As the old saying goes, “You've gotta spend monkeys to make monkeys.”
Well, coming up on day 365 of “the Year of the Monkey” in the Chinese zodiac, I, for one, am beyond spent when it comes to the monkey-business of 2016, and more than ready to make for 2017.
Whether it be in sports or no, and all primate-inspired puns aside, I think everyone can agree that the whole year ended up being pretty bananas.
But, being that this Year in Review” column promises a review of the year in sports, specifically, with emphasis on local sports, specifically, in specifically 2,016 words or less — with that being the case, we'll skip over all the other stuff that happened this past year (Standing Rock, [insert adjective here] Lives Matter, the most shamelessly shameful presidential election in modern history, the most shamefully shameful “Batman” movie in modern history, etc., etc., etc., to name a few…) and instead get down to the stuff that really matters: local sports.
So, without further delay or run-on sentence, and since we're already putting a serious dent into that promised 2,016 word total, it's time to quit monkeying around and take a look back at the year that was 2016 in local sports headlines, which went a little something like this…
2016. New year, new me. New Batman movie. New iPhone. New presidential election. The Year of the Monkey. What could possibly go wrong?
Things started off going right, at least for the Indians on the mats last January, when, with the scored tied up 34-34 during a divisional dual-meet against Laurel, senior heavyweight Montez Purnell delivered on a bases-loaded-bottom-of-the-ninth-type pin to pull off a 40-34 comeback victory in walk-off fashion.
Even more impressive? Purnell's fall took only 40 seconds, in what was the equivalent to his first career-at-bat, at least in terms of never having wrestled before and me going back to the baseball metaphor that I, for some reason, keep going back to.
Just a few weeks later, the IR girls' swim team continued the right-track trend when the fearsome foursome of Lauren McCoy, Lindsey Grow, Erin Haden and McKenna Burke set a new school record in the 400-freestyle relay and clocked a time of 4:09.46 during an otherwise bizarre tied meet at Milford (talk about a home run).
Also in January: Local surfing legend Danny Herlihy gets inducted into the Puerto Rico Surfing Hall of Fame but does not invite me to the ceremony in Rincon, despite my insisting that it's pretty standard procedure and, in my expert journalistic opinion, integral to the story; both the boys' and girls' basketball teams at Selbyville Middle School cap the season with wins over rival Millsboro; Rick Hundley and the crew at Focus Multi-Sports launch Bethany's first “Twilight Run” as part of the Surfin' Snowman 5K. Instead of getting in shape for that, I go see the movie “The Revenant” twice and spend like 40 bucks on popcorn.
February. The year's shortest month calendar-wise but longest Jack Torrance/“The Shining”-wise and what sure feels like its longest days.
Sure, it's cold, but 2016 is actually going pretty good so far. Leo just won his first Oscar for his work in the movie “The Revenant,” Peyton Manning just won his second Super Bowl and rode off to deliver Papa John's pizzas in the sunset, and the tap water in Flint is still pretty drinkable. We lost David Bowie, but for the most part the flying monkeys have been kept at bay. I can even still make jokes about Hillary Rodham Clinton being the Wicked Witch of the West without getting typecast as a sexist, racist misogynist neo-Nazi most likely working as a Russian operative.
Sports-wise, we're still punching it out pretty good, too. On National Signing Day, the Indians see Brooke Beam sign with the University of Richmond to play soccer, Lauren McCoy with Randolph-Macon College for swimming, and Erik Gulbronson with Randolph College for lacrosse.
Despite announcing their future careers in the NCAA, all three of them were far from finished with their careers at IR, including McCoy, who's currently wrapping up her senior season and goes on to lead the swim team to seven medals and a historic fourth-place finish at the Henlopen Conference championships, held at Lake Forest on Feb. 12.
Also at those championships on Feb. 12, also-since-graduated Mason Sanders is crowned “Henlopen Conference Outstanding Swimmer of the Year” and sets a new school record in the 50-freestyle, edging the former record set by Carter Michael that he's been gunning for all year, by just 0.03 seconds.
Over on the wrestling mats, then-junior Jared Arlett has to sit out states due to an injury at conferences, but also then-junior Zeke Marcozzi doesn't, taking third at 160 for the second year in a row.
