Ten moments to savorBy Bob Holmes, Globe Staff
If you're a fan of high school sports, the winter never seems long enough. Yes, it was cold and gray, but fans in places like Woburn, Braintree, Newton, and Wayland enjoyed every minute of it. That's because those communities all won state championships and there's nothing like a trophy to make staying indoors worthwhile. From Gloucester to Barnstable, it was a season of accomplishments. Following are 10 moments that stood out among the countless athletic stories in a Massachusetts winter.
1. Lowell's Sheehan an unbeatable forceIs he the greatest wrestler in state history? Experts can debate whether Brian Sheehan is the state's all-time best but few would disagree the Lowell senior was the state's best this winter. Sheehan collected titles as if it was a hobby. A sectional title was followed by the Division 1 crown, and then the All-State title, and finally his second straight New England crown. His All-State title was his third straight, a feat only five others in state history have accomplished. Lowell coach Tim O'Keefe may have said it best: ''I think he's the best wrestler in New England. I'm going to miss him, I'll tell you that.''
2. Wrestling fans get something extraCan a sport be jealous? The answer is yes, but this winter, wrestling joined in the bracket frenzy that had existed for just basketball and hockey fans. With the creation of the team tournament, wrestling fans had their own brackets to follow as their teams advanced from first round to quarterfinals and beyond. The result was three state champions: Springfield Central in Division 1, North Andover in Division 2, and Wayland in Division 3, and a day of wrestling at Hudson High School that was everything tournament organizers hoped it would be.
3. In the Foley family feud, the kid wins outOK, it's not a feud, it's more like a friendly competition. But don't dispute that when Mike Foley's Wayland girls squared off with his father Pete's Weston girls at the Division 2 state meet, there was more than family bragging rights on the line. The result was a state title for Wayland. Dad finished in second place. ''I guess if you've got to lose a state championship, there's no one better to lose to than your son,'' said Pete following the meet. The championship was also the last for one of the state's all-time best swimmers, Weston's Eliza Butts, who finished her career by winning four events, two relays and the 100 and 200 free.
4. So Ayla ... do anything special this winter?She began the year by scoring her 2,000th career point and she finished it in front of a national television audience. The winter of 2005-2006 was a busy one for Nobles senior Ayla Brown. Brown finished her basketball career by being named the Massachusetts Player of the Year for a second straight season. She is only the third player in the history of the Gatorade-sponsored award to win back-to-back honors. This winter she averaged 21 points and 16 rebounds a game and next fall, she'll take her game to Boston College. ''This young woman is the hardest-working player I have ever coached,'' said her coach, Alex Keenan-Gallagher. Oh, and did we mention she can a sing a bit, too?
5. BC High spoils party for CM, Bill HansonThe table was set, the guests had arrived, and only the final score was missing. One more win and CM would become Super 8 champion while earning coach Bill Hanson his 500th career win. And to serve up this bit of history on Garden ice would make it even more special. But hold the applause, BC High apparently didn't read the invitation. Instead, the Eagles stunned CM, taking a 2-1 win and the Super 8 title. It was a great hockey game and a result that was certainly good for the sport. The assumption of a yearly CM title isn't good for anyone, including CM. And while Hanson came up short this time, keep the second week in December open. No. 500 is just eight months away.
6. King for a day, King for a seasonThere are good runners. There are great runners. And then there are runners who are something more. Predicting the future of a teenager isn't easy, but if any athlete has an Olympic medal in her sights, it just might be Medford's Arantxa King. This winter, King was the only two-event winner at the All-State meet, breezing to a win in the 55 meters at 7.14 seconds while winning the long jump and breaking the state record with just a single attempt. Her leap of 19 feet 5Æ inches broke the record by more than an inch. ''Medford has had a lot of great runners come through the track program over the years,'' said coach Stephen Mascoll. ''She's by and large the best I've ever coached or seen.''
7. Newton North No. 1 from start to finishAnthony Gurley and Corey Lowe left little doubt which school had the best boys' basketball team in the state. Newton North dominated from the first day of practice to the moment they turned off the lights at the DCU Center in Worcester. Both two-time All-Scholastics, Gurley will head to Wake Forest, Loew to Providence College. They will leave with back-to-back Division 1 state titles. ''I'll never forget this, not 20 years from now,'' said Gurley, who scored 27 points in the win over Holy Name. ''I'll remember that I was able to help us win back-to-back state titles.'' The 27 was also the figure of the day. Newton North finished the winter, 27-0.
8. Eight is great for Weston boysLook straight up on this page and find the bad news for Weston and its coach, Pete Foley. This is the good news: The Weston boys made it eight straight Division 2 state titles, beating their closest competitor, Bishop Feehan, by more than 100 points. Senior Tucker Wetmore led the way, winning two events for the Wildcats. ''They feel they're entrusted with the tradition,'' said Foley. ''They've taken the baton and continued the tradition.'' Another school that had an outstanding winter in the pool is St. John's Prep. The Eagles took the Division 1 title, edging Catholic Conference rival BC High. The Prep's Jamie Mannion won two events.
9. Wellesley, Woburn lead expanded rankingsIt was a subtle change. For the first time, the Globe ran a Top 20 for girls' hockey this winter. In past seasons, there hadn't been enough teams, never mind good teams, to warrant more than a Top 10. But the continued explosion of girls' hockey made it possible to expand the rankings. But Wellesley and Woburn were only concerned with the top two spots in the rankings. Wellesley beat Reading in the Division 2 final to finish unbeaten and earn the top spot. Woburn, which ended the season on fire, won the Division 1 title and finished No. 2.