COLUMN: A look back at the decade's biggest local sports stories

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Explosion of opportunities for girls has changed the sporting landscape

By John Herndon

Seems like just a short time ago that everyone seemed to be wondering about computers crashing, planes dropping out of the sky and an Armageddon created by Y2K.

Turned out to be nothing.

But it's 10 years later and there are still predictions about the end of the world – see Dec. 21, 2012 for details. Maybe this one is brought on by UK2K for all we know. Maybe the wrong person did the John Wall Dancc or gave someone a Boogie Noogie.

What I do know is that it has been 10 years this week since Y2K. With that in mind, it is time to look back at the five biggest local sports stories since 2000.

1. The growth of Title IX in Anderson County

There can be little doubt about the effect of Title IX in sports. Just over 10 years ago, there were a few sports for females, but now, there might be more girls playing sports at Anderson County High School than males.

Title IX is not just about male and female athletes. It is about equality of opportunity. Most of the time, however, that translates to the number of athletic opportunities available for girls. The tangible returns are evident.

Girls' basketball has a locker room comparable to boys. Softball is getting ready to move into a state of the art facility. A girls' golf team has been added.

And some of the greatest successes at Anderson over the last 10 years have been in girls' sports. The softball team has been to two state tournaments and is consistently ranked higher than any other program at the school. Girls' basketball, while not winning a regional tournament, has become one of those programs that has evolved from being pretty good some years to a legitimate regional contender most years.

And, of course, the greatest individual award bestowed on any Anderson athlete over the past decade went to a girl. Abril Carbajal was named Miss Soccer and an All-American in 2003.

That would have been unheard of just 10 years ago.

2. Anderson County baseball bccomes a regional power

It is fitting that the decade began with Anderson defeating Shelby County for the Eighth Region championship and ended the same way.

Before 2000, Anderson had never advanced past the regional semifinals. But in this decade, the Bearcats won four regional championships and were runner-up three other times. Unfortunately, they ran into teams that ended the season as state champions (PRP in 2008) or state runner-up (Ballard in 2000 and Male in 2003) three of the four times they advanced to the state tournament.

Still, the job L.W. Barnes has done has been remarkable. The Bearcats have won with teams that pulverized the ball or beat you with pitching and defense.

Undoubtedly, Anderson baseball has benefited from major growth in the student population, but it is more than that. Anderson has developed the program based on the baseball truth that pitching and defense win championships.

But more than that, Coach L.W. Barnes has convinced a community that had never been successful in the sport that it could win championships.

He was right.

3. Anderson County basketball remains strong

There are some that would argue that the Bearcats' success is not worthy of a place near the top, but that just underscores the fact that it does. In fact, I was tempted to place it at No. 2. Anderson has quietly become one of those programs that is at the top of the Eighth Region and is highly respected statewide.

In high school sports, where success tends to be very cyclical, Anderson has become a program that consistently plays stingy defense, wins close to 20 games and does things “the right way.”

For good measure, coach Glen Drury is closing in on 400 wins.

4. The rebirth of Anderson County football

To say Anderson County football had fallen on hard times in the first half of the decade is an understatement. There were five straight losing seasons and a 17-game losing streak. Several factors came into play, including the normal cycle that occurs in prep sports and being placed in a murderous district that included several state powers.

Yet, former Bearcat Mark Peach came home in December of 2004. He had had success everywhere he had been. Slowly, but very surely, he began changing the mindset of Bearcat football. A new weight room, to be used by all sports, was built.

A realignment allowed the schedule to be manageable and in 2007, less than three years after Peach was hired, Anderson completed an undefeated season. There is still work to be done as the Bearcats have fizzled in the playoffs, but fall Friday nights are a happening in Lawrenceburg again.

5. The death of Bill Keightley

Bill Keightley had moved away from Lawrenceburg years ago, but in his 47 years as basketball equipment manager at the University of Kentucky, “Mr. Wildcat, as he was affectionately known, never missed an opportunity to talk about his hometown. He often came back to visit and took pride in the fact that of all the high schools in the world, only one, his beloved Kavanaugh, had two alumni honored with jerseys hanging from the rafters at Rupp Arena. They are in honor of Keightey and his cousin, Aggie Sale.

Keightley's death on March 31, 2008, marked the end of an era in Wildcat basketball and brought an outpouring of support from across the hoops landscape. It was fitting that after an emotional funeral service in Rupp Arena, Mr. Wildcat came home one final time.

He is buried in the Lawrenceburg Cemetery.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.