2011-01-06 / News

A memorable sports year

By Geoff Campbell

The year in pictures 
Wigton raises her arms as shefinishes the first triathlon ofher life, in a time of 10:51.27.The race was the Panama CityIronman, which she finishedsecond in the female division. The year in pictures Wigton raises her arms as shefinishes the first triathlon ofher life, in a time of 10:51.27.The race was the Panama CityIronman, which she finishedsecond in the female division. Sports stories seem to provide a universal platform from which we can all imagine overcoming odds to achieve our dreams.

Whether it was a snapshot of excellence in community sports or profiling an athlete who succeeded on a bigger stage, the Press provided a number of stories this year about the dreams of the island athletes who lived them.

Michael Andersen, a sevenfoot European professional basketball player from Denmark, coached the North Kingstown High School freshmen boys’ basketball team that included Islanders Nick Ferguson, James Chamberlain, Tyler Woodward and Nathan Lambert.

Andersen first came to the state as a University of Rhode Island basketball recruit. He graduated from URI in 1997, and after playing professionally for 12 years, he settled in Jamestown with his wife, Ellen, who was born and raised on the island.

The year in pictures 
Scott Ferguson at the wheel of Il Mostro on its incredible 42-hourpassage from Bermuda to Newport. The year in pictures Scott Ferguson at the wheel of Il Mostro on its incredible 42-hourpassage from Bermuda to Newport. Fitting as it is for our island town, sailing stories were prevalent in 2010. Scott Ferguson was the mast designer for the BMW Oracle Racing boat USA-717, which won the America’s Cup in Valencia, Spain. Later in the year, Ferguson, a consultant for the design team, was a passenger on the II Mostro. The boat was conducting a training exercise on the return trip from Bermuda following the Newport-to-Bermuda race. The boat arrived in Newport just 42 hours after leaving Bermuda, a time that would have smashed the “open” record by six hours if it were official.

In May, Rachel Bryer was named the top sailor in her division at the 2010 Laser Atlantic Coast Championships held in Blue Point, N.Y., and the Press also featured the frostbite sailors, who continued to race on the waters after most other boats abandon the bay.

Leigh Archer is a sailor of another kind. Her story of becoming a rower for the first time in her freshman year at Cornell University suggests that change is good. Archer’s stunning success at the Head of the Charles Regatta is evidence of her commitment and ability to excel in a new sport on a highly competitive environment.

Among the many stories about broken dreams and second chances was the story of Steve Cirella, who just stepped down as president of Jamestown’s Cal Ripken Baseball League so he could watch his son play Babe Ruth League baseball. Cirella’s career as athletic director for Coventry High School took a dramatic turn when he fractured his back by falling into a coverless manhole. The injury forced him to retire in 1995 at 40 years old.

Then in 1997, his friend Andy Andrade hired him as the assistant baseball coach at Salve Regina. The new direction led to the head coaching job for the Seahawks and next spring will be his 12th year at the helm.

Broken dreams and second chances were certainly true of the stories of Rachel Wigton and Brett Uttley. Wigton, who was hit by a car on the island while training for a triathlon in 2008, told her story of fortitude and renaissance after she placed second in her age group in her first full triathlon in November.

Rachel reminded us of the power of family, friends, and the unflinching belief in oneself as a fundamental building block in achieving one’s goals. Rachel, who was optimistic throughout her ordeal, said that there was never a question regarding her return to racing. “I always knew,” she said.

Uttley, a man of tremendous visceral substance, overcame two ACL tears and the subsequent surgeries to return to play soccer at Quinnipiac University this past fall.

As is often the case, Utley dedicated significant time and energy to rehabilitating his knee, and in his case left no stone unturned in finding what worked for him.

North Kingstown High School student athletes were celebrated throughout the year beginning with the indoor track exploits of Caitlin Downing and Sophia Cole, who both excelled in the 55-meter hurdles, the long jump and were partofthe4x200and4x400 relay teams.

Jamestowner Mike Spahr, who won North Kingstown’s Outstanding Senior Athlete Award, reigned as 2010 Class President and as the state’s 55-meter hurdles champion.

In the fall, North Kingstown’s volleyball, field hockey and boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams all advanced in the playoffs. Sam Leonard and Nick Ferguson, who played field hockey and soccer, respectively, both played key roles the postseason success of their teams.

The freshmen girls’ crosscountry team ran away with the state title and included Jamestowners Melissa Coble, Sofia Greco-Byrne, Peyton Wallace, Emma Vogel, Rebecca Small and Isabel Crabtree.

Islanders contributed greatly to each team this year, both as players and as coaches. Laura Hosley (volleyball), Kyle and Steve Froberg (boys’ soccer) and Julie Maguire (field hockey) all coached varsity sports at North Kingstown.

Kyle Froberg, who we profiled in December, reminded us that deep and long standing veins of athletic success and excellence run through our community.

Scholastic sports success was not limited to the high school level.

Jamestown was well represented by 30 runners from Lawn Avenue School at the Rhode Island Middle School Championships held at Goddard State Park on October 30.

On the community level, the St. Mark CYO basketball fifthand sixth-grade team finished second in the league, the playoffs and the tournament. The U-12 boys’ and girls’ community soccer teams were very successful in 2010; the girls advanced to the semi-finals and the boys won the Rhode Island Cup.

Sports stories often tell us to follow our dreams, and perhaps they also tell us that new dreams are also there for the taking. Take Moses Brown’s leading pass rusher, Billy van der Wal. Billy, who played soccer and lacrosse in his first three years of high school, strapped on a helmet for the first time as a senior and helped lead his team to the Division III Super Bowl as a standout defensive end.

Thanks to the athletes, old and young, who remind us to dream and to do – a great lesson at the start of a new year.

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