2016: The Year in Sports

STORIES OF THE YEAR: It was another year of great accomplishments for both Hood River Valley High School and Horizon Christian School sports teams, but what made 2016 special were teams finding success where they hadn’t found it before. For example, the HRV girls water polo team won their first state championship — just two years after their winless inaugural season in 2014.

Photo by Ben Mitchell
STORIES OF THE YEAR: It was another year of great accomplishments for both Hood River Valley High School and Horizon Christian School sports teams, but what made 2016 special were teams finding success where they hadn’t found it before. For example, the HRV girls water polo team won their first state championship — just two years after their winless inaugural season in 2014.

Historic state titles for the HRV boys track and field and girls water polo teams were the biggest stories of the year, but there were plenty of other triumphs and trials in Gorge sports in 2016. Here are some of the top stories from 2016, sorted by the months in which they were published in the Hood River News.

— Ben Mitchell, sports editor


Fresh off his second consecutive 5A state championship, HRV boys varsity soccer coach Jaime Rivera is named by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) as the 2015 State and Northwest Section Coach of the Year. The Northwest Section includes the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming.

The HRV girls wrestling team has its most dominant competition of the season, sweeping 13 matches at the Girls Dual Meet Championships in Redmond, defeating Eugene’s Elmira High School 76-0.

Rebounding from what was an abysmal 2014-15 winter recreation season in terms of snowfall, Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort receives 20 inches of snow in a 24-hour period in late January, bringing the total snowfall up to 254 inches — well over the 195-inch end-of-season total the resort recorded the previous season.


The HRV boys Nordic team gets a huge win by edging 5A powerhouse Summit by one point at a race at Mt. Hood Meadows to take first place. The girls team also had a good race, placing second out of six schools.

The HRV girls wrestling team takes first place in a state qualifier tournament, beating out 62 other schools in attendance. It was the second consecutive title for the Eagles.


Horizon girls basketball team celebrates their first-ever postseason victory.

The Horizon girls basketball team makes history with a 38-32 Big Sky District playoff victory over the South Wasco County Redsides — the first postseason win in the team’s 13-season history. It was the first time the Hawks had been to the playoffs in four years.

The Horizon boys basketball team losses to Damascus in the first round of the OSAA 1A playoffs. It was the earliest postseason exit for the Hawks since the 2009-10 season.

The HRV swim team dominates the competition at the Columbia River Conference championships, grabbing 11 titles and sending nearly a dozen athletes to the 5A state championships.


HRV continues to be king of the hill when it comes to skiing, winning the Mt. Hood League and taking second place at the alpine state championships at Mount Ashland. Freestyle skiers place first in their state championships at Mt. Hood Meadows.

The Eagles boys basketball team qualifies for a play-in game, but fails to break a decades-long drought for OSAA tournament appearances, falling to Milwaukie by 35 points on the road.

The HRV boys and girls track and field teams put together one of the biggest, if not the biggest rosters ever seen at HRV — 130 kids.


The HRV boys lacrosse team goes on a tear to open up its 2016 season, winning seven games in a row — most of which were on the road — before losing to the Sherwood Bowmen in mid-April.

The HRV boys track team wins meet after meet to start the season, including an outing at Sandy April 9, where Sebastian Barajas breaks the school record in the discus and a relay team of Justin Crosswhite, Jesse Wiley, Quinn Fetkenhour and Connor Truax breaks the school’s record in the 4x800 event.

Jason Shaner and Emily Sullenger earn All-American status at the World of Wrestling Championships in Reno, Nev., wrestling for Hood River’s Elite Edge Wrestling Academy. Payton Rigert also receives All-American honors wrestling in a different match in Oklahoma in late March and is later named female Oregon Wreslter of the Year.


The HRV boys baseball team grabs its second CRC title in a row with a defeat of Pendleton. HRV defeated the Buckaroos in all four meetings throughout league play — the first time that has happened since the formation of the CRC.

The HRV girls JV lacrosse team defeats Central Catholic, 13-2, to end their season with a perfect record (12-0).


The HRV boys track and field team won a state championship — the first state track title in school history.

After taking the CRC championship, the HRV boys track and field team takes the 5A state title, winning the first track and field state championship in school history. Barajas breaks the 5A state meet record in discus with a toss of 200 feet and is the first athlete ever to win four straight 5A state discus titles.

The HRV sailing team defeats OES and Lincoln to win the third annual state championship.

The Horizon boys track and field team repeats as Big Sky District champions, edging Sherman 133-131 thanks to a down-to-the-wire 4x400 relay team win by Andrew Rinella, Andy Hung, Kameron Brown, and Jony Nelson.

Capping the best season in the history of the program, the HRV girls lacrosse team defeats the Newberg Tigers 7-4 to win the inaugural Navy Championship.


In their third appearance in the state championship in as many years, the HRV boys baseball team falls short of duplicating 2015’s title win, losing 12-2 to Summit. Adam Cameron is named a Player of the Game for his efforts.

The U14 girls lacrosse team wins the Oregon Youth Lacrosse Association state championship, defeating OES 12-4 in the final. The team achieved an 11-0 season record.

