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Top Manteca-area sports stories of 2012

Haapanen enjoyed career year as professional hammer thrower

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Top Manteca-area sports stories of 2012

Amy Haapanen trains for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials at Delta Junior College.

Photo contributed/

POSTED January 1, 2013 12:37 a.m.

Perhaps four years from now Amy Haapanen can replace her trademark pink top for red, white and blue garb.

Last summer, she came closer to realizing her dream.

The 28-year-old Mantecan and former multi-sport standout for East Union High leads off the area’s top sports stories in 2012. Like many others on this list, Haapanen fell short of her ultimate goal but achieved plenty just to get to where she ended up.

She went from All-American thrower at UC Santa Barbara to, as she’d put it, “starving professional athlete,” struggling to get sponsorships that help the elite performers stay at the top of their game in her sport.

Haapanen’s career took off this past year, both on and off the ring. On the hammer ring she consistently hit new personal records. Off the ring she garnered sponsorships and was able to raise money for training and the trip to the U.S. Olympic Team Track & Field Trials. She was even featured on local news channels in the days leading up to the event.

Haapanen performed well on the big stage of the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. on June 21. Her throw of 231 feet, 8 inches (70.63 meters) was good for fourth place and a new PR, but not quite good enough to earn a spot on the U.S. Olympic team. She fell 2 feet and 11 inches short of the requisite “A” standard, and she needed a top-three finish.

“I have to be proud of what I did,” she told the Bulletin that night. “I had never PR’d in a major championship meet, and I was able to do that under that pressure in front of a huge crowd.”

Perhaps four years from now, in Rio de Janeiro, she can do it in front of an even larger audience.

2. Brooks leads Thunder to NBA Finals

The Oklahoma City Thunder quickly emerged as a championship contender since relocating from Seattle. A Lathrop native and East Union product has played a big part in it.

Scott Brooks took over as head coach early in the 2008-09 season and the team went 23-59. The following year it qualified for the postseason, then advanced to the Western Conference finals the year after that.

Last year, OKC made it all the way to the NBA Finals, where it lost in five games to LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Even though Brooks and Co. were unsuccessful in annexing the franchise’s first title, he was rewarded after the season with a four-year extension worth more than $4 million annually.

The Thunder currently holds the league’s second best record at 24-6, just a half game behind the red-hot Los Angeles Clippers.

3: Malone goes Bowling

Nigel Malone, a 2008 graduate of Sierra, capped a decorated junior season for Kansas State in the 2012 Cotton Bowl on Jan. 5, 2012.

Nationally televised for all of his friends and family back home to see, Malone scored the Wildcats’ first two points by returning a blocked PAT. That made it 19-2, but Arkansas would hold on for a 29-16 victory.

Malone was a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which honors the nation’s top NCAA Division-I defensive back, and earned several All-America honors.

Look for No. 24 in another major bowl game this Thursday. Malone and No. 5-ranked Kansas State takes on No. 4 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, which will be televised at 5:30 p.m. on ESPN. Malone is one of five Wildcats to lead the team with five interceptions. His 13 pass deflections is a team high, and he also seventh on the squad with 47 tackles.

4. Ripon High football’s historic run

It was a “first time since” type season for the Indians (11-1), who completed an undefeated regular season for the first time since 1983, earned a league championship for the first time since 1996 and won a playoff game for the first time since 1997.

Adding to the legend of the 2012 team was how it found ways to escape the jaws of defeat against top Trans-Valley League rivals. No conference in the Sac-Joaquin Section had as many playoff qualifiers as the TVL, which advanced five.

Ripon’s campaign ended in the second round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV playoffs, where it fell 40-21 to eventual state champion Central Catholic. The Indians were down 17-0 after the first quarter but led 21-17 at halftime. They would end up being the only team in the postseason to truly challenge the mighty Raiders of Modesto, who throttled Santa Fe Christian 66-7 for their State Bowl title.

5. Sierra’s streak

It started on Dec. 6, 2011 in a nonleague home game against Ceres, and ended in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III championship game on March 2, 2012.

Sierra High’s boys basketball team made quality opponents look ordinary, and ordinary opponents look terrible during its amazing 26-game winning streak that led it to its second-ever appearance to an SJS final. The Timberwolves dominated the VOL for their third league title, winning 11 of their 14 games by comfortable double-digit margins.

The streak was punctuated in the SJS semifinals at Cosumnes River College, where Sierra throttled a talented Center squad, 67-50. The Timberwolves’ season, however, was cut short by two straight losses, first to Foothill (74-52) in the section finals, then to Miramonte (73-68, overtime) in NorCals.

6. Erin Arevalo, a four-time Manteca Bulletin All-Area Softball MVP during her outstanding prep years at East Union, was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association All-America third team after leading the University of Georgia to the NCAA Super Regionals. She went 27-9 with a 1.40 ERA and 270 strikeouts in 245 innings in one of the seasons ever put together by a Georgia pitcher.

7. Shakira Lewis always thought her future was in softball, but that changed after just one season on Sierra High’s track team. She shattered school records in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and became Sierra’s first female sprinter to advance to the state finals, where she placed eighth. It took Lewis mere months to parlay her natural talent into an NCAA Division-I scholarship with Fresno State.

8. Ripon High’s wrestling team enjoyed a banner 2011-12 season. After claiming its first TVL title in eight years, it went on to annex its first-ever SJS crown in the Division V playoffs by beating rival Escalon 39-35 in the finals. Freshman Brent White, the son of head coach Glen White, pinned J.T. Payan in the final match to clinch it for the Indians in dramatic fashion.

9. The Ripon-Ripon Christian volleyball rivalry reached unprecedented heights when they met in the second round of the SJS Division IV playoffs. After a dominating reign at D-V, RC moved up a division to make this first-ever postseason meeting between the rivals possible. Also making it possible was 11th-seeded Ripon’s first-round upset of No. 5 Summerville. After a spirited charge from Ripon at the start, RC won decisively in three games.

10. Manteca High’s cross country program almost completed a perfect sweep this past fall when it earned six VOL championships (varsity boys & girls, JV boys & girls, frosh-soph boys & girls). Sierra’s varsity boys forced a share of the crown in the VOL finals, so it didn’t all go to the Buffaloes. Still, it is impressive for a medium-sized school to have the depth to pull that off. The varsity boys and girls both finished fifth in the SJS Division III.

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