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The best teams in sports find a way to stay at the top even after they become the target of virtually every one of their opponents.
Susquehanna County's top high school sports teams found a way to stay on top in 2007.
Elk Lake was not only the best girls' cross country team in the Lackawanna League, but the Lady Warriors repeated as District 2 Class AA champions and continued to climb higher on the state level. They finished second in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association state championship meet.
Blue Ridge fell short of its third state Class A softball championship of the decade but not until the Lady Raiders had extended their winning streak to 45 games. Blue Ridge made it through another championship regular season and the District 2 tournament unscathed before suffering their only loss, 1-0, to East Juniata in the first round of the state Class A tournament.
Mountain View repeated its Lackawanna League Division 3 boys' basketball championship, going unbeaten in league play this time on the way to the District 2 final and the second round of the state Class AA tournament. The Eagles defeated Loyalsock Township, 95-92, in a double overtime classic to start the state tournament, then fell, 66-60, to York Catholic.
Along the way, Robbie Johnson became Mountain View's all-time leading scorer.
There were other individual success stories as well.
Jocelyn Dearborn, the power-hitting leader of the Blue Ridge softball team, landed a scholarship to continue her career at Fordham University.
Susquehanna's Amber Gaffey added a silver medal to her gold and two other state track and field medals in the pole vault on the way to her shot at a Division I college career with a scholarship at Towson University in Maryland.
Rachel Owens led Elk Lake's cross country team, finishing 29th in the state. Lisa Ruppert and Ellen Squier were also in the top 45, along with Blue Ridge freshman Allison Hall.
Gaffey and Owens were part of a big day by county athletes at the District 2 Class AA track and field championships.
Gaffey and the distance runners that make up the Elk Lake girls' 3200 meter relay team set records in the first two events of the day.
Owens anchored first- and second-place relay teams while taking individual gold in the 800.
Montrose freshman Julia Koloski won two gold medals and was on a second-place relay team. Teammate Steffany Jahnke won the triple jump and was on the second-place relay team with Koloski.
Elk Lake's Jessica Seklely (discus) and Blue Ridge's Lauren Findley (400) also won gold.
Blue Ridge discus thrower Aaron Onyon and Montrose pole vaulter Cory Poepperling won boys' gold medals.
The track success continued right through the state championships where Gaffey finished second, the Elk Lake 3200 meter relay team of Ruppert, Squier, Kim Caines and Owens was fourth and Onyon was eighth.
The county's talented girls' runners took their rivalries to larger stages with their showdowns in district and state meets.
Elk Lake's District 2 girls' cross country championship came by a 61-67 margin over Blue Ridge, which went 16-2 in the regular season.
Among the other team highlights of the year in high school sports:
Blue Ridge went unbeaten to win the Lackawanna Track Conference Division III girls' championship, but it was Montrose that won the rain-shortened Robert Spagna Championships, the overall league meet.
Blue Ridge was also undefeated in the league in girls' volleyball.
Forest City won the Lackawanna League boys' volleyball championship and was unbeaten into the District 2 Class AA final, earning a berth in the state tournament.
Mountain View won the Lackawanna League Division III baseball championship.
Forest City repeated as Lackawanna League Division III boys' soccer champions.
Montrose was unbeaten in Lackawanna League North Division golf then lost the overall league championship to Scranton Prep on a tiebreaker.
Two of the county's top programs fell just short. The Montrose girls' basketball and Elk Lake wrestling teams were among those to finish second in their divisions.
Elk Lake's Rich Harvey won a District 2 Class AA wrestling championship at 152 pounds.
Susquehanna's Dusty Barton and Montrose's Devlin Conrad advanced to the PIAA East Regional in golf.
As has been the case in recent years, success by Susquehanna County athletes extended well beyond the local fields and gyms.
Chris Snee remains the biggest of those athletes, competing on the biggest stage.
Snee helped the New York Giants return to the National Football League playoffs by leading a powerful running game from his guard position.
When it came time for the Giants to clinch their playoff berth two days before Christmas, they did it with a 291-yard rushing effort that was the team's best since 1959. With help from Snee, a 6-foot-3, 317-pound Montrose graduate, the Giants rank fourth in the NFL in rushing yards.
Another Montrose graduate, Rich Thompson, kept alive his hopes of returning to Major League Baseball.
Thompson batted .295 in 111 games for the Tucson Sidewinders, the Class AAA farm team of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 28-year-old outfielder hit .310 in both July and August to finish strong. He was 15-for-17 stealing bases and had six triples.
Former MLB draft pick Seth Button, an Elk Lake graduate, created one of the many college highlights by former county high school players.
