BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — To say the least, 2015 packed some serious sports punch.
While there were enough great Clifton Park/Halfmoon sports moments in 2015 to produce a much longer list, here are 10 of the year’s stories that most resonated within the Your Clifton Park & Halfmoon landscape.
During both the Feb. 11 Alpine and Nordic area ski championships, Shenendehowa athletes dominated.
At the Nordic event, the Plainsmen’s Aaron Huneck and Sarah Duclos swept the boys’ and girls’ solo titles.
Meanwhile, at the Alpine event, Shenendehowa won the girls’ team title while Julia Smith won the individual slalom event.
His junior Shenendehowa wrestling season could only end one way: Kevin Parker needed to win a state title.
That need made Parker nervous in the buildup to the state championship tournament.
“During the week, I’d lie in bed thinking about the tournament and the finals, thinking about if I got there,” he said. “How scary it would be. But just before the final, I was calm.”
In that Feb. 28 final, Parker completed a 46-4 campaign with a 5-1 decision against Nate Schwab of Clarence to win a state championship in the 170-pound weight class.
BOYS’ HOOPS BREAKS THROUGH
With a few seconds left in the Shenendehowa boys’ basketball team’s March 22 state championship game, the Plainsmen’s celebration started as guard Kevin Huerter extended an index finger in thanks to the Gang Green Nation student section.
“This is the type of stuff you dream about: dribbling out the clock and seeing everyone celebrating around you, being able to point to our student section,” said Huerter, who committed later in the year to play at the University of Maryland.
“We’d been looking forward to that moment all year.”
That day, Shenendehowa won its first state title in boys’ basketball since 1987, topping Brentwood 76-63.
“Nobody thought we’d win this,” said Huerter, whose team was unranked in the state poll as late as early January.
In front of a buzzing crowd, filled with fans and scouts, a pair of super prospects went head-to-head April 24. Shenendehowa pitcher Ian Anderson faced Niskayuna outfielder Garrett Whitley, with Whitley — later picked No. 13 in the year’s Major League Baseball amateur draft — going 0-for-2 against Anderson, who hit him with a pitch at one point.
That day’s circus prepared Anderson — a top-five prospect in the 2016 class — well for what came later in the year. As a member of USA Baseball, Anderson won a gold medal at the 2015 WBSC U18 Baseball World Cup.
While a fantastic individual accomplishment, Anderson said winning gold was not about him.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it was about representing the U.S.A. because it means so much more than myself.”
In the weeks following the May 13 death of local teen Carly Sinnott, a social media campaign rallied to support the high school volleyball player’s memory and feature her on ESPN. The ensuing #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter campaign saw numerous retweets on Twitter, as people from around the Capital Region and beyond spread the word.
On May 27, the social media movement got its wish when SportsCenter anchor Scott Van Pelt explained the circumstances surrounding Sinnott’s death and the subsequent social media campaign to get her onto ESPN’s flagship show. In all, SportsCenter’s segment about Sinnott ran approximately 45 seconds.
The segment led into a commercial and ended with Van Pelt saying, “Carly Sinnott, my star of the night.”
STATE CHAMPS … AGAIN
Good luck topping the year the Shenendehowa boys’ 4×800-meter relay team had in 2015.
During the winter season, the foursome of Connor Buhrmeister, Tyler Schmidt, Jack Mitchell Halpern and Collin Rowe won an indoor title. Then, at the June 13 outdoor state championships, Schmidt, Halpern, Rowe and Jack Vite defended the title.
“We came in as the defending indoor champs,” Schmidt said. “We wanted a two-peat so bad.”
Meanwhile, a week after the boys’ second title, the Shenendehowa girls’ distance medley relay team of Ally Arserio, Sarah Knowles, Caroline Rusch and Julia Zachgo achieved All-American status with a fifth-place finish at the national championships.
At the professional level, nothing trumped what Sean Conroy accomplished June 25 as a member of the Sonoma Stompers, a team in the independent Pacific Association of Baseball Clubs.
That day, Conroy — a Shenendehowa and RPI graduate — became the first openly gay man to compete in a professional baseball game. In his history-making game, Conroy was spectacular, tossing a complete-game shutout, a three-hitter in which he struck out 11.
Later in the year, several Conroy-related items from the game were immortalized at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown.
NIGHT TO REMEMBER
Though it ended in a loss, members of the Shenendehowa football team got the chance Sept. 5 to experience playing at the Syracuse Carrier Dome.
In a 28-7 loss to Canisius — coached by Clifton Park native Rich Robbins — the Plainsmen received a touchdown run from Carl Fiore.
A SHEN 24
A week after the Shenendehowa field hockey team won its sectional title, a trio of Plainsmen squads — boys’ and girls’ volleyball, plus girls’ swimming and diving — won Section II championships in a span of 24 hours.
Boys’ volleyball got things started Nov. 6 by dethroning five-time defending champion Bethlehem in straight sets; then, early the next afternoon, the girls’ swimming and diving team sprung a huge upset to topple archrival Niskayuna; then the girls’ volleyball team capped the stretch with a dominant win that night against Bethlehem for its sixth consecutive area title.
“I knew if we showed up and played our game, we had it,” senior Hannah Elmer said of her girls’ volleyball teammates. “We were so excited, so prepared, and we came out and played amazing.”
A number of area athletes were standouts this past year at the college level, with Anna Bottino and the University at Albany field hockey team helping to represent that excellence.
Bottino — along with fellow Shenendehowa graduate Melissa Nealon — helped UAlbany to another America East championship for head coach Phil Sykes, a Clifton Park resident.
UAlbany won its league title Nov. 8 with a 2-0 decision against Maine. For the tournament, Bottino was named the Most Outstanding Performer.