Also in February: Not too much else shaking. Oh, except for that “Tripple Overtime Takeover: A Patriots' fan strikes back” column authored by IR head soccer coach Steve Kilby that's surprisingly well-written and unsurprisingly “The Revenant”-inspired when it comes to revenge and past comments I've made regarding Bill Belichick, Tom Brady, the New England Patriots, sweatshirts without sleeves, Super Bowls without asterisks, footballs without proper inflation, etc., etc.
Roughly 59 days into the New Year, assuming no leap year, and the Year of the Monkey is still looking pretty good. Then, Super Tuesday. Then, Zach Snyder's “Dawn of Justice.”
Whether a fan of Bernie Sanders or Batman, March was around the time that 2016 got real for a good part of the good ol' U.S. of A. (it was a particularly difficult month for Point Graphic Artist Tom Maglio, who, before March, was a fan of both).
In local sports, though, we're still getting along just fine. Lower Sussex Little League sign-ups are under way, head coach Katelyn Donofrio and the IR competitive cheerleading team just took third at states, and even though it's still cold enough to give some serious clout to current GOP primary favorite Donald J. Trump's position on global warming, the bats are starting to crack for the Indians on both the baseball and softball diamonds.
Like every year, March, of course, holds some great expectations for everyone's new favorite sports columnist (Kilby) and the IR girls' soccer team, who don't disappoint when they start the season with a 7-0 win over Delmar.
Also in March: Then-senior Joey Anderson gets a well-deserved selection to the DRFC Blue-Gold All-Star football game and starts up a friendship with his “buddy,” Layne Twigg of Roxana, that sparks long before and lasts long after the actual game gets played in June. First State Pickleball Club's Vaughn “The Baron” Baker challenges yours truly to a duel… in pickleball.
As the old saying goes, “April showers bring seasonal depression.”
That was very much the case when it came to the 2016 version of the month that somehow both spawned Adolph Hitler and sank the Titanic, as local sports fans and Bernie Sanders supporters alike reached for umbrellas and Zoloft prescriptions set to brave El Niño and witness an otherwise action-packed 30-some days of highlights.
After the girls' soccer team kicked things off and stayed unbeaten with a 4-0 win over Milford, avoiding getting all together Benjamin Franklin'ed when the game was called at halftime due to a freak lightning storm, head coach Kelsea Ayers and the Indian River girls' lacrosse team made school history with the program's first-ever win in their first-ever home game.
April was also ripe for Phil Collins-inspired headlines when then-senior Emiley Shuey put up a career-high eight goals and scored the game-winner in OT against the Salisbury School just a few weeks later (“Shu-shu-shudio,” if you're wondering about the Phil Collins thing).
On the track (and also in the field), the Indians broke a bunch of school records. Since-graduated senior Paiton Murray set a new record for girls' discus during the Smyrna meet, and at the tri-meet against Holly Grove and Seaford, Logan Montouri, Carly Collins, Katelyn Jensen and the girls' relay team of Jensen, Sarah Roehl, Sydney Messick and Jewel Yanek all set new school bests in the 800m, 300m hurdle, 1,600m, and 4-by-800m relay, respectively.
Over on the diamond, the baseball team ended the blues, with a comeback win over the Blue Jays, and the boys' lax team keeps their playoff hopes alive with a pretty theatrical 14-13 win over Dover, thanks to some critical keeping and clutch kick saves by then-junior goalie Hayden McWilliams.
Also in April: “The Baron” is starting to get increasingly suspicious of my long list of increasingly suspicious pickleball excuses, but I've yet to get publicly embarrassed on the court by a 70-year-old with two artificial knees, so you tell me.
Still raining metaphorical cats and dogs, and with Trump and Hillary not quite yet fighting like literal ones, the calendar flipped over to an equally eventful May when Coach Ayers and the girls' lax team introduced us to “The Running Man Challenge.”
They made a movie doing what was apparently a nationwide dance craze, and on “Ellen” and everything at some point, and I somehow got roped into directing the whole thing. It was way better than Batman.
