FIELDER’S CHOICES: Gaels highlight memorable year in prep sports

The high school sports scene in 2009-10 had plenty of reasons to laugh, cry, smile and celebrate.

And a lot of them were covered in orange and blue.

I don’t go to Bishop Gorman (Where do I go? That’s a tighter secret than anything the CIA can offer), but I’d be an idiot not to give some dap to the Gaels this year.

That’s why I couldn’t just make one top 10 list for stories of the year. First, Gorman’s list, followed by the rest of Southern Nevada.

I’m off to enjoy some American Legion baseball and summer basketball, but I’ll be back in August; they won’t let me graduate yet.

1. The year of the Gael
a) Football goes 15-0, wins its final two playoff games 62-21 and sends nine seniors to play college ball. Is this the best team ever in Nevada?
b) Boys basketball finishes 30-2, wins second straight state title, has two Division I signees and is ranked No. 10 in the country by USA Today.
c) Girls basketball wins state as McDonald’s All-American Aaryn Ellenberg turns title game into a personal game of H-O-R-S-E.
d) Baseball overcomes a worthy challenge from Rancho to win fifth straight state title and finish ranked No. 5 in the nation by Baseball America.
e) Senior 152-pound wrestler Steven Hernandez (Boise State) goes 40-2 and becomes eighth wrestler in Nevada history to win four state titles.
f) Girls swimming team edges Green Valley for the state title behind four-time champion diver Ciera Cortney (Boise State), who set the Sunset Region meet record with 507 points.
g) Girls tennis goes 17-0 and wins its fifth straight state title.
h) Girls volleyball goes 16-0 in Southwest League and claims the Sunset championship.
i) Boys soccer goes 16-0 in Southwest before losing 4-3 on penalty kicks to Las Vegas High in the state final.
j) Girls soccer goes 13-0-1 in the Southwest, reaches the Sunset semifinals and boasts four Division I signees.

2. Rancho’s spring renaissance
The third season made plenty of headlines for the Rams, whose baseball team won the Sunrise title, went to the state playoffs for the first time since the original “Star Wars” movie hit theaters, and was one victory away from dethroning Gorman.

But look deeper, and you’ll see a boys volleyball team that won its first postseason match in 10 years, and girls senior sprinter Aisha Momodu took the state 100-meter dash title. And the softball team also fared well, posting a 10-4 Northeast record to reach the playoffs.

3. Western-gate
The 2010 version of the notorious soccer forfeits of 2009.

In case you forgot that headache, Western’s boys basketball squad forfeited four league games for using a fifth-year senior, dragged the issue through the court system, regained two of the wins, and scrambled into the playoffs — before losing in the first round to Cimarron-Memorial.

4. Realignment will wait
Despite 10 months of meetings and proposals, realignment involving Class 4A and 3A schools in Southern Nevada was put off in March.

It makes you feel sorry for Boulder City, Moapa Valley and Virgin Valley, the only three 3A teams in the South, thus stranded in a league that might be smaller than some 4A schools.

5. Henderson International closes
It’s a difficult day when a young athletic program that included a Class 1A state title-winning softball team of mostly underclassmen and competitive teams in virtually every other sport, will not continue.

The closure also drastically affects the 1A ranks. After Lake Mead joins the 2A Southern League in August, the only 1A school in Las Vegas or Henderson will be Trinity.

Not to mention, where will Findlay Prep go?

6. Wharton, Johonnot stay on track
Valley senior Garic Wharton and Centennial junior Karli Johonnot didn’t let the burden of huge expectations faze them on the way to historic track seasons.

Wharton won state titles in the 100 and 200 to cap his prep career with five state championships, including four individual crowns. He ran the third-fastest 200 time in the nation (21.05 seconds) at the Sunrise meet.

Johonnot took state titles in the high jump (5 feet, 4 inches) and 300 hurdles (45.01), and was second in the 100 hurdles (15.71) and fourth in the pole vault (10-0).

7. The road to 1A titles goes through Alamo
Pahranagat Valley took Class 1A state titles in football, girls volleyball, boys basketball and baseball.

And the Panthers did it by dethroning favorites Lake Mead in girls volleyball and boys basketball.

8. Las Vegas High boys soccer dynasty?
The Wildcats topped Gorman 4-3 on PKs to take their second straight state championship to put their all-time number of titles at two.

Local star Joaquin Rivas signed with UNLV, and Las Vegas High alum Herculez Gomez was named to the U.S. men’s national team 23-man World Cup roster.

9. Bengals’ Bryant enters record book
Bonanza slugger Kris Bryant hit 22 home runs this season, the third-most in state history.

The 6-foot-5-inch senior shortstop batted .469, drove in 51 runs and posted a 1.271 slugging percentage. Oh, and he helped the Bengals win three playoff games.

10. Arbor View makes history
The Aggies’ girls soccer team capped an 18-1-1 season with a Southern Nevada title, hanging the first postseason championship banner in the school’s five-year history.

Arbor View was so talented, the Aggies boasted two state players of the year — senior goalkeeper Alex Luevano-Harden by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and sophomore defender McKenzie Karas by Gatorade.