PHOTO: Celebrating their Class 2A state championship in May were members of the Monticello High School boys track and field team. The Panthers’ title was voted the number one Monticello sports story of the year. (Express file photo)
TOP EXPRESS SPORTS STORIES OF THE YEAR
By Pete Temple, Express Sports Editor
The votes are in, and by a five-point margin, Monticello’s state championship in boys track and field was voted the top Monticello sports story of 2013 by Express readers.
Finishing a narrow second was Logan McQuillen’s state wrestling championship, followed by the performance of the boys track 4×800 relay at the Drake Relays.
Not surprisingly, seven of the top 10 finishing stories in the voting involved Monticello’s traditional stronghold in the running sports, track and cross country. But McQuillen and two state-qualifying teams in other sports also made the cut.
Here is a look at the selections you made, with a brief summary of each.
Happy New Year!
1. Boys track team wins state championship.
After finishing fifth at the state meet in 2012, head coach Greg Williams threatened (tongue in cheek, or at least we believe so) that if the Panthers didn’t earn the state title in 2013, they were walking home from Des Moines.
It was never a contest. Monticello dominated from start to finish, winning six individual championships, and finishing first and second in three of those six events. The Panthers broke the Class 2A record for team points with 96, nearly doubling the score of runner-up OA-BGIC (49).
Michael Melchert won two events, Ben Ahlrichs and Devonte Merrill won one apiece, and two relay teams also were champions.
2. Logan McQuillen wins individual state wrestling championship.
It’s hard to know what will be the most memorable aspect of McQuillen’s run to the Class 2A, 160-pound state championship in February.
Was it his improbable four-match run to the title, with three relatively easy wins followed by his nail-biter of a championship match, a 4-2 win over Trey Ryan of Mount Vernon?
Was it his move at the end of that title match, a takedown with eight seconds left that clinched the crown?
Or was it the sight of a beaming McQuillen on the podium, proudly wearing his championship medal?
One thing is certain: He will always be remembered as the first Panther wrestler who broke through and brought home a title.
3. Boys track 4×800 relay runs the fifth fastest Drake Relays time ever and breaks the school record.
The team of Ben Ahlrichs, J.J. Frawley, Michael Melchert and Dallas Lumpa achieved these milestones with a stirring performance at Drake in April. The most amazing part – they didn’t even win the race, finishing second in a three-way duel with Iowa City West (first) and Iowa City High (third).
This Panther relay then added more credentials at the state meet in May, breaking the state 2A record and winning the state title.
4. Michael Melchert wins both the 1,600 and the 3,200 in the State Boys Track Meet.
If not for his teammate, J.J. Frawley would have earned this honor. Melchert and Frawley ran one-two in both of these events, accounting for 36 of the team’s 96 points at State.
Said Frawley: “Getting second to my teammate; that’s practically me winning it.”
5. Monticello native Nate Dotterweich is part of the Bellarmine University relay team that finishes sixth in the nation.
The former state champion from Monticello capped his collegiate career with the Louisville, Ky. college by earning All-American status as part of its distance medley relay.
Dotterweich later came back to Iowa to compete in the steeplechase event at the Drake Relays.
6. Monticello native Jordan Williams of UNI is named a second team All-American in the discus.
Williams had a storied career at UNI that included a Drake Relays championship, and wrapped it up with a 12th place finish in the discus in the NCAA Division I national meet. It was the second time he earned All-American status.
7. Softball team reaches state tournament for the first time.
The Panthers won a nerve-tester of a regional final game, 2-1 over Center Point-Urbana, to earn their first trip to Fort Dodge. While Monticello settled for seventh place at State, it ended an historic season that included a third straight Tri-Rivers Conference championship and a 32-8 record.
8. Michael Melchert wins individual state boys cross country championship.
As if two individual track titles and two KCRG-TV Athlete of the Week selections in two years weren’t enough, Melchert won a wire-to-wire duel with Thomas Pollard of Gilbert to claim this title. Melchert’s time of 15:18.2 is tied for 15th all-time, all classes.
9. Football team reaches post-season for the first time since 1991.
Two games proved to be keys as new coach Jon Kyte’s crew ended a 22-year playoff drought for Monticello. The first was a 22-18 home win over Mount Vernon in which Peyton Paddock’s 55-yard interception return for a score proved to be the difference. The second was a 31-27 win at Center Point-Urbana, in which the Panthers rallied from a 27-17 fourth quarter deficit on a cross-field pass from Cody Jamison to Spencer Williams for the winning touchdown. The Panthers finished 6-4.
10. Boys cross country team wins its third straight state championship.
Just as the boys track team had done six months earlier, the Panther cross country team dominated at State, winning by 52 points over runner-up Gilbert. It was the largest margin of victory of any of the eight state champions crowned that November day.