Button led the University of Pittsburgh in home runs (eight), doubles (16) and RBIs (31) while starting all 52 games and finishing second on the team with a .318 batting average.
Among the other college performances:
Whitney Williams, a former three-sport start at Mountain View, made an impressive debut in Division I softball at the University of Massachusetts.
Williams was a second-team, All-Atlantic 10 selection while batting .304 in 49 games, including 41 starts, as a freshman.
Justin Herbert is the captain of the wrestling team at Franklin & Marshall, a Division I team. Herbert, a Blue Ridge graduate, went 16-12 in the 2006-07 season and has started the 2007-08 season 9-1 to move to third in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association rankings at 174 pounds.
Mountain View's Matt Panasevich opened his sophomore season in the starting lineup at Cornell, which is ranked among the top 10 teams nationally in Division I wrestling.
Megan Bullock started every game in field hockey for Lock Haven, which won the Northeast Conference title and qualified for an NCAA Division I Tournament play-in game. Bullock, a senior back/midfielder, had two goals and four assists.
Robert Squier, a senior from Elk Lake, was a second-team Patriot League all-star in cross country at Division I Army.
Devin Glezen batted a team-high .356 while starting all 57 games as Lock Haven finished second in the nation in Division II softball. Former Blue Ridge teammate Brittany Pavelski was also part of the team.
Blue Ridge graduate Rachel Hall became the first Mansfield University outdoor runner to earn all-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference honors four times.
Brooke Hinkley, another Blue Ridge graduate, finished her volleyball career as the University of Scranton's all-time leader in career block assists while ranking in the top 10 in three other categories. She was a first-team Landmark Conference all-star a year after suffering a broken back in a motor vehicle accident while traveling with the team.
Joe Scanlon went from helping Mountain View to titles in three sports as a senior to earning second-team Pennsylvania Athletic Conference soccer all-star honors as a freshman at Misericordia University. Scanlon was third on the team with six goals and three assists.
Northeastern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York also had its highlights on the professional sports level.
On his way to a return to the New York Yankees, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens pitched for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Clemens pitched six scoreless innings in a 2-0 victory over the Toledo Mud Hens before a crowd of 11,310 in Moosic. Clemens gave up just two singles and struck out six.
The Yankees enjoyed the first year after replacing the Philadelphia Phillies as the parent club. They posted the best record in the International League.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins were again in American Hockey League title contention throughout the 2006-07 season before losing to the Hershey Bears in the playoffs.
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pioneers reached the arenafootball2 league championship game before losing.
R.W. Eaks won the first Dick's Sporting Goods Open as the Champions Tour replaced the PGA Tour at En-Joie Golf Club in Endicott, N.Y.
Justin Bolli won the Northeastern Pennsylvania Classic on the Nationwide Tour.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Mountain View defeated Forest City, 60-46, in the finals of the Forest City Rotary Boys' Basketball Tournament.
The Eagles are off to a 7-2 start despite heavy graduation losses from last season's championship team.
After two of the county's boys' basketball title contenders met in one tournament final, the other two advanced to the finals of another.
Susquehanna and Elk Lake won semifinal games in the Susquehanna County Christmas Tournament.
Kirk Fallon scored 24 points to lead Susquehanna past Montrose, 48-38.
Jeff Madrak scored 32 points to lift Elk Lake over Blue Ridge, 73-31.
The same two schools sent teams to the girls' finals of the Susquehanna County Christmas Tournament.
Susquehanna defeated Mountain View, 55-46, and Elk Lake topped Blue Ridge, 63-52, in semifinal games.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
REAL AMERICAN HEROES: THE PETTYS – My vote for the 2008 NASCAR Family of the Year goes to the Petty Family.
A 2000 photo of Adam Petty (1980-2000), the only fourth-generation driver in NASCAR history.
A fixture on the NASCAR circuit for more than 25 years, Kyle Petty currently drives the No. 45 Wells Fargo Dodge in the Nextel Cup Series. Kyle is one of the few third generation athletes competing in professional sports, following in the footsteps of his father, Richard and grandfather, Lee.
Lee didn’t start his Winston Cup racing career until he was 35. His delayed entry into NASCAR can best be explained by the devotion he felt for his family: wife, Elizabeth, and sons, Maurice and Richard.
Life in Randleman, North Carolina was difficult during the Depression years, and it was all Lee could do to take care of his family. At various times, he had been a truck driver, taxi driver, mechanic, and hog farmer.
When Lee heard about the first “Strickly Stock” NASCAR race in Charlotte, in June, 1949, he borrowed a friend’s 1948 Buick Roadmaster. He packed up his wife, Elizabeth and sons, Richard and Maurice and headed to Charlotte.
