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County's Best Athletes Reached Far During 2002
The Susquehanna County Transcript will reveal its Athlete of the Year selection for 2002 next week.
First, it is time to take a look back at the many accomplishments of local athletes and sports teams during the past year.
The Blue Ridge softball team led the list of county high school athletes who reached Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state competition.
Former county high school athletes made their impact in college, including a bowl game and a national championship event. Montrose's Chris Snee started every game for Boston College's 9-4 football team, including a Motor City Bowl game victory over Toledo.
Susquehanna's Jeff Rood played a prominent role in helping Millersville University reach the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II national championships in cross country.
Another county athlete reached nationals - before entering high school. Matt Panasevich, now a freshman wrestler at Mountain View, was one of two Schoolboy Division wrestlers to win the USA Wrestling Triple Crown. He won folkstyle, Greco-Roman and freestyle national titles in the 13- and 14-year-old division.
Area high school athletes get the bulk of the attention because of their efforts close to home.
Several teams used those accomplishments to move on in state competition.
Blue Ridge finished second in the state in Class A softball. The Lady Raiders lost, 1-0, to Penns Valley in the final.
Elk Lake's baseball team advanced to the state Class A semifinals.
The Blue Ridge girls' volleyball and Forest City girls' basketball teams won district titles to advance into state competition. Blue Ridge was the Lackawanna League and District 2 champion for the second straight season. Forest City, which reached the second round, won its fourth straight district title.
Montrose won the district team golf championship.
The Montrose girls and Forest City boys also reached the state tournament in basketball.
Elk Lake repeated its Lackawanna League Division III North baseball title and Mountain View repeated its Lackawanna Division 2 North girls' basketball championship.
The Montrose girls, Mountain View boys and Forest City boys all won division titles in soccer.
Five county athletes won District 2 individual gold medals.
Mountain View's Jake Panasevich was named Outstanding Wrestler of the Class AA tournament after winning the 171-pound title.
Susquehanna's Paul Truskolaski, Montrose's Bob Dean, Elk Lake's Jessica Squier and Montrose's Lori Cooper won district track titles to reach the state meet.
Truskolaski was the best county finisher at states with a 12th-place finish in the long jump. Dean's district victory in the discus came over eventual state champion Nathan Poindexter of Valley View. Squier won in the 3200-meter run, while Cooper won the javelin.
Squier led six county qualifiers for the state cross country meet. She was second in District 2 and 10th in the state.
Bob Squier, Jessica's brother, led the boys by finishing third in the district and 41st in the state.
Blue Ridge's Rachel Hall was also third in the district. Montrose's Jeanne Roszel and Krista DiRiancho and Elk Lake's Ryan Place were the other state qualifiers.
Montrose's Dylan Maxey and Elk Lake's Carla VanDenHengle used third-place finishes in the district to reach the state golf tournament.
Blue Ridge's Chris Lewis used a third-place finish at Northeast Regionals to reach the state wrestling tournament at 125 pounds.
Mountain View's Mike Belcher was named all-state in soccer.
Sports news extended beyond the playing field.
The Lackawanna Football Conference returned following the demise of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Football Conference. The year ended with discussions opening about the possibility of Susquehanna and Blue Ridge co-sponsoring football and, possibly, other sports.
Montrose businessmen Tom Bolles and Tim Smith led a new ownership group that brought the American Hockey League back to Binghamton.
Local fans who enjoy the minor-league teams in Binghamton and the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area had plenty to cheer about.
Eight first-round draft picks have appeared for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, including Alexandre Daigle, the first player taken in the entire 1993 draft.
Daigle came out of retirement by scoring two goals and adding an assist in a Pittsburgh Penguins' 4-3 exhibition win over the New Jersey Devils at the First Union Arena in Wilkes-Barre. After 30 games with Pittsburgh, he was sent down and made his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home debut with a goal on New Year's Eve.
The Binghamton Senators are led by Jason Spezza, the second player taken in the 2001 NHL draft.
The Binghamton Mets featured shortstop Jose Reyes, the top prospect in the minor leagues.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons set a franchise record for wins behind the play of prospects Marlon Byrd and Brett Myers and International League Pitcher of the Year Joe Roa. Marc Bombard was named IL Manager of the Year.
