Local Sports Scene
Gaffey, Button, Snee Excelled In 2005
Susquehanna County athletes reached the top of their respective sports on various levels during 2005.
Amber Gaffey's state gold medal in track, Seth Button's national championship in college baseball and Chris Snee's significant role in gaining a berth in the National Football League playoffs highlight a series of achievements by county athletes in the past year.
Gaffey cleared 11 feet, 3 inches in the pole vault to win the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class AA championship. She added to Teresa Covert's four titles and Jim Corse's win in the pole vault to give Susquehanna six of the nine individual gold medals ever won by county athletes in PIAA competition.
Button, an Elk Lake graduate, went 5-for-5 with three runs and four runs batted in during the national championship game to lead Gloucester Community College (N.J.) to a 14-5 romp over Ridgewater College (Minn.) for the National Junior Collegiate Athletic Association Division III title. Button, a second-team All-American, was the MVP of the NJCAA Division III World Series.
Snee helped New York Giants running back Tiki Barber to record-setting efforts by holding together an offensive line that was otherwise plagued by injuries. The Montrose graduate helped the Giants win the National Football Conference East Division title.
Rich Thompson, another Montrose graduate playing professional sports, tied for the Class AA Eastern League lead in stolen bases with 45, despite spending almost six weeks at Class AAA. For the season, Thompson was 58-for-66 stealing bases.
Forest City graduate Carly Graytock was the 14th woman and the third U.S. woman to finish the Boston Marathon.
Button was one of many county athletes to excel in college sports.
Nadine Taylor of Susquehanna was named Middle Athletic Conference Freedom League Player of the Year. The Wilkes outfielder hit .394 with six homers and 17 stolen bases.
Blue Ridge graduate Heather Bradley, a senior co-captain, was named Most Valuable Player of the Middle Atlantic Conference tournament where she helped the University of Scranton to the title and an NCAA Division III national tournament berth.
Montrose graduate Courtney Parvin helped Springfield College reach the final eight NCAA Division III women's basketball teams and was a first-team New England Men's and Women's Athletic Conference all-star.
Mountain View graduate Nicole Zapolski, who had already scored more than 1,000 points, became the first Keystone College women's basketball player to grab 1,000 career rebounds.
Nicole Chaszar, who went by "Nikki" during her days at Montrose and Temple University, was named head women's basketball coach at Western New England College where she has her team off to a 5-3 start.
Gaffey led the list of individual accomplishments by county athletes. Carly Devine of Blue Ridge joined her as a District 2 track gold medalist by winning the 1600 meters. Devine also finished second in the district in the 3200.
County wrestlers took seven of the 14 championships at the District 2 Class AA tournament despite the fact that just five of the 16 teams in the event were from the county.
Jeff Olienacz, Jeff Snyder and Larry Lundy all won titles for Montrose, while Susquehanna's Travis Cordner, Elk Lake's Mike Noldy, Mountain View's Matt Panasevich and Blue Ridge's Justin Herbert also won.
Herbert went on to finish seventh in the state at 160 pounds. Panasevich finished eight in the state at 189 pounds and later placed in a pair of prestigious national events.
Mountain View's Whitney Williams, who accepted a full athletic scholarship to play softball at the University of Massachusetts, reached a rare soccer milestone with her 100th career goal.
Forest City girls' basketball coach Carl Urbas also reached a milestone with his 400th career victory.
Blue Ridge had two girls' sports teams wind up among the top 10 in the state in their classification. The Lady Raiders won a District 2 title and were one of eight quarterfinalists in Class A softball, completing standout careers for Brittany Pavelski and Heather Franks that produced a state title and another state championship game appearance. The school also won a Lackawanna League Class AA title and finished ninth in the state in cross country.
Mountain View repeated as District 2 Class A boys' soccer champion when Joe Scanlon scored three second-half goals in a 3-0 victory over Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
Montrose teams pulled off two of the year's biggest upsets.
The Lady Meteors ended Scranton Prep's 65-match winning streak and reached playoffs in the Northeastern Pennsylvania Tennis League East Division and District 2 Class AA before losing.
The Meteors opened the District 2 Class AA baseball playoffs as the 17th seed out of 18 teams, but reached the finals and qualified for the state tournament with four straight wins, including a 10-1 rout of top-seeded Riverside.
Both Montrose basketball teams won Lackawanna League division titles with the boys' title coming in a playoff over Susquehanna. The Elk Lake softball team and Forest City boys' soccer teams also won division titles.
The Montrose girls' soccer team fell short of a title when it lost a championship game shootout after playing to a scoreless tie with Lakeland through four overtimes.
The Elk Lake softball team lost in 10 innings in the District 2 Class AA final. Susquehanna reached the District 2 Class A final in girls' volleyball before losing.