From the grandstands, the family watched as Lee moved through the field that included Red Byron, Buck Baker and Curtis Turner. Lee was reeling them in until a sway bar broke on the big Buick, causing it to barrel-roll four times.
Lee received only a minor cut, but the car was torn up so bad that it took two wreckers to remove it from the track.
“Since we had driven the car to the track, we didn’t have a ride, and had to thumb our way home,” said Richard.
Learning from his 1949 mistakes, Lee switched to a Plymouth coupe because it was lighter and more maneuverable than the heavier Buick. Throughout his career, Plymouth became the trademark of Petty Racing.
He won the first Daytona 500 (in 1959), and three Grand National (later Winston Cup) Championships in 1954, ’58 and ’59. Throughout his career he was one of the most consistent drivers in racing. Between 1949 and 1959, he never finished below fourth in the final standings.
“I tell you, he was one of the best drivers that ever drove on a race track,” said “Buddy” Baker. “They didn’t come any better, and he was a real gentleman.”
Lee Petty founded Petty Enterprises, the winningest racing organization in American Motorsports. Petty Enterprise drivers have claimed ten Grand National and Winston Cup Championships, won 271 races, and fielded over 2,300 cars in 2,100 events.
Other notable Petty Enterprise drivers include Joe Weatherly, Buddy Baker, LeeRoy Yarbrough, Tiny Lund, Bob Wellborn, Marvin Panch, Darel Dieringer, Jim Paschal, and Herschel McGriff.
Lee Petty died April 5, 2000 at the age of 86.
Though his dad’s career ended in a bad crash in 1961, Richard’s was on the rise. He went on to win 200 races and seven Winston Cup titles. He retired at the close of the 1993 season. Today, he continues to oversee the Petty Racing organization and is a regular fixture in the NASCAR garage area.
Maurice, an excellent mechanic, decided early that he preferred to build engines and work on the cars in the pits than drive.
Recognized throughout the motor sports community for his philanthropic spirit, Kyle has dedicated much of his time away from the track to helping others. His annual Kyle Petty Charity Ride has donated more than $12 million to worthy organizations since its inception in 1995.
Kyle’s wife, Pattie, is also well known for her philanthropic activities. In addition to The Victory Junction Gang Camp, she is a board member of Brenner Children's Hospital, Kyle Petty Charity Ride and a past president of the Winston Cup Racing Wives Auxiliary. She holds a Masters' Degree in Child Developmental Psychology and an undergraduate degree in Early Childhood Development.
In October 2000, Kyle and Pattie partnered with actor Paul Newman to launch their most ambitious project to date, The Victory Junction Gang Camp. The project was founded to honor their son, Adam (the first fourth generation professional athlete in the United States) who died in May, 2000 during practice for a NASCAR Busch Grand National Series race in Loudon, New Hampshire.
Victory Junction is a year-round camp that serves children, ages seven to 15, with a variety of health issues. During the summer season, the camp offers week-long disease specific sessions with up to 125 kids per session.
Kyle and Pattie were honored in December, 2007, with this year's WebMD Health Heroes award, which honors Americans who are working to improve the lives of those struggling with serious health conditions. The Pettys were profiled in the November-December issue of WebMD the Magazine and on the WebMD consumer site (WebMD.com).
Though brothers and their families usually go their separate ways after maturity, members of the Petty family have been pursuing the same goal since 1949, of winning races. But they have also upheld the moral side of life.
“We owe racing a lot,” said Richard during a 1999 interview. “Our way of life has been different from a lot of families. About all I knew growing up was racing. My dad was always going somewhere to race and I pretty much went with him.
“The 1959 Daytona 500 was also my first race. I didn’t complete many laps, but I was there for the first one. There have been a lot of fine people that I have met during my racing career. And I still continue to meet wonderful folks.
“You’ve got to give it your all if you’re to win. I’ve never had anyone on the track pull over and let me win a race. But that doesn’t mean you have to treat other drivers and people in a shabby manner.
“I learned at an early age that if you expect someone to treat you with respect, then you’ve got to show them respect. That’s what I learned, and that’s what I’ve taught Kyle, and a few other folks.”
Richard, his wife, Lynda, their three children, Kyle, Sharon and Lisa all live close to each other. Their neighbors are Maurice, and a flock of cousins and uncles. The Petty compound is devoted to stock car racing and philanthropy.
It’s a family affair.
Racing Trivia Question: Which race is considered NASCAR’s biggest event?
Last Week’s Question: Who claimed the 2007 Busch Series Owner’s title? Answer: Carl Edwards won the 2007 driving Championship, but it was Richard Childress that won the Owner’s title.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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