The 100th boys’ basketball Sweet Sixteen ended as the first ever won by Bowling Green, a perennial power in the 4th Region that finally broke through as a senior-laden favorite.
Kaylee Tow was named Miss Softball, the first out of Madisonville, which won its first fast-pitch title the day before she was bestowed that honor.
Johnson Central’s dismantling of Franklin-Simpson in the Class 4A football finals was the school’s first team state title in any sport.
Fueled by the play of UK-bound seniors Anna Lee and Eva Mitchell, West Jessamine defeated five straight top-10 teams to win its first girls’ soccer championship.
Sensing a pattern here?
The 2016-17 school year was ripe with schools that basked in the title glow for the first time. Sure, the tried-and-true champions — like St. Xavier’s swim team, which kept alive a streak that’s older than I am with its 29th consecutive boys’ state title, or Pleasure Ridge Park, which last weekend won its sixth baseball title — had their say, but plenty of special moments were enjoyed by schools that before had never materialized.
Some other notable first-time achievements included:
▪ Cullan Brown’s three-stroke victory in the boys’ state golf championship brought the first state title in any sport to Lyon County, a small school in Western Kentucky that’s been part of the KHSAA since 1928.
▪ Mercer County checked a girls’ state basketball title off its bucket list thanks to a class of soon-to-be seniors who will be favored to defend their throne in 2018.
▪ Lexington Christian qualified for the 11th Region boys’ basketball tournament for the first time by knocking off Paul Laurence Dunbar, the defending state champions from the year before.
▪ Speaking of Dunbar: The school produced its first Mr. Basketball winner in Taveion Hollingsworth, a Western Kentucky University signee who was Lexington’s first recipient of the award in 33 years.
▪ Sayre made the 11th Region baseball finals for the first time in program history, capping a strong year in athletics for the school as a whole.
▪ UK signee Sarah Fite brought Mason County its first golf title with her victory in the girls’ state championship.
▪ After two overtime periods and eight rounds of shootout kicks, Daviess County emerged from the boys’ soccer finals with its first state championship on a goal by Tommy Booker, who had a potential game-winning header erased by a controversial call in the final 6.4 seconds of the first overtime period.
▪ Bryan Station’s Isaiah McCall became the first athlete to break 13.80 seconds in the state track-and-field 110-meter hurdles and broke a 42-year-old record with a 13.76 during the Class 3A championships.
▪ Michaela Reinhart repeated as the Class 2A cross country champion for Lexington Catholic and became the first Lexingtonian to win multiple Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the sport.
▪ Paris High School made big noise in the All “A” events, winning its first basketball championship and qualifying for the softball tournament for the first time in program history.
▪ Eighth-grader Olivia Gallagher became Scott County’s first girls’ singles champion in 11th Region tennis tournament history.
▪ Lafayette became the first Lexington public school to play in back-to-back football championship games. It fell both times — to Male in 2015 and Trinity in 2016 — but left a lasting impression on local football fans and produced several players — including Walker Wood and Jedrick Wills — who could make a big splash in college.
▪ The 2016 football finals yielded several other firsts: the first title for Christian Academy of Louisville; Belfry’s fourth title, making it the first eastern Kentucky school to win that many in a row; and Bowling Green becoming the first to score 70 points in a title game.
▪ Manual senior Yared Nuguse became the first Kentucky track athlete to sweep four distance events since the entire meet has been contested on one day. Nuguse, a Notre Dame signee, won the 3,200- 1,600- and 800-meter runs and anchored Manual’s first-place 3,200-meter relay team.
▪ Henry Clay’s volleyball team became the first public school to win a set in the finals of the state volleyball tournament, an event traditionally dominated by private schools.
▪ Marion County got into the 5th Region baseball finals for the first time and ended up making the state tournament semifinals. Muhlenberg County and Knox Central also played in the state tournament for the first time.
It wouldn’t be hard to rattle off dozens more first-time or first-in-a-long-time accomplishments from the 2016-17 school year. Each season offers a chance for hundreds of athletes to leave unique marks on our collective memory.
We should remember, too, that even the names we get used to hearing bring their own individual personalities to the table who are experiencing glory for the first time. It’s easy to grow weary of, say, Trinity winning football championships, but the players on last year’s title team were not the same as those on the 2014 team (or 2007, or 2003, or 1994, or...), and they deserve to be recognized for the work they put in as much as the kids playing for an up-and-coming contender.
So here’s to another entertaining mix of firsts and familiar in 2017-18. The drama produced by both is what keeps us coming back to the bleachers, after all.