Cabral’s World Cup globe tops 2003
December 31, 2003
By Steve Yingling
Tribune sports editor
Breaking into the South Shore’s top-10 list of sports stories for 2003 wasn’t an easy task, not after freestyle skier Travis Cabral and Alpine speed skier Jonna Mendes took their success to a world level.
Cabral, starting the season on the U.S.’s C team, won the opening World Cup event and two others to capture the men’s moguls overall title. He wrapped up the championship by winning the final event in Voss, Norway, to edge Canadian Pierre-Alexandre Rousseau by 12 points.
“This was a goal and Worlds was, too,” said Cabral, whose first experience with skiing came in cross country at age 3. “My ultimate goal, of course, is to do it and the Olympics and I’ve got a few years to get used to (being a contender).”
Cabral, now 20, succeeded American Jeremy Bloom as overall champion.
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“Jeremy told me it’d be a big feeling and it is,” Cabral said.
The three World Cup victories and overall title made Cabral the Tahoe Daily Tribune’s obvious choice for sports story of the year.
Mendes a close second
2.) Not far behind Cabral’s ski tails was Mendes, the Heavenly Foundation skiing product.
Chasing a World Cup podium since 1996 and 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years, Mendes achieved something even better in February, earning a bronze medal at the World Alpine Championships.
Mendes pulled off a stunning performance in super-G as only .15 of a second separated the top three racers in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
“This is the best day of our lives!” Mendes told U.S. Ski Association officials, speaking for teammate Kirsten Clark, who finished runner-up to Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister.
Mendes recorded the fastest split times until slowing a bit on the bottom of the course.
She enjoyed the life a celebrity during the remainder of her stay in St. Moritz. She appeared on Austrian TV, was besieged by skiing fans at the USA House, got used to children chanting “Jonna Mendes” in the racing area and learned that she couldn’t go into a restaurant any longer without being recognized.
“I went to pick up some pizza for my ski technician and the waiter recognized me and the whole wait staff came out of the kitchen to shake my hand,” she said. “I keep pinching myself and thinking that this really can’t be true, but it is!”
Several days later, Mendes nearly stepped onto the podium again, finishing fifth in downhill.
Her remarkable 2003 season included six World Cup top-10 finishes.
Area soccer fans won’t soon forget the 2003 South Tahoe High boys’ team.
Denied an undefeated season with a state semifinal loss to Centennial in 2002, the Vikings vowed to complete the feat a year later.
Only a nonleague tie with North Tahoe early in the season prevented the Vikings from a perfect campaign. They ripped through league opponents as if they were playing JV teams.
An attacking ball-control offense and an unyielding defense were a combination that most teams wilted against. South Tahoe only surrendered a staggering six goals while compiling a 22-0-1 record. A shutout of Valley in the semifinals and 2-0 payback defeat of Centennial in the finals were the Vikings’ 17th and 18th shutouts.
Senior Tim Head led the stingy defense, while seniors Leon Abravanel, Alex Torres, Victor Mariscal and Enrique Avina put relentless pressure on opposing goalies.
“Our seniors have put in hard work for four years and now it’s paid off,” Abravanel said. “I didn’t want to leave here without winning a state championship.”
The Vikings’ incredible season received national attention as Joe Winters’ boys became the second STHS team to receive a national ranking. Winters’ team equalled Tom Orlich’s 1991-92 boys’ basketball team by earning a No. 19 national ranking.
From one of the worst to one of the best
4.) In a normal year, the South Tahoe High football team would have run away with No. 1 honors.
What Todd McIntyre’s squad overcame from previous seasons to end the school’s longest losing streak at 20 games is nothing short of a movie script.
Starting camp with their fifth head coach in four years and two years removed from a mass defection of players, a solid group of JV athletes from 2002 combined with an underrated collection of seniors to catch most of Northern Nevada sleeping.
After blowing a 17-point lead to Bishop in their opener, the Vikings pounded Reed 35-7 in Sparks to put the noxious losing streak, which spanned four seasons, to rest.
But that glorious victory became a footnote in what will now be recognized as one of STHS’s best football seasons ever. The Vikings went on to finish runner-up to undefeated Douglas in the Sierra Division, using a final-minute touchdown pass by Mikey Van Gorden to sneak past Hug 21-14 late in the season.
McIntyre idled back a wide-open passing offense in midseason and made extensive use of senior running back Grant Swinney to run teams into the ground. Swinney wound up winning the league rushing title, rushing for a school-record 2,054 yards.
Despite their playoff inexperience, the Vikings adapted to the postseason quickly, defeating Elko at home to set up a rematch with Reno in the regional semifinals.
South Tahoe shocked Reno 21-20 on Swinney’s fourth-quarter touchdown run in the division opener, but the Huskies had a stellar back of their own to counter with in the rematch.
With Conor Martin, a transfer from Southern California, rushing for 243 yards and three touchdowns, the Huskies outlasted the Vikings 21-14 on a snowy afternoon in South Lake Tahoe.
