One of the yearly highlights of this job is going back through a year’s worth of The Observer issues to review all that happened in the local sports world over the past 12 months.
Every single time I do it, there always seems to be a couple of events or performances that I forgot about and reading about it or looking at a picture brings me right back to the moment.
That is how I know that 2019 was as memorable a year as any I’ve had here.
Because some of the things that I had forgot about this year were big things.
Now, you could chalk this up to forgetfulness. I am getting older and January 2019 was so long ago.
But the more likely answer is that this year had so many big events and moments that I couldn’t keep all of them in my memory.
This year alone:
Northeast had a high jumper win a second straight title at the unofficial indoor state meet.
Cal-Wheat and Central DeWitt had basketball players earn all-state honors.
The Cal-Wheat boys track team won event titles at two different conference meets.
And the Central DeWitt school board agreed to apply for membership in the Mississippi Athletic Conference (MAC).
Actually, those are just four things from March.
The year-that-was is filled to the brim with tidbits like this, not to mention a state runner-up baseball team, a Pro Bowl long snapper, a state champion relay, a New York Yankee, state bowling confusion and snow, way too much snow.
So, if you’re like me, this look back at 2019 will hopefully rekindle some memories of one of the wildest, winningest and memorable sports years in recent history.
Let’s get started, say… did I mention snow.
After giving winter sports team a relatively calm December, Mother Nature wreaks havoc in January, hammering the area with snow, high winds and cold temperatures.
As a result, 36 varsity games or meets are either cancelled or postponed.
The Calamus-Wheatland boys basketball team opens its 2019 by scoring 91 points — its most since the 2004-05 season in a 30-point rout of Central City.
Both the Warriors boys and girls close the month with a Homecoming sweep of Midland. It is the fourth win of the month for the Cal-Wheat girls, who go 7-3 after the calendar changes.
The Central DeWitt boys basketball team opens its new year with a 75-72 victory over Marion. The Sabers would sweep the state-bound Indians, winning the rematch on the first day of February.
Wrestling in his home tournament for the final time senior Aaron Schoon wins a Northeast Invitational title at 170 pounds.
Central DeWitt sophomore Keaton Zeimet, meanwhile, closes January by winning his second straight WaMaC championship at 106 pounds.
DeWitt-native and Central DeWitt alum Casey Kreiter wraps up his third season as long snapper for the Denver Broncos with a trip to the 2019 NFL Pro Bowl in Orlando.
Kreiter is the first long snapper in Broncos’ history to be selected to the game.
All three area girls basketball teams find postseason success. Northeast bounces North Cedar in a regional quarterfinal, while Calamus-Wheatland routs Cedar Valley Christian and then goes on the road to upset Easton Valley.
The upstart Central DeWitt girls basketball team, meanwhile, earns its 16th victory — the program’s most since the 2010-11 season — by topping Dubuque Wahlert to advance to a 4A regional final.
The Calamus-Wheatland boys basketball team earns a share of its second-straight Tri-Rivers East title with a rout of Marquette Catholic.
The Central DeWitt girls bowling team has its own conference success, finishing second at the WaMaC meet behind a fifth-place individual finish from sophomore Kimberly Hendricks.
The Sabers boys finish fifth at the WaMaC meet, but are at their best later in the month, winning the 1A state-qualifier with a season-best score of 3,087, to become the first boys team in program history to qualify for state.
Behind a sixth-place series by senior Kyle Fox — who earns the program’s first state medal — Central DeWitt finishes fourth at the 1A state bowling meet.
Confusion reigns at the state meet as Durant and Central DeWitt are both briefly awarded the third-place trophy before the Sabers’ fourth-place finish is finalized.
Both the Central DeWitt and Northeast wrestling teams qualify three grapplers for the district meet. It is the most qualifiers in seven years for the Rebels.
The Sabers’ Keaton Zeimet returns to the state meet and reaches the state semifinals at 106 pounds before clinching a third-place medal with a first-period fall against the bracket’s second-seeded wrestler. It is Central DeWitt’s top state finish since 2002.
