Year in review: Top sports stories of 2017
10. Garrett Webb ends Madras High swimming career as a state champ
When he's considered anything other than the favorite, Garrett Webb has been known to rise to the occasion.
The Madras senior swimmer entered the 4A/3A/2A/1A State Swimming Championships Feb. 17-18 in Gresham with the fastest district time in both the 100 breaststroke and 50 freestyle, but the latter event featured stiffer competition at state.
Although slower than Webb at the district meet, Sweet Home's Nathan Hager had previously hit 22.20 seconds in the event, which was better than any of Webb's previous times recorded.
It might have come as a surprise to some, others not so much, that Webb prevailed in the 50 free finals with a new personal best of 22.16, and beat out Hager, who finished second with a time of 22.33, in the process.
In his last ever high school meet, Webb walked off with a state title and became only the second Madras boys swimming state champion in the program's history. Thirty minutes later, he followed up the performance with a second-place finish in the 100 breast, finishing in 1:01.13, which only trailed La Grande's Lance Denny (1:00.88).
"He's a kid that can get hyped up with the atmosphere," Webb's coach Tim Nelson said prior to Webb's performance. "It can get pretty rocking in (the state meet)."
Webb is currently a freshman on the Southwestern Oregon Community College men's swimming team.
9. Madras High School establishes sports Hall of Fame
The idea for Madras High School's athletic Hall of Fame hall of fame was put into motion by current school athletic director Evan Brown and former athletic director Margaret Sturza during a car trip they took together to a track meet in the spring of 2016.
They formed a hall of fame committee consisting of six longtime local residents — five MHS graduates who participated in athletics during high school, and one former MHS coach.
Via a vote in the fall of 2016, the first class of hall of fame inductees was established.
The inaugural class was kept secret until they were introduced Feb. 10, at halftime of the Madras boys basketball game against Estacada. A ceremony followed, during which inductees were awarded plaques and gave speeches.
Those inducted who attended the ceremony were Bonnie Souers, Dominique Easterling, Kim (Manion) Pittsley, Larry Fivecoat and Bill Machamer. The 1953-54 boys basketball team was also inducted, and along with Machamer and Fivecoat, starting center Charles Nathan and student manager Jerry Ramsey were on hand.
Also inducted were Ole Johnson, who coached boys basketball and track from 1951-61, Jacoby Ellsbury and Ryan Boyle. Ellsbury and Boyle were represented by their fathers, Jim Ellsbury and Don Boyle.
The second hall of fame class, to be honored on Jan. 19, 2018, was announced last week.
8. Madras boys soccer goes undefeated during 2017 regular season
By most accounts, the Madras boys soccer team believed it had just as good of a squad entering 2017 as the one that advanced to the 4A state title game in 2016.
The combination of talent, depth and leadership helped the Buffs finish the regular season with an 11-0-2 record and a second straight Tri-Valley Conference title.
The likes of Jonathan Reynoso, Andres Acuna and Toni Sanchez caught the eyes of opponents, as all three team captains were named to the TVC first team, while Reynoso also won league Player of the Year for the second year in a row.
But what made this Madras group exceptional, head coach Clark Jones said, was their willingness to sacrifice individual success for the good of the team.
"The kids who are there realize they're part of something more than just them," Jones said. "There are still egos there, don't get me wrong, but they get checked at the door. That's a nice thing to be able to have as a coach."
Unfortunately, the Buffs' season ended sooner than they wanted, with a 2-1 defeat at Brookings-Harbor in the 4A quarterfinal round.
Madras graduates a handful of seniors, most notably Reynoso, but appears to have a deep stable of returning players to make a run at another league title and more.
7. POY awards go to Culver's Irma Retano, Madras' Lynden Harry
2017 was a memorable year for prep girls basketball in Jefferson County.
At Culver and Madras, programs less than 10 miles away from one another, two individuals were tearing it up for their respective teams.
