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North Lake Tahoe Bonanza

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December 30, 2011
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Top 10 sports stories of 2011

Incline Village athletes made their hometown proud by running, skiing and golfing their way to multiple state championship titles in 2011.

The Bonanza narrowed down those many achievements into the top 10 sports stories of the year.

1. Lila Lapanja named to U.S. Ski Team

At 16, standout Incline Village alpine ski racer Lila Lapanja was named to the U.S. Ski Team's Development Team this past spring — an honor bestowed on only 10 women in the country. And she earned every bit of the prestigious promotion. After a successful 2010-11 season in which she earned a silver medal in slalom at the J2 National Championships and took third in the overall junior combined at U.S. Nationals, Lapanja carried that momentum into the U.S. Ski Team Women's Development Tryout Camp at Mammoth Mountain, where she wowed U.S. coaches with her well-rounded performance and character. “She's a very mature young athlete, she's very driven and she has some remarkable athleticism,” said Seth McCadam, head coach of the U.S. Ski Team's Development Team. “She's such a hard worker, that with her attributes, she is somebody we look at to have long-term success in alpine racing.”

2. Incline girls win third consecutive state cross-country title

There really was no stopping the Incline girls' cross-country team from bringing home a third straight state championship. The Highlanders were too good to be denied. Incline's heavily favored girls captured three of the top five places in the NIAA 2A state meet while all five of their scoring runners finished in the top 10 to run away with the three-peat. Senior Katie Cochran led the way, finishing second individually. Melanie Swick finished third, while teammates Chloe Dodge was fourth, Kate Ballan was ninth and Haley Kennedy was 10th to round out Incline's top five scores (the number used for the team result). The Highlanders were deep, too, as Sophia Mourelatos wasn't far behind in 13th, and Molly Franklin placed 16th to give the Incline girls seven top-20 finishes on the day — all of their competing runners. With such impressive individual performances, they easily won the state title with a low score of 28 points to runner-up Sage Ridge's 70.

3. JP Donovan outlasts competition to sweep Squaw Valley uphill races

Both winter and summer, JP Donovan owned Squaw Valley USA's uphill races in 2011. The 2005 Incline grad upset a strong field of Nordic skiers and snowshoers by racing to a first-place finish wearing running shoes in the 22nd annual Billy Dutton Uphill in April. He then backed up the performance by outdistancing an even deeper field of runners to win the 31st Annual Squaw Mountain Run in August. Both races cover 2,000 vertical feet in 3.2 miles to High Camp, at 8,200 feet. Donovan posted a winning time of 34 minutes and 39 seconds in the Billy Dutton Uphill to outdistance multi-time winner Tav Streit, who, racing on skis, finished runner-up in 35:50 (skiers hold a distinct advantage due to a gradual downhill slope to the finish line). In the Squaw Mountain Run, Donovan held off Galen Burrell of San Francisco to take the win in 29 minutes and 52 seconds to Burrell's 30:14. A total of 524 people participated in the run.

4. Marie Johnson represents USA in Whistler Cup

The United States sent its top three male and female ski racers ages 13-14 from each of the three regional race divisions to compete against the world's best J3 racers at the 19th annual Whistler Cup this past spring — and Marie Johnson of Incline Village was one of them. Johnson, a member the Squaw Valley Ski Team, competed among 25 participating nations and 95 girls total. “They are the best J3 ski racers in the country,” said USSA National Competition Director Walt Evans. Johnson finished 18th in the super G and 30th in the GS. She also helped lead Team USA to the win in the K2 (J3) Nation's Cup, also known as the Team Children's II title.

5. Grace Dolan wins slalom, GS and overall ski titles

Grace Dolan, a then-junior at Incline High, needed to be on her game to pull off a win in the Tahoe Basin League state championships at Sierra-at-Tahoe this past March. She was. Competing against a talented field that included some of the top Far West racers in the region, Dolan swept through the state championship races, winning both the slalom and giant slalom races to claim the overall title. “It was very impressive what she did,” said Incline head ski coach Joe Humasti. “The field that she was against was very competitive … She beat some of the top kids in the area.”

