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Top local sports stories of 2012

Jacobs graduate Evan Jager (front center) runs front pack during 3000-meter steeplechase final last August LondOlympics. Jager finished race sixth

Jacobs graduate Evan Jager (front center) and runs at the front of the pack during the 3,000-meter steeplechase final last August at the London Olympics. Jager finished the race in sixth place. | Michael Steele~Getty Images

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Updated: January 3, 2013 7:30PM

Another year has come and gone on the local sports scene.

Just like every year, 2012 had several highlights that stood out above the rest. Here’s a look at 10 of the biggest stories, moments and accomplishments of the past 12 months:

1. Jager’s Olympic moment

No list of the biggest local sports stories of 2012 would be complete without mention of Algonquin native Evan Jager’s sixth-place finish in the men’s 3,000-meter steeplechase at the London Olympics.

Jager captured the attention of people in his hometown and throughout the Fox Valley by reaching the highest level of his sport.

The Jacobs graduate won the U.S. Olympic trials in June, set the American record in the steeplechase during a July race in Monaco and then took second in his preliminary heat at the Olympics before finishing sixth in the finals with a time of 18:23.87.

2. Bartlett softball finishes second in state

When it comes to team success in 2012, Bartlett’s softball team was right at the top of the list with its second-place showing in the Class 4A state softball tournament.

The Hawks endured a 5-0 loss against Marist in the championship game, capping a tremendous 32-9 season under coach Jim Wolfsmith.

3. Bartlett takes third in girls basketball

Only a few months before Bartlett’s softball team mounted its playoff run, the school’s girls basketball squad was busy claiming a state trophy of its own.

The Hawks were one of the few teams in Illinois to finish their season with a win as they knocked off Loyola 61-59 in the Class 4A third-place game at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena in Normal.

With standout Haley Videckis leading the way, Bartlett finished the season with a stellar 32-2 record.

4. St. Charles North loses soccer title match in 4 OT

Without a doubt the most heartbreaking local loss of the year came when St. Charles North’s girls soccer team lost the Class 3A state championship game in four overtimes in early June.

The North Stars and Naperville North were knotted in a scoreless tie when the Huskies finally found the back of the net in the 119th minute for a 1-0 win.

It was a tough way to go out for St. Charles North, which finished 19-6-2.

5. Local state champions shine on biggest stage

There are a few local athletes who can say they won a state championship in 2012. Leading the pack are Burlington Central’s Clint Kliem, Joe Gannon, Mike Gaulik and Matt O’Connor, who took first place in 3,200-meter relay with a time of 7:48.31 at the Class 2A state track finals in Charleston last May.

Bartlett’s Sal Annoreno also had a gold medal hanging around his neck after he won the Class 3A 132-pound state wrestling title last February in Champaign, becoming the first wrestler in his school’s history to accomplish the feat.

6. Elgin caps successful basketball season

For all intents and purposes, Elgin is a basketball town. So when one of the high school teams has a big year, almost everyone takes notice.

Elgin High was the focal point last March as it wrapped up a 26-4 season. The Maroons lost to a talented Rockford Auburn squad in a sectional championship game, but it took nothing away from a group that did its storied program proud by claiming its second straight regional and conference titles.

7. Larkin edges Elgin in 2 OT basketball thriller

Arguably the most exciting game of the year took place earlier this month when Larkin outlasted arch-rival Elgin 76-73 in double overtime.

For the Royals, the heart-stopping victory in front of a huge crowd marked their first win against the Maroons since 2009. The contest was highlighted by huge individual performances as Elgin’s Arie Williams scored a career-high 39 points and Larkin’s Quantice Hunter posted a career-high 32 points.

8. Coaches reach major career milestones

Several longtime local coaches earned milestone victories during 2012. Elgin Community College baseball coach Bill Angelo is included in the group as he earned his 500th career victory in April.

On the boys basketball front, Westminster Christian’s Bruce Firchau landed his 500th career victory in February and Hampshire’s Bob Barnett claimed his 400th career win in January.

9. Local Minor Leaguers abound in 2012

Look no further than the ranks of Minor League Baseball for proof that the Elgin area is capable of turning out top-tier talent on the diamond. A total of seven players with local ties were playing in various farm systems last summer after Dundee-Crown graduate Kenny Long was drafted by the Astros and Burlington Central graduate Ray Hunnicutt was drafted by the Orioles in June.

Hampshire graduate Jake Goebbert continued to make a name for himself in the Astros organization while Dundee-Crown graduates Elliot Soto and Ryan Court continue to ply their trades in the Cubs and Diamondbacks organizations, respectively. St. Charles North graduates Jeff Holm (Tigers) and Danny Jimenez (Indians) also continued their professional careers.

10. Elgin golf courses land national recognition

The recent changes to public golf in Elgin got a big stamp of approval earlier this year from Golfweek magazine.

The publication ranked Elgin’s two 18-hole public courses in its list of the top 10 public courses in Illinois. The Highlands of Elgin came in at No. 2 and Bowes Creek Country Club landed at No. 8.

Honorable mention

Any top-10 list invariably leaves off a few items worthy of inclusion.

Among the local sports stories in 2012 that just barely missed the cut here was the continued success of the St. Edward girls soccer and Harvest Christian girls volleyball teams, which both claimed sectional championships for the second straight year.

The 1-2 finish of the Winters brothers at the Elgin Open also made headlines this year. Brad Winters shot an even-par 144 at The Highlands during the 36-hole event, defeating younger brother and Valparaiso teammate Eric Winters by two strokes.

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