Susquehanna beat Lackawanna Trail for the first time in the school's 33-year wrestling history and also handed Scranton Prep its only Lackawanna League Division II loss. As a result, Susquehanna and Elk Lake wound up in a three-way wrestleoff for the division title where they lost to Scranton Prep.
Frank Passetti, a graduate of Susquehanna, made his coaching debut by leading Abington Heights to the District 2 Class AAA girls' track championship.
In football, Susquehanna brought an end to its 34-game losing streak with a 7-6 win over Montrose. The Sabers also celebrated their first home night game with a 27-24 win, one of two on the season over playoff-bound Bishop O'Hara. Anthony Dorunda ran for three touchdowns, passed for another and intercepted two passes in the historic game.
In regional professional sports, Jason Spezza was named Most Valuable Player and the Binghamton Senators won the American Hockey League East Division title in the 2004-05 season only to lose in the first round to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
The Penguins then opened the 2005-06 season with the best start in AHL history. They continue to have the league's best record.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Mountain View's Panasevich remained unbeaten and won his third tournament of the season when he captured the 189-pound title at the Tunkhannock Kiwanis Wrestling Tournament.
Panasevich cruised into the final, including an 11-2 win over Lake-Lehman's Joe Klemunes. He then got past Delaware Valley's Joe Kennedy, 3-1, in the final.
Montrose's Anthony Selitto finished second at 145 pounds. He decisioned Damien Kratz of Pittston Area, 6-2, to reach the final.
Mountain View's Joe Johnson finished sixth.
The Eagles finished 17th out of 19 teams in the event with 40 1/2 points. Montrose was 18th with 29 points.
Pittston Area won the tournament over Wyalusing, 227 1/2-187. Lackawanna Trail placed fourth for the best finish by a Lackawanna League team.
In boys' basketball, Mountain View remained unbeaten and won its second tournament of the season by pulling away from Forest City for a 59-45 victory Wednesday in the finals of the Forest City Rotary Tournament.
Robbie Johnson scored 23 points to earn tournament Most Valuable Player honors.
The Eagles led, 42-37, going into the fourth quarter and were clinging to a six-point lead before running off a streak of 11 straight points late in the game.
Scanlon scored 14 points and Johnson added 12 in a 72-12 rout of St. Rose Academy in the semifinal.
Johnson and Tim Bennett made the all-tournament team along with Forest City's Ryan Ogozaly and Stan Vitzakovitch.
Susquehanna defeated Tunkhannock, 65-63, to take third place in the Crestwood Tournament. Brent Keyes scored in double figures in both games and was selected to the all-tournament team.
In girls' basketball, Montrose, Blue Ridge and Forest City each recovered from first-round losses to win tournament consolation games.
Amanda Lass and Chelsey Parvin were all-tournament selections for Montrose, which lost to host Riverside, 44-41, in the opening round of the Taylor Lions Tournament.
Brittany Ely led the Lady Meteors with 13 points against Riverside and 15 in a 66-35 romp over Old Forge for third place.
Lass had 12 points in each game and added team-highs of seven rebounds, six steals and five assists in the consolation win. Parvin had 10 points in each game and led the team with 10 rebounds against Riverside.
Montrose opened a 22-1 lead in the first quarter against Old Forge.
Blue Ridge rallied for a 50-38 victory over Bishop O'Hara in the consolation game of the Lady Mohawks Tournament at Wilkes-Barre Meyers.
Forest City beat Western Wayne, 53-37, for third place of the Honesdale Jaycees Tournament.
Amanda Vitzakovitch, a sophomore guard from Forest City, has played in every game so far this season for Division II West Chester University.
West Chester is 2-8. Vitzakovitch had a season-high 12 points in a 74-73 upset over Shippensburg and scored six points without missing a shot during a 79-66 win over Bowie State.
Vitzakovitch is averaging 16.1 minutes per game and has made one start.
On the season, she is 17-for-44 (38.6 percent) from the floor, 6-for-22 (27.3 percent) on 3-pointers and 6-for-9 (66.7 percent) from the foul line.
Vitzakovitch averages 4.6 points and 2.2 rebounds. She also has 10 steals, six assists and three rebounds in the 10 games.
THE WEEK AHEAD
League play resumes in high school sports.
Scranton Prep is at Susquehanna in wrestling Wednesday. Last season, the final score was 42-42, but Susquehanna won on a tiebreaker to help force the regular-season tie for first place.
In boys' basketball, Forest City is at unbeaten Mountain View Friday in a rematch of their tournament final.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
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Winners And Losers Of 2005 Boy, for the last two or three races of the season there was lots of interest generated by several drivers.
Ron Hornaday is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Most Popular Driver for the second time.
Tony Stewart, methodically raced his way to his second NASCAR Nextel championship, while up and coming Carl Edwards made a big splash.
But the 2004 defending Nextel Cup champion, Kurt Busch was the big headline maker.