Madras' Lynden Harry won her second consecutive Tri-Valley Conference Player of the Year award after a junior season in which she averaged 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists — all team highs. The Buffs had a 14-7 overall record and made it to a play-in game, where they lost to Cottage Grove.
Likewise, Culver's Irma Retano took her game to another level as a sophomore. Per game averages of 16 points, 11.2 rebounds and 5.5 assists showed that growth, and she was named the Columbia Basin Conference's Player of the Year. The Bulldogs earned a spot in the CBC District Tournament, but ended their season with a loss to Weston-McEwen.
Both Harry and Retano are good bets to be in contention for the same honor come the end of the regular season in 2018. Their teams should also be in the playoff hunt.
6. Madras girls soccer team earns postseason game for first time since 2003
The Lady Buffs had reason to be cautiously optimistic going into the 2017 girls soccer season.
Although history wasn't on its side (no Madras team had been in contention for the playoffs since 2003), they had the pieces to compete in 2017.
They had leaders in junior Erika Olivera and senior Alesha Freeman, several more returning varsity players, and a host of first-year players who brought athletic acumen from other sports.
The Buffs didn't take long to jell. By the time Tri-Valley Conference play began, they were a tough team to beat.
Madras waited anxiously on the last night of the regular season, Oct. 24, to find out if it would qualify for a play-in game. Not only did the Buffs qualify, they earned the privilege of hosting Yamhill-Carlton three days later.
The play-in game proved to be equally matched, but the end result was not in the Buffs' favor.
Olivera scored on a penalty kick in the 18th minute, then Yamhill-Carlton evened the score 1-1 in the 71st minute. Neither team was able to break the tie for the rest of regulation or extra time.
In penalty kicks, although Madras keeper Cheydon Herkshan saved one shot and watched another sail above goal, the Lady Buffs also had three kicks off the mark. Yamhill-Carlton won 4-3 (3-2), but the season was far from a loss for Madras.
"They know what it takes, and I hope that this (loss) gives them that hunger to want to get back and do better at this stage next year," Madras girls soccer head coach Shawn Darrow said.
5. Evan Brown breaks Joe Blincoe's MHS coaching wins record
Joe Blincoe established a winning tradition within the Madras boys basketball program. Between 1976 and 1991, Blincoe compiled a program record 266 wins and 12 state tournament appearances.
Blincoe's retirement in 1991 gave way to Evan Brown, who would continue on that tradition in the next 15 years. From 1992 to 2007, Madras teams under Brown made the playoffs in all but two seasons, and finished as high as second at the state tournament. He left after the 2006-07 season to pursue an athletic director job, but he would get another chance on the Buffs' bench.
When Brown came back for his second Madras coaching stint at the beginning of the 2016-17 season, he was just 12 wins away from breaking Blincoe's all-time wins mark.
With the White Buffalos beating Cottage Grove on Tuesday, Dec. 19, Brown earned his 267th win — a new record at Madras. The moment wasn't ceremonious for Brown, as much as it was for the players who contributed to those wins, he said.
"It's a sign of longevity," Brown said. "It's also a sign of, not just this group, but the years past, just the slew of outstanding players we've had over the years and a tribute to all those teams we had some success with."
4. CHS volleyball reaches 2A title match in Viggiano's last season
In what was ultimately Randi Viggiano's last season coaching the Culver volleyball team, the Lady Bulldogs were faced with a big challenge.
Small school athletic programs feel the impact of graduation nearly every year, but entering the 2017 season, Culver was tasked with replacing five graduated seniors, nearly half of its roster.
With several new faces stepping in, the Bulldogs sensed that people were counting them out to reach a seventh straight 2A state tournament.
But, within weeks of the 2017 season starting, any notion of a decline in play quickly became an afterthought.
Culver looked to its experienced returners — Catylynn Duff, Margie Beeler, Irma Retano and Maddie Miller — to provide steady play and help other players step into bigger roles smoothly.
A 22-2 regular season record and Columbia Basin Conference championship earned the Bulldogs the No. 1 seed going into the state tourney.
