2019: A year in review

Winter snow covers the CGHS fields during February's snowstorm. PHOTO BY ZACH SILVA

The final year of the decade proved to be one of challenges, surprises and triumphs for local athletes

2019 was a tumultuous year of news and changes in Cottage Grove and around the globe.

People around the world are looking back not just on a single year, but an entire decade’s worth of events, victories, losses, tragedies and all manner of human activity that occupies the memory. The scale of that reflection can be overwhelming. It’s easy to focus on the negatives, the anxieties and uncertainties, even in the world of sports.

But the sports section is often a place where readers go to find distraction, cause for celebration and local connection in the face of daily difficulties. This doesn’t mean that serious issues cannot or will not be discussed here in these pages. However, for a small, local newspaper like The Sentinel, it is the youth of the community that are the primary subjects of coverage and their achievements are never-ending.

As 2019 comes to a close, take a walk back through the year to relive some of the biggest sports highlights of the last twelve months. From titles to tragedies, arrivals and departures, surprises and predictions come to fruition, 2019 had it all. Here are ten sports stories worth celebrating and remembering. 

1. February 13, 2019: “Swimmers qualify for state meet”. Despite being a transient team while upgrades were made to the Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center — and despite a roster comprised of only nine swimmers — Cottage Grove’s MJ Raade (so.), Ian Dukes (sr.) and James Kelly (fr.) qualified for the 2019 OSAA 4A State Swimming Championships.

Raade went on to finish 11th in the 500 freestyle, Dukes 8th in both the 100 breaststroke and 500 freestyle with Kelly coming up 12th in the 500 free.

2. March 6, 2019: “Snow slows spring sports start”. While weather often plays a prominent role during the spring sports season, it was an especially ominous start to the year as local teams faced the cancellation of the first week of practice due to snow.

“For a minute there, I thought maybe Mother Nature hated softball,” said North Douglas head softball coach Jesse Rice.

The first official day of spring sports for high school teams across the state was Feb. 28 which coincided with over a foot of snow accumulating and setting off a week of havoc around the area.

3. April 17, 2019: “Roberts heading home”. Gary Roberts spent the last 12 years serving in various roles at CGHS, such as football coach, athletic director, assistant principal, dean of students and social studies teacher.

That tenure came to an end last spring when Roberts accepted the assistant principal position at Marshfield High School in his hometown of Coos Bay.

“It was a very tough decision for me, but the opportunity to move to where I grew up and spend more time with the family was too much to turn down,” said Roberts in an email to the CGHS coaches.

In January, Roberts announced that he was stepping down from the role of head coach after 11 seasons at the helm. The five-time Sky-Em Coach of the Year left as the winningest coach in school history, which includes the 2017 state title.

4. April 24, 2019: “Derrick’s no-hitter guides Warriors to win”. On Monday night, Nicki Derrick was unhittable.

In a playoff-esque road game against 15th ranked Oakland (9-2, 5-1 Special District 3), Derrick led the third-ranked Warriors (15-1, 8-0 Special District 3) to a 1-0 victory as she struck out 20 batters on her way to a no-hitter.

All season the junior pitcher — who struck out a staggering 57 percent of the batters she faced, recorded six no hitters and two perfect games — was dominant against everyone. But especially against the best teams North Douglas faced. In the regular season, it was this no-hitter against Oakland and a pair of shutouts against Central Linn, two of the best teams in the league.

5. May 22, 2019: “Krokus crowned state champion”. Friday’s state triple jump competition was over as soon as Mitchell Krokus started.

Competing at Mt. Hood Community College, the Cottage Grove junior was able to claim the state title by recording the farthest jump of the day – a mark of 44-04.75 feet – on his very first jump of the competition.

“I’m still kind of processing. It’s weird,” said Krokus who recorded the three farthest jumps in the competition. “It’s a relief but also like something to look forward to next season. It’s something I want to keep improving. It usually takes a few hours to kick in.”

Krokus will look to defend his title in 2020 with track and field starting up again in March.

6. May 22, 2019: “Olson takes discus title, Byle to finals in three events”. It was a long day — made longer by a 76-minute thunder and lightning delay — for Elkton junior Sadie Olson and sophomore Margaret Byle at last Saturday’s 1A state track meet.

On the final day of competition, the pair of athletes made the finals in all five of their respective events – Olson in discus and shot put and Byle in the 100, 200 and 400 – highlighted by Olson finishing the day with a state discus title.

“I had never expected this. Coming my freshman year I scratched all my throws at districts. But last year when I came and got second place [at state] I was like, ‘Wow, I might actually get first next year once this girl graduates,’” said Olson. “So I’m just overjoyed and I’m really glad. And I’m really thankful it didn’t get cancelled.”

7. June 5, 2019: “Warriors take softball state title”. With what seemed like the entire community of Drain watching in the stands, the North Douglas softball team put on a show during Friday’s state championship.

“I tell ya, I would say most of Drain showed up for the game today. We had so many fans here, it was fantastic,” said North Douglas head coach Jesse Rice. “And I’m sure they’re going to follow us all the way home and give us no rest for about a week. I mean, the community is fired up and they should be because it was a really, really good performance by these girls.”

The ninth-seeded Warriors (28-3) gave their fans plenty to cheer about at Jane Sanders Stadium as the team, in front of a crowd of 1,107 people, claimed its second softball state title in the last three seasons with a 15-6 win over defending champions and seventh seed Kennedy (22-5).

8. July 31, 2019: “Local students put CG wrestling on the map”. While the high school season officially ended in February, Cottage Grove’s Raina Herzog and Adelle Kent continued in the sport and both wrestled at junior nationals in Fargo, North Dakota earlier in July.

At the tournament, Herzog finished second in her weight class.

Herzog and Kent are both juniors this year at CGHS. The pair of girls qualified to be one of the 34 girls on the team at a tournament this past March.

During the high school season Raina Herzog, in her first year of high school wrestling, won the state title at the 235 weight class.

9. October 9, 2019: “Beloved pool returns to CG, Aqua Lions”. After a long 11-month closure, Cottage Grove finally has their beloved pool back and better than ever.

On Tues., Oct. 2 Sue Taylor - wife of longtime Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) water polo and swimming coach, Bud Taylor, and a former lifeguard - cut the ribbon on the new and improved Warren H. Daugherty Aquatic Center in front of a crowd of about 200 eager locals.

The ribbon-cutting signaled the end of a lengthy closure that, while inconvenient for local swimming enthusiasts and youth athletes, brought myriad improvements to a pool facility that desperately needed it after 63 years of continued service to the Cottage Grove community.

10. November 6, 2019: “Freshman phenom flies into state meet”. The 2019 Sky-Em League Cross Country Championships were held on Thurs., Oct. 31 at Lane Community College and CGHS freshman Jaden Owens surprised just about everyone by finishing second overall with a personal record 5k time of 16:33.50. It was one of the fastest times in the state recorded by a freshman.

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