Year in Review: Top sports stories of 2016
Packers boys soccer upsets Fargo Shanley for state title
Motivated by the injury of Mohamed Hamza, who was sent to the hospital for an injury suffered in a regular season game, the West Fargo boys soccer team didn't back down in the state tournament.
Coming out of the East Region as the No. 2 seed, the Packers carried an underdog mentality to make a state championship run and beat the East Region's top seed Fargo Shanley 2-1 on Saturday, Oct. 15, at Sid Cichy Stadium—Shanley's home stadium—for a state title.
The championship was West Fargo's third since 1995 and its fourth state title appearance since then.
The Packers hadn't beaten the Deacons in their two previous matchups. Shanley hadn't given up a goal to North Dakota opponents on its home field, including in the state tournament—until facing the Packers.
"This makes it all worthwhile," Packers head coach James Moe said after the win. "It's kind of a show of why we do things in the offseason. These guys, they brought it. That's all I can say."
Mustangs girls tennis breaks Grand Forks Red River's state title run
West Fargo Sheyenne girls tennis was a fairly new program facing a team in the state championship which had a title run longer than the Mustangs had played varsity.
But that didn't slow Sheyenne down.
On an eighth attempt at a game point, Sheyenne's Monti Knewton finished a down-to-the-wire 7-6 (4), 7-6 (7) victory over Grand Forks Red River's Shaelyn Johnson at No. 1 singles to give the Mustangs the state championship and end Red River's run on Thursday, May 26, at Choice Health and Fitness in Grand Forks.
"To think that she could come out and play the way did—with all that pressure—and there was so much pressure on these girls, that was great that they were able to do that," Sheyenne coach Chad Anderson said after the state championship. "I didn't know if it was ever possible for us to do this. I'm still in disbelief right now."
Sheyenne, which ended Red River's run of 203 consecutive dual victories a week earlier in the East Region final, became the first team besides the Roughriders to win the state team title since 2001.
"It was an amazing experience to see all those people watching," Knewtson said. "But it was also the most nerve-wracking. It was so nerve-wracking. But it was awesome to have all those people cheering."
Packers wrestling takes home five individual state titles
After totalling five state individual champions in 2015, West Fargo closed out the state wrestling tournament by sending a program record-tying five wrestlers to the top spot of the podium as state individual champions.
Sophomores Justin Harms (106) and Jared Franek (138) and juniors Jesse Shearer (182), Chase Teiken (195) and Brandon Metz (285) all won championships at the Fargodome during the conclusion of the state individual tournament. The Packers had six wrestlers in the finals and finished second in the team individual points race.
Franek, who also won the USA Wrestling Cadet Freestyle Nationals in July at the Fargodome, won his third state championship with a pin 2 minutes, 24 seconds into his 138-pound final. Harms secured a pin 38 seconds into the 106 final. Shearer, a North Dakota State commit who won his second career state title, scored a pin in the 182-pound final. Teiken, a Northern State football commit, recorded a 3-2 decision for his win.
Metz capped his perfect season with a major decision. Metz, who also won the the USA Wrestling Greco-Roman junior division in the summer at the Fargodome, is also committed to wrestle and play football for NDSU.
Packers softball continues state title dominance
No team other than the West Fargo Packers has ever won a Class A state softball title in North Dakota. The 2016 Packers kept it that way.
In a rematch of the 2015 state title game, the Packers defeated Dickinson 6-2 on Saturday, June 4, at Trapper Field in Jamestown. It was the 19th straight state title for West Fargo and eighth in a row since the sport was officially sanctioned by the North Dakota High School Activities Association in 2009.
The Packers only lost four times in 2016 and hardly gave the appearance they would in the championship. The Packers never trailed, scoring two runs in the first inning.
On top of her seven innings in the circle, where she allowed five hits with 10 strikeouts, Stephi Dullum also went 4-for-4 at the plate.
"There's a lot of pressure all the time because you see growing up every team winning and then when it's us out there you feel like you have to keep it going," said Dullum, who pitched all seven innings in the semifinal and championship games, after the championship. "Obviously, it's a lot of fun and we're excited, but there is relief in knowing that we kept it going."
