Photo by Jeff Yoder
Your Prep Sports
Two years ago Your Prep Sports rang in the new year with a column that remembered some of the year’s best moments involving area coaches, teams and athletes.
At the time Your Prep Sports had been operating for five months and the story that published on New Years Eve 2016 featured 10 highlights from the previous year.
Fast forward a few years to today.
Your Prep Sports is in its third year of covering local sports and area teams are coming off a year packed full of record-breaking performances, state titles and unforgettable moments.
Area teams and athletes provided so much to cover in the past 365 days that this year’s New Years Even column will look back at 20 of the top moments from 2018 (and it was difficult to cut it down to only 20).
Before welcoming in what promises to be another exciting year in area prep sports take a moment to remember the best of 2018.
The West High and City High girls basketball teams have played some classics over the past several years but the two perennial powers had never met in a state title game.
That changed in March when West High capped a Cinderella run to its first state title since 2012 with a 56-45 win over top-ranked City High in the Class 5A title game.
The win over its cross-town rival completed a stunning tournament run for West High (19-7) which finished the season on an eight-game winning streak and rallied from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to down West Des Moines Dowling in overtime in the 5A quarterfinals.
City High swept West High during the regular season but had a 25-game winning streak snapped in the state title game.
Ashley Joens didn’t just do it all for City High during her impressive senior season the 6-foot guard did it all very, very well.
Joens averaged a double-double with a state-leading 30.7 points and 11.4 rebounds per game on her way to being named Miss Iowa Basketball by the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.
An Iowa State recruit, Joens become the second City High player to win the award and first since Michelle Nason in 1990.
Joens left City High the program’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder and her 2,178 career points ranks 13th all-time in the five-player era trailing only Anne O’Neil of Cedar Rapids Kennedy for points by a large school player.
As a senior Joens had 19 double-doubles, scored at least 21 points in every game and had 30 or more points 13 times.
The state swimming meet came to Iowa City last February and City High’s Forrest Frazier put on a show in his home town.
Frazier was named the meet’s Outstanding Swimmer after winning two individual titles, setting a state record in one, earning All-American honors in both and swimming on City High’s runner-up 200 medley relay at the University of Iowa’s Campus Wellness and Recreation Center.
Frazier won the 100 butterfly in 49.01 and shattered the 15-year old state record in the 100 breaststroke with a winning time of 54.16 helping City High to a seventh-place team finish.
Butch Pedersen has had a lot of seasons filled with memorable moments and big wins in his 30 plus years leading the West Branch football program.
This fall has to rank towards the top for Pedersen.
The long-time West Branch head coach became the 13th coach in state history to eclipse the 300-win mark with a 56-13 victory over Tipton on September 14.
Later that month the field at the historic Little Rose Bowl was renamed Butch Pedersen Field.
West Branch posted a 9-2 record and advanced to the Class 1A quarterfinals.
Nelson Brands will go down as one of the best in state history and the West High senior gave a demonstration why in his final appearance at the state tournament.
Brands (55-1) capped a second consecutive one-loss season by becoming just the second three-time state champion in West High history with a 22-7 tech fall over City High’s Wilfred Kadohou in the 3A 160-pound title match.
After missing the state title as a freshman Brands went 163-5 over his final three season to join four-time champ Nick Moore as the only wrestlers in West High history with three titles.
West High senior Francis Duggan gave the Trojans two titles in the same season for the first time since 2012 by winning the 3A 220-pound crown.
The tradition-rich City High wrestling program had gone more than a decade with out crowning an individual champion.
Jacob Dykes snapped that streak in February with an impressive run to the Class 3A 195-pound title.
Dykes became the first City High state champion since 2005 with a 7-2 win over Reece Bowlin of Indianola in the 195-pound title match.
Dykes finished the season 45-1 and avenged his only loss of the season with a win over top-ranked Tyrell Gordon of Waterloo East in the semifinals.
Few teams in state history in any sport have been as good as the Regina soccer program when playing on the state’s biggest stage.
Regina improved to 7-0 in state title games with a 2-1 win over Des Moines Christian that secured the seventh Class 1A title in the past decade.
Freshman Alec Wick scored two goals including the game-winner in 55th minute as Regina claimed its second straight 1A title after defeating Davenport Assumption 1-0 in the 2017 title match.
Hollywood came to Iowa City in March as the “The Miracle Season” movie debuted before a hometown audience at the Englert Theater.
The movie which was released in April is based on the story of Caroline Found’s tragic death just before the 2011-2012 school year began, its impact on her volleyball team, the school, the community and the Found Family.
West High’s 2011 state champion volleyball team was present at the premier along with a host of West High teachers, coaches and students including former West High coach Kathy Bresnahan.
During its long string of success Solon has had football players honored with just about every postseason award imaginable.
Tyler Linderbaum made program history when he became the first Solon player to be selected to play in the prestigious US Army All-American Bowl on January 6 at the Alamodome in San Antonino, Texas that features 110 of the top prep players in the nation.
