Golden Girl Vollmer leads list of top sports stories of 2012

December 29, 2012


Dana Vollmer captured the hearts of Americans – and even the world – at this past summer’s London Olympics.

Not only did the former Granbury SEAL and Granbury High swimmer win three gold medals, she set two world records and an Olympic record in the process.

Her accomplishments were also unanimously voted the top sports story of 2012 by the Hood County News staff.

Vollmer swam a record 55.98 to win the 100-meter butterfly on July 28, followed by being part of the first-place 400-meter medley relay that swam a 3:52.05, also a world record, a few days later.

Vollmer’s leg of that relay, the 100 fly, was 55.48. While her portion won’t stand as a world record, it was nonetheless a fitting finish to an Olympics to remember.

“I could not have asked for a better meet,” said Vollmer.

Vollmer is the only woman in history to eclipse the 56-second barrier in the 100 fly.

She also won gold as part of the 800 freestyle relay that set an Olympic mark of 7:42.92.

Vollmer is now one of only 13 female swimmers in the history of the Olympics to have four or more gold medals.

It came just four years after she wondered if she would ever make another Olympics following a dismal performance at the 2008 Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. She returned to that site this past summer and swam the best she ever had – prior to the Olympics, of course.

2. Lipan Lady Indians reach state final, make history – For the first time in school history, a Lipan girls basketball team played for a state championship. While the Lady Indians (34-4) came up short, losing to three-time champion Neches 60-41 in the Class A Division II final, they did what no other Lipan girls team had done, reach the championship game. It was their second consecutive trip to state, having lost in the semifinals to Neches in 2011.

The Lady Indians appear poised to make another run at a state title this season. They entered the holiday break ranked second in the state by the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches and third by the Texas Girls Coaches.

3. Happy Hill Lady Pioneers repeat as state champs – A year earlier the Lady Pioneers made school history when they became the first basketball team from the farm to win a state championship. They followed it up by repeating, topping Boerne Geneva 48-32 for the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class A title.

Coach Tammy Evans returned from Florida and reinstated the program at Happy Hill prior to the 2010-11 season. Since then the Lady Pioneers are 66-9, with each loss to a program in a larger classification.

Evans is now at Arlington Grace Prep. Former Granbury Lady Pirate standout Emily Britt has taken over, and the team is 12-2, and the school is now North Central Texas Academy.

4. Granbury golfer Travis Benson wins bronze medal at state – Only a junior, perhaps the best is yet to come for Pirate golfer Travis Benson. If so, it will top what is already the best individual season in school history.

Benson shot even-par 144 (72-72) at the Jimmy Clay Golf Course in Austin to place third in the 4A State Tournament. It came on the heels of winning district and regionals.

In the 7-4A Tournament, Benson shot 11-under par at Squaw Creek, including a school-record 8-under-par 64. He won regionals with a 3-under-par 139 (71-68) in Abilene.

5. Granbury in football playoffs for third straight year – The Granbury Pirates finished 7-4 and played in bidistrict for a third consecutive football season, losing 34-10 to Crowley. The Pirates led the game 10-6 midway through the second quarter.

Questions about inexperience surrounded the team that featured more youth than any of coach Scotty Pugh’s previous four squads. But led by sophomore quarterback Ryan Suitt, the Pirates posted the most victories since 1998. They also became only the second team in school history to reach the postseason three straight seasons, joining the 1965-68 squads.

6. Tolar makes 2A football playoffs for first time – The Tolar Rattlers, led by running back Cory Solomon and his more than 1,600 rushing yards, reached the 2A playoffs for first time. The Rattlers had struggled in their first seasons after moving up from Class A, where they were very successful.

The Rattlers (9-3), coached by Mike Franklin, matched the most victories ever by an 11-man team at the school. After finishing second in District 6-2A Division II to state runner-up Mildred, Tolar outlasted Holliday in bidistrict 23-20 in overtime before falling to Gunter 35-12 in Round 2.

The Rattlers led Gunter 6-0 at the half.

7. Northcutt, Mabery vault back to state – Few athletes have established a legacy at Granbury High School like pole vaulter Madison Northcutt. And Reagan Mabery is on her way to doing the same at Tolar.

Northcutt reached state for a third consecutive season in May, finishing sixth. She was seventh as a junior, and brought home a bronze medal for third place as a sophomore. As a freshman, she narrowly missed qualifying for state.

Northcutt is now competing for the University of North Texas.

Mabery, only a junior, has advanced to Austin twice for the 2A State Meet. She took fourth as a freshman and was sixth as a sophomore.

8. Granbury volleyball goes deep in playoffs again – Once circled as a sure victory by many foes, the Granbury Lady Pirates volleyball program has become a powerhouse under coach Tammy Clark. For a fourth consecutive season the Lady Pirates (24-18) reached the third round of the 4A playoffs.

While they were short in their quest for a third straight district title, they were second in 7-4A to state runner-up Aledo. The Lady Pirates were 12-2 in league play, both losses to Aledo, and swept all dozen of their victories.

Their postseason run included a bidistrict victory against rival Cleburne.

Prior to the past four seasons, the Lady Pirates had gone from 1997-2008 without a playoff appearance.

9. Area quartet named to halls of fame – Long before she was an Olympian, Dana Vollmer was a member of the Granbury SEALS. So she said it was quite an honor when she and SEALS coach Janet Steenberge were chosen for the Texas Amateur Athletic Federation Hall of Fame this fall. Steenberge has been a groundbreaker in club swimming and each summer sends a huge contingent of swimmers to the TAAF Games of Texas.

Vollmer was among that group when she was a youth in the mid-late 1990s, and she still owns a couple of TAAF state records.

Two-time Olympian sprinter Thane Baker was placed in the Kansas State Sports Hall of Fame. Before competing in Helsinki, Finland (1952, silver medal in 200-meter dash) and Melbourne, Australia (1956, gold in 400 relay, silver in 100, bronze in 200), he was setting records in sprint events for the Wildcats. Baker is considered one of the top athletes in the school’s history.

Ditto for Les Vanover at Abilene Christian, who was inducted into the ACU Sports Hall of Fame recently. The All-American high jumper followed his national championship career at ACU by competing for the U.S. Army in Europe.

10. Granbury Lady Pirates have best basketball season since 2003 – Hard to believe, but it had been nearly a decade since Leta Andrews had coached a team into a regional basketball tournament. The Lady Pirates of last season became the first team since 2003 to achieve the feat, topping rival Stephenville 59-38 in the 4A regional quarterfinals.

The Lady Pirates (29-9), led by then junior post and 6-4 University of Texas signee Lilley Vander Zee, also defeated Waco 52-32 and Fort Worth Western Hills 54-32. Their run ended with a 53-46 loss to Clint Horizon in the regional semifinals.

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