States:
In the feel-good story of the winter season and 2020, 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.
3. 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.2. Continuing Covid-19 pandemic cited as reason for cancellation of 2020 fall sports season in Section IV:
The fall season, including state championships, was completed in Pennsylvania, and the majority of sections in New York State were able to facilitate their student-athletes ability to compete in soccer, cross country, and girls swimming. (However, high-risk sports volleyball and football were scrapped throughout the state.)
Section IV, however, was one of three sections in the entire state not to have any type of athletics during the fall. While the Covid-19 pandemic was cited by the voting body, many behind the scenes admit the decision was driven nearly equally by financial concerns,
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.
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