Calamus-Wheatland senior Hunter Rickels and Central DeWitt freshman Taylor Veach are honored for their play on the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association all-state basketball teams.
The Central DeWitt school board unanimously approves the first steps of a conference switch from the WaMaC to the MAC.
Central DeWitt applies to become the 10th school in the MAC and is accepted by the primarily 4A-sized league in April, while a vote by the WaMaC allows to begin MAC play in fall 2020.
Area track athletes and teams shine during the indoor season. Northeast senior Braeden Hoyer successfully defended his high jump title at the Dickinson Relays — the unofficial state indoor meet.
The Calamus-Wheatland boys track team, meanwhile, wins two events at the WaMaC Conference Indoor meet and a week later wins eight of 13 events at its own Tri-Rivers Conference Indoor.
The Central DeWitt girls track team heads outside at the end of March and brings home a team title at the Clinton Early Bird meet. The Sabers break a 90-90 tie by finishing ahead of North Scott in the 4x400 relay, the night’s final event.
The Sabers girls keep winning in April. Central DeWitt forces a tie atop the team standings by winning the final two events at the Davenport Ladies Classic and then holds off Northeast to win its fourth straight Clinton Invitational title.
The Northeast boys track team has its own big month, winning team titles at Beckman Catholic, Clinton and Camanche as well as its own Healy-Mattis Relays.
Rebels senior Braeden Hoyer, meanwhile, matches a career-best by clearing 6-9 at the Drake Relays. A tiebreaker is needed to determine Hoyer’s runner-up finish (Sibley-Ocheyedan’s Grant Brouwer cleared 6-9 on his second attempt).
Northeast freshman Ellie Rickertsen earns her own top-eight finish at Drake, qualifying for the finals in the 100-meter hurdles and finishing seventh overall.
The Central DeWitt boys and girls golf teams sweep the team titles at their respective WaMaC East meets, producing the two medalists — Dylan McAleer for the boys, Kara Duffy for the girls — in the process.
Along with their divisional success, the Sabers also shine in 18-hole meets during the month. The Central DeWitt boys win their home Saber Invitational by 30 strokes and set a scoring record at the Solon Invitational, while the girls win the Maquoketa Invitational.
The Calamus-Wheatland girls golf team has two individuals shine. Senior Isabelle Kerr is the medalist at the Tri-Rivers Conference meet at Wyoming, while junior Addison Luepker advances to the 1A regional final meet after finishing fourth on her home course.
Setting the stage for bigger things to come, the Calamus-Wheatland boys and Northeast girls bring home team titles at their respective state-qualifying meets.
The Warriors lead the way at the state meet, too, scoring in seven different events to finish third overall in Class 1A.
The highlight of Cal-Wheat’s weekend is a state championship in the distance medley as the quartet of Raymond Venditti, Tyler Rowold, Hunter Rickels and Chase Knoche sets a new school record — by four seconds — with a time of 3:34.47. It is the second-ever relay title for Calamus-Wheatland.
Rickels adds a runner-up finish in the long jump, while Knoche collects four state medals and Venditti three.
Central DeWitt sophomore Talbot Kinney adds her own runner-up in the 3A discus breaking her own school record in the event with a throw of 126-10. Fellow sophomore Kaiden Muhl is eighth in the long jump for the Sabers boys.
Northeast senior Braeden Hoyer matches his second-place finish at Drake by earning a runner-up finish in the 2A high jump. The Rebels place in six events.
Including both of the individual hurdle events, as junior Grant Rickertsen is fourth in the 400-meter hurdles and eighth in the 110-meter hurdles.
Northeast freshman Ellie Rickertsen accomplishes the same feat, finishing third in both the 400- and 100-meter hurdle races for the Rebels girls.
The Central DeWitt boys and girls golf teams finish the month with state dates.
The Sabers boys win both sectional and district titles and are in fourth after day one of state action before early morning storms make the day-one results stand.
