Top Ten Sports Stories of 2007

BERLIN- With 2007 becoming 2008 next week, it’s a good time to look back and reflect on some of the top sports stories of the year on the local front.

As usual, the outstanding accomplishments of the local scholar-athletes dominated the sports pages of The Dispatch week in and week out, both as teams and individuals. It was another record-breaking year on the local fishing scene, golf continued to flourish and the local youth sports programs continued to grow and succeed. There were so many great sports stories this year that boiling a list down to a Top Ten was again difficult, so with all due respect to all of the area athletes who left their mark on 2007, here is a quick look at a handful of the top stories that captured the attention of local sports enthusiasts in the last year:

“Rebel” Holds On to Win 34th White Marlin Open, $1.4 Million

The 34th Annual White Marlin Open fizzled to a quiet close on the last day this year after a remarkable Thursday that saw the leaderboard, and the fortunes of several anglers, change rapidly in a couple of dramatic hours.

This year, Thursday was the day that provided the most drama with the eventual winner, an 83-pound white marlin caught by angler John Frankos on the “Rebel” out of Nags Head, N.C. highlighting a flurry of action on Day Four. The 83-pound eventual winner was brought to the scale at Harbour Island shortly after 4 p.m. on Thursday of tournament week and took over the top spot in the high-dollar glamour division.

A short time later, angler Gregory Hoffa fishing aboard the “Nasty Habit” out of Cape May weighed a 76-pound white marlin to briefly move into second place in the division. The leader board changed again on the tournament’s last day when angler Rhett Bailey, fishing aboard the “Viking 54” weighed a 78-pound white to move into second place.

Decatur Sports Teams Move Up in Class

BERLIN- Further evidence of the continued growth in the north end of Worcester County was revealed this year when it was learned Stephen Decatur High School is now the largest high school on the Eastern Shore in terms of enrollment, a fact that caused the Berlin school’s sports teams to move up to a higher classification when it comes to state playoffs.

Because of its increased enrollment figures, Decatur moved from Class 2A to Class 3A, which forces the Seahawks to play stiffer competition in state playoffs for all sports, or even miss the state playoffs in others, such as football, where Decatur was left standing on the sideline after a winning season this fall.

Worcester Prep, Decatur Split Annual Neighborhood Lacrosse Grudge Matches

BERLIN- It’s always special when cross-town rivals Stephen Decatur and Worcester Prep face each other in any sport, but lacrosse has provided some of the best grudge matches over the years in both the boys and girls rivalries and this year was no different.

This year’s men’s varsity lacrosse match-up had a little bit of everything including rumbling thunder, a 30-minute lightning delay, big hits, and lots of penalties, but in the end, the Mallards edged the Seahawks, 8-7, in a thriller in front of a big bi-partisan crowd at Decatur.

While the boys played a tight, one-goal game in the annual rivalry, the match-up between the Decatur and Worcester Prep girls’ teams did not live up to the hype. Worcester dominated the series for several years while Decatur’s fledgling program matured, but in recent years, it has been the Seahawks dominating the Mallards in the rivalry. This year’s game continued the trend with the Decatur girls rolling the Worcester Prep girls, 16-4.

Marathon in Snow

OCEAN CITY-  Blinding snow and frigid temperatures did not prevent hundreds of runners from all over the country from competing in this years 3rd Annual Ocean City Marathon, which resulted in the familiar face crossing the finish line first.

A rare Easter weekend snowstorm blew through the area during the race this year and continued throughout the marathon, making conditions difficult for the hundreds of competitors. With strong winds blowing out of the north, the condition were particularly harsh for racers in the full marathon, who trudged up the course’s backstretch along Route 611 in West Ocean City into the teeth of the biting wind and blowing snow.

For the second year in a row, Michael Wardian of Arlington, Va. was the first runner across the finish line in the Ocean City Marathon taking first place in the men’s division with a winning time of 2:41:20. For a variety of reasons, including uncertainties about the Route 50 bridge closure, event organizers will not host a full marathon but rather will produce a half-marathon and 5K race run entirely within Ocean City.

