PANTHER SPORTS YEAR IN REVIEW
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
There was little question about the biggest sports highlight for Monticello teams and athletes during the calendar year of 2012: the dominance of the Panther boys cross country team in winning its second consecutive state Class 2A championship.
What this team achieved will not soon be forgotten in the state’s cross country annals. Ranked first in the state all season long, the Panthers made their mark mid-season by taking the top five individual spots in the grueling Cascade Invitational, including a course record by Michael Melchert.
The team later dominated the Tri-Rivers Conference and Class 2A District Meet, both of which seemed to be foregone conclusions. At the state meet in Fort Dodge, Monticello totaled just 32 points and crushed its nearest rival by 80, while placing six runners in the top 20.
Other highlights for the year included the girls cross country team’s qualification for the state meet and surprising third place finish, Cody Jamison’s state championship in the high jump at the State Class 2A Boys Track and Field Meet, and Landon Felton’s fourth place finish at the State Class 2A Wrestling Tournament.
Here’s a month-by-month recap:
Thanks to postponements and a wrestling meet scheduled at the high school, the Monticello girl-boy basketball doubleheader was played in the middle school gym, the former home of the Panther high school teams. They were the first varsity games played in that gym since 1998.
Logan McQuillen won the 152-pound championship at the Tri-Rivers Conference Wrestling Tournament Jan. 28 at Ed-Co.
The Monticello boys basketball team clinched the Tri-Rivers Conference championship with a 59-43 victory Feb. 3 at Springville. The Panthers went 15-1 in conference play.
Monticello sent two wrestlers to the Class 2A district meet during the sectional meet Feb. 4 in Monticello, 113-pound sectional champion Landon Felton and 285-pound runner-up Cameron Paddock.
Landon Felton won the 113-pound championship at the Class 2A district wrestling meet Feb. 11 in Mount Vernon, qualifying for the state tournament for the third time.
The Panther girls basketball team defeated Tipton and Mount Vernon, and then upset previously unbeaten Maquoketa Valley to reach the Class 2A regional final. There, Monticello lost to Pella Christian. The Panthers finished 21-4.
A conference realignment plan that would place Monticello and Anamosa in a new, seven-team conference was announced. The plan was later scrapped when Anamosa protested to state officials that it had no desire to leave the WaMaC.
Monticello’s outstanding boys basketball season came to a disappointing end with a 50-42 loss to North Cedar in the Class 2A district final at Solon. The Panthers finished 21-2, setting a school record for regular season wins with 20.
Monticello’s Devonte Merrill qualified for the prestigious Drake Relays track and field meet in the discus, and the Panther girls 4×200 relay team also qualified for Drake. Merrill placed fourth; the girls 4×200 was 19th.
The Panther boys golf team repeated as Tri-Rivers Conference champion, beating runner-up Starmont by 15 strokes in the April 30 meet in Manchester. Senior Chance Manternach finished second overall. The team later advanced to district play, but was unable to advance to State.
Monticello’s girls golf team was second in the Tri-Rivers Conference Meet May 7 in Monticello.
Monticello qualified 12 entries to the State Class 2A Boys Track and Field Meet May 17-19, and wound up taking fifth place overall. The highlight was a state championship in the high jump for sophomore Cody Jamison.
The Panther girls track team had its first top-10 finish at State since 2003, finishing eighth May 17-19 in Des Moines. Highlights included a state runner-up finish in the 100 for junior Kaylee Jones, and a school record for the fifth place 4×200 relay.
Junior Hannah Thompson placed third in the Class 2A Regional Girls Golf Meet, earning a trip to the state tournament. She was 15th at the state meet, held May 29-30 in Adel, Iowa.
The boys and girls soccer teams each won a post-season match before falling. The Panther boys finished 4-11; the girls were 4-9.
The Iowa Board of Education announced the formation of a new, 13-team conference that will include Monticello, beginning with the 2013-14 school year. The conference will include all eight schools from the current Cedar Valley Conference, Monticello and Cascade from the Tri-Rivers, and three schools from the soon-to-be-dissolved Big East.
Dain Gerber of Anamosa and Erin Moeller of Mount Vernon were the men’s and women’s winners, respectively, of the fifth annual Panther Prowl 5K race June 23. A total of 209 participants finished either the 5K or the two-mile run/walk.
By sweeping a regular season-ending doubleheader against Ed-Co, the Panthers stole away the Tri-Rivers Conference softball title, their second straight. Monticello came into the twinbill trailing Ed-Co by one game, and finished 17-1 in conference play. The Panthers were later upset by Dyersville Beckman in a regional semifinal game, and finished 35-6.
With a 9-5 upset of seventh-ranked Iowa City Regina, the Panther baseball team advanced to the Class 2A district final, where it fell to Mount Vernon 3-2 in eight innings. Monticello finished 20-14.
A full slate of sports events was held at the Great Jones County Fair, thanks to a week of cooperating weather. Highlights included a win for Monticello’s Corey Rupp in the auto racing Hobby Stock feature, and a demolition derby win for Adam Koch of Monticello in the Large Car Minimum Weld division.
The third annual Camp Courageous Sprint Triathlon drew 278 participants, including overall winners Steven Davis of North Liberty and Kim Sprenger of Iowa City.
Tim Lambert was hired as activities director for the Monticello Community School District, replacing Bennett Eastburn, who resigned to take a full-time math position at the high school.
The Cowbell Trophy returned to Monticello after a one-year absence, as the Panthers defeated rival Anamosa 25-0 in the football season opener in Monticello.
Dustin Hall won his fifth straight club championship in the Monticello Golf Club men’s tournament. Linda Sauser won the women’s title for the second time.
The Monticello Fire Department’s team defeated more than 100 opponents to win the Water Application Drill competition during the Iowa Firefighters’ Convention in Manchester.
Tour DaVita, a long-distance bicycling event that raises money for kidney disease awareness, brought 475 riders into Monticello for an overnight stay.
Shane Blake announced his resignation as Monticello football coach after 10 seasons and a 47-43 record. He stepped down as the second-winningest coach in Panther football history, behind the legendary Dean Nelson (182-117-4). The 2012 Panthers were 2-4 in district play, 3-6 overall.
The Panther girls cross country team qualified for the state meet for the first time since 2006, then secured a surprising third place trophy at State, after entering the meet ranked 11th.
Monticello dominated its opponents in boys cross country throughout the season, and did the same thing at the state Class 2A meet, winning the state championship for the second straight season. Michael Melchert finished third individually.
The new, 13-team conference that will begin play in the 2013-14 school year and include Monticello was named the River Valley Conference. Monticello will be in the six-team North Division, along with Bellevue, Camanche, Cascade, North Cedar and Northeast of Goose Lake.
The clubhouse at the Monticello Golf Club was torn down to make way for construction of a new one.
PHOTO: Dallas Lumpa (left) and J.J. Frawley carry the state championship trophy after the Panthers dominated their competition in Fort Dodge. (Photo by Pete Temple)