Top 9 Local Sports Stories of 2009
It's all about Colt and the boys
1) UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS EVERYTHING There's no denying it, the University of Texas athletics programs rule this town – and the country. Colt McCoy was Austin's athlete of the year and has led the Horns to another national championship game. But don't sleep on UT's volleyball (came in second in the country), basketball (currently ranked No. 2), baseball (preseason No. 1 ranking), swimming (also currently ranked No. 1), and every other sport you can imagine's program. Longhorn fans are starting to take winning for granted, and they can live with that.
2) TEXAS STARS' INAUGURAL SEASON Hockey has returned to Central Texas in a big way. With parent club the Dallas Stars just a few hours away, the Texas Stars are boasting NHL-caliber play in their new state-of-the-art arena, the Cedar Park Center. Hockey translates very poorly to TV, and the Ice Bats' play was outright sluggish at times, so do yourself a favor, hockey newbie, and get your tickets for a Stars game now.
3) LAKE TRAVIS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL picked up its third straight Class 4A Division I championship, while Westlake fell short in overtime for the Class 5A Division I title. Congratulations to both programs for a stellar year.
4) ROUND ROCK EXPRESS' 10TH ANNIVERSARY Here's hoping the Texas Stars can retain the loyal fan base that the Houston Astros' AAA franchise has engendered. The Dell Diamond has proven itself a Central Texas landmark with the Express continuing to nurture big-league talent, such as 2009 standout starting pitcher Bud Norris.
5) ROLLER DERBY REVOLUTION Who brought Roller Derby back from the dead? Why, Austin did, of course. The Lonestar Rollergirls hosted the second-ever banked-track tourney, and the flat-track Texas Rollergirls took second place at the Women's Flat Track Derby Association tourney in Philly. See "Electric Skaterland," Nov. 27, 2009, for more.
6) EX-LONGHORNS TAKE BERLIN (From our track-and-field correspondent Lee Nichols): Americans Sanya Richards (400 meters) and Trey Hardee (decathlon) and Jamaican Melaine Walker (400 meter hurdles) all claimed world championships in Germany this year. At the end of the season, Richards was named Women's Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News.
7) AUSTIN TOROS They don't play in Cedar Park; they don't play in Round Rock; they play right here in Downtown Austin, allowing fans an opportunity to hit Sixth Street (or Red River, if so inclined) after catching the Spurs' NBA D-League club in action.
8) JAMES KIRKLAND BATTLES HIMSELF It's been a tough year for local up-and-coming boxer Kirkland. The light middleweight champ should be fighting in front of national audiences on HBO but is currently serving time after being arrested April 19, 2009, for possession of a firearm by a felon (he was eventually sentenced to two years in prison).
9) AUSTIN AZTEX'S INAUGURAL SEASON See Nick Barbaro's "Soccer Watch" for more on the Aztex, but they were just too impressive in their first year to not make my Top 9 list.