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Year in Review: Jack’s Five Favorite Stories from 2020

Looking back at the year that was
Published: Dec. 26, 2020 at 11:10 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Normally this time of year, the WCAX sports department would be counting down the best 15 games involving teams from our region over the past year. Obviously we had significantly less to draw from in that regard in 2020, so instead, we’re taking a look back at my five favorite sports stories from the past 12 months.

We start off pre-pandemic! Hard to believe we’re living on the same planet, but before their season was shutdown prior to the America East Championship game, the UVM men were arguably playing their best basketball of the season. The players certainly had the energy going, and a lot of that was coming from their biggest supporters on the end of the bench. With redshirts Justin Mazzulla and Nick Fiorillo leading the charge alongside team managers Ryan Morse and Earle Brown, the UVM bench mob was born and developed some of the more creative celebrations ever seen in Patrick Gym.

“Kind of once Justin Mazzulla came to town and he had the same type of energy we had, we realized we had enough guys at the end of the bench to really start something,” Morse said.

“Being able to have fun with what you’re doing, not everything is always gonna be so serious and I think when you get down to championship level, it’s more on repetition,” Mazzulla added. “They know what to do, we know what to do so I think it’s just important that we continue to have fun. And looking at us on the end of the bench, we’ll always be having fun no matter what’s going on to bring energy.”

Morse and Brown graduated this Spring, and Mazzula and Fiorillo both made their debuts on Monday, so it would appear someone else will have to take up that mantle this season.

The ski resorts one of the many things shut down when COVID started spreading rapidly in the US back in March. But for a brief window, the die-hards got in some of their best turns of the season. The Thorndike family of Stowe got their touring setups ready to go as soon as their home mountain closed, and skinned the hill regularly with then 7-year old Cammy and 6-year old Pordy often setting the pace for their father Porter and grandfather Alan.

“Skinning’s basically skiing but you’re just going up and you have different bindings and you have to put these sticky things on your skis,” Cammy said.

The mountain was closed for uphill traffic shortly after due to safety concerns related to the coronavirus and snow conditions, but the Thorndikes are back skiing with Stowe reopened.

Sporting events continued to get canceled as the year moved along, including the marathons in both Boston and Burlington. Chris Hebert of South Burlington was planning on running the Boston Marathon for the second time before the cancellation. He thought about running the full 26.2 on that day, but ultimately decided he was gonna stretch it out a bit.

“I really get a lot of energy from the crowds,” Hebert said. “If I did 26.2, a marathon distance, it would be a lot slower. So I thought if I can’t go as fast as I want to, let me see if I can go further than I’ve ever done before.”

“He emailed me and said, ‘Brent, I’ve done 10 marathons, what do you think about a 50K?’” added his coach Brent Towne. “I said, ‘Hey, I think that’s perfectly reasonable.’ And then two days later he emailed me again and said, ‘I’ve been thinking some more. What do you think about 50 miles?”

Hebert ultimately finished the 50 miles even a little faster than his stretch goal of 7 and a half hours.

This Summer ESPN took us on a nostalgia trip back to the Chicago Bulls of the 90s, so we checked in with a Vermonter who had a front row seat for much of that era. Alex Wolff of Cornwall spent nearly 40 years writing about hoops for Sports Illustrated, and in the mid 2000s, he brought professional basketball to his adopted home state. We looked back at the stunning rise and heartbreaking fall of the Vermont Frost Heaves.

“I think I’ll remember most vividly that first title when we beat the Texas Tycoons in Barre, and the fire marshal had to have a very stern word with us afterward,” Wolff said. “And you know, just that moment, put it in a bottle, and boy it made the state feel really really good.”

And speaking of hoops, the voice of UVM women’s basketball has had an interesting year to say the least. We introduced you to Maura Sheridan, a South Burlington native who in addition to her duties with the Catamounts is making history as one of just a handful of female play-by-play broadcasters in all of Minor League Baseball. It hasn’t been easy for Sheridan to get to this point

“It’s a very traditional sport,” Sheridan said of baseball. “The people that love it tend to be a bit more traditional. I’ve definitely had some not so great experiences when calling baseball. Some people do not want you there, some people will make that known, some people are creepy and it’s really unfortunate. I’m sick of the narrative that we have to go through this and this is just part of the job because it’s not.”

After the Minor League season was canceled, Sheridan got her reps in calling college summer league games in New York, and just this past weekend began her third season calling play by play for UVM women’s hoops.

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