Nominees For 2011 Sports Story Of The Year

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by Sportspress Northwest Staff

SportsPressNorthwest

Posted on January 23, 2012 at 6:01 AM

Updated Monday, Jan 23 at 6:01 AM

The 77th annual Sports Star of the Year awards program, presented by ROOT Sports, is 7 p.m. Wednesday at Benaroya Hall in downtown Seattle (200 University Street). Tickets are available at benaroyahall.org or by calling 206-215-4747.

Launched as the Man of the Year banquet in 1935 by late Seattle Post-Intelligencer sports editor Royal Brougham, the show grew into the P-I Sports Star of the Year program in the early 1990s, when the newspaper began recognizing the area's greatest female as well as male sports achievers.

Following closure in March 2009 of the print P-I, one of the region's top sports traditions was in jeopardy of ceasing.

But with the help of the Seattle Sports Commission and Seattle Children's Hospital, the Sports Star of the Year celebrated its 75th year on the big stage at Benaroya Hall in 2009.  More than 1,000 people attended.

The program calls for the selection by voters of the Professional Sports Star of the Year, the Male Sports Star of the Year, the Female Sports Star of the Year, and the Sports Story of the Year.

A winner will be selected these five nominees for the Sports Story of the Year. Voting closed Friday. EASTERN WASHINGTON WINS FCS TITLE Pundits laughed, jeered and pooh-poohed Eastern Washington’s decision to install bright red artificial turf at Roos Stadium in Cheney as a way to inspire Eagles players (and fans), labeling it a cheap knockoff of Boise State’s famous deep-blue fake sod.

But by the end of the Eagles’ first year “in the red,” nobody snickered at EWU. On Jan. 7, at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, TX., matched against the Delaware Blue Hens, Eastern Washington staged a remarkable rally to win the first Football Championship Subdivision title in school history. With Vice President and Delaware alum Joe Biden watching (he sat five yards behind Delaware’s bench) along with 13,026 others, Delaware roared to a 20-0 lead midway through the third quarter. By the time the Blue Hens had the 20-0 lead, the Eagles gained only 92 yards of total offense. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell, a Texas native who  started his college football career at Southern Methodist University, engineered three straight late touchdown drives, covering 80, 89 and 60 yards. Mitchell converted a fourth-and-8 on the second of those drives and needed two video replays to uphold a fourth-and-1 conversion a few plays before the winning touchdown, which came with 2:47 left. After that score, the Eagles made several big defensive stops, including a fourth-down stuff on Delaware’s final drive to seal the win. Mitchell was the Player of the Game after he threw for 302 yards and three second-half touchdowns. SEATTLE SEAHAWKS STUN SUPER BOWL CHAMPS The 2010 Seattle Seahawks made NFL history Jan. 2, 2011, when they defeated the St. Louis Rams at Qwest (now CenturyLink) Field 16-6 to become the first team to qualify for the playoffs with a losing (7-9) record. Numerous media pundits criticized the league’s system of determining postseason participants (three division winners plus a wild card), and declared the Seahawks wholly unfit for January.

But six days after beating the Rams, the Seahawks hosted the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints and put a thrilling 41-36 beating on them in a game punctuated by one of the most remarkable plays in Seahawks history, and one that earned a special place in playoff lore for Marshawn Lynch. The play: “17 Power.” Seattle had not used it all game, and there was nothing fancy about it. In fact, Lynch might never have escaped his own backfield if fullback Michael Robinson hadn’t slammed into LB Jonathan Vilma, creating space. Two yards into Lynch’s run, Saints LB Scott Shanie had a direct bead on Lynch, but Lynch made him whiff, for missed tackle No. 1. Five more yards and New Orleans DE Will Smith got both hands on Lynch’s hips, but couldn’t bring him down. Then Tracy Porter of the Saints tried to tackle Lynch high, with no success.

Darren Sharper made contact with Lynch eight yards into his run, to no avail. Saints CB Jabari Greer caught Lynch at midfield, but Lynch ran out of his grasp for missed tackle No. 5.

Porter caught up with Lynch again at the New Orleans 36 and tried to tackle him high, but Lynch delivered a stiff arm that sent Porter tumbling five yards. Missed tackle No. 6. When Lynch reached the Saints’ 16-yard line, DE Alex Brown dove at Lynch’s feet, but missed. No. 7. When Lynch reached the New Orleans two-yard line, safety Roman Harper dove and missed, whiff No. 8. Lynch ended his remarkable gallop by diving backward into the end zone as John Carlson, Matt Hasselbeck, Tyler Polumbus, Chris Spencer, Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu swarmed him. During the time of the run, the noise from Qwest Field was so loud that the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network registered it. At 67 yards, it marked the longest run of Lynch’s career by 11 yards and gave the Seahawks their first 100-yard rusher of the season.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS WIN U.S. OPEN CUP Seattle Sounders FC has yet to make much of a mark in the Major League Soccer playoffs, but when it comes to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the Sounders have few peers. On Oct. 5 at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders scored a decisive 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire in front of 35,615 fans, becoming the first side in more than 40 years to win the Open Cup three consecutive times.

