Sports in Hood River took on a new level of excitement in 2002. It was a year of extreme highs and very few lows that put this tiny town of 6,000 on the state sports map to stay.
Hood River has always had a rich sports tradition, but there was something special about 2002. Something timeless. A feeling that anything could happen.
From the determination of the HRV wrestling team last winter to the domination of the football team in the fall, this was a year that will not soon be forgotten.
Neither will the names.
Names like Krizman, Shortt, Meierbachtol and Hinman. Connors, Burton, McClure and Lujano.
Hood River’s high-school athletes raised the bar a little higher in 2002, and their achievements will live on forever, alongside the local sports icons who preceded them.
But 2002 wasn’t just about individual accomplishments. While there were a few that stood out, the essence of this sports year was all about the teams.
Jacobe Krizman may not be sitting on top of the state 4A rushing record books if it weren’t for his offensive line and his backfield mates Chris Searles and Nigel Bond.
Becca Meierbachtol may not have won the Intermountain Conference Player of the Year award in soccer if it weren’t for the rock-solid core that surrounded her.
Freshman Talia Hinman may not have been named to the all-conference first team in softball without the airtight defense that backed her up all season. And she certainly couldn’t have gotten the team to the playoffs by herself.
If you were to ask any of these three athletes if they could have done it alone, they would shrug it off. All three would be quick to credit their coaches and teammates for providing them with the opportunities to excel.
We witnessed so much greatness in 2002 that it’s hard to know where to begin. All three high-school seasons and an unforgettable summer season combined to make this year one big, continuous high.
A logical starting point would be the fall season, when we witnessed three teams reach their preseason goals of winning in the playoffs.
But the fall was more of an exclamation point. The foundation for this monumental sports year was laid last winter, when HRV boasted one district championship team, three individual district champions, one state championship team and two individual state champions.
Krizman took home the lone district wrestling title for a team that won its first Mt. Hood Conference title in convincing fashion. An unprecedented 11 wrestlers qualified for state, and one — senior Esteban Avila — placed in the top eight at 119 pounds.
Caitlyn Shortt and Oliver Burton led a spirited HRV swim team performance at district, each taking home dual district titles and making a serious run at state titles. Shortt came up just short in the 200 IM, but dug deep later in the day to win the 100 backstroke state title.
Finally, junior Lindsay McClure blazed to a state skiing title and helped lead the HRV girls team to its first combined gold medal since 1996.
And who could forget about the Summit Snowboard Team, which won its fourth consecutive state title by sweeping away the competition. Ben Connors, Lisa Page and Elie Meierbachtol each took home individual state titles, and each will return this year as Summit makes its drive for five.
The spring season didn’t have the same fireworks as winter, but it was still a pretty fun ride. The HRV softball team scratched and clawed its way into the state playoffs for the first time since it won the whole thing in 1996. Hinman and senior Whitney Zuercher were each named to the all-conference first team, and Zuercher went on to play in the state senior all-star game.
In track and field, Christy Paul won dual district titles in the 1,500 and 3,000 meters, while teammate Anna Hidle earned her first state bids in the 400 meters and the high jump.
Meanwhile, senior golfer Andy Murphy shot his way to state with a superb district performance, and a pair of tennis players made their mark on the state stage. The doubles team of Lauren Emmerson and Corinne Oates qualified for state with a third-place district finish, and helped cap a memorable spring season.
Next up was the summer, when we saw wrestlers, windsurfers, kiters and kayakers take center stage. In May, local windsurfing icons Bruce Peterson and Dale Cook sailed their way to national titles at the 2002 U.S. Open in Corpus Christi, Texas. But that was only beginning for this dynamic duo. Peterson went on to win the Gorge Games Blowout competition in July, and was followed by who else but Cook.
Other locals making a splash at Gorge Games 2002 were kiteboarder Mark Doyle, who surpassed a world-class field to win the freestyle competition; Tamira Wagonfeld, who took second place in the women’s freestyle windsurfing competition; and Mitch Gingrich of The Dalles, who finished first among the men’s freestyle windsurfing field.
Joining the summer’s elite was HRV wrestler Jorge Lujano, who helped lead Team Oregon to a second-place finish at the Cadet Dual Meet Nationals in Greely, Colo., before taking sixth in the nation at the Asics Tiger National Championships in Fargo, N.D. — the first Hood River wrestler to place since Doug DeHart in the 1980s.
Winter, spring and summer all had their moments, but when we look back at the sports year of 2002, nothing will take the place of the fall sports season.
The HRV boys and girls soccer teams rolled through their first seasons in the Intermountain Conference and showed that they can also win in the playoffs. The girls won their first-ever 4A playoff game, while the boys reached the state quarters for the second straight year.
All the while, the HRV football team was manhandling the opposition on its way to a 9-2 record and its first-ever 4A playoff win.
Jacobe Krizman became a household name in Oregon as he destroyed the state rushing record and made opposing defenses quiver in their boots on a weekly basis.
The senior all-state first-teamer scored 44 touchdowns and crossed the 300-yard plateau on five occasions on his way to the IMC Offensive Player of the Year award.
This special group of Eagles will graduate 13 seniors, but will not soon be forgotten by local sports faithfuls. A tip of the cap to guys like Jarrod Fogle, Matt Cody, Tommy Owyen, Nate Dethman, Chris Searles, Jared Gidley, Danny Phelps, Ryan Flory, et al.
You guys made 2002 a sports year that will be remembered forever.