As 2012 is now behind us, the local sports scene gives us one last reason to look back and reflect on a remarkable year. From Fredonia native Jenn Suhr winning gold at the Olympics to the Fredonia High School girls cross country team winning its fifth straight Sectional crown, there are plenty of stories which made 2012 so memorable.
Following are the top 10 stories of 2012:
1) Suhr wins gold
Fredonia native Jenn Suhr won the gold medal in the pole vault during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Suhr beat out Yarisley Silva from Cuba and Yelena Isinbayeva from Russia, a previous two-time gold medalist. It was the first time since 2000 that an American won the gold medal in the event.
With the bar set at 4.7 meters (15.42 feet), five pole vaulters remained - Suhr, Silva, 2008 gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva, Germany's Martina Strutz and Silke Spiegelburg. Strutz bowed out after being unable to clear the mark. Suhr, Silva and Isinbayeva cleared the height on their first attempt and Spiegelburg deferred to the next mark after she was unable to clear 4.7
With the bar raised to 4.75 meters, Spiegelburg was eliminated after being unable to clear the mark.
With Spiegelburg out, Suhr was guaranteed at least a bronze.
Suhr and Silva both missed on their first attempt at 4.75, but cleared the bar on their second attempt. Isinbayeva failed to clear 4.75 twice, and then elected to pass to 4.8.
There, Suhr missed her first attempt.
Suhr could be seen talking to her coach, telling him, "I had to power through the wind ... That was a head wind."
Silva also failed to clear 4.8 and Isinbayeva was eliminated after not clearing 4.8 after her first try.
With a gold medal in sight, Suhr could not power through the wind and rain again as she was unable to clear the bar. However, Silva also could not clear 4.8, and because she had more faults than Suhr throughout the competition, the 2000 Fredonia graduate was awarded the gold medal.
Following the gold medal win, Suhr embarked on a gold medal tour which included stops in Fredonia, Orchard Park and at Suhr's alma mater, Roberts Wesleyan College.
During the Fredonia stop in September, Suhr jumped along with five other vaulters in a sanctioned competition. During the jump in Barker Common, Suhr cleared 4.83 meters.
Plans were also made to place a gold-colored ball atop the silver ball from 2008 on the flag pole in Barker Common. Discussions of plaques or other markers to be placed in the grounds of Fredonia Central School and along roads entering the village also took place, although no final decision has been made.
2) Fredonia cross country captures fifth straight Sectional title
A regular to the yearly review has been the Fredonia cross country team. This year is no different as the Lady Hillbillies captured their fifth straight Sectional title on their way to another appearance at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country meet.
"It is about the program and how well our modified team does and getting numbers out," Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said of the fifth straight team title. "A big part of that is how the modified coaches are able to keep the numbers up. If you don't have a large number in modified, we have nothing to pull on. If you have 20 on the team, hopefully five become very good runners. In cross country, we treat it as family atmosphere. The boys and girls train together. Alumni come back to cheer us on. (The alumni) push for everyone to do our best in honor of the kids before and the ones after you."
Helping the Lady Hillbillies make the trip to the state meet was the performance of Lauren Reyda, who claimed her third consecutive Sectional victory, as she finished the 3.1-mile course in 19:51.6.
"How can you not say what an awesome job she has done?" Zirkle said of Reyda. "She works so hard and deserves everything she gets. She does everything we ask her to do. She is a tremendous athlete, is mentally tough and we are very proud of what she has done. There is a lot of pressure on her. Everyone expects her to run well each and every race. We know she can do it. Still remember, she is a 10th grader."
The Lady Hillbillies had six runners finish in the top 21 as Michaela Tramuta took fifth at 20:39.8 ahead of teammate Clare Foley in sixth at 20:40.5. Meredith Zebracki took 15th at 21:21 and Jill Kowalski placed 19th at 21:37.3. Cori Gullo took 21st place at 21:55.8.
At the state meet, Fredonia placed fifth.
Foley finished with Fredonia's best time, coming in 40th with a time of 20:30.7. Gwen Stokes finished 91st in a time of 21:51.3 and Zebracki was 68th in a time of 21:08.6. Reyda finished 61st in a time of 21:00.7.
3) Zeddie Williams breaks state lacrosse point record
Silver Creek's Zeddie Williams had another remarkable season in leading the Black Knights to their second straight Class B Far West Regional.
On the way, he broke the state record for points with 534 points.
In the Far West Regional game, Williams tied the record at the 11:16 mark of the third period as he stood behind the net and fed Marvin Curry a pass, who promptly put the ball into the net. And with 3:19 remaining, Williams took sole possession of the record as his shot from 20-yards out found the back of the net.
"It was a good run," Williams said after the game. "I guess it's a good goal to accomplish. I would rather accomplish another one a state title."
Making the feat all the more impressive, was the fact Williams was just a junior when he broke the record and has the 2013 lacrosse season to add to his record.
"He had a great season," Silver Creek lacrosse coach Bill Brennan said. "He is just a phenomenal lacrosse player. I'm glad I have another year with him. He does everything we ask."