The Vikings finished 7-4, while the Huskies went on to capture regional and state championships.
“I know everybody in this league can’t believe the things these guys accomplished,” McIntyre said.
Move over Palmer
5.) With three-time boardercross gold medalist Shaun Palmer retired, Jimi Tomer kept South Shore snowboarders near the top at the Winter X Games VII in Aspen, Colo.
Tomer captured a bronze medal in slopestyle, only losing to teen-age phenom Shaun White and Jussi Oksanen.
“A kid his age coming in and doing as well as he did is exciting for all of us,” said proud father Jack.
Bruso climbs to AA ball, traded
6.) Former South Tahoe High pitcher Greg Bruso heard his name mentioned on ESPN and pitched for three different minor league teams in one summer.
It’s the kind of excitement only a 23-year-old can handle.
Starting the season with the Giants’ Single-A team in San Jose, Bruso overcame a slow start to earn a spot in the California League All-Star Game, going 4-0 with a 1.38 ERA for the last-place Giants in May to earn organizational player of the month. But before he could join the stars, the Giants promoted him to their Double-A team in Norwich, Conn. He quickly adapted to the higher level of ball in the Eastern League, registering five wins and a 3.42 ERA in 11 starts.
His sensational season didn’t go unnoticed outside of the Giants’ circle. The Milwaukee Brewers dealt for Bruso straight up for veteran second baseman Eric Young in August.
“We gave up another good kid in Bruso, who’s going to pitch in the big leagues,” said Giants’ General Manager Brian Sabean. “It’s tough to give up kids, because sooner or later, we’re going to need these guys.”
Bruso was surprised by the trade.
“At first I was a little disappointed because I enjoyed playing for the Giants’ organization,” said Bruso, who grew up rooting for the Giants. “As I thought about it more, I realized I might get a better chance in this organization. The name of the game is to get to the big leagues. I’d like to do it with the Giants, but it’s a business and you have to learn to go with the flow.”
Milwaukee wasted no time sending Bruso to its Double-A club in Huntsville, Ala. Bruso contributed mightily, winning the decisive game of a playoff series, but was the losing pitcher in the deciding game of the Southern League championship series.
Whittell calls off football
7.) Whittell High never made it to the field for its first football game because of a lack of players.
School officials dropped the program four days before the Warriors’ season opener, deciding not to send the team into the season with only 13 players, including three freshmen.
“Morally I couldn’t stick them in there and worry about the injuries,” said WHS Athletic Director Brian Mehrer.
Preseason injuries and eligibility issues combined with declining interest in the sport put the Warriors in the predicament.
Three Warriors transferred to play football at Douglas and another joined the soccer team.
During a pep rally at Whittell in December, former NFL player Mike Crawford, a WHS grad, spoke to students and parents about the impact the sport had on his life.
Mehrer is confident that the sport will return next fall.
Warriors net another title
8.) Not all was gloom and doom at Whittell in 2003. The Warriors won their second state volleyball championship in four years under the direction of Dan McLaughlin.
The Warriors (25-4) were so dominant that they didn’t lose a game in their two state tournament matches.
There may well be more titles on the way since the championship was won with only one senior on the roster.
Williams appoints Haase assistant
9.) Roy Williams wasn’t the only coach to leave the wheat fields of Kansas for Tobacco Road in North Carolina. Former STHS all-state guard Jerod Haase reluctantly left behind his Jayhawks’ administrative position to join Williams as an assistant coach.
“It will be hard, but I’ll be a man of two schools,” said Haase, who played for Williams at Kansas from 1994-98. “But I weighed everything and staying under coach Williams and moving to North Carolina is the best move for my wife and I.”
Haase’s new team is off to a surprising 8-1 start and ranked ninth in the country.
10. Joel Morris threw what was believed to be the first perfect game in the South Tahoe Little League in 35 years.
The 12-year-old nearly struck out every batter in the process. Morris fanned 17 of the 18 batters he faced, allowing only two foul balls in six innings work.
“It feels good. (My goal) is to throw 18 strikeouts in a game,” Morris said.
Top 10 material: Former STHS football player Brandon Tinlin received a football scholarship from Iowa State; Track Renovation 4 Community & Kids began the enormous task of trying to replace and upgrade the historical track at South Tahoe Middle School; Rick Rhoden won his sixth celebrity golf championship in a new format at Edgewood Tahoe; former Vikings’ football player Garrett McIntyre started at defensive tackle and played in his second straight bowl for Fresno State; boxer Simon Ruvalcaba earned his first pro victory; former STHS all-league basketball player Drew Hibbs coached Foothill to his second California state title; baseball players A.J. Russo and Tyson Frederick made the Sierra Sun Devils summer team, which won the Joe DiMaggio League Tournament of Champions; and the popular South Shore Fourth- and Fifth-Grade Classic track and field meet was canceled because of facility issues.