Slightly more important May sports headlines included Brooke Beam becoming the first IR soccer player to score 100 career goals, then, like two weeks later, becoming only the second IR soccer player to be named state Gatorade Player of the Year.
The boys' lax team missed out on the Henlopen South title but made it to the playoffs, and over on the tennis courts, then-junior Patrick Mochiam and then-freshman Alex Fitz both took fourth place at the Henlopen Conference championships, held at Sea Colony.
After then-senior and current Wesley Wolverine Aline Check-Guzman tallied the game-winning goal for the girls' soccer team against Tower Hill in PKs, the Indians were ready for June and their DIAA state championship rematch against Caravel.
Also in May: Head coach Duncan Smith and the “Original Frankford Crew” punch their ticket to regionals when the River Soccer Club's Express takes down Kirkwood in the finals, for their second State Cup championship; head coach Neal Barch and the Selbyville Middle School girls' soccer team finish the season undefeated; and oh, yeah, some guy named Kilby gets named, like, Henlopen Conference Coach of the Year or something or whatever, but does not receive a similar award for sports column writing.
It was feeling like summer when June started off with some of the best skimmers from around the world making their way to the Indian River Inlet for the South Side Shoot Out, but the Indian River Indians weren't quite finished with spring when they waved goodbye to Dagsboro and took off on a bus bound for Smyrna and the DIAA state finals.
But after the Indians had waited 367 long days for their shot at revenge from the 2015 finals, it would only take Caravel 29 seconds to go up 1-0 on their way to history repeating and their second straight state title.
And it wasn't just bad news for local sports fans, either. The summer time sadness really started to set in for millennials and feminists alike (especially Tom, who, again, falls into both categories) as the final presidential primary results got announced just days later. Also, the whole Brexit thing went down in June, too, but much like the movie “Snatch,” was too British for me to understand fully.
At least after getting straight up Bern'ed all around, it was finally summer in Sussex County, as made official for the 15th straight year with local pros Bill Baxter and Colin Herlihy hosting the summer's first Bethany Surf Shop Skim Jam on June 20. Likewise, the Bracht Bros. and Atlantic Shoals Surf Shop geared up for another summer of RELYance Skim Jam at the state line in Fenwick.
Also in June: Then-sophomore CF Julia Bomhardt becomes the first IR softball player to collect All-State honors since 2013, Ocean View's Lance Fargo brings home his fourth career USA Triathlon Clydesdale National Championship, and I officially run out of pickleball excuses for “The Baron.”
Just as I had feared, July starts off with me getting straight-up worked on the pickleball court by a 70-year-old with two artificial knees.
At least I fared a little better than Point Tech Director/photographer and infamous Eskimo Shaun M. Lambert, who, in an ill-advised move when it comes to both pickleball footwear and just everyday life strategies, chose to wear socks with sandals.
The good news last July? Head coach Bill Medford and the Lower Sussex Little League Junior League All-Stars bring home the District 3 title, SMS volleyball standout Raychel Ehlers gets invited out to Hermosa Beach, Calif., for the High Performance Beach Championships, and when Team China shows up for the Little League World Series in Roxana, I haven't recently broken my collarbone in four different places (unlike 2015's series).
Also in July: After pulling muscles I didn't even know I had playing pickleball, I breathe a sigh of relief when I can't track down an athletic cup fast enough to make good on the offer from IR boys' lacrosse coaches Dave Spencer and Jim Dietsch to jump in the cage for a few shots when they launch Sharp Shooter Lax Shooting Camp.
The Little League World Series is good.
I'm there when Team China takes the field for the historic first time, I'm there when team U.S. Southeast and Latin America win it all, and I'm definitely there when the concession stand is about to close down for the night and there's a sale on nachos.
I don't have to miss out on the Challenger League game at Comiskey Park (like I did last year with the whole collarbone thing), and with maybe the exception of the discounted nachos, it's the best part of the whole LLWS, whether ESPN is there to film or no. Thanks to Kevan and Maghan Browne, I even got an official “Tripple OT” Challenger Division jersey to wear for the game.
