COLUMN: A year to celebrate

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Just completed school year goes down as one of best ever

By John Herndon

The note Will Carlton handed me carried just a simple question.

“Best two or three years in school history?” he asked back on Feb. 27.

The question was a good one at a great time. A few feet from us, the Anderson County basketball teams, plural, were celebrating victories over Shelby County to win the 30th District tournaments. For the Bearcats, it was the second title in three years and the third in seven. But for the Lady Bearcats, it broke a 31-year drought.

Things got even better 11 days later when boys’ basketball team made the Sweet 16 for the first time in a dozen years and the fourth time in the 60 years since Anderson High School was formed.

And it was far from the end of this year’s success.

The Bearcat baseball team won its second consecutive regional championship, the track team qualified 17 for the state meet and the Lady Cat softball team cracked the state’s Top 10 for the first time in school history.

In the recently completed school year, the results were – shall we understate it a bit? -- pretty good.

Off the top of my head, here is a brief composite of the 2008-09 school year at Anderson County: regional championships in boys’ basketball and baseball, a regional runner-up in girls’ basketball, three district championships (boys’ basketball, girls’ basketball, baseball), two state top 10 finishes (football and softball), two other top 20s (boys’ basketball and girls’ soccer), an individual state runner-up in pole vaulter B.J. Robinson and a boys’ golf conference tournament championship.

Nothing underscores the kind of year it has been more than the note that appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader recently, noting that Anderson’s Jacob Russell was apparently the only kid in the state that started on teams that made the final 16 in football, basketball and baseball. It shows incredible individual and team excellence.

I have not even attempted to list all of the state qualifiers in individual sports such as track, cross country, wrestling and golf.

It was also a year that the Anderson volleyball team won its first ever regional match and the boys’ tennis team had two entries advance into the third round of the regional tournament.

From the press table, it was a year that was so full of superlatives that some planned feature stories were never written. But that’s a nice problem to have. Trust me on that one.

Using Carlton’s baseline and going back to 2007-08, Bearcat teams have won four regional championships, five district tournaments and a regular season district title in football. You can add Sammy Isaacs’ state runner-up finish in the 2008 state wrestling tournament to the list as well along with three first team all-staters (basketball’s C.J. Penny, softball’s Courtney Turpin and Robinson), three second-teamers (Austin Corn and Sam Williams in football along with Kara Yeaste in girls’ soccer) and a long list of honorable mention and all-region performers.

The boys’ and girls’ basketball and softball teams are on streaks of three straight 20-win seasons. Baseball has two straight. Girls’ soccer has won 31 games over the last two years, boys’ soccer 28 and football 18.

I am sure that I left some big accomplishment off. It was not intentional, but a reminder that the just completed year was unique in its wide-spread success.

Getting back to Carlton’s question, has been the most successful run in Anderson history?

I am not sure that is a question that can be answered fairly. Change is the most constant thing in high school sports.

Take the 1968-69 school year, for example. At the time, there were only a handful of sports offered, but Anderson was mighty good in all of them. The Bearcat football team went 9-1-1, did not lose to a district opponent, but under the system in effect at the time, did not advance to the state playoffs. That same year, the Bearcat basketball team defeated most of the Eighth Region powers but was a member of the 11th Region and did not advance past the regional semi-finals. The baseball team, the subject of one of those stories that was never completed, won the Central Kentucky Conference.

Or take the early to mid-60’s when the Bearcats dominated the 42nd District in basketball, had outstanding football teams and the girls’ track team won what is still the school’s only state athletic championship. There simply were not the opportunities of today, alignments were vastly different and Anderson was truly a small school.

Things were just different, so it is impossible to accurately compare eras.

But, that being said, there is no question that the last two years will always stand out in Anderson County sports history. The number of championships is unequaled from any other era and most of the gaudy records were accomplished against good competition.

It has been a special time. It will make my job a lot easier if it continues.

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