The Times sports department will publish its lists for stories of the year Sunday before the calendar turns.
As the last days of 2013 wind down, I've reached into my personal memory bank to do my own compilation of moments that stood out in the last 12 months.
These aren't no-brainer items you'll find in every top 10. There was no voting or qualifying standard, and they're not ranked in a particular order. They're just some memorable events that stood out to me as unique.
Portage won its first baseball sectional since 1995. Coach Tim Pirowski had made great strides to rebuild the program in a community where he doesn't have a ton of kids playing travel ball. Ironically, he finally got over the hump thanks largely to a Chesterton transfer. Kevin Jones won two games and saved a third to lead the Indians to the title, topping perennial power Crown Point in the final.
LaPorte's Elena Lancioni became the most decorated girls cross country runner in the Duneland Athletic Conference, and that's saying a mouthful. Among her myriad of feats, she became the first girl to win the DAC meet three times, complete three undefeated seasons in the conference and capture five MVP awards (between cross country and track). Lancioni was an all-state finisher four times, culminating with a third-place showing this season.
Shawn Streck of Merrillville finished seventh in the state wrestling finals at heavyweight as a freshman. Streck was the only frosh in the field of 16 that included just one sophomore and 11 seniors. He lost 1-0 in the quarterfinals to Perry Meridian's Donte Whitfield, who went on to win the title. The Pirates sophomore is ranked third in the state behind, yes, two seniors.
Bishop Noll reached the state finals in volleyball. The tournament dates back to 1972, and no Lake or Porter county school had EVER made it to the championship.
Portage bested Valparaiso to claim the state gymnastics crown. A win over the Vikings has become commensurate with capturing the title for other Northwest Indiana teams. Valpo was runner-up in 2012 after claiming the state championship four years in a row.
Harley Dubsky of Valpo was medalist at the girls golf state finals, extending the region's string of championships to three. Chesterton's Kelly Grassel had won the previous two years. Prior to 2011, NWI never had a champion or runner-up.
Marty Gaff retired as Kouts boys basketball coach after 30 years at the school. In an era where coaches don't seem to stick around as long, either by their choice or a school board's choice, Gaff was a throwback. He left behind a veteran team that's off to a 6-0 start.
Joe Otis resigned as Valpo's boys basketball coach to become the school's girls coach. Candy Wilson resigned as Boone Grove's girls coach to become the Vikings' junior varsity coach. A staff that also includes Jack Gabor has more than 900 high school wins among them.
Bowman Academy boys basketball became the first area program to win state titles in different classes, adding the 2A trophy to go with its 2010 hardware for Class A. No. 3 may not be far off.
The E.C. Central-West Side match-up for a 4A football sectional title showed that success can be attained outside of the wealthy boundaries of suburbia. Just when we didn't think the Cardinals' wild 46-44 win over the Cougars could be topped, Stacy Adams' team stunned New Prairie, coached by former Griffith coach Russ Radtke, with a miraculous comeback for a 38-37 overtime victory in the regional.
That's 10 of 'em, folks. Looking forward to many more in 2014.