Dogies make the most of 2020

By: 
Sonja Karp

Photo courtesy of Kathy Beehler

The Dogies had a successful fall season despite having to work around COVID-19 restrictions, and in September ran a perfect race finishing first through fifth place.

Sonja Karp

NLJ Sports Reporter

 

The past 12 months have been tough for high school sports as the global pandemic cut seasons short, cancelled spring seasons, and altered the fall seasons. However, the Dogies made the most of their opportunities to play by achieving some accolades for which to be proud. Kale Corley, the Lady Dogies basketball team and the Dogie men’s cross country team all had moments that will be remembered fondly in a year where it can be tough to call to mind happy memories

 

Corley is two-time 

state champion

Kale Corley became a two-time state champion as he dominated his way through the 138 pound bracket to take the title late last February.

“It feels pretty good, because I really felt like I had to prove to everyone that my freshman year wasn’t a fluke,” Corley began with a smile. “After falling a little short last year, it felt good to show them that I was meant to be there and that I deserve the title.”

“We couldn’t have planned it any better with his injury and managing the way he came back,” head coach Lee McCoy nodded. “In a lot of ways, he missed a lot of the grind in January where kids get worn down and suffer some injuries, and when he came back, he was hungry and ready to win.”

Corley went into the tournament seeded number two at 138 due to the wrestler who won the west regional tournament earning the top seed. Corley and McCoy felt confident he would make it through to the semifinal round, where they expected to see some tougher competition.

Corley breezed through the first couple of rounds and then his semifinal round had him up against an opponent from Wheatland whom he had wrestled a few times, including the week before at Regionals where he pinned him. However, at state Corley suffered a nasty bloody nose which he and the coaches couldn’t get stopped. As a result, the match had to be stopped every 15 seconds to try to get the bleeding under control. 

Despite the many interruptions, Corley got the win by an 8-3 decision which put him in the championship match on Saturday. Meanwhile, the other semifinal match ended up being an upset. Corley and McCoy were hoping he would get the opportunity to wrestle the Star Valley athlete who beat him last year at state, but he lost his semifinal match to his Cody opponent.

“When the other semi was an upset, Lee and I looked at each other and knew that I had a pretty good shot,” Corley grinned. “Then I had to go out there one more time and do what I do, and not get too ahead of myself.”

The match started slow with both wrestlers sizing each other up during the first period. It came down to about seven seconds of pretty intense action after a couple of minutes of not much of anything happening, however, once things got going, Corley made quick work of his opponent to win the championship.

“Kale couldn’t have had a more dominating state tournament. It was exciting to see him get his second title and he finished his season with only three losses to two kids,” McCoy explained. 

With the win, Corley has joined an elite club of NHS wrestlers who are two-time state champs, and if he picks up another next year, he will be one of only two who are three-time state champs. 

 

Lady Dogies punch ticket 

to state tournament

It had been four years since the Lady Dogies earned a state tournament berth, but on the backs of freshmen and inexperienced upperclassmen, Newcastle was a force to be reckoned with in the 3A East Regional Tournament last March in the Dogie Dome.

Head coach Chad Ostenson’s squad earned the number two seed from the Northeast by just edging out Thermopolis in a three-way tie breaker at the end of the regular season. As such, their first opponent in the opening round on a Thursday morning was against Wheatland, who the Lady Dogies had just defeated by two points the previous week.

With back-to-back contests, both teams were very familiar with each other’s games. The Lady Dogies held a slim two point lead going into the half, but a blistering third quarter by the Dogies where they went on a 21-9 run, led by Mercedes Voelker who drained three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, gave Newcastle a ten point lead going into the fourth. 

“We were attacking the basket well, either getting to the rack or kicking it out for good perimeter looks,” Ostenson grinned. 

The squad led by as much as 16 in the contest, but no one rolls over at the Regional tournament, and the Lady Bulldogs were as hungry for a shot at the semifinals as Newcastle. As such, Wheatland came roaring back, bringing the game to within two with under two minutes to play. The Lady Dogies remained focused and between clock management tactics and good free throw shooting down the stretch, were able to keep the Lady Bulldogs at bay and end the contest with the 53-50 win.  

“For a bunch of kids who had never been there before, they did a heck of a job maintaining composure,” Ostenson nodded. “We moved the ball well and got to the line and that’s some big stuff at the Regional Tournament.”