Arenafootball2 arrived with the debut of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers.
Montrose's Dan Rounds made a local appearance while helping the Richmond Speed to the af2 playoffs.
Rich Thompson, another Montrose graduate, is rising through the ranks of minor league baseball. Thompson led the Southern League in runs scored while playing for the Tennessee Smokies, the Toronto Blue Jays' Class AA farm team.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Snow wiped out much of the local schedule including Saturday's Zurn-Bush Wrestling Tournament. County schools in the tournament included Blue Ridge, Montrose, Susquehanna and host Elk Lake.
Mountain View and Carbondale each beat Montrose in girls' basketball to finish the weekend tied for the Lackawanna League Division 2 North lead, a half-game ahead of Forest City.
Leah Simko scored 23 points as Mountain View topped Montrose, 47-36, Saturday night.
Betty Lou Mihal added 12 points in the win.
Coleen Walsh led Montrose with 13 points. Chelsey Parvin added 11.
Forest City ripped Carbondale Sacred Heart, 71-29, and Carbondale defeated Susquehanna, 60-47, in Saturday's other games.
Carbondale downed Montrose, 65-57, in Friday's only game.
The Chargerettes trailed, 14-10, after one quarter but moved in front, 45-34, after three quarters.
Walsh led Montrose with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Erika Brown added 16 points, Chelsey Parvin had 10 points and six steals and Kate LaBarbera had six steals and six assists.
Montrose posted its first Lackawanna League Division I boys' basketball victory Saturday night when it topped West Scranton, 79-69.
Matt Hornak scored 19 points and was joined in double figures by Jesse Tyler, Kyle Lattner, Dylan Maxey and Matt Wilcox.
Elk Lake remained undefeated in the Division 2 North with a 69-53 victory over Forest City.
Carbondale routed Susquehanna, 69-38, in Saturday's other Division 2 North game.
Montrose defeated Blue Ridge, 57-47, Dec. 29 in a non-league game that was a rematch of last season's Lackawanna Division 2 North boys' basketball championship game. The Meteors have since moved to the Division 1 North.
Western Wayne defeated Susquehanna, 63-41, in another boys' game.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Forest City is at Carbondale Thursday in a matchup between two of the three girls' basketball teams that enter the week unbeaten in Lackawanna Division 2 North play.
Mountain View, which already has a win in the only Lackawanna League match wrestled to date, is at Montrose Wednesday and Susquehanna Saturday. Susquehanna upset Mountain View early last season and both teams went on to post winning Lackawanna Division II records.
If the weather holds up, a series of makeup games should also crowd the schedule.
Kristy Shadduck, a 6-foot-1 freshman forward from Elk Lake, made her college basketball debut Dec. 22 for Lock Haven University in a 72-68 loss to Cheyney.
Shadduck played one minute in the game, taking and missing one shot. She grabbed a defensive rebound.
Shadduck earned a shot at playing basketball on the NCAA Division II level by becoming just the second girls' player in school history at Elk Lake to produce more than 1,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in her career. She was also the MVP on the Lackawanna League all-star game.
Lock Haven went 5-4 in its games before the holiday break.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Back To Work For JIMMY SPENCER Jimmy Spencer of Berwick, PA is off the unemployment rolls.
Last Friday, Spencer signed a contract to drive Jim Smith's No. 7 Sirius Dodge in 2003. With the signing of Spencer, one of the last major puzzles of the off-season has come together. In addition, Spencer a former NASCAR Modified competitor will be reunited with crew chief, Tommy Baldwin.
Spencer had two Winston Cup victories in 1994, at Daytona International Speedway in the Pepsi 400 and Talladega Superspeedway in the DieHard 500.
The Berwick, PA, driver also has 12 NASCAR Busch Series wins to his credit, most recently last year's Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"I can't begin to tell you how excited I am about being a part of this team," Spencer said. "Jimmy Smith has been a NASCAR supporter for years. His truck teams have been very successful and I expect the No. 7 team to be no different.
"I'm very excited about this opportunity with Tommy Baldwin as the crew chief, Mike Ege building the engines and Sirius Satellite Radio sponsoring the car. We've got a chance to do big things this year."
