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Top 10 Fauquier County sports moments of 2016

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1 Fauquier wrestling wins state championship

In February, the Fauquier High wrestling team strengthened its case as the best sports program in Fauquier County history by winning a second consecutive VHSL state championship and extending its streak of top 10 state finishes to 10 seasons. The Falcons won the 2015-16 Class 4A state title by beating runner-up Eastern View, 114.5-101.5, with six wrestlers earning medals, including 160-pound champion Garrett Tingen and 113 champion Kyle Budd.

Tingen became the first three-time state champion in Fauquier history (152 4A title, 2014-15; 145 4A title, 2013-14). Kyle Roche added a state runner-up finish at 138 while Clifford Harrison placed second at 170, Ty Foster took third at 126 and Caleb Strum finished third at 145.

For Kettle Run, meanwhile, Caden Lody became the first wrestler in program history to advance to the state finals. He finished second at 120 pounds after previously earning the first region title (4A West) in team history.

Fauquier won the 4A West Region team championship with Foster, Tingen and Roche claiming gold medals, and eight Falcons also won Conference 22 titles en route to winning that team championship.

2 Highland girls lacrosse wins state championship

After finishing as state runner-up in 2015, 2012 and 2009, the Highland Hawks finally won a championship this March by beating Foxcroft, 12-4, in the final of the VISAA Division II tournament. They finished with an 18-0 record, giving them the first undefeated final record in program history.

In the semifinals, Highland beat Steward, 16-6, after defeating Norfolk Collegiate, 18-3, in the quarterfinals. The Hawks earned seven spots on the all-state team, including Player of the Year Carley Eldredge and Coach of the Year Kristen Conques.

Highland also won the Delaney Athletic Conference tournament championship for the first time since 2012 by beating Foxcroft, which had beaten the Hawks in the DAC final each of the past three seasons. The Foxes also eliminated the Hawks from three consecutive state tournaments (2015 finals, 2014 semifinals, 2013 semifinals) while amassing an overall 10-game winning streak over Highland. The Hawks ended that run by going 3-0 against Foxcroft in 2016.

3 Highland girls soccer wins state championship

May 21, 2016 was an incredibly happy day for two Highland School girls sports teams in Richmond. About a half hour after learning the Highland girls lacrosse team had won a state title, the Hawks girls soccer team also erupted in tears of joy at a nearby Richmond sports venue.

Carolyn Treuting’s skillful 15-yard strike in the 76th minute gave Highland a 1-0 win as the Hawks finally cracked a well-organized Eastern Mennonite defense at Ukrop Park. So Highland won its third VISAA Division II state title, but its first since 2007.

“After last season’s early exit from the tournament, our girls were determined to get the job done this year,” Highland coach Reynolds Oare said of his 17-1-2 team. “Their focus and work ethic all season, as well as the off season, were never questioned.”

After losing in the state quarterfinals the past two seasons, Highland finished an impressive run by defeating two fierce rivals in the last two games of 2015-16. Highland rolled over Seton, 4-1, in the semifinals, and then edged Eastern Mennonite, which had beaten Highland 1-0 in the 2013 final.

4 Highland boys soccer wins state championship

Who knew the World Cup final was in Richmond? It sure felt like it, as the Highland boys soccer team survived an amazing, topsy-turvy penalty kick shootout round on Nov. 12 to edge Carlisle School, 5-4, and win the VISAA Division II state title for the second consecutive season.

After a scoreless tie in regulation, senior defender Manti Batistas drilled the winning kick. Under a full moon at Sportsbackers Stadium, Batistis strode confidently to the spot, put the ball down and coldly pounded his kick to the upper right side, giving Carlisle School goalie Segundo Ramos no chance. “I always go right, so I was not thinking which way I would be going,” Batistas said.

Highland’s players, coaches and 200 or so Hawks’ fans rejoiced into the night. “This was how Manti deserves to go out, to get that glory,” Hawks coach Reynolds Oare said. “He drilled it.”

