With prep sports getting the axe in 2020, there was a lot to be made up in a very short time.
In March, the first high school sports finally returned, as the Madras boys soccer team picked up a resounding 6-1 win at home over Molalla.
The OSAA greenlit a set of shortened seasons, some of which had sanctioned state tournaments and some of which did not. Thankfully, the biggest oddity of the so-called "2020" season is gone. No more football in March. No more wrestling in June.
After the summer, sports finally got back on track — though not without hiccups.
Aside from the COVID-19 pauses that remain all too commonplace, other issues facing high school sports include, but are not limited to: bus driver shortages; referee and official shortages; poor air quality from wildfire smoke; and bad weather.
But rather than focus on the negatives, let us instead turn our gaze to the happier snapshots from 2021.
From the first shortened spring season all the way to this final week, the teams from Madras and Culver have consistently made the community proud.
Here is a look back at the five prep sports stories that captured the hearts of Jefferson County this year.
Culver boys cross country wins school's first district title
Following a promising run in the short spring season, Culver head coach Carter Spear was enthused about his teams coming into the new fall season.
That enthusiasm turned out to be well placed, as the Culver boys team earned the school's first-ever trophy for cross country. The Bulldogs won the 2A/1A Special District 2 Championship before placing fourth at state.
Seniors Evan Powell and Troy Potampa led the way, but underclassmen Aiden Guest, Debren Sanabria, Hudson Burgi and Thadius Brown all made huge strides throughout the year.
Colby Anderson wins two state titles for Madras swimming
After all the lightning-fast laps Colby Anderson swam for Madras in the spring, hopefully he slowed down enough to enjoy a victory lap.
Anderson brought home the gold at the unofficial 4A state swim meet, which was held on June 26 in Cottage Grove. In fact, he brought home two golds.
In the 200-meter individual medley, Anderson bested his closest competitor by more than two seconds to take first place. Then, in the 100-meter butterfly, he beat out Glenn Ricker of La Grande by a full second to earn another gold.
Anderson was not the only Madras swimmer to make waves at the state tourney, either.
Julian Hollingshead also qualified for the tournament, and he took second place in both of his races. In each event, Carson Washburn of North Valley narrowly outpaced Hollingshead, winning by less than a second on both occasions.
Emma Shierk also qualified for the state meet, but she was unable to race due to an injury picked up days prior.
Madras girls basketball wins Tri-Valley; Davis and Say both honored
It was a banner year for the Madras girls basketball team, as the White Buffalos won the Tri-Valley Conference during the shortened spring season.
The Buffs went 9-1 in TVC play to clinch the league crown, and they were 12-2 overall as they entered the 4A Showcase event. For their troubles, Madras was rewarded with the No. 6 seed in the tournament.
While they would eventually fall in the first round to No. 3 La Grande — still undefeated to that point — the season was still an all-out success for the Buffs.
Their achievements on the court were solidified after the season when then-senior Jayden Davis was tabbed as the Tri-Valley Player of the Year and Jerin Say was named Coach of the Year in the league. Kathryce Danzuka joined Davis as an All-Tri Valley first team selection, while DaRia White made the second team. Cha Cha Ramirez and Sasha Esquiro were given honorable mentions in the postseason awards list.
Buffs make it back to 4A football playoffs for first time since 2012
For a season that seemed for a time like it might not ever start, the year certainly ended with a flourish for Madras football.
After nine long years, the White Buffalos held on during a roller coaster season and made it back to the 4A playoffs.
The season got off to a rocky start when Madras had to cancel its plans to host a preseason jamboree. Then, the Buffs' first game with Corbett was canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the Cardinals' program. The season opener against Sisters was delayed because of poor air quality.
Later in the season, Madras missed a trip to Klamath Union due to their own COVID issues. The next week, Molalla had its own outbreak and had to forfeit to Madras.
That forfeit proved key, as the Buffs added it to league wins over Crook County and North Marion. The result was a third-place league finish and the No. 16 seed in the state playoffs, where Madras fell to eventual state champs Marshfield.
Culver wrestling gets back on top, reclaims state championship
When the Culver Bulldogs have taken the mat over the past few decades, the result has almost always been success.
So, when the team lost its impressive streak of state titles back in 2019, it was only a matter of time before a new one was started.
Though the OSAA did not officially sanction a state wrestling tournament, the Oregon Wrestling Association put on a showcase event to crown a state champ.
The Bulldogs did not waste the opportunity, crushing the competition by scoring 231.5 points as a team. The next best squad was Pine Eagle, which scored just 94.5 points.
Anthony Hood was the sole individual winner for Culver, but Aiden Guest, Debren Sanabria, Brody Piercy, Isaiah Toomey and Eduardo Penaloza all took second place. Thadius Brown, Noel Navarro and Jordan Piercy all placed third.
Later in the fall, head coach J.D. Alley was enshrined into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in recognition of his long run of success at Culver High School.
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