Culver beat CBC foe Heppner, as well as Central Linn, in three sets to earn a spot in the title match against Grant Union.
There, Grant Union got the better of Culver in four sets, 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-20.
When the season ended, Culver held an assembly to celebrate the team's season. Afterwards, Viggiano broke the news that she was leaving Culver after eight seasons as head coach.
Her job as a school counselor at Ridgeview High, which she began during the 2017-18 school year, no longer allowed her to coach, due to the commute between Redmond and Culver, and scheduling conflicts.
"I will always love Culver," Viggiano said. "It will always have a special place in my heart, but I needed to grow and be pushed as a counselor, to have new challenges."
3. Catylynn Duff breaks 2A girls discus record
Going into the 2A State Track and Field Championships in Eugene last May, Culver's Catylynn Duff owned the best discus throw among 2A girls of 128 feet 8 inches.
But within a few feet of her were Elgin senior Tania Whitmore and Riddle senior Moana Gianotti. All combined, the three topped the previous state record 11 times in the span of one hour. The continuous battle wasn't decided until the last throw of the competition, which belonged to Duff.
With Duff waiting on deck to take her final throw, Whitmore landed yet another state record, this time for 134-11, topping Duff's best throw by two feet, seven inches. Suddenly, Whitmore appeared to have stolen the state title, barring one last-ditch heave from Duff.
"One of my fellow coaches turned to me and said, 'Is she a competitor?'" Culver head coach Mike Dove recalled. "I said, 'Oh yeah, she's a competitor. She's not going to back down.'"
On her final throw, Duff shattered Whitmore's and the old state record by nearly four feet with a measurement of 138-7. She gave the Lady Bulldogs their first points of the meet in an eventual seventh-place finish.
"It kind of wiped away all my nerves I had going throughout the day," Duff said of the competition. "It just gave me confidence to try to outdo the person ahead of me."
2. MHS football breaks 23-game losing skid
The Madras senior class had never won a varsity football game going into the 2017 season.
That changed on Sept. 15, when the Buffs played their third game and first at home of the season.
Trailing Valley Catholic 7-0 at halftime, Madras came back to score three unanswered touchdowns in an eventual 19-7 win. Quarterback Liam White hit Robert Pacheco for a pair of touchdowns, the latter of which gave Madras a 12-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
Madras got the ball back with 6:11 left in the game. Hoping to run out the clock, the Buffs called seven straight run plays to Treyvon Easterling, who gained a combined 28 yards and three first downs. The eighth time, Easterling ran for a 28-yard touchdown, sealing the deal on the Buffs' first win since 2014. They also beat Corbett on Oct. 12, finishing with a 2-7 record.
1. Culver piles on points for 10th team wrestling title
With four returning state champions, and a few others knocking on the door, Culver was the clear-cut favorite in its bid for a 10th team wrestling title in 11 seasons.
Three-time state champion Marco Retano, as well as first-time champs Jaiden Jones, Lorenzo Vasquez and Jorge Olivera returned, as did seniors Saxton Schaffner, Jace Oppenlander and Mack Little, all of them hungry for their first title.
In some ways, that high-caliber core put more pressure on the Bulldogs to have a near-perfect season.
They had ups and downs — winning the Oregon Wrestling Classic, topping Crook County in the Cowdog Classic, juxtaposed with injuries and lots of missed practice time due to a brutal Oregon winter.
But as the state tournament drew closer in late February, the Bulldogs were ready to showcase their deep team. Nine Culver wrestlers advanced to the finals, with Vasquez and Olivera repeating as champs, while Little and Oppenlander were able to go out on top as seniors.
Culver's final team score of 202.5 points was the second-highest all time in the OSAA's lowest classification, trailing only Lowell's 216 points in 1981.
Title number 10 was a significant milestone to reach, but it was also Culver's fourth in a row, which meant the class of 2016 contributed to a team title in each of their four years.
Follow him on Twitter @MadrasSports, @WillCDenner