Community gathers to celebrate the teams state championship

Sandy athletic director Scott Maltman was recently sifting through the school’s championship banners when he came to the nearly-bare softball display. A league championship from 1985 is the only thing represented on the rafter-hanging. Sandy now gets to find someone to edit the banner to include the Pioneers’ 2013 league and state titles. Judging by the support the team has already received, it shouldn’t have any trouble finding volunteers anxious to assist.

Since the Pioneers brought home the state championship trophy on the first day of June, they have been the celebrities of Sandy. Business marquees throughout town have displayed congratulatory messages. One establishment, Paola’s Pizza, even hosted a party in the team’s honor.

This support from the Sandy community is not surprising. In fact, it was increasingly noticeable throughout the playoffs. In the Pioneers’ playoff opener against Marshfield, fans braved the pouring rain to fill the stands. When Sandy hosted Redmond in the quarterfinals, extra bleachers were brought in – and they were likewise filled. In Sandy’s final home game, a semifinal showdown against West Albany, the bleachers couldn’t contain everybody. Sandy fans left without seats lined the outfield fence to watch and cheer on their Pioneers.

When the Pioneers took on Hermiston at Oregon State University in the title game, more than half the stadium was packed with Sandy supporters who made the trip down to Corvallis.

“We couldn’t have done any of this without the community,” Sandy coach Kellie Wilkerson said. “Everybody has been amazing. We are very lucky and fortunate. We’re a small town, and we like it.”

The softball championship came on the heels of several successful finishes across the athletic department. The boys’ basketball team made it to Eugene and had its best finish in more than 30 years. The wrestling and girls’ swim teams both won league titles by going undefeated in Northwest Oregon Conference competition. The girls’ tennis team sent two singles players to state for the first time in school history. Maltman said the support for the athletic department as a whole has been tremendous all year, so a state championship is a satisfying capper for everyone.

“What a way to end the year,” Maltman said. “It was the perfect, culminating event. To finish with a state championship in a major sport, it had been a long time.

“This was a great group of athletes, and they deserved it. The community really rallied around them, and that is something that just hadn’t been happening.”

The Pioneers didn’t just win the school’s first-ever state softball title; they injected the whole community with a sense of pride and accomplishment. Enthusiasm again surrounds Sandy athletics, and that won’t soon fade away.

“This will just continue,” Maltman said. “Something like that creates so much excitement. The other student-athletes see that and they want to be a part of it.”

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