Fresh off helping his team win the 5A boys track and field state championship, Parker Kennedy survives a freak accident during a USATF event at Jesuit High School, falling and tripping onto a javelin — the back end of which pierced his eye socket. Kennedy recovered from the incident.


In its 10th running, Kiteboarding 4 Cancer hits a major milestone, raising $1 million over the event’s lifespan.

The Gorge Downwind Championships sees a massive spike in participation, tripling in numbers as 300 people participated in the event, which featured stand-up paddleboards, surf skis, and outrigger canoes racing through the Columbia River Gorge.

Local windsurfing legend Bruce Peterson sails ahead of the competition in the Gorge Cup series, locking up the title before the final race of the slalom series. The victory marks a return to form for Peterson, who was sidelined with a hamstring injury after winning the first two races of the 2015 cup.


Big kiteboarding names from around the world and around the Gorge headline the annual Bridge of the Gods Kite Fest in Stevenson. Attendance was up by about a third in the freestyle competition and for the first time in years, the cooperative winds allow the Blowout downwinder to be held the same weekend.

Celebrating five years since the start of the event, the Naish Gorge Paddle Challenge enjoys a significant uptick in entrants. About 350 people competed in the downwinder portion of the stand-up paddling event — up 100 people from the previous year. Local athletes go toe-to-toe with some of the best athletes in the world in the sport during the event.

Gearing up for the 2016-17 sports season, local schools see several personnel changes with their athletics. Donnie Herneisen and Christopher Dirks are named the head coaches of the HRV girls and boys basketball programs, respectively, and Kellie Dunn and Dave Robinson are named head coaches of the girls and boys water polo programs. Brandon Bertram, HRV cross country coach, adds coaching the track and field program to his duties. John Combs is hired as the athletic director for Horizon and Darren Lingel resumes his duties as head coach of the Hawks boys basketball squad.


Thanks to a fast start, the HRV volleyball program rises to a No. 1 ranking in the middle of September. HRV staff members couldn’t remember the last time, if ever, the volleyball team had been ranked first in the state.

The girls water polo team shows its growth by defeating 6A powerhouse Barlow for the first time in the HRV program’s existence. The Eagles defeated the Bruins 10-7.

The city of Hood River aims to rezone Morrison Park, site of the disc golf course, to make room for proposed affordable housing units. The proposal draws criticism from some adjacent landowners and those who want to see the park remain.


JJ Mears of the HRV boys water polo team nearly singlehandedly defeats David Douglas Oct. 4, scoring 12 goals in a 19-12 victory over the Scots. It is a career high for the junior and the highest single-game goal total for any player on the boys and girls squad that season.

The HRV boys and girls soccer teams keep up their CRC title win streak with defeats of the Hermiston Bulldogs. The wins give both teams first-round playoff berth.

The HRV girls and boys cross country teams win a combined CRC title for the first time in team history during the CRC championship meet held in Hood River. Daisy Dolan takes first for the girls and Jesse Wiley wins for the boys.

The HRV girls water polo team avenges a loss earlier in the season by defeating Reynolds 16-5 and winning the Mt. Hood Conference for the first time in team history.



The HRV volleyball team celebrates grabbing their first state tournament berth since 1993.

Fresh off another CRC title win, a decades-long drought ends as the HRV volleyball team defeats Ashland in a first-round playoff win, qualifying for the state tournament in Hillsboro for the first time since 1993. The team would go on to place sixth in the 5A tourney.

The HRV boys soccer team’s 51-game undefeated streak comes to a devastating end in the quarterfinals of the OSAA playoffs when No. 9 La Salle upsets No. 1 HRV 3-2 in penalty kicks.

After not winning a game in their inaugural 2014 season, the HRV girls water polo team rises to the top of 5A water polo, defeating the 2015 champion, Summit, in a come-from-behind 5-2 victory. Frosh Faith Ocheskey is awarded Most Valuable Player.

Longtime Gorge windsurfer Bart Vervloet (AKA Bingen Bart) is the new head of the Columbia Gorge Windsurfing Association, taking over for Greg Stiegel, who served as executive director for five years.


Local ultramarathoner Jax Mariash Koudele becomes the first woman ever to finish the 4 Deserts/Grand Slam Plus ultramarathon series. Koudele completed 250-kilometer, multi-day, multi-stage race with a first-place finish in the women’s category during a race in Antarctica.

Snow impacts many high school sports throughout the month, but is a boon to ski resorts. Mt. Hood Meadows Ski Resort’s operations are ahead of schedule due to massive early-season snowfalls (as of press time, the resort had received 204 inches so far this season).

The HRV boys and girls basketball teams get some early wins after struggling throughout the 2015-16 season. In a win over the Columbia Bruins Dec. 21, the HRV girls tie last season’s win total (three).

Kayla Bowker, a 2007 HRV alum, qualifies for the Ironman World Championships after winning her age-group in her first-ever Ironman competition. That followed a harrowing year in which Bowker had to have hip surgery and then was hit by a car on a training run.

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