6. Incline girls win 2A track and field state championship

Not surprisingly, the same talented group of Incline girls that won the state cross-country title the previous fall — and would again for a third consecutive year this past November — used a balanced mix of speed and endurance to also win the NIAA 2A state track and field championship. The Incline girls won the state championship with a collective score of 121 points to runner-up Pershing County's 100.16. Katie Cochran and Chloe Dodge led the way, racing to individual state titles in their respective events. Cochran won the 800-meter run and was part of the Incline girls' winning 4x400 and 4x800 relays, while Dodge won the 3,200 and was part of the winning 4x800 relay. Among the relay teams, three of the four squads won titles, and the other one finished second.

7. Jordan Wright captures 2A state golf championship

Incline's Jordan Wright followed in the footsteps of his sister, Katie — who won four consecutive state titles between her freshman and senior years — when he won his first NIAA 2A state golf championship as a junior this past spring. The southpaw carded a 76 at Genoa Lakes Golf Course on Day 1 and a 73 at Edgewood-Tahoe on Day 2 to earn the 2A state title by two strokes, 149-151, over defending state champ Foster Kenton of Mineral County. And he did it in adverse conditions, as wind and rain greeted the state golfers on the first day of the tournament and blustery snow showers made for a chilly and difficult second day. “He's a true champion,” said longtime Incline golf coach Joe Humasti. “The kid comes through in pressure situations.”

8. Grace Dolan wins 2A state golf title

Simply put, Grace Dolan performs well in the clutch. Having already garnered multiple state titles in alpine skiing for the Highlanders, the Incline senior added another one when she captured the NIAA 2A state golf championship at Ruby View Golf Course in Elko this past October. Dolan posted a two-day score of 193, shooting a 94 on Day 1 and a 99 on Day 2. It was a difficult course, and conditions were poor at best, as rain on the first day and high winds on the second day challenged everyone in the field. “I was really feeling the pressure,” Dolan conceded, “I think even more so than skiing, actually. In skiing, you have like a minute going down the hill, but in golf you have like four and a half hours. It's definitely a mental game.” With the encouragement of coach Joe Humasti and her Incline teammates, Dolan pulled through for the win.

9. Tommy Dolan, Chip Bouchard climb baseball ranks

Never mind that there were only three months in 2011 when it did not snow in Lake Tahoe. Incline baseball players Chip Bouchard and Tommy Dolan represented the community as if it were sunny Southern California or Florida as the boys of summer. During the spring and summer Bouchard, now a junior at Incline High, was selected to play for the two-time defending NBC National Championship 18U team out of Denver, Colo., the Colorado Outlaws, while Dolan, an Incline freshman, was one of only 18 players from seven Western states selected to attend the Sept. 9-11 USA Baseball National Team Identification Series in Cary, N.C., which is used to whittle down the country's top regional players to form the USA National Team.

10. Incline boys' basketball team plays into 2A state championship

After Incline won the school's first NIAA state basketball championship in 20 years with a skilled cast of experienced seniors in 2010, some may have expected the Highlanders to stumble through a rebuilding year or two. Not so. With first-year head coach Brian Broaddus at the helm, the Highlanders — who lost eight seniors, and all five starters, to graduation — played deep into the state championship tournament before losing to a fresher Agassi Prep team in the title game. Incline upset top-seeded Needles, 67-65, on a dramatic, last-second shot by Bobby Thoms in the state semifinal. Worn down both physically and mentally from the emotional battle the night before, the Highlanders then found themselves on the losing end against Agassi Prep. The Highlanders finished the season 22-6 overall; they're already off to a 10-3 start to their 2011-12 campaign.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Dec 30, 2011 02:16PM Published Dec 30, 2011 02:09PM Copyright 2011 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.