The first half was marked by a frenetic pace that matched chaotic chanting from the record-setting crowd. The teams combined for 15 shots and 17 fouls. The half came to an emphatic end when Fredy Montero crushed a ball from the top of the box that got past Sean Johnson, but hit the post. The half ended 0-0. The torrid pace continued in the second half as Mike Fucito flicked a ball over Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson that looked destined for the far corner, but hit off the far post as three defenders gave chase. In the 77th minute, Montero got the breakthrough goal when Johnson parried out a firm header from Jeff Parke and Montero pounced to slot home the loose ball.

The Sounders wrapped up the Open Cup victory with a fine solo goal from Cuban Osvaldo Alonso as Seattle became the first team since New York club Greek American in 1969 to win the U.S’s national cup three times in succession. Retiring goalkeeper Kasey Keller contributed four saves in the clean-sheet victory. “Winning is winning. It never gets old,” said Keller, who will join the Sounders' broadcast team for the 2012 season. Added Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid: “Three in a row is a tremendous accomplishment and to be able to have two of them here at home . . . it's unbelievable. "I just can’t say enough about the guys. To win three in a row is something very special and very unique. "It hasn’t been done in a long time. Every time we enter a competition we want to win it." Victory in the Cup gave the Sounders, who open their 2012 Major League Soccer season in mid-March at CenturyLink Field, a place in the 2012 CONCACAF Champions League. USA WOMEN’S SOCCER MAKES WORLD CUP FINAL Former University of Washington goalkeeper Hope Solo, long a member of the U.S. National Women’s team, probably would have punched her ticket to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame had she and her teammates won the 2011 World Cup final July 18 in Frankfurt, Germany. They came so close. The U.S. twice had leads erased before falling to a spirited Japanese team 3-1 in a penalty-kick shootout.

The teams ended regulation time tied at 1, and each scored a goal in overtime to send the game into penalties. Alex Morgan put the U.S. ahead in the 69th minute, but Aya Miyama answered 10 minutes from the end of regulation to force overtime. Abby Wambach scored a trademark header in the 104th minute, and Japan once again found the equalizer when Golden Ball winner Homare Sawa had a magnificent touch that deflected off Wambach three minutes from the end of the extra session. In the penalty shootout, Japan goalkeeper Ayumi Kaihori made two outstanding saves and 20-year-old defender Saki Kumagai converted the game-winner to lift Japan to its first ever Women’s World Cup title. Solo, the 2008 Female Sports Star of the Year, and Stephanie Cox, an Oregon native and current Gig Harbor resident, both played prominent roles for the U.S. women as they romped through to the World Cup final, beating Korea 2-0, Colombia 3-0, Brazil 5-3 (pen.) and France 3-1 in the semis (with her start against France, Solo became the 27th American woman, and second goalkeeper, to reach 100 caps). Solo, who won a gold medal as part of the USA team at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, received a "Golden Glove” award as the best keeper in the World Cup and a “Bronze Ball” for her overall performance. UW MEN'S CREW ADDS TO ITS ROWING LORE No athletic program in the state can match, in longevity and success, the Husky rowing program. Washington added another thrilling chapter to its rowing lore June 4 in Cherry Hill, NJ., when the Huskies won both fours events, the second varsity eight and, most important, the varsity eight, giving UW its 14th national International Rowing Association championship in school history.

Washington delivered a dominating effort on the 2,000-meter course on the Cooper River. Despite entering the IRA as the No. 1 seed, the Huskies fell in the semifinals to Harvard, requiring that the Huskies race the varsity eight final in Lane 2, or away from the favored lanes of four and five, which went to Harvard and California. But in the IRA final, the Huskies aggressively pushed the tempo, taking the lead heading into the first 500 meters, with Brown in pursuit and Cal and Harvard following closely behind. UW seized control in the second 500, where Washington suddenly turned a slim lead into a boat length. Harvard, having moved into second place, picked up its rate. But Washington gradually increased its advantage, winning the national title with a time of 5:30.623. "We wanted to be champions this year," said UW coach Michael Callahan after winning his second national championship in his four years at Washington. "Everyone on the team was committed to that and you saw it in the fours and the eights." ------------------------------------------- The Seattle Sports Star of the Year awards program is at Benaroya Hall Wednesday. Created by Royal Brougham and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1936 and currently presented by the Seattle Sports Commission, the Star of the Year recognizes professional and amateur athletic achievement. Tickets are $35 (show only) and $75 (pre-show reception and show). Each can be purchased at benaroyahall.org or by calling 206-215-4747. The $75 ticket includes admission to the show and the reception where complimentary beverages, including beer and wine, and heavy appetizers will be provided. You can find more information here.

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