The big news in 2003, although it seems inconsequential now, was 'Save the PIL,' the drive to raise $500,000 for spring athletics in the Portland Interscholastic League.
The best part of the drive was the Feb. 15 Walkathon and the student involvement that made it happen. Representatives of all 10 Portland high schools took part in a news conference before the Walkathon and in the rally for the event.
It was interesting to see visible student involvement and relatively invisible parental involvement.
Grant student Scott Wall, whose father, Frank, was the key Walkathon organizer, readily acknowledged that he was transferring to Central Catholic. A Franklin student said if there were no athletics he would transfer to a neighboring school and lie about his address to the Oregon School Activities Association in order to be eligible for sports.
There were many other memorable athletes and stories covered within the Tribune's sports pages in 2003. Lincoln's boys basketball team won its first PIL title in 39 years. Grant's baseball team won its first league title in 12 years. Benson's girls track team won the state title for the fifth straight year, led by senior Deborah Jones, who won four events, including two relays.
Lincoln's Mike McGrath set the all-time state best in the 800 and was invited to run in the Prefontaine Classic. Central Catholic distance runner Galen Rupp had a spectacular summer and fall, running in the Youth World Championships and the Junior Pan-Am Games, winning the state cross-country final for a second time and finishing second at the Foot Locker national championships in December.
And Rupp still has a spring season of prep eligibility remaining.
Lincoln senior Cassie Castleman was my favorite athlete of the year because of her ease in dealing with the media and her lively comments, namely that women in pro golf should focus more attention on their appearance in order to attract an audience. Sports is supposed to be interesting, and she plays along with that theme.
Castleman, incidentally, has already been named the Big West Conference golfer of the month as a freshman for winning one of her first tournaments at the University of Idaho.
Events of the year included the state boys 1,500, where Grant's Joaquin Chapa outlasted both schoolmate Alec Wall (Scott's older brother) and Rupp over the final, thrilling 200 meters on the Hayward Field track at the University of Oregon.
There also was Wilson's 34-31 loss to Tigard in the second round of the state playoffs. The Trojans were getting trampled 14-0, then rallied to lead 17-14; later they were getting trampled 31-17 before they rallied again to a 31-31 tie that forced overtime. It was a tremendous prep football game.
But for me, the event of the year was Lincoln's 63-53 win over Jefferson on Feb. 7, simply because of the crowd Ñ an overflowing number of people crammed themselves into Lincoln's gym for a huge rivalry game.
So many fans had trouble finding seats that during the third quarter, two girls approached Lincoln coach Troy Berry and asked for help Ñwhile the game clock was ticking.
Berry's reaction was classic Ñ a puzzled look as if to say, 'What? Hey, I'm coaching here!' Then he pivoted and got the attention of an adult at the end of the Lincoln bench who could help the girls Ñas Lincoln battled its way to a key win.