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Springing back into Spring 2011

A look back at five of the season's biggest stories
by: Miles Vance WINNERS — Sunset’s (clockwise from top left) Alan Bell, Branden Helms, Briley Beaton and Eric Zechenelly celebrate after their win in the 4 x 400-meter relay sealed up their team’s Class 6A state championship.

The 2011 spring sports season was one for the books.

One for the record books, and one for the memory books.

But as many stories as I wrote for the paper this spring - and I covered somewhere in the neighborhood of 74 games, meets, matches and tournaments between March 30 and June 4 - there were still some great items that didn't make it into the paper, and a couple that deserve revisiting at least one more time.

So here, in no particular order, are five of the most significant tales from the now bygone spring of 2011.

Simply the Best

The 2011 Metro League baseball season was one of the wildest and - thanks to our lousy weather - wettest rides in many years.

The top five teams in league this year - Westview, Southridge, Jesuit, Sunset and Beaverton - were, in my humble opinion, all good enough to reach at least the Class 6A quarterfinals. As it turned out, just two of those teams - Westview and Jesuit - did make it that far, with the Wildcats going all the way to the state championship, and the Crusaders battling into the semifinals.

Regardless, the Metro was stacked with talent this year, including Division 1 senior pitchers at Westview (Sam Johnson), Southridge (Jace Fry), Sunset (Jon Bjorklund) and Beaverton (Jordan Spencer), and proved itself the state's best conference.

While Southridge, Sunset and Beaverton all exited the second season earlier than predicted, the Metro's top five went a combined 10-4 (a 71-percent winning percentage) in the 32-team Class 6A bracket, by far the state's best mark.

The Central Catholic-led Mt. Hood Conference and the Pacific Conference both went 4-4 overall, the Southern Conference and Three Rivers League both notched 3-4 records, the Central Valley Conference finished 3-5, and the five teams from Special District 1 went a combined 2-5.

Further, the Wildcats' championship marked the first big-school win by a Metro League since Southridge's state crown in 2002, and only the fourth Metro victory in the past 20 years.

A Pleasant Surprise

On the other side of the coin, Metro League softball was down - if only slightly - overall, but still provided one of the spring season's most inspirational stories - Aloha's run to the state semifinals.

The Warriors, led by senior pitcher Serenil Sierra, senior Anna Moore, and sophomores Katie Newton and Rachel Thompson, knew they had a chance to be good in 2011. Sierra was, after all, the returning Pitcher of the Year in the Metro League, and the team had reached the state quarterfinals in 2010.

But Aloha was young too, starting a freshman at shortstop, another frosh at designated hitter, and sophomores at catcher, right field and second base.

None of that mattered to the Warriors, though. They scrapped for runs, played good defense and rode Sierra's baffling mix of riseballs, curves and offspeed junk to three straight playoff wins, and eventually, a 5-2 lead in their semifinal against South Salem.

The Saxons - who went on to lose the state championship game 7-3 to Century - didn't blink, though. They rallied to tie the score at 5-5 before darkness delayed the game to a second day, and eventually won 8-7 in 13 innings.

Despite the final outcome, Aloha's success was a fitting cap to a year filled with Warrior success, which also included a state football championship, league and district wrestling crowns, and a huge year by the Warrior boys track team.

A Big Finish

Everyone knew that the Sunset boys track team was one of the favorites for the 2011 Metro League season.

But even the Apollos themselves may not have known that they were 'the' favorite.

Sunset, however, answered all challenges this spring. First, the Apollos edged fleet-footed challenger Aloha 79-66 in week three of the Metro season. Next, Sunset knocked off perennial power Jesuit 78-67 in the final week of the regular season to win its first dual-meet title since 2003.

The Apollos did it again at district, getting wins from both relay teams as well as individual victories from Branden Helms, Rocky Tufty, Eric Zechenelly and Aaron Back to slip past Aloha again and win for the first time since 2008.

But Sunset did it even better at state. While the Apollos won just one event at Hayward Field, they picked a great one to win. Sunset - in this case Alan Bell, Helms, Zechenelly and Briley Beaton - took top honors in the meet's final event (the 4 x 400-meter relay), edged second-place Roseburg in that event, and used that advanttage to beat the Indians and win the state crown by three points.

In the process, the Apollos won just the second boys state track title in school history and the first since way back in 1994.

Faster Than Ever Before

The 2011 spring campaign will also be remembered for the incredible success of Aloha sophomore sprinter Thomas Tyner.

Tyner, already a state champion in football, added even more swag to his trophy case during the spring season, racing to a second straight Metro title in the 100 meters, taking his first Metro 200 championship, then winning twice at state, in the 4 x 100 and 100 meters (where he avenged a loss from his freshman season to Barlow star Arthur Delaney).

But the fact that Tyner won so often wasn't the big story. It was how he won, and more importantly, how fast he ran while he won that made his achievements so notable.

Beginning with the 100 meters at the Aloha Relays on April 16, Tyner took off on what can only be considered the greatest sprinting season in Oregon history. On that day, he broke Oregon's all-time record in the 100 - previouslty held by McKay's Gus Envela at 10.49 - by running 10.43.

But that was really just the beginning for Tyner. Over the next five weeks, Tyner bested that 10.49 mark five more times, eventually dropping the state record to 10.35 at the Metro League district championships.

A Strong Newcomer

Lost in the shuffle of all the Metro League's spring success was the success of Metro League newcomer - sort of - Lincoln.

While the Cardinals are not officially part of the Metro League - their baseball and softball teams still play elsewhere - their tennis, golf and track teams all competed in the Metro, and most competed extremely well.

Lincoln's girls tennis team won the Metro League regular season and district titles, ended Jesuit's 17-year winning streak in the process, and went on to win the state championship for a second straight season. The Cardinals girls golf team was tough too, winning one of the league's two team berths to state in the ever-competitive Metro.

And Lincoln senior golfer Adam Bean got it done too. After finishing just sixth in the Metro's season-long scoring race, Bean went on to win the Class 6A state tournament, in the process becoming just the second from his school to win it all and the first since Peter Jacobsen took it in 1972.