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CNA's top sports stories of 2017: 5 through 1

5. Colby Taylor becomes all-time leading scorer (among other stats) at Central College

Colby Taylor always had potential as a hoopster, but to reach the level that the Creston native reached as a four-year star at Central College in Pella took an incredible amount of work. Just how much work became measurable by numbers, when Taylor became Division III Central College's all-time leading scorer, where he finished with 1,856. The News Advertiser covered his Jan. 4 game against Luther College, an 82-67 win in which Taylor scored 30 points.

Taylor also finished as the school's leading 3-point scorer (233), highest free throw percentage in a career (85.0) and most games started (98).

This excerpt is from the Jan. 5 News Advertiser.

Taylor’s record-setting two points came on a pull-up jumper from just inside the free throw line with 7:01 left in the game.

“We just we ran that play for me where I catch it near the elbow, swing through, take a dribble and pulled over the top of a guy who’s a lot shorter than me,” Taylor said. “It felt good and it went in.”

Taylor’s bucket gave Central a commanding 73-60 lead.

By then, Taylor had lost track of where he stood in relation to the record. Taylor was made aware of it at a timeout later in the half when the Central public address announcer informed him and the crowd of the accomplishment.

The Central fans arose and applauded Taylor for his achievement.

“To have the home crowd here, that was really special for me,” Taylor said.

Taylor is now playing for ULE ALN Fundacion CB in Leon in northwest Spain, a team that that is a member of the Liga Espaņola de Baloncesto Aficionado (EBA).

4. Trevor Downing No. 1 priority for ISU, where he signs to play ball

Trevor Downing has been bullying opposing defensive linemen and linebackers to their behinds for years now. That skill drew the attention of Iowa State football coach Matt Campbell, who made Downing priority number one before 2017 even came around. In May, Downing verbally committed to be a Cyclone, and on National Signing Day, he made his commitment official.

This excerpt is from the Dec. 20 News Advertiser:

As far as Downing was concerned, finishing up the recruiting process couldn’t have gone better.

“It feels great! It was very positive and humbling experience,” said Downing. “It’s a perfect fit. I have developed a really good relationship with coach (Matt) Campbell and (offensive coordinator and offensive line) coach (Tom) Manning and ISU has a great Ag school.”

Downing will be studying agriculture business in Ames.

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound three-star recruit, according to Rivals and 24/7 sports, played four years of varsity action with the Panthers and was consistently regarded as one of, if not the best offensive lineman in the state in the class of 2018.

The newest member of the Cyclones is expected to get an early start, heading up to Ames and getting started Jan. 8.

3. NV wins third straight boys XC title

Nodaway Valley's boys cross country dominance continued in 2017, capped by a third straight state team title at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge on Oct. 28.

The Wolverines, who also won their ninth consecutive Pride of Iowa championship two weeks prior, continued to be on par with any program in any Iowa high school sport in Southwest Iowa.

This excerpt is from the Oct. 30 News Advertiser:

The Wolverine boys set a program record with an average time of 16:56 for their seven varsity runners, led by the all-state performances of seniors Brycen Wallace (third in 16:23.1) and Skyler Rawlings (11th in 16:41.5).

The thousands at Lakeside Municipal Golf Course in Fort Dodge were witness to Wolverine success once more.

Wallace competed near the top of the field with favorite and eventual champ Riley Bauer of North Union, who won in a time of 16:14.2.

Wallace and Madrid’s Sean McDermott, a pair that have battled all season, were neck-and-neck on the final stretch before McDermott got the best in the end by 2.5 seconds.

“I got my PR, so I was pretty happy about that,” Wallace said. “The race was fast. I had good competition. Sean (McDermott) was always pushing me and Jerry (Jorgensen of Treynor) was up there too.”

Joshua Baudler and Tyler Breheny, a duo that has battled one another all season, picked up 17th (16:53.5) and 19th (in 17:00.8) respectively.

The two have bettered themselves while trying to best one another.

“We’ve gotten so much faster pushing each other everyday in practice and meets. It has been fun,” Tyler Breheny said.

Ben Breheny, Austin Lundy and Joel Blazek rounded out the Wolverine runners, all of whom posted sub-18 minute times.

2. Panthers excel at highest levels of Iowa HS sports

Two individual state champions highlighted Creston's year in athletics, with Hannah Hood launching her way to a state shot put title and Chase Shiltz winning his third straight state title for the Panther wrestlers.

Creston/O-M wrestling finished seventh in the dual team event with losses to Davenport Assumption and Denver-Tripoli and a win over Atlantic.

Another seventh place finish was in order for the Creston/O-M girls bowling team, who returned to Plaza Lanes for a state appearance. This year's state bowling championships will not be held at Plaza Lanes, which sustained heavy damages in a December fire.

The Creston/O-M girls golf team took sixth at state, led by Ashton Carter's 7th place finish.

Track and field yielded the Panther girls another chance to compete on the blue oval of Drake Stadium. Led by Hood's state championship shot put performance, the Panthers also qualified Bre Wallace in the high jump, as well as its distance medley, 4x200, 4x400 and 4x800 relay units.

1. SWCC wins first national championship in any sport

Creston has been no stranger to state championships in a number of sports, but never before had its community college tasted that championship gold at the highest level of NJCAA athletics.

The Southwestern Spartans men's basketball team earned the college's first national championship of any kind with a dominant 77-53 defeat of Louisburg College in the Mary Miller Center in Danville, Illinois on March 25.

The Spartans lost just one game, with that loss coming at Kirkwood on Feb. 11, 78-75.

SWCC sent more than a handful of players off to other colleges to continue their basketball careers, including Jordan Johnson, Calvin Chambers, Brodric Thomas, Lavon Hightower, KeShawn Wilson and Jamil Maddred.

This excerpt is from the March 27 News Advertiser.

Southwestern Community College’s men’s basketball team captured the school’s first national championship in any sport with a dominating 77-53 win over Louisburg College, of North Carolina, Saturday in the NJCAA Division II national championship game at the Mary Miller Center on the campus of Danville Area Community College in Danville, Illinois.

“Players come and go, but banners stay forever,” said Southwestern head coach Todd Lorensen after the team’s victory Saturday. “And we’re putting one up in Creston, Iowa!”

What this group of Spartans did in obliterating the previous school record for wins in a season, among a host of other team records, is now part of history.

“We’ve got a bunch of guys that were committed to the right things,” Lorensen said. “In this day and age that’s hard to find guys that are going to be unselfish, give up of themselves for the betterment of the group and we certainly have that.”

What happened Saturday night in this hamlet along the Illinois and Indiana border with the Spartans is a story that will be retold time and time again for decades to come.

“I’m happy because they’re going to be in the Creston, Southwestern, southwest Iowa — they’re going to go down in history forever and ever,” said Lorensen, who was named the NJCAA Division II National Coach of the Year. “Twenty-five, 30, 40 years from now, people are going to be talking about the 2017 national championship team and how great of a group they were.”

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