Most notable sports figures of 2013
By Quentin Jodie and Sunnie Clahchischiligi
WINDOW ROCK, Dec. 26, 2013
(Times photos - Donovan Quintero)
There were many sports stories to consider but we, the Navajo Times sports staff, felt that these stories stood out. In no particular order here is our selection of top sports stories for the last 12 months:
Concussions in high school sports took the spotlight this year as more and more young athletes face extensive damage and even fatality due to the effects of injuries to the brain.
Local athletes, sports medicine trainers, coaches and state officials chimed in on their thoughts of concussions and how they affect Native high school athletes in area sports.
Hopi football player Charles Youvella was one of those athletes who suffered a severe head injury after a playoff game and died from his injuries.
Hopi boys cross-country breaks national record
The Hopi boy's team set a national record by winning its 24th state crown with a bevy of newcomers.
"We're not as stack as we have been in the past," Hopi coach Rich Baker sadi. "We had some runners that didn't come out this year. We had some young guys that stepped up."
The Bruins were led by junior Anfernee Howard's second-place finish as they finished the Division IV state title with 69 points. Howard lost the state title Josh Hoskinson of Phoenix Arizona Lutheran by 18 seconds.
"I tried to go after that guy but he had a good lead on me," Howard said. As for continuing the tradition he said, "it feels great knowing that we got a state title -- it's the team win that matters the most."
Other finishers for Hopi include: Terry Honventewa (fifth), Kelan Poleahla (15th), Jason Laban (21st), Aaron Swimmer (26th), Sean Sloan (33rd) and Slim Jackson (34th).
"We ran tough and we ran like we wanted to," Baker said. "This is what we train for all year and it's good to end the season on a positive note."
Navajo Code Talker is recognized at MLB All-Star
Navajo Code Talker David Patterson was one of 30 military veterans and military service members from across the country selected for the MLB and People Magazine "Tribute for Heroes" campaign.
Patterson, 91, was recognized during the MLB All-Star game and weekend. He was given first-class treatment during a weekend filled with dinners, concerts and tours in New York City.
He was recognized on national television during the MLB All-Star game.
"Change the Mascot" campaign
On Dec. 5, the National Congress of American Indians hosted a briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss the effects Indian mascots have on youth and Native communities.
The ongoing controversy surrounding the Washington, D.C. football team and its mascot, the Redskins, was at the forefront for this briefing.
Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused to change the mascot while adding that the name serves as an honor for all with Native ancestry.
The NCAI disagrees and is calling out all Natives to speak out against derogatory references.
Three teams earn state basketball crowns
The Navajo Pine girl's basketball team earned the school's second state championship title in the sport.
The Lady Warriors defeated Laguna Acoma, 64-57, for the New Mexico Class 2A title and finished their season with an overall record of 27-4 and 14-0 in their district.
The seniors and junior of the class were a part of the 2011 team that won the school's first state championship title. The class included standouts Demetria Clichee and Kaitlin Chee.
Navajo Pine head coach Aretha Mariano said her team worked hard for the title.
"They never give up, they're determined, they set a plan up for themselves they do it É these girls never missed a practice, and that's just the mentality that they have É it's just something you're going to be blessed with once in a great while," she said.
On the boys side of the bracket, the Laguna-Acoma Hawks captured its first state basketball title in the school's 64-year history by taking down No. 3 Dexter, 51-39, before a large crowd at the University of New Mexico Pit in Albuquerque.
"This is too much to experience right now, it feels like it's not real," Laguna-Acoma senior point guard Anthony Carpio said. "There is no other team on Earth I would want to do this with."
Carpio was one of five seniors that brought home the championship title to the school. The other four other players were Austin Jones, CJ Salvador, Josh Paytiamo and Cameron Riley.
In Class 4A girls basketball, Fort Wingate, N.M. native Tinaya Murphy led her team to the state title with 18 points and six rebounds as the top-seeded Los Lunas Tigers overwhelmed No. 2 seed Roswell with a 51-27 win.
In Arizona, the Winslow Bulldogs survived a frantic night and nailed down its ninth state crown with a 45-40 win over the Valley Lady Pirates.
Valley, which was making its third championship appearance with the last coming in 1980, erased a 13-point deficit in a matter of minutes and led 37-36 with 4:16 left in the fourth quarter before Winslow finished out the game on a 9-3 run.
