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Thomaston turns the page after a year for the ages

POSTED September 08, 2014
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

            THOMASTON – It is time to move on, the calendar says so and even respected voices like Thomaston girls basketball and baseball coach Bob McMahon chimes in – “It’s time to turn the page.”

            The 2014-15 scholastic season begins this week with a myriad of fall sports swinging into action. Last year is a distant memory, long gone, a quick summer already sandwiched between the old and new.

            Or is it?  A memory yes, distant, maybe not so much in Thomaston. It wasn’t about a season for the Bears, it was about a year. A year like no other and probably not duplicated any time soon if ever.

            The championship party began in the fall and right into June without letup. Small schools cherish one title and league titles. Thomaston never stopped cherishing for 10 months.

League titles and more league titles, a state title and then another state title.

            Individual brilliance, moments to mind boggle. Scenes and scenarios to savor. Months worth of relentless and you can’t kill the Bear comebacks.

            A powerful seventh straight Berkshire League girls cross country title in the fall led by the flying feet of Sabrina Olsen who grabbed a second straight championship virtually running alone.

            The field hockey team got into it after being nosed out by one point for the BL title with a scintillating run to the Class S semifinals for the first time in school history.

            Then came winter and boy did it come. Another BL girls basketball crown, the fourth in five seasons, the title shared with Lewis Mills and Nonnewaug. After losing twice to Lewis Mills during the regular season, a victory over the Spartans in the BL Tournament for a third straight championship.

            Just warming up folks. It kept getting better. A stunning run to the Class S state title in stunning fashion. A semifinal victory over Sacred Heart, a 10-point halftime deficit erased in a rugged fashion in front of more than 1,500 fans in the smoking cauldron called the Kennedy High gym.

            It got better, unbelievably better. The kind of better that you can’t conjure up even in your wildest Hollywood dreams. State finals at Mohegan Sun. Down three points with .2 seconds left in overtime and Abby Hurlbert at the foul line.

            You know the story, Hurlbert became legend in that moment and Thomaston became state champions.

            You could have rested your year on that moment and day. Yet, the seasons changed, but the euphoria continued.

            The baseball team, behind the one-two pitching punch of Brian Butkevicius and Blaise Russo ran through the BL for its first title since 1985 and then took it all the way to the Class S finals before losing to Portland. That would have made the spring, but the girls softball team said there would be more. Again.

            Led by seven players who had tasted basketball nirvana, including a core four of Abby Hurlbert, Morgan Sanson, Gabrielle Hurlbert and Nicole Schafer who were starters on the basketball team, the Bears couldn’t quite catch Northwestern Regional who won the BL title.

            But come state tournament time, the magic had only taken the briefest of breaks and it was back. A batter away from being eliminated in their opening game, the Bears tied St. Paul with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning and won in the 10th, bringing tears to the Falcons’ bench for the second time in three months.

            A sixth inning rally brought victory over Notre Dame of Fairfield and then there was the semifinal and Morgan Sanson made it her own. Behind by a run with two outs and two strikes in the seventh inning, Sanson did her best `The Natural’ imitation and slugged a home run. In the ninth, she delivered a two-out RBI single to send the Bears into the final.

            There had to be finale and it could only end one way. Down 6-0 after two innings, the Bears stormed back to win in the eighth inning on Erin O’Neill’s RBI single. It was final celebration of not just a season but a year.

            There are other schools that have won more titles in one year, however, you will be hard pressed to find one that did it in the manner the Bears did. And the specialness of it all can’t be separated by the simple fact that it was all done in a public school of 268 kids, 132 girls.

            You couldn’t write this story.

            But the time has come to turn the page. For better or worse time doesn’t stand still. You fold over and mark the edge of last year’s page much like you would do in any book where you want to save the spot.

             You hold on tight to the memories of that vaunted rooting section, “The Cave” to the fire trucks and ambulances the flashed their bright lights in triumph, to the crowded hillsides of fans that gloried in the unfolding stories to all the accolades and the year-long roars.

              You glory in what was, you don’t live in it. It was a great page, now you turn it. Already the Bears are in 2015 mode. Student-athletes are great in ability to look forward. It was all so special and it will never be far away but this is a new year with new pages to turn.

Let the games begin.

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