York countians overcome pandemic hurdles to enjoy triumphant sports year in 2021
In many ways, the 2021 local sports year was much like 2020.
It was a year disrupted by canceled contests because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, it was also a year that produced several special results for local products.
With 2021 coming to a close, it’s time to take a look back at some of the top sports moments for York countians over the past 12 months.
Arians wins first Super Bowl as a head coach: York High graduate Bruce Arians added to an already loaded coaching resume by leading his Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a convincing victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last February in the Super Bowl.
It was Arians’ first Super Bowl title as a head coach. Arians previously was part of two Super Bowl championships as an assistant with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The two-time NFL Coach of the Year also became the oldest coach to win the Super Bowl in league history at 68.
“It still didn’t hit me until we were about halfway down the river and I’m holding the trophy over my head and I said, ‘Holy (crap), this is real!’” Arians told the Tampa Bay Times. “I didn’t cry, but I had a few tears fall and welled up. I said, ‘Oh, man!’”
Flickinger wins two bronze medals at Tokyo Olympics: Spring Grove High graduate Hali Flickinger had her sights set on a swimming gold medal in the delayed Tokyo Summer Games.
She didn’t quite reach that goal, but still made York County history.
Flickinger earned two bronze medals, finishing third in the women’s 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley.
The standout swimmer reached her second straight Olympics and became the first athlete from York County to claim two medals during one Olympic Games. She was also the first local swimmer to finish on the podium since Robert Sohl won a bronze medal in 1948.
Montgomery drafted in first round by Rockies: Red Land High School baseball star Benny Montgomery had a special senior year.
Montgomery led the Patriots to the PIAA title game, but things got even more intense from there.
Montgomery was named the Pennsylvania Gatorade Player of the Year after he batted .423 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs for Red Land. The Patriots’ standout was then selected No. 8 in the Major League Baseball draft by the Colorado Rockies in July and signed for a $5 million bonus.
Montgomery was ranked the No. 93 prospect by MLB.com and is the Rockies’ No. 2 prospect.
At PSU, Hartlaub earns scholarship, Pribula signs on: Headed into the Penn State football season, South Western High School graduate Drew Hartlaub had been an impact player on special teams, but he did so as a walk-on.
Hartlaub entered the transfer portal earlier in the year but ultimately decided to stick with the Nittany Lions and was rewarded.
After a spring practice in April, the team met in the locker room while Penn State and NFL legend Jack Ham spoke to the team. During his speech, Ham revealed that Hartlaub was being put on full scholarship by the program, much to the excitement of the team.
Another York County football standout will be on the Nittany Lions’ roster next year. Central York quarterback Beau Pribula signed with Penn State during the early recruiting period in December and will enroll early in January.
Pribula became the first Pennsylvania quarterback to earn a full scholarship from the program since Paul Jones in 2010 and achieved a childhood dream.
Stefanowicz qualifies for Olympics: John Stefanowicz entered the U.S. Olympic Team Greco-Roman Wrestling Trials as an underdog, which was a familiar position for the Kennard-Dale High graduate.
Stefanowicz wasn’t a standout during his high school wrestling career, never reaching a PIAA tournament.
To make the U.S. team headed to the Tokyo Summer Olympics, Stefanowicz went through the top three seeds in the event and earned an upset berth in the 87-kilogram (192-pound) weight class.
At Tokyo, Stefanowicz suffered a narrow loss in his first match and never got another chance to get back on the mat.
Stewart sets world record: York Suburban High School graduate Coleman Stewart appeared to have cemented a stellar swimming year with three top-10 finishes at the U.S. Olympics Team Trials, but he had one more memory to make.
Stewart set the world record in the men’s 100-meter backstroke short-course pool with a 48.33-second time while swimming for the Cali Condors of the International Swimming League. The record came in a 25-meter pool, while the Olympics are held in 50-meter pools.
During the Olympic Team Trials earlier in the year, Stewart finished 10th in the 100-meter backstroke, his top event, and took fourth in the 100 butterfly and eighth in the 100 freestyle.
At 23 years old, Stewart has won multiple NCAA titles, holds a world record and profiles as a potential player for USA Swimming for years to come after he developed a love for the sport at the York YMCA.
“I still can't believe that I'm here,” Stewart told the York Dispatch in June. “Now I'm starting to realize that this is real and that little scrawny kid from York is actually doing something.”
Spring Grove wins girls’ volleyball state title: The Spring Grove High School trophy case will be missing a girls’ volleyball league title from 2021, but another pair of postseason prizes will do just fine.
Spring Grove secured the District 3 Class 3-A and PIAA 3-A state titles during a special season.
The Rockets finished 28-1, with the only loss to York Suburban in the Y-A League final. For the seven seniors, it was an emotional end to their careers, which culminated with the program’s first state title.
“I’m so happy,” standout Nevaeh Wolfe said after the state title victory. “I was crying for a solid 10 minutes. It’s sad that it’s our last year, so it’s bittersweet. I started crying and then everyone else did.”
York County sprinters secure state track titles: Spring Grove freshman sensation Laila Campbell stole the show at last year’s PIAA Track and Field Championships, but she wasn’t the only local sprinter to secure a state 3-A title last spring.
Campbell claimed the girls’ 100-meter and 200-meter dash titles after she also won the District 3 and Y-A League titles in the events.
The Red Lion boys’ 4x100 relay team of Randy Fizer, Jeff Nyamekye, LaDainian Strausbaugh and AJ Virata took the title in that event in :42.28. Virata almost added another championship in the boys’ 200-meter dash, but Dallastown’s Kristian Phennicie beat him by .02 seconds.
"We came in with a chip on our shoulder trying to put York County and Red Lion on the map, so to be state champs, it's indescribable," Fizer said.
Knaub adds to title haul: When Dallastown High’s Makensy Knaub won her first York-Adams League girls’ golf title as a sophomore in 2019, she watched as Central York High graduate Carson Bacha claimed his third straight boys’ championship.
As she closed out her stellar high school career, Knaub did the same thing as Bacha, winning three straight league crowns.
She then added to her standout senior season when she defended her District 3 Class 3-A girls’ title, as well.
Knaub signed with NCAA Division I Mount St. Mary’s after the season.
Fatta finishes 11th at Olympic trials: York County gymnast Addison Fatta reached the U.S. Gymnastics Olympic Team Trials at just 16 years old and more than held her own.
Fatta finished at No. 11 after she claimed the No. 16 spot at the 2021 U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Fatta’s finish earned her a spot on the Senior Elite National Team and she ended the year by committing to a powerhouse NCAA Division I program, the University of Oklahoma.
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