For months, people around the globe have been looking forward to seeing Thursday, Dec. 31, turn into Friday, Jan. 1, and putting 2020 in the rear view mirror. The reality is, though, that 2020 will not be forgotten anytime soon. And while there are plenty of negative reasons that 2020 will be remembered forever, the year did give us some positives. Sports in Sedona are no different.
We maybe didn’t get as many sporting events as we would have liked, but even in abbreviated form, 2020 gave us plenty of memories on the athletic field.
SRRHS Moves Soccer to Fall, Again
Following the 2019-20 winter sports season, Sedona Red Rock High School decided to change soccer’s place on the athletic calendar. Soccer was moved from the winter back to the fall, where it had been a decade ago. Less travel was one of the reasons cited. Another was the hope that more fans would attend games in the warmer weather.
One result of the change was that it allowed players to partake in both basketball and soccer. One of those players was Jaiah Grondin, who was the 2A Central Region Co-Player of the Year and was named second-team All-Conference for all of 2A.
Scorpion Girls Reach Hoops Playoffs
The SRRHS girls basketball team earned a spot in the state tournament with a 50-40 play-in game victory on Tuesday, Feb. 18. The Scorpions’ lone senior, Mary Westervelt, narrowly missed a double-double in her final home game, pulling in 14 rebounds and scoring nine points.
Sedona would lose 66-63 in a heartbreaker against San Carlos in the first round of the tournament. Despite losing, four Scorpions recorded double-digit point totals. Nyah Valdez led the team with 20. Westervelt had 14; her younger sister, Helen Westervelt, had 13, and Annabelle Cook had 11.
Action-Packed Day on the Diamond
While the spring sports season was short lived, it wasn’t devoid of good moments. The afternoon of March 4 provided a highlight for the baseball and softball teams — who were both hosting Glendale Prep.
The baseball team was down 13-5 heading into the home half of the fifth inning. The Scorpions made a dent in that lead, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth. After Grondin kept the Griffins off of the scoreboard in the top of the sixth, Sedona took the lead with a seven-run bottom of the sixth. Grondin pitched another scoreless inning in the seventh to seal the win for himself and his team.
The softball team also came from behind, although their win wasn’t nearly as dramatic. After falling behind 4-0 in the top of the first inning, the Scorpions responded with 10 runs in the bottom of the first and six more in the second and won 19-4. Bella Horton was the star for Sedona, pitching a complete game and slugging an inside-the-park grand slam. While the win wasn’t especially suspenseful, it was satisfying as it snapped a losing streak of nearly two years.
Spring Sports Halted
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Arizona Interscholastic Association postponed all winter sports on March 16. While it was only a postponement at the time, high school sports under the AIA’s watch would not resume until September.
Bob Young Steps Down as Coach
Citing a lack of numbers throughout the offseason program. Bob Young resigned as head coach of the SRRHS football team. Young is a long-time football coach but only ran the Scorpions program for one season. In that year, Sedona went 2-8.
At the time of his resignation, Young suggested that the school drop the football program but hoped that his resignation might save the program, feeling another coach might better be able to recruit players.
SRRHS Nixes Football
Unfortunately for Young and other fans of the SRRHS football program, that didn’t come to fruition. Another coach was never hired to have a chance.
The SOCSD board voted 5-0 to cancel the program for the 2020-21 school year in a Zoom meeting held on May 5.
High School Sports Return
After the spring season was canceled, fall sports spent much of the summer in a state of limbo. But on Aug. 5, the AIA announced the schedule for the fall season.
Restrictions were aplenty and some schools played games without any fans. Despite the challenges and the different feel at some events, the fall sports season went on as scheduled, although some events were canceled due to COVID-related reasons.
Magic Strikes for ‘Boots’ Again
On Aug. 24, 101-year-old Village of Oak Creek resident H.B. “Boots” Claunts stepped up to the seventh hole at Canyon Mesa Country Club with a 7-iron. His tee shot found the bottom of the hole for the ever-elusive hole-in-one. Well, elusive to most people. For Boots, it was his second since turning 100, his third since the beginning of 2018 and his 16th overall.
Generally speaking, a hole-in-one is a unique occasion for even the best golfers. By his own admission, Boots is not a particularly good player. But if you ever bump into him at the course and he challenges you to a closest to the pin contest, discretion would probably be the better part of valor.