Packers win individual state titles
Indoor or outdoor, it didn't matter for the West Fargo track and field teams. They were going to bring home state championship trophies.
West Fargo standouts Alex Talley, Kennedi Sand and Akealy Moton won Class A state championships at North Dakota State's Shelly Ellig Indoor Track and Field Facility on Friday, April 1, for the annual North Dakota Class A boys and girls indoor track and field state meet.
Sand won the 60-meter hurdles event by a narrow margin with a time of 9.693 seconds.
Moton won the shot put with a throw of 44 feet, 3 ¼ inches. Talley won the boys shot put with a throw of 55-9 — more than two feet better than next best mark.
The Packers kept it going into the outdoor season and had a field day Friday, May. 27, during the Class A state track and field meet in Bismarck. Moton won the shot put and javelin, Talley won the boys shot put, and Keely Walker took second in the girls shot.
Moton launched a winning throw of 47-1½ on her first preliminary throw in the shot. She tossed a 46-0½ on her second. Moton came back later to defend her title in the javelin with a throw of 145-1.
University of North Dakota-bound Walker heaved her best throw of the season of 44-9 to take second. Talley, meanwhile, tossed a 57-10½ to bring home the title in the boys shot. Talley also proved himself in the discus by throwing 162-6 to win his second title.
Sheyenne boys, girls soccer begins
As West Fargo High School and West Fargo Sheyenne continue to split off athletic programs, the number of rivalries between the two schools continues to grow.
Sheyenne boys and girls soccer started their own programs in 2016 and are of the last teams left to do so.
The Sheyenne girls soccer team tied the Packers and ended the season 4-8-2 in the EDC, but because the two teams tied in their first meeting and the Packers won in their second matchup, the Packers made the state tournament over the Mustangs.
"Being a new program, there is no such thing as a returning player really," Mustangs head coach Jack Hartley said before the season started. "Obviously the girls that have high school experience will be the ones to set a good example for the younger players. Their role in the team will be to set a high standard for this team and for the program that will last for years to come."
The Sheyenne boys soccer club ended the season 5-9-5 overall and 2-7-5 in the EDC. They gave eventual state champion West Fargo tough games and look forward to building for the future.
"Through the years, we want to get better every time," Sheyenne head coach Jon Melendez said before the season. "That's the most important thing instead of saying we're going to win (a certain) amount of games. I think we have to focus on development and building character for the kids."
Matt Strahm gets his chance in MLB
The Kansas City Royals recalled left-handed pitcher Matt Strahm from Class Double-A Northwest Arkansas, the team announced Sunday, July 31.
The West Fargo High School graduate ended the season with a 2-2 record in 21 games and 22 innings pitched. He allowed three earned runs on 13 hits with 11 walks and 13 strikeouts for a 1.23 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.
Strahm was a 21st-round draft pick of the Royals in the 2012 draft and was named a South Atlantic League All-Star (Single-A) in 2015.
The 25-year-old had a 3-8 record with a 3.43 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 102.1 innings with the Naturals in the Texas League. Strahm made 22 appearances, including 18 starts.
"The awe factor probably comes in an hour or so after the game when I realize what I've done," Strahm said earlier this year. "I'm playing a kids' game. I've still got those little-kid moments where it's like 'Wow, that was Joe Mauer. I just pitched against him in the seventh inning.' It's cool, but at the same time, it's my job."
Sheyenne baseball wins EDC, makes it to state title game in inaugural season
The West Fargo Sheyenne baseball team didn't wait long to start winning.
Going into their first ever East Region tournament as the No. 5 seed, the Mustangs kept winning on its way to a state championship appearance before losing to Dickinson.
No. 5 Sheyenne beat No. 4 Grand Forks Red River 4-0 to advance to the semifinals against Devils Lake, which the Mustangs beat 7-1. In the East Region championship, Sheyenne did just enough to grab a 1-0 conference championship win over Fargo Davies on Saturday, May 28. Andrew Enno hit a solo home run at Young Field in West Fargo and Brady Beyl pitched all seven innings, giving up three hits and two walks, while striking out two in the championship.