"First and foremost, I give Valley all the credit," Winslow coach Jerron Jordan said. "It takes a lot to get here and they have a great ballclub. They played us tough every time, but we had a goal of winning a state championship."
Navajo bareback rider waited years to win a world title but never imagined he'd win it the way he did during the 9th annual International Indian Finals Rodeo.
Charley used the memory of his cousin, Raynell Harvey, an IIFR qualifying bull rider who died after the IIFR welcome banquet, as motivation.
In the championship short go, Charley had a high 86-point ride to get him the title and said he had his cousin to thank.
"I set my heart to dedicate it to him. Sure enough it worked out fine," he said. "I gave all my best through the pain É put whatever effort into the rides I had. I came out on top."
In Arizona, Window Rock then senior Jeremy Jesus surprised the 182-pound bracket field during the Arizona Division IV state wrestling tournament.
Going into the tournament, Jesus compiled a modest 9-7 record. But at the two-day event, he chalked up three straight wins and finished second in his bracket.
"A lot of people don't know him," Window Rock coach Albert Bettis said at the time when asked if his championship run was a shocker. "But I knew he was capable as long as he was healthy."
In the junior high division, then Tsehootsooi eighth-grader Emmanuel Slinkey pinned six opponents to become the 245-pound state wrestling champion.
"He dominated all of his matches," said Tsehootsooi assistant coach Ramsey Davidson. "Nobody scored any points on him throughout the tournament."
In New Mexico, the Piedra Vista Panthers seized its third straight team title, outscoring state runner-up Los Lunas by almost 140 points.
The Panthers placed 11 wrestlers in the winner's bracket with five winning a state title. They include: Jacob Pamgren (120-pound), Anthony Jukes (132-pound), Wyatt Hardy (160-pound) and Christian Acosta (220-pound).
"We don't just have a wrestling team, we have a wrestling family at PV," said Panthers coach Levi Stout. "This year's group set the bar very high and I will always remember the performance they put on at state."
Track and field state champs
Local athletes and teams fared well at the 2013 state track and field meet.
Allesha Blackhat a senior at Newcomb High School won the 2A state long jump title with a 16-09 mark. But she turned heads when she shared how she did it all while being a full-time mother, student and wife at 17 years old.
After earning a state basketball title just months before, Laguna-Acoma boys relay team won the state title in the 4x200-meter relay with a time of 1:32.61. The team was made up of Ryan Arkie, Austin Jones, Anthony Carpio and David McGee.
Zuni javelin thrower Matt Kallestewa won the 2A state title after throwing 160-02 feet. Kallestewa tried for the title four three years and finally earned it.
Kirtland Central's Christian Mackey earned a state title in the 4A boy's discus and boy's shot put event. Bloomfield's Marissa Alcon earned Marissa Alcon earned the 3A girl's state pole vault championship title. The two credited confidence for their victories.
The Piedra Vista boys track and field team earned the school's first ever boy's track and field state title. The Panthers had a total of 76 points, 20 points more than Farmington who had 56 points.
Piedra Vista head coach Mark Turner said he's waited his entire career for a state title. He has been the head coach for Piedra Vista's boy's team since the school opened.
"Thirty two years I've been waiting on this day," he said. "Kids have been working on it for 15 years."
Piedra Vista clinches eighth straight softball title
Since the 2006 season, the Piedra Vista Lady Panthers have made it habit of playing for the New Mexico Class 4A state softball championship and each year they have come away with as state title.
In April, the Panthers claimed its eight straight title by beating district rival Aztec for the second consecutive year. The Panthers won the title in a 5-2 tilt.
"First of all, a lot of credit to Aztec," Piedra Vista coach Kevin Werth said. "For them to battle back to win three games to get to this point, that's a testament to the way we play ball in the Four Corners.
"And to beat a team of that quality four times in one season for a second year in a row is a testament for our kids and how hard they work," he added.
Minor league professionals instruct baseball camp
The Naa'taanii Sports Academy held a number of camps this year and minor league baseball athletes instructed many of them.
Jeremy Tietze, a pitcher for the San Angelo Colts a Minor League Baseball team in San Angelo, Texas, instructed eight local youth baseball players this summer.
Tietze was training in Albuquerque during his off-season and came in contact with Naa'taanii founder Dineh Benally, who asked Tietze if he would help instruct the camps.