Seahawk Girls Capture Second Straight Regional Title

BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s girls’ varsity lacrosse team’s dream of returning to the state championship ended in May with a 13-9 loss to North Harford in the Class 3A-2A semifinals.

Decatur ran the table in the regular season, going a perfect 14-0, and collected its second straight Bayside Conference championship. The Seahawks then got off to a great start in the state tournament, beating Kent Island, 12-6, in the 3A-2A East Region championship game to advance to the Final Four for the second year in a row. However, the magical run ended with a 13-9 loss to North Harford in the state semifinals.

Berlin Little Leaguers Reach State Title Game

BERLIN- The Berlin Little League 9-10 All-Stars reached the state championship game in July after a remarkable run through the district and regional playoffs, but the local nine ran out of gas in the title game.

After five tension-filled games in five days, the Berlin All-Stars finally fell to Conococheague, 13-3, in Cambridge. For five days, the Berlin All-Starts embarked on a wild five-game journey that left them on the doorstep of a state title, but the tank was nearly empty at that point.

Despite a valiant effort, the never-say-die Berlin team fell behind Conococheague and lost the state championship game, 13-3.

The loss did little to tarnish what was an amazing run for the Berlin team, which captured its first District 8 title in several years last week just to reach the state tournament. Berlin cruised through the District 8 playoffs relatively unscathed, sweeping five games, including four shutouts, to take the title.

Decatur Wrestling Dominance

BERLIN- Stephen Decatur’s varsity wrestling team continued its dominance on the Eastern Shore in 2007 and made a name for itself among the top wrestling powerhouses in the state.

The Seahawks went a perfect 13-0 in the regular season and captured their seventh straight Bayside Conference regular season and tournament championships.

Decatur made a very respectable showing in the state Class 1A-2A state tournament, finishing fourth among the 66 teams in the field after sending a total of 10 wrestlers to the state meet. Two Seahawks wrestlers, Trevor Rickett and Danny Miller won individual state championships in 2007. Rickett won the state championship in the 112-pound weight class, while Miller collected a state championship in the 189-pound class.

20th Tuna Tournament One for the Record Books

OCEAN CITY- The 20th Annual Ocean City Tuna Tournament in July was one for the books with a record number of boats participating and a record payout to the winners in several categories.

When the drama ended, a mere single pound separated first place from second place in the heaviest tuna division resulting in a difference in cash payout of $351,147 for first place and $64,540 for second place. Ocean City’s own “Press Time,” with Captain Luke Blume, took first in heaviest tuna category with a 184-pounder caught by angler Ted D’Anna worth $351,197. The “Press Time” just edged the “Let it Ride,” which hung a 183-pounder. Twelve-year-old Charlie Gravina was the angler who caught the 183-pound second place tuna on the “Let it Ride” and was named Top Junior Angler in the tournament. The second-place single largest tuna caught on the “Let it Ride” was worth $66,040. Third-place in the heaviest single tuna category and a check for $37,582 went to the “Cyntinory” and local angler Terry Layton.

30 Years and 300 Wins Later

BERLIN- A pair of Stephen Decatur High School head soccer coaches with 30 years and over 300 wins between them announced in February they were resigning their positions with each citing personal reasons and the need to spend more time with their families.

Long-time mens’ varsity soccer coach Steve Berquist in February resigned at head coach and womens’ head coach Amy Fenzel-Mergott announced she was stepping down shortly thereafter. The resignations are not related to any problems at the school or with the programs, rather each coach cited the need to move on for personal reasons as the catalyst for their rather sudden departures.

Berquist took over the Decatur mens’ soccer program in 1988 and had been at the helm every autumn for 19 years. Fenzel-Mergott, meanwhile, came to Decatur in 1996 and started the school’s women’s soccer program. She collected her 100th win at Decatur early last season.

Furyk Opens Glen Riddle Course

BERLIN- About 14 hours after coming tantalizingly close to winning the U.S. Open at Oakmont in the Pennsylvania town of the same name not far from where he grew up, high-ranking PGA professional Jim Furyk was in the resort area in June to help dedicate the War Admiral course at the Glen Riddle community.

A clearly tired Furyk helped cut the ribbon for the new course and fielded questions during a press conference before playing the course with scores of fans following him around.