The Mustangs' goal was to just make the state tournament, but expectations changed quickly. Sheyenne defeated Williston 7-4 in the state quarterfinals and in-city rival West Fargo 10-3 in the semifinals to make the championship game. Dickinson defeated Sheyenne 8-1 in the state championship.
"Highly already exceeded our expectations," said Sheyenne coach Joel Swanson, who was previously 0-6 in EDC championship games, after the East Region title. "Our goal was to make a state tournament, but to come out as region champions has set a standard for these guys."
West Fargo claimed fourth place at the state tournament.
West Fargo youth baseball teams make national tournaments
From the high school varsity to the younger Babe Ruth teams, West Fargo saw plenty of baseball success. The West Fargo 13-year-old team and 15-year-old team both made their national tournaments in 2016.
Playing in Williston, the West Fargo 15-year-olds started the tournament with a 12-0 loss to Tallahassee, Fla on Saturday, Aug. 13. In West Fargo's second game, Atlantic Shore (N.J.) took a 6-2 win on Sunday, Aug. 14, after scoring three runs in the third and fifth innings. On Monday, Aug. 15, Lynn, Mass., beat West Fargo 10-0 after scoring six runs in the third inning, two in the fifth and one apiece in the second and sixth. Columbia Basin (Wash.) eliminated West Fargo with a 9-1 win on Tuesday, Aug. 16.
In the first game of pool play at the Babe Ruth World Series in Ottumwa, Iowa, West Fargo picked up an 8-3 win over the host team Ottumwa and a 6-2 win over Mifflin County (Pa.) on Saturday, Aug. 13. West Fargo remained undefeated with a 10-0 win over Eau Claire (Wis.) on Sunday, Aug. 14.
West Fargo took its first loss 9-8 against Waterford on Monday, Aug. 15. West Fargo scored eight runs in the top of the eighth to pick up a 9-5 win over Spokane (Wash.) on Tuesday, Aug. 16. On Wednesday, Aug. 17, Mifflin County (Pa.) used a three-run seventh inning to pick up a 7-6 win over West Fargo.
Sheyenne fourth, West Fargo sixth at national dance competition
The West Fargo Sheyenne Mustangs dance team put together a memorable performance and finished fourth in the varsity high-kick category at the Universal Dance Association Nationals competition in Orlando, Fla..
"It opens a whole bunch of new doors for us. We kind of exceeded our expectations," Mustangs dance coach Sasha Steichen said. "Our goal was just to make finals, and then once we got in, the girls were just determined to do the best that they could. ... We never in a million years expected to be top four."
The Mustangs edged out crosstown rival, the West Fargo Packatahnas, for the first time at a state or national level competition. The Packatahnas placed sixth in the varsity high-kick category. The Packatahnas finished third last year in the category. The Packatahnas finished fifth in the world pom competition for the first time and advanced to the semifinals in the medium jazz category.
"We went out for kick with two people in our routine that had never performed it before," Packatahnas head coach Jordan Jost said. "In the end, we placed sixth overall. We are happy we made it through."
Red River Valley Speedway comes back
What started out as just an idea became the revival of West Fargo's race track in 2016.
Nick Skalicky and Jake Bitker led the movement to get racing back to the Red River Valley Speedway in the summer of 2016 when Bitker and fair manager Bryan Schulz signed a contract to resume racing.
It had been more than three years, August 2012, since the last race was run at the track. For the three years prior to that, local business owner and former racer Danny Schatz leased the track but had quit.
The Red River Valley Speedway also announced Thursday, Dec. 8, the return of the World of Outlaws in 2017 for the first time since 2012. A deal will bring the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series to the speedway on June 17.
• West Fargo's Joe Beske takes runner-up at the boys state tennis tournament
• Sheyenne boys tennis team takes fourth at state tournament
• West Fargo girls hockey team makes run to state title game to take second
• West Fargo boys basketball team falls in overtime state championship game for runner-up
• West Fargo's Joe Pistorius breaks school's boys basketball single-game scoring record with 43 points
• West Fargo Sheyenne's Collin Trottier scores a school-record 45 points in a boys basketball game
• Akealy Moton breaks Packers all-time girls basketball scoring record
• Packers football team goes undefeated in the regular season
• West Fargo American Legion head baseball coach Bill Ibach resigns