Thursday, December 27th
Over the past several days we've recapped 2018 in the year in sports at Vermont's high schools and our area colleges and universities. But our sports world goes beyond those school walls.
We start in February when about 40 athletes with ties to our area made the trip to PyeongChang South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics. Five of them ended up bringing back medals.
Burke Mountain Academy grad Mikaela Shiffrin entered the games with hopes of medaling in each of the five alpine skiing disciplines. She delivered with a gold in giant slalom to open her games before shockingly failing to podium for the first time all year in her signature event, the slalom. Weather delays and cancellations forced her to drop the two speed events, downhill and super G.
But Shiffrin capped off her Olympics with a silver in combined. She then returned to Vermont in November and won her third straight slalom gold at the Killington World Cup.
Snowboarder Jamie Anderson has ties to the Green Mountain State as well, as her mother lives in Hartland. Anderson won a second straight Olympic gold in slopestyle and added a silver in big air as well.
Saranac Lake resident and New England native Chris Mazdzer made history in men's luge as he became the first American man to ever claim a men's singles luge medal at the Olympics. Mazdzer took a silver, finishing less than three-hundredths of a second out of gold medal position.
And Mazdzer wasn't the only one who made history. Part-time Stratton resident Jesse Diggins, alongside teammate Kikkan Randall, came from behind on the final stretch of the Women's Nordic team sprint to steal the gold from Sweden. It was the first gold ever won by Americans in Nordic skiing, and just the second ever medal after Brattleboro's Bill Koch took 30 kiolmeter silver in 1976. Diggins, along with a large chunk of the US Nordic team, then competed in the US Ski Supertour Finals at Craftsbury Outdoor center in March. Fittingly, Diggins claimed another gold in the 30K mass start.
But there was only one Olympian born and raised in our area that took home a medal from PyeongChang. Montpelier native and all-time leading scorer for the UVM women's hockey team Amanda Pelkey was named to Team USA on New Year's Day. Pelkey recorded two assists over 5 games as the Americans took down Canada in a shootout to claim just their second ever gold medal. Pelkey returned to Vermont multiple times over the course of the Spring and Summer to show off her new hardware.
As the snow and ice melted, Vermonters got back on the links. For the second straight year, Drake Hull of Rutland Country Club claimed the Vermont Am, beating rival Max Major on the final hole of the final round at Country Club of Vermont in Waterbury in July. A few weeks later, the course hosted the women's amateur as well, with Tiffany Maurycy of Orleans Country Club claiming her first title after years of close calls.
On the diamond, it was another successful year for the Vermont Lake Monsters as the club finished above the .500 mark in consecutive seasons, the first time the Monsters had accomplished that feat since doing it three straight years from 1994 through 96. Payton Squier led the way in his second season in Burlington, and the Monsters got in on the recent trend of local food theme nights, as they became the Vermont Maple Kings for a pair of games.
The NECBL teams in our area experienced moderate success, with the Upper Valley Nighthawks and Vermont Mountaineers finishing just on either side of the .500 mark, though neither made the playoffs.
It had been four years since the Post 91 baseball team had last won a Vermont Legion state title, but the squad primarily made up of Essex natives reclaimed the club's place on top. Facing a 2-0 deficit in the 7th and the prospect of a winner-take-all game on August 1st against Colchester, Post 91 started a rally with 2 outs, and Corey Gianelli plated Grady Cram with a hit through the infield to give the club its 9th title.
At the little league level, it was South Burlington who once again claimed a state title by taking down Lyndon. But the Vermont champs were outmatched at the regional tournament in Connecticut, dropping games to both Rhode Island and New Hampshire
It was yet another wild year on the track at Thunder Road. Four drivers would finish within 30 points of the King of the road title, each of them holding the lead at least once and claiming at least two feature wins. Jason Corliss had the flare for the dramatic, taking the season opening Community Bank 150, the Labor Day Classic, and his second straight Milk Bowl to finish second in the standings.
Fellow Barre native Cody Blake took the Memorial Day Classic and finished fourth, while South Burlington's Trampas Demers was third. But for the second time in three years, Scott Dragon was king of the road. The Milton native turned his season around by winning the Governor's Cup in July, and followed that up by claiming double points at the Midseason Championship the next week to edge Corliss by 11 points. Dragon will have his eyes set on a third title in four years in 2019.