For his impressive skills on the field, Williams has agreed to continue his lacrosse career in college next fall when he attends Virginia.
4) Seiders sisters run at States together
Silver Creek's Hannah Seiders has advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country meet three years in a row. This past season may have been a little more special for the freshman as her younger sister, Emma, joined her in qualifying for the meet.
Hannah and Emma were able to compete together on the grandest stage thanks to their strong finishes at the Sectional Meet at Elma Meadows. Hannah finished in eighth place with a time of 21:07.5 while Emma was right behind in ninth place at 21:08.2.
"It's a large accomplishment for a girl so young," Silver Creek coach Mike Janisch said of his freshmen runner after the Sectional Meet. "She has ran outstanding for three straight weeks now.
It will be a memorable situation for both of the girls. For a girl who is as inexperienced as Emma, to run the way she did, is super. The whole team ran well."
"It couldn't have worked more perfectly with Hannah coming in right ahead of Emma," Amy Seiders, mother of Hannah and Emma, said.
At the state meet, Emma finished 28th in the Class D race in a time of 20:34 while Hannah finished 39th in a time of 20:59.
5) Gardner boys get to State wrestling meet
The Sieders sisters weren't the only siblings to experience the state meet together. Fredonia's Dakota and Jude Gardner advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association wrestling championships.
At the Section 6 state qualifiers, Dakota took care of business at 120-pounds, as the eighth-grader defeated East Aurora's Nate Lazickas, 3-1.
Then it was up to Jude - a junior - to match his little brother's performance. With 30 seconds left in the final round, Jude was trailing, 2-1 to Lewiston-Porter's Dan Regan. With 10 seconds left, Jude was able to earn a two-point reversal and five seconds later earned the pin to punch his ticket into the state finals in the 138-pound division.
"Both of them came off the mat, hugged me and said, 'We did it,'" Jude Sr., their father, said. "It was the proudest day of my life.'"
"I never jumped like I jumped when Jude reversed his guy and pinned him in the finals," Fredonia coach Alex Conti added. "I was so happy for Jude and Dakota's father. It's not easy when the youngest one has already made it to states and have the oldest son fall short. When he came through, it was gratifying."
Dakota Gardner did not fair well in the quarterfinals as he was shut out 8-0 to Sam Recco from Petrides at 120.
In the wrestlebacks, Dakota avenged the loss with a 2-0 win over Eric Januszkiewicz of Lyndonville. The win gave him a chance to place. Dakota went 48-3 that season with already 86 career wins as an eighth grader.
"I thought he wrestled a pretty tough kid in the wrestlebacks," Conti said. "I thought he was a little bit reserved, but held strong for the win. I'm real happy that Jude and Dakota are picking up some success and doing it together. Hopefully they are ready and get after it."
Jude also lost in the quarterfinals as he was defeated, 6-2, by Issiah Riccio of Beaver River..
However, in the wrestlebacks, he also won with a 9-2 decision over Matt Long of Mineola.
On Day 2, Jude Sr. found himself in a predicament as both his sons were wrestling at the same time on mats, which were stationed side by side.
Jude lost his match, 4-1 to Dan Reagan of Section 6's Lewiston-Porter. Seven seconds after Jude's match ended, Dakota's match ended with him falling 4-0 to Scott Stafford of Section 4's Sidney. The loss put the brothers into the running for fifth place.
In Dakota Gardner's match for fifth place, he was unable to shake off a slow start as he fell behind, 5-0 after the first period. After a scoreless second frame, Gardner attempted a comeback with two takedowns. Unfortunately, time ran out as he lost, 8-5 to Zach Ayen of Section 10's Governeur to take sixth place.
Meanwhile, Jude Gardner was the next match on the same mat his little brother had just lost on and did not fare any better as he was pinned in 57 seconds to Adam Greene of Section 4's Chenango Valley.
Both boys are off to tremendous starts in the first half of this wrestling season as they attempt to get back to states.
6) Pine Valley baseball reaches Final Four
The Pine Valley Panthers baseball team had a memorable 2012 season as it finally made it past the Class D Far West Regionals and into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four.
After falling two previous years in a row at the Far West Regionals, 2012 was finally Pine Valley's time to make the trip to Binghamton.
The journey started with a 6-1 victory over North Collins in the Section 6 Class D championship game. It was the third straight year the two teams met and third straight time the Panthers were victorious.
However, this time the Panthers finally won the Far West Regional game with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Section 5's Arkport.
"Right now, my head is so full of joy," Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek said after the win. "I don't know any planning details for the weekend or where I am supposed to go. It's time to enjoy this I can't put it into words. With the banners and the tradition, you talk about it a lot at Pine Valley. It's just awesome to know we are going there."
Lyle Howard shined on the mound as he had a no-hitter through four innings of baseball.
Zach Fancher provided offense in the game with a RBI double. Howard scored on a passed ball and Fancher scored on a RBI single from Kyle Riggs.
In the semifinals, the Panthers could muster just two hits in a 1-0 loss to Oriskany.
