Following is a list of the area’s top sports stories in 2012, as selected by OST sports editor Scott Vicker.
• 1 — Record-breaking heartbreaker
The Murray football team entered the 2012 season with high hopes after finishing runner-up in Eight-Man during the 2011 season.
The Mustangs delivered, finishing with an undefeated regular season — the first in school history — while making their way back to the UNI Dome for the Eight-Man quarterfinals.
What ensued was one of, if not the craziest games in state playoff history, as the Mustangs fell to Gilbertville Don Bosco in a wild overtime game, 78-76.
The game was the highest-scoring game in Iowa High School Athletic Association playoff football history.
Senior quarterback Austin Halls’ pass to Sam Rockhold on a 2-point conversion was knocked away at the last second, giving Don Bosco the win in a game that lasted more than three hours.
Murray ended the season 12-1, marking the second-straight season the Mustangs finished the season with 12 wins. Those are the only two such occurrences in school history.
Halls was rewarded for his stellar season by being named to the Des Moines Register all-state elite team as a defensive back, as well as being named first-team all-state as a defensive back by the Iowa Newspaper Association. The INA also named Halls captain of the Eight-Man all-state team.
Receiver Cody Scroggie also made the INA first-team all-state team for the second straight year, after amassing 48 receptions for 976 yards and 17 touchdowns despite missing three games.
• 2 — Pate wins state
Clarke’s Sarah Pate dominated the field in the Class 2A shot put at the state track meet, winning the event by 8.50 inches over second place, capping off a stellar junior season in the throwing circle.
Pate also placed fourth at the 2012 Drake Relays in the shot put.
It was Pate’s second throw of the state track meet that launched her into the lead, as she unleashed a throw of 40 feet, 10.25 inches.
Pate, who had won the 2011 Drake Relays shot put title as a sophomore, claimed her first state championship.
Fellow South Central Conference competitors Nicole Harnisch of Eddyville-Blakesburg and Kate Birchmier of Davis County finished sixth and eighth in the event, respectively.
Pate followed up her gold-medal throw in the shot put by placing seventh in the discus with a toss of 125-02.
On the boys side for Clarke, Logan Weers capped off his junior campaign by finishing fifth in the 110 high hurdles and sixth in the 100 meter dash.
• 3 — Clarke softball falls just short of second trip to state
The Clarke softball team closed out the 2012 regular season on a 17-game winning streak, finishing the season 26-5.
The Lady Indians, under the direction of head coach Lindsay Diehl, won the South Central Conference championship.
The team had the state tournament in its sights, advancing to the regional final where Clarke held an early lead against Mid-Prairie before falling 12-6.
A win would have given the Lady Indians their first trip to the state tournament since the state championship season of 1995.
After defeating Albia and Centerville in regional play, Clarke took a 19-game winning streak into its game against Mid-Prairie.
Clarke took a 5-0 lead into the bottom of the third inning against Mid-Prairie, but the Golden Hawks exploded for eight runs in the third inning to pave the way for the 12-6 win over Clarke.
The Lady Indians finished the season with a 28-6 mark.
• 4 — Clarke girls tennis breaks records
The special record-breaking season for the Clarke girls tennis team started off when senior Kelli Ehrhardt surpassed Kayla Utley as the program’s all-time wins leader.
Ehrhardt broke the wins record on April 20.
Then, on May 7, the Lady Indians became the first team in South Central Conference history to place all six girls on the all-conference team, becoming the first team in conference history to post a perfect score.
The team became the first team in Clarke school history to ever qualify for the state tennis tournament.
Clarke also broke the school wins record for a single season, finishing with a team mark of 13-1.
Ehrhardt and junior Kylar McCann qualified for the state doubles tournament, becoming the first pair in school history to win a match at the state tournament.
Ehrhardt and McCann finished sixth.
• 5 — Gilbert first-team, Diveney third-team all-state
Despite missing the final game of the season and not having the same rushing numbers as others in consideration for the spot, Central Decatur senior Dalton Gilbert was named to the INA Class 1A first-team all-state as a running back.
It marked the second straight year Gilbert made the first team, after making the defensive team as a junior at linebacker. Gilbert also made the 2012 Des Moines Register Class 1A all-state team as a linebacker on the first team.
Gilbert ran for 1,373 yards and 14 touchdowns on 138 attempts, averaging 9.9 yards per carry. He also averaged 38.1 yards per kickoff return, and ran back both punt returns he took this year for touchdowns — 66 yards and 50 yards.