Also in August: The whole White Marlin Open controversy thing goes down but doesn't affect our local anglers, when Bethany Beach's Josh Sharp and the Sea Flame reel in the grand prize in the dolphin category, and the Rock Doc crew of local anglers Jerry Mieklejohn, Cory Lednum, Ryan Savage, and Tyler, Matthew and Tim Tribbit land a 25.5-pound dolphin while fishing with Captain Bob Wiggins of Charleston, S.C.
New school year. New fall sports schedule. The presidential election is getting to that point where the reality of the situation's so real that you just kind of pretend that it isn't happening.
There's plenty of sports to stay distracted by, anyway.
With more great expectations all around, it's head coach Jodi Stone and the Indian River field hockey team leading the way with a season-opening win over Sussex Tech on a couple of slap-shot scores from senior Madi McGee, earning her “Chris White State Farm Player of the Week” honors.
After knocking off rival Caesar Rodney to start their own season, the IR boys' soccer team sets their sights on rival Cape Henlopen and the annual “Kilby Clash” between the father-and-son head coaches, in which junior Oscar Cruz caps a 5-3 win for the Indians on a late header. Senior Josh Timmons scores his second career goal during the JV game and goes on to give the best interview of all time afterwards.
The girls' cross-country team makes history when they take down Sussex Tech for the first time in program history, and IR alumni Chris Megee and everyone's favorite State Farm Agent Chris White (of “Chris White State Farm Player of the Week” fame) get inducted into the Delaware State University Athletic Hall of Fame for their 1989 MEAC Championship baseball season.
Also in September: A ton more stuff happens. The famous George “G-Mart” Martin “no-helmet run” somewhere along the way of a 186-yard, three-touchdown (“3-Mart”) performance against Tech; IR junior defender Sammi Whelen breaks out the cornrows; and Point photographer Shaun M. Lambert keeps accidentally wearing his Seahawks jerseys to football games, hoping that head coach Phil Townsend doesn't accidentally put him in on special teams; “The Baron” brings home the gold at the Delaware Senior Olympics.
Halloween is far from the scariest thing about October 2016, with Hillary and Trump really getting mixed up in it now.
California is threatening to succeed from the United States if Trump wins. The entire cast of “The View” is threatening to move to Canada. Trump is threatening to challenge the election results if Hillary wins and the Native Americans at Standing Rock are threatening to continue protesting peacefully if Big Oil wins despite getting knocked around something serious by the militarized police force equivalent of Ike Turner.
At least we've got local sports.
Senior kicker Andrew White earns himself “Chris White State Farm Player of the Week” honors without needing nepotism, by lifting the football team to an “Instant Classic”-worthy comeback win over Laurel on a last-second field goal.
Coach Jim Barnes, junior McKenzie Johnson and the Indian River volleyball team pull off their own comeback when Johnson racks up 14-straight aces in the fifth and final set against Lake Forest.
Head coach Sally Craig and the SMS volleyball cap their own streak, when they finish not only undefeated for the second straight season, but without losing a single set during the entire run.
And the “quiet storm” gets a whole lot louder when the field hockey team punches their playoff ticket and freshman forward Rylie Cordrey manages the game-winner against Dover on an assist from the player formerly known as Kaylee Hall and now taking the Sting/Cher route by just going with one name, and that name, of course, being “K-Hall.”
Also in October: “Back to the Future” successfully predicts a Cubs World Series win, “Tripple Overtime” successfully predicts a seventh straight division title win for Kilby and the soccer team; SMS eighth-grader Kayler Townsend goes Abe Lincoln on Millsboro with a “four-score” performance in the annual field hockey rivalry game; “The Baron” hosts a pickleball paddle clinic, which I avoid like the plague, still reeling from the last beat-down; Sandy Bunting sinks a hole-in-one at Cripple Creek; sophomore Jacob Anderson sparks a new superstition for the football team when he returns a pair of opening kickoffs for touchdowns; Whelen loses the cornrows for undisclosed reasons; and a buzzard eliminates both its own map and the lights when it deep-fries itself at the IRHS soccer stadium.
Riots in the streets. 2016 is officially not messing around anymore.