The Central DeWitt girls also have to deal with bad weather at the beginning and end of their first day. In fact, storms end the first day early, forcing the Sabers — who finished ninth overall — and other squads to play more than 18 holes on day two.
The Central DeWitt boys soccer team blanks three straight foes, including a 3-0 victory over Mount Vernon in first round of substate action.
It proves to be a special night on the mound for the Calamus-Wheatland baseball team. Senior Max Hansen throws a no-hitter in the first game of a doubleheader with Marquette Catholic, while junior Caleb Banowetz follows with a perfect game as the Warriors win matching 17-0 games.
Former Central DeWitt standout T.J. Sikkema receives the call of a lifetime as he is selected by the New York Yankees with the 38th overall pick in the MLB draft.
Coming off a junior season at the University of Missouri in which he earned All-America honors, Sikkema signs with the Yankees and makes his minor league debut for the Staten Island Yankees on June 29.
The Calamus-Wheatland and Northeast softball teams light up the scoreboard at the Cal-Wheat Invitational. The Warriors and Rebels combine for 80 runs, while going 3-0 and 2-1, respectively.
The Warriors nearly get halfway to 80 in a 31-16 victory over East Buchanan. Not to be outdone, Cal-Wheat junior Caleb Banowetz hits five home runs during the Warriors boys doubleheader going on at the same time.
Both Warriors squads spend a Thursday doubleheader against Lisbon decked out in purple in honor of Chris Forret, who passed away just days earlier.
Both Central DeWitt summer teams have lengthy winning streaks.
The Sabers baseball team finishes a perfect 17-0 in the month and will win its first 25 games of the season.
The softball team wins eight straight games in the month and finishes the month with a key doubleheader sweep of Mount Vernon.
Four new champions highlight the 32nd edition of the Paul Skeffington Memorial Race. Two-mile winners Seth Beuthien and Madison Geffers improve on top-three finishes from the year before, while Eli Kaczinski and Adrienne Theisen win the five-mile races.
The Northeast baseball team packs 30 hits, a rain delay and an opponent, Denison-Schleswig, whose home is 250 miles away into one wild night at Cornell College in Mount Vernon.
The Calamus-Wheatland baseball, Central DeWitt baseball and Central DeWitt softball teams all clinch conference titles on the same night.
The Warriors — who set the program’s wins record earlier in the month — sweeps Prince of Peace to finish 25-1 in Tri-Rivers play.
Both Sabers squads, meanwhile, sweep Clear Creek-Amana. The baseball team’s 24-1 conference mark is the best by a WaMaC squad since 2011 and gives Central DeWitt its first WaMaC title.
The softball team’s sweep of the Clippers, meanwhile, gives them an 18-5 mark and finishes a remarkable climb for a squad that did not win any WaMaC East games in 2017.
All three teams advance within a game of state. The Warriors — who finish with 33 wins and a district title — and Sabers softball come up short, but the Sabers baseball team win a district crown after a 16-inning marathon against West Delaware and then top Dubuque Wahlert, 3-2, to advance to the state tournament for a third time.
Once there, the Sabers make quick work of Centerville, the reigning 2A champion, routing the Big Reds, 11-1, in just five innings.
The win over the Big Reds extends the Sabers’ season into August and Central DeWitt does not stop there.
Instead, the Sabers knock off their second straight reigning state champion, using 11 strikeouts from junior Alex McAleer, to dispatch Davenport Assumption, 4-1, and advance to their first-ever state final.
The Sabers — and their area-record 38 victories — ultimately succumb to top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier’s hard-hitting lineup, as the Saints pile up 12 hits in an 8-1 win.
Sabers senior catcher Garrett Finley is named captain of the 3A Iowa Print Sports Writers Association all-state baseball team where he is joined by teammates Lucas Bixby and Alex McAleer. A fourth Saber, Devin Hurdle, is named all-state by the state’s coaches, while Cal-Wheat players Caleb Banowetz and Hunter Rickels also earn all-state honors.