The win advanced the Lady Dogies to the semifinal matchup against Rawlins on Friday afternoon. It was the first quarter when both teams were feeling each other out that would ultimately be the difference maker in the final score. Rawlins led the Lady Dogies 12-6 heading into the second quarter. However, Newcastle went blow for blow with the number one seed from the Southeast quadrant for the remaining three quarters of the contest, losing 36-42 in the end.

The loss, though it wasn’t season ending, put Newcastle in the loser-out contest against Thermopolis at 8:30 on Saturday morning, and this time, their season was on the line.

The Lady Dogies took very little time in establishing a dominant lead over the Lady Bobcats, as they came out firing on all cylinders. Defensively, they were forcing one-and-done contested shots while draining three-pointers at will on the offensive end. Three different players knocked down threes, including three consecutive makes from beyond the arc by Voelker. 

This perfect storm had Newcastle up 15-0 before Thermopolis was able to get on the board. The Lady Dogies established their biggest lead of the contest, 19-2 and finished out the first quarter up 20-9.

“It was a little concerning to me that we were going to shoot all of our threes for the game in the first few minutes,” chuckled Ostenson. “It was fun, but there is always a little bit of a worry that we would be able to maintain that level of play for the next three quarters.”

The Lady Bobcats took momentum in the second quarter outscoring Newcastle by two, and drawing to within nine as they headed into the locker room. However, the two teams were even in the last two quarters of play, despite the fact that Thermopolis cut the lead to one late in the contest.

Down the stretch, the Lady Dogies once again maintained their composure and hit some clutch free throws to build back up to a three possession game as time ticked off the clock, winning by a score of 56-47.

“That was a fun win, and it was a relief to know we had qualified for the state tournament,” smiled Ostenson. “Even when they pulled close, I was never too worried that we wouldn’t get the win.”

The Lady Dogies then had a three-games hiatus before they took on Wheatland for the third time in a week in the third/fourth place contest to determine seeding for the state tournament.

It was yet another battle between these two teams who were so very familiar with each other at this point, but the Lady Dogies got the better of the Lady Bulldogs once again taking the 43-37 victory and the third place trophy at Regionals.

“The atmosphere in the Dome was amazing. It was so loud and it was so fun,” Ostenson grinned. “Those kids and we coaches were just having such a good time, and it was just so great that all the work the kids put in paid off.”

With the win, the Lady Dogies tipped off the state tournament with the first game against Lyman who was the number two seed from the west side. The ladies played hard, but couldn’t get past the Lady Eagles and the tournament was cancelled immediately after their game. As such, the team jokingly claims the title of state runners up.

 

Dogies run a perfect race 

Though 2020 was a far from perfect year, the Dogies dug down deep to achieve perfection in their race at Wheatland the second weekend in September. As they matched up against Burns/Pine Bluffs, Torrington and Wheatland, the men were on a mission to make a statement to their conference competition and that they did.

“The boys raced hard, and they pushed themselves to do more than they thought they could,” head coach Kathy Beehler smiled. “A few of them were surprised that they were able to keep going when they didn’t think they had anything left.”

A perfect race is when one team finishes in the first five places achieving the best score possible in the race, and as such is an impressive accomplishment. The last time Newcastle did this was two years ago in Hot Springs, SD. This time it was against 3A Wyoming teams. 

A Pine Bluffs runner started out the race in the lead, but the Dogies jockeyed with each other and kept him in their sights throughout the first two-thirds of the race.

“He was about 30 meters in front, but our guys were patient and bided their time to make their move,” Beehler explained. “It was a three loop race and when they got to the third and final loop, they all just took off.”

Carson Bock broke the tape at the finish line while Tristan Troftgruben, in his first race of the season, was hot on his heels. Next across was Zack Purviance in third, Bridger Alishouse finished fourth and Avery Chick clinched the perfect race with his fifth place finish. 

“They all finished within six to 10 feet from each other,” Beehler beamed. “They pack ran so well, and they pushed each other the whole way. Throughout the race, they changed places and that was really fun to watch.”

Chick commented that he felt some pressure near the end of the race, because he could see that
there were four of his teammates closing in on, and passing the Pine Bluffs runner.

“I was tired, but I knew that I had to push myself,” he admitted. “I just couldn’t be the reason we didn’t run a perfect race when we were so close.”

Beehler noted that all of the top five runners had moments during the race when they succumbed a bit to fatigue, but they all found a little more gas in the tank to keep going to finish a race that will always be fondly remembered.

 

Though 2020 was a challenging year, full of disappointment in high school sports, the Dogies have much to be proud of and made the most of their opportunities.

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