Luckily, it appears his run-in with the Maricopa County, Arizona sheriff was only a temporary setback. He was banned from running the last two races of the season by team owner, Jack Roush, but he blissfully moved over to Penske Racing, where he will replace veteran Rusty Wallace.
Even though Busch has faced adversity in the past, he continued to learn the hard way in 2005.
Busch entered the year with every intention of repeating the formula that earned him the 2004 title: use cautious aggression, stay out of trouble, and be around at the end.
He accomplished none of those.
Busch's mid-November run-in with law officials resulted in a misdemeanor citation for reckless driving and his subsequent dismissal from Roush Racing two events before season's end, dropping him to 10th in the final championship standings.
"I admit I became a bit argumentative with the officer when he continuously insisted that I submit to a field sobriety test and a breath test, which I ultimately did," Busch said.
"I later learned my (preliminary breathalyzer) test was .017. That's consistent with an individual my size having one drink. That's brought us to this point.
"I regret that my actions, including saying some disrespectful things to the officer, made the situation worse. I have apologized for this and I want to reiterate this apology to the officer and to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department."
Busch won three races, scored nine top-five and 18 top-10 finishes.
His final victory of the season, at Richmond International Raceway in the final Race to the Chase, seemed to signal the No. 97 team was peaking at just the right time.
But, Busch's shot at repeating as Nextel Cup champion was dashed after just two laps in the Chase.
He started the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway in 12th position, and was racing side-by-side with Scott Riggs when Riggs lost control of his car and slid up into Busch, sending him hard into the outside wall.
He eventually finished 35th, and headed to Dover International Speedway 142 points behind the leader.
Busch in my book was the biggest loser of the 2005 season.
One of the biggest winner’s was this year’s Nextel Cup champion, Tony Stewart.
Maybe it’s all the anger management classes that Tony Stewart has taken in the past, but the dude definitely was a different person in his media and fan relationships during the 2005 season.
Carl Edwards was definitely a big winner last season. With four wins in his first full-season, the young man’s youth and vibrancy brought an added depth to Roush Racing as well as the entire NASCAR racing scene.
Travis Kvapil, who recently lost his Nextel Cup ride when Penske Racing South folded its No. 77 team, has been named as the new driver for the PPI Motorsports No. 32 Chevrolets for the 2006 Cup season.
Kvapil, the 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, replaces Bobby Hamilton Jr., who spent the 2005 season and part of 2004 with the Cal Wells III-owned team based in Hickory, N.C.
Based on the team’s performance, Kvapil is the loser, while Hamilton Jr. comes out the winner, because now Hamilton Jr. is free to find a better Cup team.
Bobby Labonte, the 2000 series champion who finished 24th in the 2005 standings with Joe Gibbs Racing is another loser. While his teammate, Tony Stewart won his second championship, Labonte was able to finish in the top-five only four times, with no wins.
Leaving Hendrick Motorsports, one of NASCAR’s best organizations and moving to Petty Racing, is like jumping from the frying pan into a snake pit. Labonte will attempt to rejuvenate the Petty racing program that hasn't scored a series race win since 1999.
Martin Truex, the 2005 Busch champion remains a young man who reflects the simple values of his boss, Dale Earnhardt Jr.: Getting behind the wheel of a stock car and driving the heck out of it.
Truex received a series single-season record payout of $3,123,692, including more than $1.5 million in race winnings. He becomes the first driver in the 24-year history of the series to total more than $3 million, beating the record he set last year ($2,537,171).
After a season of struggle for the DEI Nextel Cup team, Truex brings great expectations as the next big-money man for a team founded by the late Dale Earnhardt. He brings with him a winning attitude.
Ron Hornaday, former Craftsman Truck series champion continues to be a winner.
For the second time in his Craftsman Truck Series career, Hornaday was named Most Popular Driver.
For the past 10 years, NASCAR has voted for the Most Popular Driver Award and picked different drivers each consecutive year. Hornaday is the first two-time Truck Series winner in the history of the award.
"I could not have been more surprised, I never would have guessed that I would have received this award ... again," Hornaday said. "It's such an honor to be voted Most Popular Driver by NASCAR and the fans over all the other drivers within the Truck Series that are well deserved.
"I can't take all the credit for this and want to thank Kevin and DeLana Harvick for the opportunity to drive their truck and my entire team for their dedication and hard work this season.”
Hornaday has earned this prestigious honor five times in his racing career in a variety of NASCAR's racing divisions. Including the Truck Series (2005, 1997), Hornaday has earned the title in the Busch Series (2002), Winston West Series (1994) and Southwest Tour (1992).
Racing Trivia Question: Who was the driver of the No. 7 Nextel Cup Chevrolet in 2005?
Last Week’s Question: Which will be the first scheduled Cup race of the 2006 season? Answer. The Daytona 500, which will be run Feb. 19.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. His e-mail address is: email@example.com.
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