High school sports’ 2020 memorable moments

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We were only able to enjoy two of the three high school athletics seasons before spring sports were canceled due to COVID-19. That being said, there were plenty of memorable moments from the fall and winter sports.

Perhaps the most intriguing storyline from the fall season was Lansing boys soccer’s pursuit of a third straight state championship. After several key offensive pieces from the back-to-back championship teams, head coach Benji Parkes had to make strategic adjustments to adapt to his new personnel.

The Bobcats did that successfully. Despite scoring fewer goals than the previous years, Lansing typically dominated possession and wore opponents down. The team tore through the Section IV playoffs, taking down a competitive Trumansburg team 2-1 in the finals to punch their ticket to the state tournament.

A pair of wins later, and Lansing was once again in the state championship game. The Bobcats ran into a defensively sound Rhinebeck team, who kept them off the scoreboard for the entirety of the game, dashing the Bobcats’ hopes for a three-peat in the last game of the season.

Senior captain Mason Edwards told Tompkins Weekly he was going to hold his head high following the loss.

“Even though we lost today, nobody really expected us to be here,” Edwards said. “I’m just happy with that because we weren’t expected to make it to the championship game. We were supposed to lose in regionals or something. ... Even though we lost, I’m happy.”

Lansing vs. Trumansburg in boys soccer was not the only intra-county Section IV championship game this year. Lansing and Newfield eight-man football met in the finals of the sectional bracket in what could have been a fantastic matchup.

What held that game back was an injury to Newfield’s all-state quarterback Jacob Humble prior to the finals. He went down the game prior in the Trojans’ upset victory over the defending intersectional champion Elmira Notre Dame. Lansing was healthy and led by an all-state quarterback of their own in Ben Vincent, defeating Newfield 55-26.

Like their boys soccer counterparts, Lansing football fell in the last game of the season. Section IX’s Ellenville held off the high-powered Lansing offense (perhaps aided by a tighter field than the Bobcats were used to), winning 24-14 to take home the intersectional championship.

The fall season was certainly a successful one for Lansing as a whole. Girls swimming standout Grace Kadlecik had a junior season to remember. Kadlecik broke 24 records throughout the season, including setting a pair of Section IV benchmarks.

Her success carried into the state championships, which were hosted by Ithaca College. Kadlecik participated in the 50 and 100 Freestyle races and finished fourth and ninth, respectively, among racers from public schools. Coming up just 0.02 seconds short of All-American consideration, Kadlecik already has a motivating factor for her final year at Lansing.

“I’m really looking forward to trying to get that time and trying to get All-American consideration,” Kadlecik said. “I definitely want to work on my turns more and practicing my overall racing ability.”

Also making the podium that day was Ithaca’s 200-yard medley relay team, which placed third among public schools. That result was beyond impressive, considering 44 schools from around New York sent relay teams to states for the event.

Dryden’s Emily Miller was one of the most impressive performers in the section as a whole during the cross-country season. Her second-place finish at the Section IV Class C Championships (fourth-best finish in the section overall) qualified her for states. She capped off her season on a high note, finishing 20th out of 128 runners at states.

The winter season was all about Newfield basketball. Both the boys and girls teams were ranked among the top 10 in the state throughout the season, with the girls team only losing one game in the regular season to Class AA Ithaca.

Newfield girls basketball was a junior-heavy squad, featuring only two seniors on the roster. Leading the way were the all-state duo of the Moravec twins, Katie and Kelly. Katie tallied her 1,000th career point during the season and averaged just under 20 points per game. Kelly’s scoring came in just below 15 points per game.

Newfield boys basketball featured a great mix of talent; surrounding a core of three strong seniors were junior Jacob Humble and freshman starter Jalen Hardison. Their high-flying offense was only bested twice all season long.

The height of the season in Newfield were the IAC Championships. The girls took down Union Springs handily, and the boys used a fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Marathon at Tompkins Cortland Community College. Both teams were crowned IAC Champions in the same season for the first time in 40 years.

While a dominant win against Union Springs earned the girls team an IAC Championship, Newfield ended up falling to that same Union Springs team in the Section IV semifinals unexpectedly. The boys team rolled right on through the playoffs, winning the Section IV championship. However, they never got the chance to compete for a state championship due to COVID-19.

Ithaca boys basketball showed what they were made of this season. Midway through the year, IHS alum Lester McNair took over coaching duties for a 5-6 Little Red squad. He then helped turn things around, going 4-3 the rest of the way to qualify for the Section IV playoffs. McNair told Tompkins Weekly the opportunity to coach at his alma mater was “a dream come true.”

Ithaca boys hockey also had a special year. It seemed like it would be a tumultuous season for the Little Red after a 1-4 start. However, the young team that featured only three seniors and a first-time varsity goaltender went on a tear, winning seven straight games.

They went on to finish 12-6-2 and were eliminated in the first round of the state tournament, but it was a great year to build upon as most of the roster will be returning next season.

Tompkins County was also well-represented at the indoor track-and-field state championships. Lansing’s Gwen Gisler finished third and Trumansburg’s Rosie Morse finished 10th in pole vault, and Dryden’s Jakob Greenwood placed ninth in the 600-meter run. The elimination of the spring season means these athletes won’t be able to aim higher in the outdoor season.

Other notable moments from the year in athletics include Lansing’s Catalina Zaloj achieving the best high jump in the state late in the track season; Ithaca boys swimming capping off a dominant year with a Section IV championship; Ithaca eighth-grade wrestler Danny Parker winning the Section IV championship; Lansing girls cross country winning their second consecutive Section IV championship; and Ithaca girls tennis going undefeated and winning its first STAC championship since 2008.

Though the list of accomplishments won’t be added to during the spring season due to COVID-19, athletes around Tompkins County gave us plenty to be proud of all year long. Hopefully, the 2020-21 year in athletics will be just as memorable.

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