Coach's dismissal, athletes' feats highlight year
Controversy and heroics top the list of the biggest European high school sports stories of 2010.
The forced departure of Heidelberg’s Brad Shahan, who won 13 European championships as the Lions’ football and basketball coach, is the obvious No. 1. But don’t let that unpleasantness cloud a year of athletic accomplishment.
As always, there was plenty of that, led by Tiffany Heard’s assault on the DODDS-Europe track-and-field record book, the role of an obscure sixth man in toppling 10-time European cross country champion Ramstein and the continued excellence of the Kaiserslautern Lady Raiders’ track team, which stretches over 10 years.
Among the best of those feel-good stories was Mannheim’s quest for a Hollywood ending and the Bison’s first football title in the school’s final year of existence. That they didn’t quite make it doesn’t make the story any less appealing.
Here’s a capsule look at this writer’s top 10 stories of the calendar year:
1. Heidelberg drops its pilot:
Displeased by an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty against the winningest coach in school history, Heidelberg principal Kevin Brewer relieved Shahan of coaching duties just after Shahan guided the Lions to the European Division I football title on Nov. 6.
Heidelberg defeated Wiesbaden, 23-20 in double overtime, for Shahan’s latest crown at Heidelberg. Coincidentally, it was Wiesbaden that was involved in the dispute that led to Shahan’s departure.
Four weeks earlier, Shahan drew an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty when he refused, despite orders from the officials, to allow his team to take the field for a meaningless Wiesbaden conversion try in the final minute of a 59-12 Heidelberg victory. Game officials later ruled the game a Heidelberg forfeit, but protests by fans and parents prompted an official review by the school system. Administrators decided to rescind the forfeit on the grounds that any such ruling must come during the game, but did not expunge the penalty on Shahan.
Expecting to coach the Lions’ basketball team this winter, Shahan instead was left to reflect on the eight Division I crowns Heidelberg won since he took the basketball reins in 1992 and the five D-I football titles the Lions took home since Shahan (88-39 in 16 seasons) began running that program in 1995. Heidelberg earned an additional basketball crown in 2007 with Shahan suspended for disciplinary reasons. Volunteer Charles Wesley handled the bench duties that season; Shahan returned the following year to lead the Lions to their sixth D-I title of the decade.
2. Heard pulls off unheard-of double:
At Rüsselsheim, Germany, Ansbach hurdler Heard completed an unprecedented double in the European track and field championships. On the first day of the May 28-29 meet, Heard broke the 1989 record of Hahn’s Stephanie Powell, 45.69 seconds in the 300-meter low hurdles, with a time of 44.80. The following day, she lowered her school-system record in the 100-meter intermediate hurdles — 15.08, run on the same track the previous year — to 14.81.
“I feel like I achieved a goal,” Heard told Stars and Stripes reporter Jennifer Svan after setting her mark in the 300. “Hard work pays off.”
It was the first time since the drawdown of the mid-’90s, at least, that a performer has set two European records in the same championship meet. Isaiah Fluellen of Ramstein established European records in the 100, 200 and 400 in 2001, but they came in the divisional championships held the week before Europeans.
3. Mannheim football saves its best for last:
Quarterbacked by a converted cross-country runner and playing with the knowledge they would be the final football team in their closing school’s history, the Mannheim Bison advanced to the Division II championship game before falling 33-7 to two-time champion Bitburg on Nov. 6. The season equaled the Bison’s best since 1975. Mannheim had made just two title-game appearances in that 35-year span, falling to Baumholder 42-16 in the 1983 Big Schools finale, and 12-10 to defunct Nuernberg in the 1990 D-II title game.
4. Kaiserslautern girls stretch track title streak:
The Lady Raiders, led by a European record of 9 minutes, 48.43 seconds run by Marche’ Bobbs, Rio Shaune Harris, Colleen Davis and Amber Core in the 4x800-meter relay, won their 10th straight girls’ D-I title in the DODDS-Europe track and field championships.
5. Patch boys cross out Ramstein’s 10-title streak:
Ramstein’s favored boys had to put away the T-shirts that they had printed prior to the Oct. 30 European championships to mark their anticipated 11th consecutive D-I cross-country title when No. 11 was derailed by the narrowest of margins. When the 5,000-meter race at Schwetzingen ended, Patch and Ramstein were tied at 50 points. The championship was decided by the better time of the teams’ No. 6 runners, which proved to be 20th-place individual finisher Chris Brown of Patch. His 18-minute, 16.79-second time was more than half-a minute faster than Ramstein’s No. 6.
Ironically, the Ramstein girls defeated Patch in the same meet, allowing each school to complete the calendar year with a Division I-high five championships each, a figure matched only by Brussels in D-III.
6. SHAPE boys soccer team boots Heidelberg-Ramstein stranglehold:
Playing in Division I for the first time, the SHAPE boys, the 2009 D-II champions, completed their step up in status with a 2-0 title-game victory over International School of Brussels on May 22 at Ramstein Air Base. The finale marked the first time since 1986 that neither Heidelberg nor Ramstein had appeared in the final. Of the 15 D-I championship games that preceded this one, Heidelberg won 12 and Ramstein two. Lakenheath briefly interrupted the two Germany-based powers by defeating Ramstein in the 2007 title game.
7. English private school leaves its mark on gridiron:
Filton Sports Academy of Bristol, England, capped its first season in DODDS-Europe football with a conference title. Filton won its first five games and clinched the Division I-North crown, but the Britons, unused to the physical demands of playing a weekly schedule, ended their inaugural season with consecutive home losses to Ramstein, 13-9 in the final game of the regular season, and 29-21 to Wiesbaden in the European D-I semifinals.
8. Ankara boys win school’s first European title:
Luca Santini’s three goals lifted the Ankara Trojans to the European Division III soccer championship on May 22 with a 4-2 victory over Alconbury, the previous year’s D-IV champions. “When it went in,” the Milan, Italy, native said of his third goal, scored with around a minute to play, “I understood we were the champions.”
9. Aviano, Ramstein boys claim second consecutive hoops crowns:
Led by athletes of rare prowess, the Aviano Saints and Ramstein Royals turned Feb. 27 into repeat day at Mannheim. Jamal Tuck scored 23 points en route to winning the MVP vote, and fellow All-Europe selection Sean Outing added 16 as the Saints downed Hohenfels 49-38. Ramstein, behind its All-Europe backcourt of MVP Dillon Wadsack and European male athlete of the year Michael Wallace, turned back Heidelberg for the second straight year, 65-63 on Wadsack’s layup with 1.7 seconds to go.
10. Stars rise as Wiesbaden’s two-decade drought ends:
All-Europe players LeAmber Thomas, LeAndra Thomas and Ashley Smith led the way Feb. 27 as the Lady Warriors downed Kaiserslautern 37-32 for the school’s first European girls basketball championship since 1990. Tournament MVP LeAndra Thomas shrugged off a collision between the floor and her head to score 13 points in the title-winning victory, the school’s sixth of all-time.