Linderbaum started at defensive tackle for the West squad which recorded a 17-16 win over the East team.
It may have come only two weeks into the season but Liberty High’s 18-6 win over Waterloo East on August 31 was a long time in the making.
One week after a 38-21 loss at City High in the season opener Liberty High earned the first varsity win in program history in its first ever home game with a win over the Trojans.
Liberty High bolted to an 18-0 first-quarter lead and held on to make its home debut a success.
There are always some nervous moments with a state title on the line.
The West High doubles tandem of Jessica Moonjely and Vivian Mitchell had to endure more than their fair share to clinch the Class 2A state tennis title for the Women of Troy.
Moonjely and Mitchell won an incredible six-minute, 152-shot rally on match point to cap a state title-clinching 7-5, 3-6 (10-7) win over the Ames tandem of Caitlyn Hanulikova and Chloe Wilson at number two doubles.
Ames and West High split six singles matches with Meg Moreland, Audrey Koch and Moonjely earning singles victories.
The state doubles championship team of Emma and Audrey Koch won at number one singles setting the stage for the dramatic final win by Moonjely and Mitchell.
Five of the nine matches against Ames required a third-set super tiebreaker as West High finished the season 20-0.
Following two years of steady progress the City High softball team got the breakthrough it was after in 2018.
The Little Hawks reached the state tournament for the first time since 2001, won its first state tournament game since 1982 with a 3-1 consolation win over Johnston and finished 25-19 its most wins during the 40-game regular season era.
City High secured its first state tournament trip in more than a decade with a 4-2 regional final victory over Linn-Mar.
One week apart in July the Regina baseball and softball teams added some hardware to the Regal trophy case with state runner-up finish.
The Regina softball team reached the 2A state title game for the fourth straight season falling 4-3 to Louisa-Muscatine.
A week later the Regal baseball team dropped a 4-3 decision to Centerville in its first trip to the state baseball championship game since 1994.
Clear Creek Amana steadily climbed the Class 3A standings at the state cross country meet the past several seasons.
Last fall the Clippers made a huge jump.
Clear Creek Amana posted the best state finish in program history for the third year in a row with a runner-up finish at the 3A meet.
Junior Jack Sexton became the first medalist in school history with a seventh-place finish as the Clippers climbed from 13th place in 2016 and 10th place in 2017 to runner-up behind two-time champion Gilbert.
After returning to the top of Class 4A with the seventh state title in program history in 2017 West High made a sixth trip to the 4A title game in seven seasons in March.
This time the Trojans had to settle for a runner-up finish.
Cedar Falls jumped to a 7-0 lead and never trailed in a 65-45 win over the Trojans in an all Mississippi Valley Conference 4A title game.
The loss denied West High a fifth title in seven seasons as the Trojans finished the season 21-5.
There might not have been a better football story in the state this season than Clear Creek Amana.
The Clippers went from 3-6 in year one under head coach Gabe Bakker in 2017 to 8-2 and its first playoff berth since 2015 last fall.
Clear Creek Amana opened the season 7-0 for the first time in program history and set a school record for regular season victories with eight.
After spending 19 years turning West High into a wrestling powerhouse Mark Reiland stepped down as the Trojans head coach in March.
A 2016 inductee into the Iowa Wrestling Hall of Fame, Reiland led West High to 10 Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet titles and seven total state titles.
West High won tradition state titles in 2006 and 2007 under Reiland and claimed dual titles in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2011.
Reiland led 16 wrestlers to 26 state titles and ranks in the top 10 all-time in career dual wins (436) and winning percentage (.80).
Liberty High freshman Ashlynn Keeney didn’t waste anytime in establishing herself as one of the top distance runners in the state.
In her debut season Keeney went undefeated in races until the Class 4A state meet winning the first Mississippi Valley Conference Super Meet title and state qualifying meet title in Liberty High history and setting six meet record.
Keeney spent much of her freshman season as the top-ranked runner in Class 4A and won the MVC super meet by nearly 38 seconds over the second and third ranked runners in the state before placing 72nd at the state meet while dealing with dehydration.
Just three years after placing 29th at the state track and field meet with five points West High narrowly missed a state title in May.
West High settled for a runner-up trophy finishing three points behind West Des Moines Valley which secured its second consecutive 4A title by winning the 4x400 relay in the meet’s final event.
Austin West won state titles in the 400 and 400 hurdles, Jonathan Gannon added a title in the discus and Landon Green won the shot put title as West High earned its first team trophy since 2013 and surpassed its state meet point total from the previous three seasons combined.
Bailey Nock had already established herself as one of the top distance runners in West High history before the 2018 state track and field meet.
In her final few days in a West High uniform Nock added to her legacy.
Nock swept the Class 4A distance events at the state meet winning the 3,000 and 1,500 to lead West High to a second consecutive runner-up finish.
With her two titles Nock closed her illustrious career with 15 state medals, five state titles and four individual championships.