Three sets of softball teammates — Cal-Wheat’s Grace Elvert and Alison Boeckmann, Central DeWitt’s Kenzie Rosenboom and Mya Cavanagh and Northeast’s Bree Mangelsen and Neveah Hildebrandt — earn their own all-state honors.
Familiar faces repeat as champions at the Crossroads Triathlon with Matt Jackson winning his second straight men’s title and Amy Mundisev — the 2017 champion — leading the way among the women competitors.
An expanded field, meanwhile, means even more young faces flooding the DeWitt Fitness Center for the second edition of the Crossroads Youth Triathlon.
Area athletes looking for another area race have an opportunity to head to Goose Lake for the return of the Rebel Run-Walk.
The Central DeWitt girls cross country team open and close the month with strong performances. Senior Carly Small wins the Schoolhouse Open and also helps the Sabers repeat as champions at the Bill Bails Invitational.
The Sabers’ latter title is part of a championship sweep for the area as the Northeast boys win the boys titles behind a first-place finish from senior Andrew Hilgendorf.
The Calamus-Wheatland boys cross country team spends a lot of the month trying to get its full team healthy, and a fully-healthy Warriors show what they can do by winning the team title at the Comet Invitational in Bellevue.
The Central DeWitt and Northeast football teams send their fans home happy on homecoming. The Sabers score the only points of the second half to rally by Dubuque Wahlert and, a week later, the Rebels outgain Alburnett, 310-128, in a 27-0 shutout.
Northeast also takes part in the LumberBowl — a special football doubleheder held at the home of the Clinton LumberKings.
The Calamus-Wheatland volleyball team had two sets go past the usual 25-point threshold and went the full five games with Cedar Valley Christian before coming up with a victory.
Area cross country teams shine in conference action. The Calamus-Wheatland boys produce the first-, second-, and third-place finishers en route to their fourth straight Tri-Rivers Conference title, while the Central DeWitt girls place fourth at the WaMaC Conference meet — its best finish since 2007.
The Warriors boys ride the momentum of their conference title to win the 1A state-qualifying meet for a second straight year.
Also punching tickets to state are Central DeWitt senior Carly Small and a trio of Rebels — Andrew Hilgendorf, Thomas Machande and Cenady Soenksen.
The area’s two football teams hit the road for victories. The Sabers rack up 457 total yards in a 52-14 rout of Clinton, while the Rebels score 32 points after halftime in a 39-28 comeback victory over North Cedar.
Both football teams buck their recent offensive trends. The Sabers pass for a school record 1,352 yards, while the Rebels amass over 1,000 rushing yards for the first time since 2011.
The Calamus-Wheatland boys cross country team takes third place at the state cross country meet by the slimmest of margins.
Behind a 10th-place finish from junior Chase Knoche and four runners in the top 35, the Warriors hold off Earlham by a single point (118-119).
Joining Knoche as a state medalist is Northeast senior Andrew Hilgendorf, who finishes 12th in class 2A with a personal-best time of 16:44.
November also marks the beginning of the girls basketball season and the Central DeWitt girls waste no time making their mark, erupting for 83 points in their season-opener.
Behind their second-year head coaches, the Central DeWitt boys and girls basketball teams enter winter break with a combined 13-1 record.
The Northeast basketball teams also make noise under new coaches. The Rebels boys win their first three games to enter the state rankings, while the girls finish the 2019 portion of their schedule with three wins, including a rout of Camanche during their annual Pink-Out game.
The Calamus-Wheatland basketball teams earn their second homecoming victories of 2019, sweeping Starmont.
Despite being one of the few 1A schools in attendance, the Central DeWitt girls bowling team reaches the final of the Cedar Rapids Prairie Baker tournament for a second straight year.
Central DeWitt senior Keaton Zeimet picks up where he left off after a third-place state finish. The 113-pounder starts 18-0 and wins his third straight Saber Invite title, while also becoming the 12th Saber to reach 100 victories.
Also, wrestling to a title at the Saber Invite is Northeast senior Ty Schmidt, who claims a pair of tournament titles in December.