2015, a year in review: Clifton Park/Halfmoon athletics

Members of the Shenendehowa student section cheer on their team during a boys' basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)Members of the Shenendehowa student section cheer on their team during a boys' basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

BY MICHAEL KELLY
Gazette Sportswriter

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.

SKI STARS

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.

Shenendehowa's Kevin Parker, top, contends with Niskayuna's Reggie Melvin during a match Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Shenendehowa’s Kevin Parker, top, contends with Niskayuna’s Reggie Melvin during a match Thursday, Dec. 10, 2015 in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

PARKER REIGNS

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.

Michael Gillooley jumps on Kevin Huerter of Shenendehowa after the Plainsmen defeated Brentwood in the State Finals at Glens Falls Civic Center to win their first State Title since 1987 Sunday, March 22, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

Michael Gillooley jumps on Kevin Huerter of Shenendehowa after the Plainsmen defeated Brentwood in the State Finals at Glens Falls Civic Center to win their first State Title since 1987 Sunday, March 22, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

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.

Shenendehowa pitcher Ian Anderson sends one to the plate against Niskayuna Friday, April 24, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

Shenendehowa pitcher Ian Anderson sends one to the plate against Niskayuna Friday, April 24, 2015. (PETER R. BARBER/DAILY GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

DUELING SUPERSTARS

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.”

Carly Sinnott, front and center, playing volleyball for Mekeel Christian Academy. The Clifton Park teen died May 13, 2015, after a fall at Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam. On May 27, 2015, she was featured on ESPN after the Twitter campaign by friends hashtagged #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter. COURTESY OF MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

Carly Sinnott, front and center, playing volleyball for Mekeel Christian Academy. The Clifton Park teen died May 13, 2015, after a fall at Plotter Kill Preserve in Rotterdam. On May 27, 2015, she was featured on ESPN after the Twitter campaign by friends hashtagged #GetCarlyOnSportsCenter. COURTESY OF MEKEEL CHRISTIAN ACADEMY

#GETCARLYONSPORTSCENTER

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.”

Shenendehowa's Boys 4x800 Meter Relay Championship team celebrates their first place win during the New York State Track & Field Championships at the University at Albany on Saturday, June 13, 2015. (PATRICK DODSON/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

Shenendehowa’s Boys 4×800 Meter Relay Championship team celebrates their first place win during the New York State Track & Field Championships at the University at Albany on Saturday, June 13, 2015. (PATRICK DODSON/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER)

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.

Sean Conroy is shown after throwing a complete game June 25 while pitching for the Sonoma Stompers. Conroy, a Clifton Park native, became the first openly gay person to play in a professional baseball game. (Photo courtesy James Toy III)

Sean Conroy is shown after throwing a complete game June 25 while pitching for the Sonoma Stompers. Conroy, a Clifton Park native, became the first openly gay person to play in a professional baseball game. (Photo courtesy James Toy III)

TRAILBLAZER

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.

A referee gives instructions to the Shenendehowa football team before a Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

A referee gives instructions to the Shenendehowa football team before a Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015 game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Reporter)

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.

Members of the Shenendehowa boys' volleyball team celebrate with the championship plaque after defeating Bethlehem in the Section II Division I title match Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 in Rensselaer. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Members of the Shenendehowa boys’ volleyball team celebrate with the championship plaque after defeating Bethlehem in the Section II Division I title match Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 in Rensselaer. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

A SHEN 24

The eight Shenendehowa girls' swimming and diving teammates set for the state championships are shown at a Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 practice in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

The eight Shenendehowa girls’ swimming and diving teammates set for the state championships are shown at a Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 practice in Clifton Park. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

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.”

Members of the Shenendehowa girls' volleyball team are shown after winning the Section II Class AA championship Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Saratoga Springs. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

Members of the Shenendehowa girls’ volleyball team are shown after winning the Section II Class AA championship Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Saratoga Springs. (Michael Kelly/Gazette Sportswriter)

FINISHING STRONG

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.

About the Author

Michael Kelly
Michael Kelly is a sports reporter for Your Clifton Park and Your Niskayuna, weekly print publications of The Daily Gazette. Kelly grew up in Clifton Park and graduated from Shenendehowa High School in 2006. He is also a 2010 graduate of the Stony Brook University School of Journalism. Kelly's work has been honored by the New York News Publishers Association, the New York State Associated Press Association, and the Associated Press Sports Editors. His work has previously been featured in The (Amsterdam) Recorder, The Saratogian, and Albany Times Union.