After the loss, Buczek noted the season will forever make him smile.
"There was a lot of excitement, a lot of great excitement and a lot of great plays," he said. "It's something that's going to put a smile on my face."
7) Tim Nobles wins 500
The Pine Valley baseball team wasn't the only bright spot in South Dayton in 2012.
After 28 seasons as the head coach of the Pine Valley girls basketball team, Tim Nobles reached the 500-win milestone after his team defeated Forestville, 53-29, on a cold February night.
As the final seconds ticked away and the crowd chanted his name, Nobles took the win in stride as if it were just another victory.
"It's not a big deal," he said. "I have not thought about it. People have reminded me. It has nothing to do with me. It's about all these girls that were here, whether they were stars, or people off the bench - they were all important. If you're around long enough, you'll get to 500 wins."
During his tenure as head coach, Nobles has won six state championships, eight Far West Regional championships and 11 Section 6 championships. Pine Valley has appeared in 18 Section 6 championship games and won the league title 16 times under Nobles' tutelage. From the 2001-2002 season to the 2004-2005 season, Pine Valley had a combined 97-8 record on its way to three straight titles.
Nobles coached the modified, jayvee and varsity all at the same time.
Nikki Smith, a 1998 graduate and arguably the best player in Pine Valley history, has known Nobles for 20 years and speaks glowingly of her former coach.
"Aside from my father, he was the biggest influence in my life," she said. "Basketball is a huge part of my life. He has always been a part of my life. I love him dearly. He is such a great person. He knows what he is talking about. He is a wonderful father and husband. He treats players like a daughter. That says more than anything. It makes you love basketball when someone supports you in that way."
8) Dunkirk opens another remarkable facility
When the 2011-2012 school year began, Dunkirk unveiled the new turf football field. In June, when the school year was reaching an end, the school showed off its new gymnasium.
The school opened its doors to the public for the first time when it hosted the annual charity basketball game.
School officials held a ceremonial ribbon cutting to commemorate a new chapter in Dunkirk's history.
"This is a project that is several years in the making," Dunkirk Superintendent Gary Cerne said. "We've added on 30 feet to the old gym and I have to give a lot of credit to the architects and contractors for for the way they matched up the trusses from the old gym to those of the new gym. If someone had never been in the old gym, they would think this was completely brand new.
"We always like to hold an event when we open up a new facility as we did with the hall of fame inductions at the football field unveiling," Cerne continued. "The charity game is something we have always held, so we figured this would be the perfect opportunity to let everyone see the gym. I just want to thank everyone involved in making this project a reality. A lot of people put a lot of hard work into making this possible."
9) Ficarro finishes second in NCAA D-III 3-meter final
Last spring, Fredonia State junior diver Sarah Ficarro finished second in the nation in women's 3-meter springboard diving at the NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving championships.
Ficarro earned 467.65 points to defeat six other finalists Saturday night. Ruth Hahn of Trinity won the competition with 481.00 points.
Diving next-to-last in the eight-women rotation, Ficarro saved her best dive for last. Her inward 2.5 somersault from the tuck position earned 62.10 points and moved her up two spots in the final standings.
The second-place finish matched her second-place finish in the 1-meter competition as a freshman at the 2010 NCAA championships. She has competed at nationals three straight years and has earned three All-American certificates and three honorable mention All-American certificates.
Ficarro also posted the second-best total score, also behind Hahn, following preliminaries Saturday afternoon the Indiana University Natatorium. Included in her scores was an inward 2.5 somersault which earned 58 points, the highest-scored dive among all 22 competitors during the afternoon.
10) Fredonia State women's soccer advances to SUNYAC semifinals
The Fredonia Blue Devils sported a 12-3-3 record as they entered the SUNYAC semifinals against Oneonta (11-6-1).
After defeating Oneonta, 1-0, earlier in the regular season, the Red Dragons got revenge in the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over the Blue Devils.
Reilly Condidorio and Katie Kleine led the team.
Kleine was named to the Second Team National Soccer Coaches Association of America All American for the second year in a row.
Condidorio and junior Kleine also received NSCAA All-East Region recognition - Condidorio on the First Team, Kleine on the Second Team. It is the fourth time since 2005 two Blue Devils have been chosen all-region in the same season.
The reigning Fredonia State Female Athlete of the Year, Condidorio finished the season with nine goals - four of them to win games - and 22 points to add to her school records in both categories. Her four-season totals are 43 goals and 104 points. Her 14 goals and 32 points last season are single-year team bests and resulted in her becoming the first All-American in Fredonia State women's soccer history.
Condidorio is a four-time First Team All SUNYAC player and was the only player from the 2012 All SUNYAC Team chosen to the NSCAA All-American Team.
Kleine also had nine goals - three game-winners - and added seven assists to lead the Blue Devils in overall scoring with 25 points. She was also chosen First Team All-SUNYAC this fall and is receiving her first NSCAA recognition, yet it is her second time on all-regional list. The Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association named Kleine to its Empire Region First Team last spring.