The Hawks, who finished 15-3-5, have become the area’s most reliable dynasty, winning their fifth state title. They also won in 2015, 2010, 2008 and 2002. Still, it wasn’t a dominant state final performance as Carlisle School threatened often and limited the Highland attack. Highland needed a superb night by goalie Sawyer Long, who was named game MVP for two huge saves in the shootout. “I can’t say enough about Sawyer. He was great and it wasn’t just the penalty kicks,” Oare said.

5 Fauquier softball finishes as state runner-up

For the second time in three years, the Fauquier softball team faced a juggernaut in the state final. The Woodgrove Wolverines inflicted another double digit loss on the Falcons, winning the Class 4A final, 19-0, in Lynchburg on June 11 with the Falcons failing to get a hit against Woodgrove pitcher Camryn Dolby.

“We had a good season; a good run. No one expected us to be in the state championship,” Falcons coach Mark Ott said. “Making the state final two of the last three years, it’s surreal to come together and play this well as a team.”

In 2014, Woodgrove beat the Falcons in the final, 24-1.

This pas season, Fauquier won an unbelievable string of clutch games to advance to the final. The two biggest wins were a 2-1 nine-inning nail-biter over defending 4A champion Carroll County in the West Region semifinals, and a 7-6 win in seven innings over Powhatan in the 4A state semifinals.

“You’ve got to give credit to the kids. The girls just don’t give up,” said Ott, whose Falcons won 10 games by one run. In another close game, the Falcons beat Jefferson Forest, 4-3, in the West Region quarterfinals. To make the postseason, the Falcons eked out a clutch Conference 22 semifinal win over John Champe, 5-4, in 10 innings. The Falcons then needed to beat Kettle Run in the Conference 22 final, 1-0.

6 Liberty competitive cheer finishes as state runner-up

The Liberty Eagles earned their best state finish since winning the 2001 Class AA competition cheer championship. In November, they placed second in the 4A state meet with a score of 232 and no deductions. That gave Liberty its fourth top-three finish in program history, which includes the 1999 AA state title and a third-place finish in 2000. Jordan Soares and Kayla Barlow made the all-state team while helping the Eagles improve upon their sixth-place finish at the 2015 4A state meet.

Liberty qualified for state by placing third at the 4A West Region with a score of 196 after finishing the first round in second place with a 236. That gave the Eagles a state bid for the second consecutive season after failing to qualify since 2006. Soares, Barlow, Kylie Bridges and Heather Lodge made the all-region team.

Liberty also won the Conference 22 championship with a score of 210.

7 Fauquier indoor track finishes as state runner-up

The Fauquier Falcons won four events with three state-record times en route to finishing as the boys team runner-up at the Class 4A indoor track and field meet in March. They lost to champion Liberty Christian, 73-56.

Tyler Benson won the 300-meter dash, broke a state record by winning the 500 in 1 minute, 5.02 seconds and contributed to the winning 1,600 relay team (Madison Curry, Sam Oravec, Raul Chavez) that broke a state record in 3:24.65. Curry, Oravec, Chavez and Brock Curry also set a state record by winning the 3,200 relay in 8:05.67.

Also for the Falcons, Carson Fernandez placed fourth in the 3,200. For Liberty, Austin Allen won the pole vault in a school record 14 feet, while Kettle Run's Kaleb Bland finished fourth in the shot put.

The Fauquier boys also finished second to Liberty Christian at the 4A West Region meet. Winning events were Benson (300, 500, 3,200), Bland (shot put) and Kettle Run's Meghan Hix (shot put). The Falcons also placed first in the boys and girls standings at the Conference 22 meet.

In June, at the outdoor state meet, Fauquier's Unique London won the shot put while the Falcons' boys 3,200 relay team won and Liberty's Allen finished second in the pole vault. Winning at the outdoor West Region meet were Bland (shot put) Benson (400), Fernandez (3,200) and the 3,200 relay team (Edwin Castaneda, Chavez, Brock Curry and Madison Curry).

