The previous year found new ways to test everyone at some point, or every point, of the last 365 days. It brought trials and triumphs in life, and in many ways, area sports followed a similar path. Some moments made us cheer; others broke our heart.
Schuyler football defeated Douglas County West on Sept. 4 to end an 11-game losing streak that dated back to 2019. The boys basketball team posted its highest winning percentage in five seasons. The Warriors cross country team saw two runners qualify for the state tournament - junior Marisol DeAnda and senior Hugo Ramon.
The wrestling team also qualified two wrestlers for state. Junior Ivan Perez earned one victory at the tournament and graduate Travis Marxsen placed fourth in his final season.
Clarkson/Leigh reached the state tournament in girls basketball and volleyball. Football also showed promise with the Patriots a preseason consensus top-5 team in D-1. But another season-ending injury to Wyoming commit and senior Tommy McEvoy was the first of many setbacks.
Howells-Dodge football made the playoffs for its ninth straight season and also qualified for the state tournament in volleyball.
There were many sad moments including the cancelation of spring sports and the American Legion summer baseball season.
It was a year unlike any other, and one that was unforgettable in its own strange way. What follows are those moments that stood out. They are listed in no particular order nor ranked based on opinion. Of course, there's only so much space to list them all, and some will undoubtedly be missed. But from the moments that moved us to those that filled us with pride, this is the Sun year in review.
Clarkson/Leigh Girls Basketball: Clarkson/Leigh made history on Feb. 28 by qualifying for the co-op's first-ever state tournament when the Patriots defeated Guardian Angels Central Catholic in the district championship.
It was a team effort that accomplished the job that day with six players scoring five or more points.
But like much of 2020, the win didn't come without some adversity. The Patriots were down 33-32 when Alissa Kasik hit a 3-pointer, sank a short jumper on the next trip then capped off her run with another shot from behind the arc for a four-point Clarkson/Leigh lead with just over three minutes left.
"When I look back on the season, I will remember a team that grew and got better from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," head coach Matt Murren said. "Everyone had to learn new roles and each player had to take on a new responsibility with a lot of new starters and players in the rotation. That group's tight-knit bond made the season so memorable and how they played for one another.
"Winning that game at districts vs GACC was a highlight that I will never forget. The players' celebration, the student section going wild, the fans and parents high-fiving one another and all the celebration between us coaches. It was a moment that the girls have worked for a long time, and it was great to see them rewarded with that experience."
Clarkson/Leigh lost four seniors from that team and is off to a hot start in the 2020-21 season. The Patriots are currently ranked No. 2 in Class C-2 with a record of 9-0.
The 2019-20 Patriots will forever have their name etched in school history as the first of hopefully many Clarkson/Leigh teams to play in Lincoln.
Schuyler Builds New Gym: Schuyler Central High School athletics received a facelift in 2020 in the form of a new gym to host athletic events and other activities.
Athletic Director Jim Kasik said the Warriors are now on the same level as many Class B schools and hopes this opens the door for some exciting possibilities.
"For so many years our facilities fell behind, and now our students and community can take a lot of pride in what we now have," he said. "We will now have the opportunity to host just about any conference and district event."
Schuyler has already hosted a district volleyball match and will be hosting district wrestling in February.
Despite 2020 being a difficult year, the construction of the new gym went fairly smoothly.
"This has been a very challenging year for a lot of reasons. One of the bright spots was just how smooth the construction project went. Being a construction guy, it was a lot of fun to watch the weekly progress throughout the build. I am very proud of the final product and it has been great to see our kids competing in these areas. It was also great to see my oldest son Klay, a 2011 Schuyler graduate, help bring this project to completion as he was one of Hausmann's project coordinators here at Schuyler."
SCHS Sends Two Runners To State: For the fourth year in a row, Schuyler sent at least two cross country runners to the state championship meet. Junior Marisol Deanda qualified for her second championship and finished in 28th place. Senior Hugo Ramon made his first trip to Kearney and finished in 60th.
Boys head coach Rick Carter has been coaching Ramon since junior high and was excited to see his long-time runner have the experience at competing at state.
"I was so pleased how Hugo finished off six years of running cross country," Carter said. "Qualifying for the state meet was really the icing on the cake. Hugo ran excellent all season long, and there was no doubt in my mind that he would qualify for the state meet. He never had a bad race his senior year, which was by far his best year ever. Not only did his running greatly improve but he also was an excellent team leader. Hugo is a very coachable young man and I really feel fortunate to have been his coach. I will really miss him next year."
Deanda's season was no surprise to the coaches after reaching state as a sophomore. The junior Warrior went out and won numerous meets this year and will be looking for more success as a senior.
"Marisol is an extremely dedicated runner," Carter said. She had an outstanding year which included a few first-place finishes. There was never any doubt that she would run at the state meet this year. I have no doubt she will be there next year aiming to be a state medalist."
Clarkson/Leigh Volleyball: After a successful basketball season, the Patriots kept the momentum rolling into volleyball and made their first trip to state since 2017, the second trip ever in school history.
The Patriots finished fourth at state to cap a 22-9 season.
"Reflecting on the season is something I do on a daily basis," head coach Becky Schneider said. "It was an absolutely incredible journey from the beginning of the season to making it to state, and we couldn’t have asked for a better group of girls. They were all so invested in our culture, and they were determined to do everything they could to be successful. They weren’t going to let anyone or anything stand in the way of their goals. Plus the camaraderie between the teammates and the team and coaches was so genuine that it just made it that much more fun."
The Spring that Never Was: Though not exactly a highlight, it would be impossible to discuss 2020 without mentioning the low point, perhaps lower than any other ever in sports history.
"It was a very challenging time for our athletes because for the first time in their lives they were told they could not work out or compete with their teammates," Howells-Dodge athletic director Cole Fischer said. "I think it built a fire to compete and prepare when they finally were able to get into the weight room in the early summer. I am very proud of the steps we took this fall and the sacrifices that were made in order to compete."
Here's to hoping that 2021 will satisfy those disappointments and letdowns that were part of the 2020 experience and multiply the ones that made our athletes, our coaches and our kids shine.
The Schuyler Sun will be there to deliver them all.
Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net