Don Burton Resigns as Athletic Director
Don Burton began serving as the SOCSD athletic director at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. He was replaced by Pedro Ortega.
Sedona Boys Reach Playoffs on Pitch
The decision to move soccer to the fall paid immediate dividends for the boys. They finished the regular season 8-3-1 before losing in the first round of the playoffs to Show Low.
Grondin was a star for the Scorpions but he was hardly alone. A dozen SRRHS players received recognition for their play at the end ofthe season. Joining Grondin were Luis Beltran, Alberto Sanchez, Brandon Arias, Carlos Gonzalez, Kevin Beltran, Korbin Burke, Joan Diaz-Rodriquez, Noah Horton, Reif Stevens and Alejandro Villanueva. Grondin and Burke both played another fall sport simultaneously with soccer, with Burke running cross country and Grondin swimming.
Cross Country Team Shows Well at State
Despite being an entirely new team from the group that qualified for state the previous season, the SRRHS girls cross country team returned to the state meet. While the boys narrowly missed qualifying as a team, Shota Yabuuchi and Burke both qualified as individuals. Three runners, Yabuuchi and girls Skyla Bird and Jackie Palmer, all medaled at state.
Like Burke, Palmer also split her time between cross country and soccer. Teammate Yaritza Landa played two fall sports, as well, playing volleyball in addition to cross country.
Scorpion Swimmers Win at State Meet
The SRRHS swim team sent a delegation of only five swimmers — four boys and one girl — to the state championship meet. But while they didn’t send a big group, the Scorpions made a big splash. Sophomore Carlos Lattanzi won the 200-yard individual medley and swam the anchor leg behind seniors Eric Schrader, Cody Brefeld and Andrew Tate on the state championship winning 200-yard freestyle relay team.
Other state placers included Lattanzi and Tate [second and fourth, respectively, in the boys 500-yard freestyle], Tate [fifth in the boys 200-yard freestyle], Scrader [eighth in the boys 50-yard freestyle], Brefeld [17th in the boys 100-yard butterfly], junior Louise “Breezy” Taylor [16th in the girls 500-yard freestyle] and Lattanzi, Tate, Brefeld and Schrader [third in the boys 400-yard freestyle relay].
It was the final meet for coach Dan Morse, who left to take a job coaching for a club in Germany after the season. Morse and the seniors went out on a high note.
Scorpions Return to Volleyball Playoffs
The SRRHS volleyball team knew it was coming into the season with a talented team, but having no seniors and a new coach in Alex Bybee provided a sense of uncertainty.
The young Scorpions and their coach were up for the task. Sedona earned a state play-in game against Bisbee. The Scorpions routed the visiting Pumas in a three-set victory to earn a spot in the state tournament. There, they lost in the first round to Round Valley.
At the end of the season, juniors Emma Beattie and Stephanie Medel, as well as freshman Rachel Roderick, were named All 2A Central Region 2nd Team. Sophomore Bella Williams, meanwhile, received All 2A Central Region Honorable Mention recognition. While it’s still several months away, the fall 2021 season already looks promising for the Scorpions. They will lose no seniors and bring in a strong class of freshmen.
Junior High Girls Win Championship
On Oct. 30, Sedona Red Rock Junior High School’s volleyball team defeated Mayer in straight sets to win a league championship, which really only scratches the surface on how good the season was. The Scorpions went 10-0 on the season without ever dropping a set. In fact, the 25-21 win in the second set of the semifinal against Camp Verde marked the first and only time an opponent reached 20 points in a set against the Scorpions all season.
Sedona eighth-graders Amy Brefeld and Makayla Wilcox were both named to the All-Tournament team after the win over Mayer. Their teammate and fellow eighth-grader, Sierra Williams, was named Tournament MVP.
Winter Sports Delayed to 2021
Even with fall sports starting later than usual, winter sports were originally slated to get underway in late-November or early-December. But as the fall progressed and Arizona’s COVID-19 numbers spiked, that became less likely. On Nov. 19, it was announced that the winter sports season would not begin until Tuesday, Jan. 5, at the latest. Then, on Dec. 18, that start date was pushed back to Monday, Jan. 18.