Next year will be Spencer's 15th in Winston Cup. In addition to his two wins, he has four Bud Pole Awards.
Baldwin was named crew chief of the No. 7 team last year after the November race in Atlanta. The Bellport, NY native has three Winston Cup victories as a crew chief. His last win came in last year's Daytona 500 with Ward Burton behind the wheel of the No. 22 Cat Pontiac.
Smith got into Winston Cup racing after buying out Geoffrey Bodine's team in 1997. He has also fielded Craftsman Truck series teams, with driver Ted Musgrave.
Testing Begins For Benson And Pontiac Teams The No. 10 Valvoline Pontiac driver Johnny Benson and his teammates begin Winter Testing at Daytona on Tuesday as part of a three-day NASCAR test in preparation for the Feb. 16 Daytona 500.
Benson will drive the new 2003 Grand Prix in testing on the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Teams are allowed to use computer telemetry during testing. The telemetry is outlawed for normal Winston race weekends.
The last time Benson sat behind the wheel of a race car was Nov. 19 as part of a two-day test immediately after the season-ending race in Homestead, Fla.
"I'm kind of excited to get back in a race car," he said. "The break was relaxing and the holidays are always fun but this is about the time you start thinking about racing. Daytona is always such an exciting race and there's a ton of things to get prepared for and it all begins, for the driver at least, next week. I think testing for any of our races is important, but with some of the rule changes for 2003 and us having a new Pontiac it's going to be even more important.
"We will go through our list of probably 50 things we want to try on the car and we will pick out what works and what doesn't work. I guess the bottom line will be speed. With the fuel cell rule and the new car we will have a lot to work through. The superspeedways are always hit or miss. You are either going to be really good or really bad. If it goes good you have to see if you can make it through tech. It seems at Daytona we always have a surprise rule when you get down there. If the January test goes bad then the crew chief has his work cut out for him in the next few weeks trying to find the speed. He may cut up the car and try something else by the time we go back to Daytona for the race. Next week could mean the beginning of a lot of work for a lot of teams.
"You really don't get rusty in the off season. Superspeedway testing isn't a lot of fun for the driver. At that type of track it's all about the computers. You kind of hang on and drive the car around and when you pull back in the garage you can tell them what happened, but they are going to look at the computer to see what is going on."
Racing Trivia Question: How many Winston Cup teams will Chip Ganassi field in 2003?
Answer To Last Week's Question: Japanese driver Hideo Fukuyama made his Winston Cup racing debut last season at Dover Downs.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. If you have a racing question that you would like answered send it to The Racing Reporter, P.O. Box 160711, Mobile, AL, 36616, or e-mail it to: email@example.com.
In the fall, Amanda Vitzakovitch is an all-star soccer player who has started since her freshman year and ranks among the league scoring leaders.
For all those accomplishments, soccer is secondary in the list of sports priorities for Vitzakovitch. The Forest City junior spends the rest of the year concentrating on basketball.
That concentration is clearly playing off.
Vitzakovitch led all county girls basketball players in scoring during December, averaging 22 points per game and earning the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month award.
With Vitzakovitch leading the way, the Lady Foresters finished the calendar year with just one loss and shared the Lackawanna League Division 2 North lead.
Vitzakovitch has been a starter on the last two of Forest Citys four straight District 2 Class A championship teams. As she approaches the 1,000-point career milestone individually, Vitzakovitch is trying to help the team branch out from its status of local Class A power.
"Were hoping to win the league this season," Vitzakovitch said.
Vitzakovitch averaged 16 points last season when she was a first-team division all-star.
She has shown dramatic improvement offensively within the confines of a Forest City team that also returned each of its other starters.
Vitzakovitch, who plays for AAU teams Hoop City and the Pocono Blizzards in the high school off-season, has developed a game that is effective all over the floor.
She can be found at the top of the defense pressuring opposing ball-handlers if needed or under the basket trying to contain an inside threat. The points can come from a similar variety of spots.
"I get my points from all around, shooting outside and driving," Vitzakovitch said. "And, I try to be a big rebounder."
Amanda is the daughter of Stan and Carol Vitzakovitch of Forest City.
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