The Indian River field hockey team isn't either, though, ending a 10-year playoff drought and nearly pulling off a Round 1 win against defending state champion Cape Henlopen. Hillary-heads aren't the only ones demanding a recount when, after holding the Vikes to 1-0 lead through the game's first 55 or so odd minutes, McGee goes all “Happy Gilmore” on the Cape keeper and sends a slap-shot to the back of the net that ends up getting waved off for reasons still unbeknownst me, even after video review (and not just because there's like a billion rules in field hockey).
Kilby and his squad suffer some similar bum luck, when, after clinching their second straight Henlopen Conference title and clearing a path to the state finals, 50 mph winds start up just as soon as the opening whistle does and results in the Indians giving up four first-half goals to Tower Hill after IRHS draws the short straw and ends up facing into the wind.
They still collect their fair share of post-season accolades, when 12 players make All-Conference, five make All-State and the Blue-White All-Star game, senior keeper Kevin Calles is named MVP of that game, senior forward Johan Cordoba makes both the state Top XI list and ends up one of three Regional All-Americans in the state, Brandt Mais is named Assistant Coach of the Year, and Howard Gerken is named TOPSoccer Coach of the Year.
Also in November: Senior Sydney Messick caps her Killens Pond cross-country career by medaling at the Henlopen Conference championships; McGee makes school history as the first female athlete to win a Brian Piccolo Award; I honor my own Italian heritage by putting away some serious pasta and crashing four IRHS sports awards banquets; Josh Timmons follows up the best interview of all time with the best speech of all time, at the soccer banquet; senior Lexi Haden makes the Blue-Gold All-Star field hockey game but gets snubbed in the All-State voting; “G-Mart” eclipses the 1,000-yard rushing mark and gets snubbed in the All-State voting, too, despite racking up nearly 20 TDs at fullback.
The light is finally at the end of the 2016 tunnel when the calendar strikes December. Things are kind of starting to settle down in the quiet hopes that, if 2016 was the iPhone 6, then 2017 doesn't turn out to just be “2016S.”
None of the ladies on “The View” have made good on that whole “moving to Canada” thing yet, and Trump's “unpresidented” [sic.] Twitter account usage and the cast of “Hamilton” are giving Alec Baldwin and the writers on “Saturday Night Live” more than enough to work with.
Sports-wise, there's promise all across the board.
Coach Jeff Windish and the Indian River wrestling team are currently sporting their most stacked roster in years, with 34 wrestlers and state championship expectations for seniors Zeke Marcozzi and Jared Arlett.
Marcozzi is well on his way to the school's all-time win record after becoming only the fifth wrestler in IR history to reach 100 career wins, with a 4-1 performance at the Beast of the East last weekend, and as a team, the Indians started off with second-place finishes at both the Bulldog Invitational and Yellow Jacket Invitational.
There's high hopes for coach Colin Crandel and the swim team, too, aiming for their fourth-straight Henlopen South title.
Second-year head coach B.J. Joseph and the boys' basketball team are off to a 5-1 start, and Donna Polk and the girls' basketball team have nearly matched their 2015-2016 win total after a 4-1 start and overtime win over Delmar.
Also in December: After getting the “You're wearing that shirt again?” comment a few times during the previous month's banquet-crashing, my Christmas list is pretty well checked off when Denise Parks (of field hockey keeper Mya Parks' mom fame) hooks me up with some serious swank and enough shirts for even spring sports banquets; and “The Baron” gets me a Christmas present, but I'm not allowed to open it until the 25th, even though the shape of the wrapping suggests that it's pretty obviously a pickleball paddle.
Well, there you have it.
Considering we hit that previously promised 2,016 word total somewhere back in, like, April, probably, 2016 and the Year of the Monkey was obviously one for the history books, and one that I, for one, am glad is almost history.
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2017 is supposed to be the “Year of the Rooster.” And while, personally, I'm terrified of all birds, after all of that monkey business in 2016, here's to hoping that 2017 is little less bananas, because there's no way it could be quite as scary. (If the universe is reading this, that is not a challenge.)
Merry politically-acceptable whatever-you-celebrate, and unless you're headed for Canada, I'll see ya when that Chinese Rooster wakes everyone up at the dawn of 2017.