Gilbert also passed 12-27 for 147 yards and four touchdowns, stepping into the quarterback position at times after senior Austin Wells went down with a leg injury.
Clarke junior Dylan Diveney was selected to the INA Class 2A third-team as a wide receiver.
The 6-3, 170-pound receiver was the only one of the nine receivers or ends selected to the Class 2A all-state team who returns next year.
Diveney ranked ninth in Class 2A in receiving yards, racking up 718 yards on 30 catches. Among the top nine in receiving yardage, Diveney had the best yards per catch average at 23.9 yards. He also hauled in eight touchdowns, with a long of 75 yards.
• 6 — Lady Indians win second consecutive SCC title
The 2011-12 Clarke girls basketball team finished the year 17-4 and won its second consecutive South Central Conference championship.
The Lady Indians led eighth-ranked Panorama after the first quarter of play in the regionals, but fell 56-34 to end their season.
Clarke went undefeated in conference play, and graduated just one senior from the team.
• 7 — Murray boys win Bluegrass, stopped short of state bid
The Murray boys basketball team faced a similar fate as the Clarke girls in the 2011-12 season.
The Mustangs won the Bluegrass Conference, finishing the year with an overall record of 22-2.
After starting the season with a six-point loss at Mount Ayr, the Mustangs reeled off 22-straight wins before falling to eventual fourth-place finisher Nodaway Valley, 69-60, in the district final.
Among the highlights for the Mustangs were four wins over conference rival Lamoni.
Murray graduated just two seniors from its 22-2 squad.
• 8 — Beeler ends I-35 career
Maddie Beeler didn’t end her career with the medal she wanted, but was happy with how she ended her career — with a personal best time.
Beeler entered the 2012 state track meet looking for a state championship in the Class 2A 400 meter dash.
And, for much of the race, it looked like Beeler was going to accomplish that goal.
But, she got outleaned at the line by Western Christian Hull’s Brooke Wolterstorff. Beeler ran 56.67 compared to Wolterstorff’s 56.56.
Beeler later finished second to Wolterstorff again, this time in the 200 meter dash finals. She also anchored the Roadrunner sprint medley relay team to a third-place finish. Other members of that relay team were Jenna Sandquist, Staci Morris and Natalie Johnson.
In that relay, Beeler split a 55.5 on the anchor leg to bring the Roadrunners from last place to third place.
Beeler also ran on the seventh-place 4x400 relay team that included Maddie Albers, Allison Schultz and Ellen Lupkes.
After finishing her high school career, Beeler is continuing her track and field career at the University of Northern Iowa.
• 9 — Kline leads Clarke to best football season in recent years
First-year head coach Michael Kline came into the 2012 football season thinking three wins would be a successful season fro Clarke, given the team’s recent history.
Turns out, Kline achieved that goal and reinvigorated interest in the program.
The Indians started the season out with three straight wins right out of the gate, before going winless in Class 2A District 7 play.
Clarke won at Clarinda Academy 20-6, at home against Class 1A playoff qualifier West Central Valley 33-26 and on the road against Saydel 14-6.
Dylan Diveney was the standout for the Indians. Along with earning third-team all-state honors by the INA, Diveney also broke the school records for single season touchdowns, single season receiving yards and career touchdowns — and he had clipped those marks after just six games.
The Indians return a wealth of experience for the 2013 season.
• 10 — Area basketball teams enter 2013 poised for big seasons
By the time the holiday break rolled around, several area basketball teams were harboring hopes of conference championships and state berths.
The Murray boys enter the 2013 portion of its schedule with an 8-0 record and a fifth-place ranking in Class 1A by the Associated Press.
Senior Austin Halls is on pace to score his 2,000th career point in the Mustangs’ first game back after the break, today at Orient-Macksburg. Meanwhile, Murray has hopes of its first state tournament appearance since the 1930s.
Meanwhile, after losing the first two games of the season, the Interstate 35 boys have gone 5-0 since then — all in conference games — to enter the break as the only Pride of Iowa Conference team other than No. 1-ranked Nodaway Valley to hold an undefeated conference record.
The Central Decatur girls enter the 2013 portion of its schedule with a 7-2 overall record and a 4-1 mark in the POI. The Cardinals still have a game against top-ranked and undefeated Bedford, with a chance to make up a game on the Bulldogs.
And the Clarke girls start 2013 with a 6-2 overall record and a 3-1 mark in the South Central Conference.
Clarke hosts Davis County on Friday in a big game for conference positioning, as the Lady Indians look for their third consecutive South Central Conference championship.