In only a few days noise makers, confetti, and kisses will usher in the New Year; marking the end of 2012 and signaling the beginning of 2013. But before the celebrations and doomed resolutions consume our lives, it's important to look back on the year that was and the events that helped shape it.
I will always remember 2012 as my first full year as the Turlock Journal's sports reporter, and so I've decided to share some of the memories from my time on duty. It's not likely that this rundown will fully reflect all the great games and stories I've covered in 2012 and it's safe to assume I'll be receiving some emails regarding omissions, but I've done my best-taking significance, entertainment, and the number of online views into account - to put together a comprehensive tally of notable athletic accomplishments from the Valley.
1. Kaepernick's rise to starterdom
It shouldn't be a surprise that Colin Kaepernick lands at the top spot. Since his statistic shattering days at the University of Nevada, Reno, Kaepernick has been a focal point of Turlock sports coverage, but when he stepped in for an injured Alex Smith in week 10 of the NFL season his local profile jumped through the roof.
Kaepernick's popularity spread nationally after his Monday Night Football debut in which he destroyed the Chicago Bears by putting up 253 all purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns. The performance sparked a quarterback controversy that proved to be fodder for hungry pundits. Five starts and three wins later, including a dramatic victory over New England, and the quarterback controversy has all but evaporated.
The 49ers have clinched a NFC playoff spot and Kaepernick has asserted himself as the future of the franchise, rounding out an exciting and tumultuous year for the second year quarterback. Now, with memes, rap videos, and a constant spotlight focused on the former Pitman quarterback, Kaepernites are looking forward to 2013 with giddy anticipation with some even whispering Super Bowl.
2. Lethal Lewis' knockout year
If you're an avid reader of the sports section you should know Lewis Gonzalez' name by now and even if you're not it should ring a bell. The former Bulldog and two-time state wrestling champion had a busy schedule in 2012 which saw him compete in five mixed martial arts fights and compile a perfect record of 7-0.
After turning pro in 2011, Gonzalez lived up to his ‘Lethal' moniker by finishing every opponent he faced. A third round TKO of a formidable Lamar Reed in May was a statement fight for the Turlocker but Gonzalez' defining moment came in October when he defeated Bobby Stack to become the Cage Combat Lightweight Champion. Since his championship win Gonzalez has assumed assistant coaching duties for Turlock's wrestling program while continuing his training, recently sparring with UFC's Nate Diaz.
3. Turlock/Pitman basketball's 3 game series
Whether you rooted for the Bulldogs or the Pride I think we can all agree that Turlock and Pitman's three game CCC series was exciting to watch. Equipped with proven leadership and talent, both teams waged war on the court in pursuit of a league title and put on a show for those lucky enough to be in attendance.
Pitman was victorious in the first game of the series after a momentous fourth quarter comeback and overtime effort stunned Turlock, but the Bulldogs fought back and eked out a much needed victory during the second meeting of the rival schools. With the stage set for drama, the Pride and Bulldogs topped their first two performances with their closest game yet.
Turlock's Alek Carlson and DaShawn Holcombe faced off against Pitman's Skyler Sexton and Zach Olson as both teams took turns as leaders on the scoreboard. With 15 seconds in regulation Olson scored a go ahead basket, reminiscent of the ending of the first game, to put his team up 46-45. Unfortunately for the Pride, Carlson drew a foul with 3 seconds in regulation and drained both free throws, giving his team a dramatic finish of its own and the edge in the series.
4. TC runs the court
The Lady Eagles hit the court in 2012 with a healthy Halie Bergman and a strong supporting cast, so it wasn't a huge surprise when TC claimed its third consecutive Southern Athletic League title.
What was surprising was TC's 12 game winning streak during the regular season and its domination of Division V opponents during its playoff run. The Eagles wound up in the Section Final game against Brookside Christian but narrowly missed out on the glory, losing 63-51. TC continued its run on the court in the CIF State Tournament where Bergman and co. made it all the way to the second round before coming up 4 points short against St. Joseph Notre Dame.
5. Tommy Mendonca drafted by A's
Without question, news of Oakland's pickup of Turlock High alumnus Tommy Mendonca was big news so some might scratch their heads at its fifth place listing.
While the prospect of another Turlock athlete playing in the Bay Area at the professional level is exciting, little more than the late-November announcement actually happened in 2012. Still, the good news is that Mendonca will be playing closer to home, either with the Sacramento Rivercats or the A's, giving local fans the chance to watch the former Bulldog in action. Mendonca will also get the opportunity to remain at third base and his chances of making it to the big show are much better with Oakland than with Texas, making this a story to follow closely in 2013.
6. Bulldogs win 25 straight; Send four to State
Turlock has a long history of success when it comes to its wrestling program and 2012 proved to be a continuation of tradition.
With only one senior on the roster, the Bulldogs had a stellar year in which they claimed their seventh CCC title in a decade, six tournament titles, won 25 consecutive duals, and placed fifth at the Masters Tournament. In addition to team accomplishments Turlock also boasted solid individual efforts, including five Masters medalists and four State qualifiers-Erik Parsons, Jason Valdovinos, Ernesto Guiang, and Isaac Bertalotto.
7. First CCAA championship for CSUS men's soccer
The Warriors had their best year yet in 2012, compiling a program high record of 12-5-3 and earning their first California Collegiate Athletic Association Championship in history.
CSUS earned its conference title with a dramatic comeback effort over Chico State that was led by Carlos Gavino. Stanislaus parlayed its conference success into a second round appearance in the NCAA Championship Tournament where they lost to Simon Fraser, 2-1.
8. Turlock soccer advances to Section Final
Turlock's season looked bleak in the early stages of 2012 as the Bulldogs struggled to finish games and put themselves in the winner's column. Things began to change in early October as Turlock used a close win over Pitman as a springboard for a late season run that ended with its second consecutive CCC Championship.
The Bulldogs' accomplishments didn't end there, however. Led by Martin Castoren and Jose Aguilera, Turlock rolled through its post-season competition and found itself opposite Bella Vista in the Division II Section Championship game. In only its second Section Final appearance, Turlock battled with the heavily favored Broncos and nearly emerged victorious before falling short in the sudden death shootout.
9. Pride volleyball: Back -to-back champions
Pitman hit the court in 2012 with one thing in mind-win another CCC Championship.
The Pride wound up doing one better, waging an undefeated league campaign en route to the league title. In addition to remaining unbeaten, Pitman allowed only one team to play into the fourth set which goes to show the degree of dominance its girls displayed on the court. Although they were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, the Pride's young and powerful roster has head coach Kristen Pontes thinking three-peat in 2013.
10. Next Level Athletes
I've watched athletes of different ages and genders compete in a wide array of sports over the past 12 months. I've seen their faces emote disgust with failure and exuberance with success, but I have yet to see an athlete's face happiest than when they've secured an opportunity to compete at the collegiate level.
Twenty-two athletes from the fields of baseball, basketball, football, soccer, softball, swimming, volleyball, and wrestling signed with schools, Division I on down, from CSU Stanislaus to Nebraska and many places in between. Pitman and Turlock accounted for the majority of signings with 10 and eight, respectively, while Hilmar sent two athletes to college programs and Denair and TC sent one each.
Unlisted but not forgotten, here's the best of the rest:
• Turlock's Scott Grey three-peats as the CCC boys tennis singles champion
• Hilmar baseball section title appearance
• Local youth compete in National All Star Pop Warner game
• Modesto Babe Ruth National World Series run
• TC volleyball wins Section Championship