The thing about covering the sports scene in Ahwatukee Foothills is there is always going to be a contender.
Whether it is both football programs, the dominant Desert Vista cross country teams, the always-in-contention Mountain Pointe badminton or the Thunder’s oh-so-close boys golf team along with many other top athletic programs, Ahwatukee just might be the best all-around sports scene around.
The bad thing about covering such a fantastic sports scene? Narrowing it down to the top five sports stories of 2012.
We did our best.
There are arguments to be made about No. 2 through No. 5 but there was no question as to the top sports story of 2012.
1. Will Claye’s historic Olympic performance. The Mountain Pointe December 2008 graduate did something at the Olympic level that had not been matched by an American in 104 years.
Claye won the silver medal in the triple jump competition at the Olympic Stadium in London to pair with the bronze in the long jump he won earlier in the competition.
The last American male to medal in both horizontal jumps in the Olympics was Myer Prinstein, who did it at the 1904 St. Louis Games.
Claye is the ninth athlete overall to accomplish the feat and the first since 1936 when Japan’s Naoto Tajima did it at the Berlin Olympics.
“I don’t think anybody here was around in that era,” Claye said at the time. “It’s history. I hope I can encourage kids to do what I am doing now.”
Claye graduated from Mountain Pointe early in order to start his college career early with the idea of turning pro before the 2012 Olympics.
Then he went out and did something he always dreamed about.
Hard to beat.
2. Mountain Pointe making first state title game. The Mountain Pointe football program has had some great seasons and great players since the doors opened in 1991, but never have the two combinations been strong enough to make the state championship game.
The Pride changed that in 2012 as it went 9-1 in the regular season, earned the top seed and advanced easily to the Division I state title game.
That’s when things took a turn for the worse — in the name of a 31-16 loss to Hamilton — but in no way did it tarnish what Mountain Pointe did.
The Pride, fresh off a 6-5 dysfunctional season, made changes in January in order to become a team and the addition of quarterback Antonio Hinojosa melded perfectly with the talent already in place.
The coaching staff, led by the Norris Vaughan, did a great job of letting the team enjoy the big wins — Hamilton, Desert Vista and Chandler — while learning how to deal with success.
It came together just right and changed the standard at Mountain Pointe.
“Our kids didn’t quit and made a run at it,” Vaughan said. “We’ve had a great season and a young team. We have a lot of people coming back and we think Mountain Pointe has a great future.”
3. Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) doings and un-doings. Oh, where to start.
It was discovered in February that there was a flaw in the AIA-produced power points and soon thereafter there was a change made for the spring sports and they eventually struck a deal with MaxPreps to take over the seedings formula.
There has been a discussion of the 50-mile transfer rule that could drastically change the easy transfer rules that currently muck up rosters and create super programs.
And, lastly, there was the new scheduling block that starts in August. Schools were able to appeal up and down divisions. There will be a different look — Division I football is down to 29 programs — in most sports as many schools have changed divisions.
4. Desert Vista wins boys cross country title. Even Thunder coach Chris Hanson had to wonder.
The Thunder lost its top runner in Carter Macey down the stretch of the season to damper state title thoughts. Desert Vista is considered one of the big division threats annually, but losing your No. 1 a mere two weeks before the state meet is difficult to withstand.
Yet at the end of the Division I race the first weekend of November, Desert Vista won its first state title since 2008.
“I would run this group against anyone when it comes to character,” said Hanson, whose team wore patches to honor DV graduate and Special Olympic athlete Timothy Lupton-Stegall, who died of cancer. “They could have given in at some point with all we had going on. They didn’t even know Tim, but they understood what he represents and they came through.
“I could not be more proud of this group.”
Desert Vista had great performances from Jacob Walimaa, who finished 10th among scoring runners at 16 minutes and 22.57, Ryan Dykstra (16th, 16:37.51), Alec Hoyt (22nd, 16:52.12), Tyler Bonebright (26th, 16:56.22), and Ryan Smith (27th , 16:57.03).
5. Desert Vista’s golf team finishing second — again times three. It was hard to watch.
As the Desert Vista boys golfers celebrated what they thought was the school’s first state title, coach Paige Peterson walked along a practice green knowing he was going to have to break the news to the players.
The Thunder finished state runner-up for the fourth straight year. This time by one stroke to Mesa Mountain View after several Desert Vista players struggled over the final few holes of day two at Aguila Golf Course.
Despite the efforts of medalist Matt Liringis, Desert Vista brought home the runner-up trophy once again.
“I am proud with how hard they worked the last two weeks,” Peterson said. “All season we talked about how important it is to finish your round and how every stroke matters. They didn’t forget that in any way.
“(Monday) they were great down the stretch. (Tuesday) some guys had a few bad holes down the stretch. It’s gonna happen. It just seems it happens to us at the worse possible times.”
Honorable mention — The Davonte Neal no-show debacle, Mountain Pointe sets state record in 4x100 at state meet, the Mountain Pointe badminton titles in doubles and team, Mountain Pointe graduate Sara Slattery winning PF Chang’s Half Marathon, DV’s boys basketball team making state semifinals, DV inducts first hall of fame class, MP’s Brian Fleming retiring, MP’s Travonn White sets school record in triple jump and DV’s Robbie Mathers become school’s first three-time wrestling state champion.
Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.