Year in review: Liberty's Maloney 'finally' gets his state title
While it certainly doesn't end there, Liberty's 2019 sports year has to start with football, basketball, and track athlete Aidan Maloney.
After helping lead the Falcons to the state football quarterfinals heading into 2019, Maloney exorcised personal demons by winning the state 110-meter hurdles championship at the OSAA State Track and Field Championships last May at Mt. Hood Community College.
"This is the one I wanted," he said following the race. "I knew the competition was going to be pretty stacked, but I just tried to control what I could control, run my race and hope for the best. I feel like it wasn't the cleanest race, but I can't really complain about the results."
The Falcons' then-senior — who's at Yale University now — won the 110-meter hurdles with a time of 14.66, in addition to placing second in the high jump (6-05) and sixth in the 300 hurdles (40.16). Although satisfied with the results, Maloney was quick to acknowledge after the fact the people who made it all possible.
"It's really just a message of gratitude to my coaches and my dad, who've helped me so much," Maloney said. "There's no way I'd be where I am without all their help. I'm really thankful."
The track wasn't the only place the Falcons excelled. The Liberty girls basketball team showed what they were made of by claiming a share of the Pacific Conference title and winning a playoff game over Westview before losing a nail-biter to Jesuit.
The Falcons gave the Crusaders everything they could handle in that second-round playoff game. The perennial power was forced to stall for much of the final quarter to keep a young and eager Liberty team at bay — much to their chagrin.
"I'm super proud of the girls because top-to-bottom they laid it out on the line and that's what it makes it hurt so bad," Liberty head coach Melanie Wagoner said. "At the same time, they gave themselves a chance and that's all you ask for in any playoff game."
Even in defeat, Liberty knew where they stood with one of the state's best programs, and as a result, grew from the experience, despite the loss.
"We got really close, but it was tough to get over that hump," said Wagoner. "The girls know we could've had it."
On the mat, Liberty's Faith Strode placed third in the 115-pound weight division at state, and this past fall, the Falcon girls qualified for state with a second-place finish at the Pacific Conference district championships.
In addition, the Liberty boys soccer team was crowned champion of the Pacific Conference after finishing with a 4-0-2 record in league play and 12-2-2 overall before dropping a second-round playoff game to Summit.
In the wake of the disappointment of their playoff defeat, head coach Garrett Blizzard was complimentary of his team and appreciative of the time he had with his senior class.
"Overall, I want my message about this team to be that I love these boys as my own family," he said. "I'm going to miss the seniors deeply as many of them I've grown alongside for all four years.
"This team plays the beautiful game as it should be played, and it was a joy for me to witness. I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of their lives, and I am so appreciative of the families that support the team."
Lastly, despite dropping their regular-season finale to Glencoe, which cost them a league title, the Liberty boys lacrosse team redeemed their defeat by beating that same Crimson Tide team the following week in the first round of the state playoffs.
"Coming back and winning the second Glencoe game is a lesson in why you play games," Liberty head coach Paul Lardy said. "After the first game, you would think we had no chance, but several seniors stepped up in that game and made the difference."
The Falcons would go on to lose to eventual state champion Lake Oswego a few days later, but that loss didn't stop Lardy from acknowledging the mark his seniors left on him — and the program.
"I have coached most of our seniors since the seventh grade," he said. "They have been able to keep our program competitive and it will be hard to let those players go."
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