8 Kettle Run baseball advances to state semifinals

After years of region excellence, the Kettle Run baseball team earned its first trip to the state tournament. The Cougars’ run ended in the Class 4A semifinals with a 2-1 loss to Hanover in the scenic setting of Lynchburg’s Liberty University. It was the second straight year a county baseball team advanced to the state semifinals, with Fauquier making it in 2015.

The Cougars had a series of big wins in their run to states. They eked out a tough 3-2 decision in nine innings over Jefferson Forest during the region quarterfinals, then blasted Salem, 15-1, in the region semifinals to make states. The Cougars fell to Liberty Christian Academy in the region final, before falling to Hanover at states.

Junior left-hander Will Merriken was the hard luck loser for the Cougars in the state semifinals, pitching a complete game and allowing just those two runs in the third. He allowed seven hits, walked none and had one strikeout.

“Will pitched his ass off. He did his job and kept us in the game,” said Cougars coach Ty Thorpe, who finished with a 20-3 record.

9 Fauquier field hockey advances to state semifinals

The Fauquier Falcons were Final Four participants in the inaugural Class 4A field hockey state tournament, qualifying for state for the first time since 2012. They pushed eventual state champion Great Bridge to overtime before losing, 2-1, in the semifinals at Regional Training Center in Virginia Beach. Maddie Martin scored Fauquier’s goal to tied the game, 1-1, early. Great Bridge won on a penalty stroke two minutes into OT.

“It’s pretty cool I got to score in the state game,” said Martin, who scored a remarkable 25 goals this season. Martin was named Conference 22/23 Player of the Year and she made the 4A West all-region first team. Martin’s 44 goals ranks third in school history. Defender Jo Quinn St. Ledger made the 4A all-state first team.

“We smiled. We laughed. We cried,” Fauquier coach Brooke Settle said of playing in the state semifinals. “I was so proud. They fought tooth and nail.”

10 Fauquier County graduates shine at college and professional levels

A handful of Fauquier County products experienced tremendous success as college and professional athletes in 2016. Liberty graduates Jaz Gwathmey and Liz Wood began playing professional women's basketball, while Fauquier High products Jerrelle Benimon (men's basketball) and Sarah (Bowman) Brown (running) continued their professional careers. Participating in the NCAA Championships were Fauquier graduates Justina Augustine (Longwood softball), D.J. Helkowski (Richmond football) and Greg Flournoy (George Mason wrestling), and Kettle Run graduate Evan Szklennik (Radford men's soccer).

Gwathmey became the first Fauquier County basketball player in history to be drafted when the Minnesota Lynx took her at No. 14 in the WNBA Draft (later traded to San Antonio) after she earned the title as Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year with the James Madison Dukes. She was also named CAA tournament Most Outstanding Player for the third consecutive season while helping JMU win the CAA title and earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. After the WNBA season, Gwathmey signed to play for the University of Canberra Capitals, a professional women’s team in Australia.

Wood also began playing overseas (Wasserburg Lions in Germany) after graduating as one of the best players in Maine Black Bears history. She made an America East all-conference team for the third consecutive season and finished her career ranked sixth in Maine history with 1,462 points, sixth with 902 rebounds, eighth with 363 assists and in the top-five with 287 steals.

Benimon, meanwhile, continued his professional career with the Brooklyn Nets (NBA Summer League) and Qingdao DoubleStar (Chinese Basketball Association), while Brown competed in the 1,500-meter run of the Olympic Trials despite giving birth to a daughter fewer than four months earlier.

Szklennik made the all-conference second team as a midfielder for a Radford team (14-4-2) that won the Big South regular season and conference championships for first time in program history en route to earning an NCAA bid, while Flournoy went 1-2 at 157 pounds during the NCAA tournament, Helkowski helped Richmond (10-4) win two games in the Football Championship Series playoffs as its punter, and Augustine played right field for a Longwood team (40-20) that won the Big South tournament for the second consecutive season and then went 2-2 in the NCAA Regional tournament.

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