Tietze said he instructed two camps for Naa'taanii and enjoys it.
"I feel like when I come up here for Naa'taanii baseball that the kids here are very attentive and they're willing to learn," he said. "It's fun to me, I get a joy out of helping the youth in baseball and doing my part in baseball.
No team enjoyed a more fruitful weekend than the Damon-Bahe Boxing Team of Chinle at the 2013 All Indian Boxing Championships.
The sparring club brought home eight national championships during the Fourth of July weekend at the Apache Gold Casino and Resorts in San Carlos, Ariz.
"We've been doing this show for 30 years now," Damon-Bahe Boxing Team coach John Bahe said. "This a fight we don't miss. We get to fight against our Native brothers and sisters."
At the AIBC the following boxers were crowned champion. They include: Mariah Bahe (9-10 year-old, 55-pound), James Bahe (11-12 year-old, 70-pound), Joash Kebos (13-14 year-old, 95-pound), Joshua Bahe (15-16 year-old, 178-pound), Jeremiah Bahe (17-40 year-old, 132-pound), Wilfred Yazzie (17-40 year-old, 153-pound), Alvira Teller (119-pound) and Doug Yazzie (17-40 year-old, 201-plus pounds).
Diné weightlifters excel at NASA world cup meet
Navajo weightlifters Pax Harvey and Loren Anthony were the only Diné to compete and win first place in the Natural Athlete Strength Association World Cup of Power powerlift competition.
Harvey, 38, finished first in the sub-master-2 division full meet at 220 pounds; the sub-master-2 division is for age 35-39. Anthony, 32, finished first in the sub-master-1 division full meet at 198 pounds; the divisions are set according to age range. Sub-master-1 is for ages 30-34 years of age.
The Tuba City boys cross-country returned to the top of the totem pole with a first-place finish at state.
The Warriors won the Arizona Division III state title by placing three runners in the top seven with Brian Masayesva leading the way with a fourth-place finish. His twin brother Anthony finished sixth while Albert Fuller placed seventh.
The Warriors also had Eddie Loughran place 13th while freshman Jaiden Melendrez completed the team score with an 18th place effort.
"This is the epitome of teamwork," Tuba City coach Arvis Myron said. "I told the boys that it was going to take all seven runners to win this race."
The Hopi Lady Bruins ran their best race of the year to maintain their dominance in girls cross country.
The Bruins finished the state meet with 38 points and beat Tucson Pusch Ridge by 18 points for the Division IV title.
"These girls took it to a whole new level," Hopi coach Laverne Lomakema said. "Coming into this race we talked about team goals and individual goals but having that faith in our abilities and having that faith in our training played a huge factor."
The Zuni Thunderbirds collected its 15th state title with three runners placing in the top five during the New Mexico Class 2A state cross-country championships. Junior Alex Eustace led that attack with a second-place finish while Tre' Riley placed third and Jeron Chavez took up fifth place honors.
Individually, Isaiah Kelsey of Laguna-Acoma took home the state title with a winning time of 16:24.
"It was a battle the whole way," Kelsey said. "I thought the Zuni guy (Eustace) had me."
In Class 1A, Gateway Christian William Charles edged Jacob Subratie of Cimarron for the title.
"This was the hardest run," Charles admitted. "They all brought their best. I was thinking, ' now or never. I started my kick and started passing them. I knew to go and finish the race strong."
Farmington ends 61-year drought with state title
The Farmington Scorpions waited 61 years before they claimed their second state title in football.
The Scorpions held top-seeded Goddard scoreless in the New Mexico Class 4A state title game while getting the winning score when senior quarterback Jacob Lucas threw a 10-yard toss to Kyle Reynolds on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"It was phenomenal," Lucas said of watching Reynolds make the catch. "He is a great receiver. I have a special connection with that kid."
"Jacob threw it great and I caught it," added Reynolds, who was one three Diné to suit up for the Farmington squad.
Navajo Prep makes history with first playoff win
For the first time since the school reopened as Navajo Prep in 1991, the Eagles not only got to host a first-round game but they also earned its first state playoff win. The Eagles defeated New Mexico Military Institute by score of 63-45.
"I'm very proud of my kids," Navajo Prep coach Roderick Denetso said. "This win is huge for us. I think we got a lot of respect."
The Eagles played it into the next round and lost to top-seeded Santa Rosa. Nonetheless, they finished with a 10-2 record.
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