First off, the top five Ashe County sports news-makers of the year.
5. Chandler Christensen takes her basketball skills to the next level
In March, senior forward Chandler Christensen decided that Methodist University was the right fit for her, both for education and for the chance to continue her basketball career. Christensen finished off a great season in 2011, helping lead the team to its fifth consecutive 20-win season and yet another Mountain Valley Conference Championship.
Christensen became the second member of the 2010-2011 Lady Huskies to sign her Letter of Intent. Mallary Clay signed hers in November of 2010 to continue her basketball career at Catawba College.
4. Glenn Bailey’s stellar cross country season
Senior cross country runner Glenn Bailey had one of the best seasons any XC runner has ever had at Ashe County High School.
Bailey finished in first place at the MVAC Championship Meet and went on to be named MVAC Runner of the Year for 2011.
The senior was not done there. He continued on to the regional and state cross country meets where he found just as much as success as he did against the conference runners. Bailey earned a 10th place finish at the regional competition, a good enough finish to qualify him for the state meet.
Bailey solidified his ranking as one of the best runners in the state, finishing in eighth place at the 2A state championship meet.
The senior standout was chosen as the team captain earlier in the season, not only because of his abilities and his desire to get better, but also because his coaches and teammates felt he inspired and encouraged the entire team to work hard and improve.
3. Bill Strong retires
Football head coach Bill Strong coached his final game when the Huskies battled Bandys in the first round of the 2A state playoffs.
Coach Strong’s retirement will go into effect on Jan. 1. Strong compiled a record of 41-32 which included playoff appearances in each season as the head coach. Under Coach Strong, the Huskies picked up one playoff victory, a 13-8 win over South Iredell, and also earned two MVAC Championships in 2006 and 2007. Ashe finished .500 or better in five of the six years and never had a losing conference record in the MVAC.
2. ACMS Bulldogs go undefeated
The Ashe County Middle School Bulldogs finished a perfect season, and capped it off with a Sertoma Bowl championship, a 14-0 victory over North Wilkes.
Each year, the Sertoma Bowl features the top 1A school and top 2A school battling for the league championship. This year, it was the Bulldogs that had the team to beat all season long, and nobody could beat them.
ACMS finished the year with a 10-0 record, and steamrolled through the playoffs, shutting out West Wilkes, Central Wilkes, and North Wilkes to clinch the championship.
1. Lady Huskies win conference title
2011 marked the third consecutive conference championship for the Lady Huskies.
This talented group of athletes was part of a remarkable run of success for the team. Over the past three years, the Lady Huskies compiled an overall record of 72-9, won the regular season conference title three times, and the MVAC Conference Tournament twice. The 2010-2011 team earned yet another 20-win season, the fifth consecutive year that Ashe has accomplished that feat and the eighth straight season with a winning record overall.
Now, taking a look at some of the most memorable moments of the year outside of Ashe County, lots of things happened that will be remembered by sports fans for years to come.
The National Football League and National Basketball Association all dealt with work stoppages as players and owners argued over different items for weeks and months. The NFL didn’t miss any regular season games. However, the NBA had to scrap the first month and a half of the regular season.
Baseball fans won’t forget just how important the final game of the regular season can be. The Atlanta Braves and Boston RedSox each learned a hard lesson about playing until the end. Both the Braves and Sox had big advantages for the Wild Card playoff position in their respective leads, only to see them be upended on the final day of the regular season. The Red Sox lost to a bad Orioles team, then Evan Longoria belted a walk-off homer to steal the final playoff spot away from Boston. In the National League, the Braves lost to a Philadelphia team that wasn’t even playing all its starters at the end, while the St. Louis Cardinals took advantage by shutting out the Houston Astros. Just how valuable was that playoff spot? The Cardinals, who squeaked in on the last day of the regular season, went on to win the 2011 World Series, beating the Texas Rangers.
NASCAR also saw the closest championship finish in history. The final point standings ended in a tie, with the tiebreaker going to Tony Stewart as he won more races during the final 10 Chase for the Cup events. Stewart, who barely made the chase after failing to win a race for the entire season prior to the final 10 races, surged to a strong finish and picked up his third NASCAR Sprint Cup title.
Sadly, 2011 also saw the death of several prominent sports figures. Former NFL players Chester McGlockton and Lee Roy Selmon, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, Oklahoma State women’s basketball head coach Kurt Budke and assistant coach Miranda Serna, boxing legend Joe Frazier, Indy Car great Dan Wheldon, baseball Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew, and former basketball players Lorenzo Charles, Robert “Tractor” Traylor and Armen Gilliam all lost their lives this past calendar year.
Sports fans will look to a brighter 2012 year, hopefully with much more good news than bad.