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Why are those varsity coaches crying?

Erick Studenicka

There were no beach balls tossed. No balloons thrown into the air. No wild, exuberant celebrations by the graduates across the staging area. No sir, there were no problems at all. The Tahoe-Truckee High School graduation Saturday was a class-act all the way.

Fortunately, the Sierra Sun sports pages don’t have the same sense of decorum, so I don’t feel guilty in offering the following anecdotes and observations on the high school sporting events and personalities that made athletics during the 1996-96 school year memorable.

Overall, I predict the Class of ’97 goes down as one of the top groups of athletes in school history. (Those varsity coaches you saw crying Saturday weren’t bawling for no reason – they were thinking about having to replace all those top athletes they saw graduate.) In all, Wolverine teams won five state titles during 1996-97, including championships in football, girls’ soccer, boys’ soccer, girls’ Nordic skiing and boys’ Nordic skiing.

But I also predict that at the class’s 10-year reunion in 2007, Wolverine stalwarts like Kris Rendon, Josh Lawrence and Matt May will still be lamenting the fact the Truckee boys’ basketball and baseball teams failed to qualify for the state playoffs. “1997 was a good year, but it could’ve been even better,” they’ll say.

The name’s been changed – His birth certificate may say his name is Ryan Dustin, but today everyone just calls him “Ryno” – including the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District. That’s right – the official diploma Dustin received Saturday is made out to Ryno Dustin, who gained his nickname by charging over opposing football players while playing defensive lineman. Ryno’s headed for Butte College in the fall to play football. I just hope his professors don’t address him as “Ryan;” otherwise he won’t know whom they’re talking to.

Overexposed – Truckee junior varsity boys’ basketball coach Mike Flohr exposed himself to be one of the most enthusiastic coaches on the Wolverine staff this year – and his clothes paid the price. During a home game against Spring Creek, Flohr ripped his pants when he jumped up to protest an official’s call. As Flohr continued to coach, the rip continued to enlarge, causing a few snickers and giggles throughout the gyn.

Flohr’s enthusiastic style of coaching, although tough on the pantseats, proved to be popular with the Wolverine players. He’s scheduled to take over the varsity team next winter, with current boys’ varsity coach Mike Merriman set to coach the Wolverine girls.

Business and pleasure – Sometimes athletics and academics seem to go together like oil and water. But several Wolverine athletes once again demonstrated that being a top athlete doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t be a top scholar as well. Valedictorian Shannon Baker-Branstetter (see related story) is the Wolverines all-time leading goal scorer in women’s soccer and is likely the only woman entering Yale who appeared in a junior varsity wrestling match. Of Truckee’s nine salutatorians, Ben Ritchie started on the soccer and baseball teams, Michelle Hill was the goaltender for the state champion soccer team, Myra Borden was a top swimmer for the Wolverines, Chalsey Phariss was a member of both the soccer and and alpine ski team and Ashley Burrill was a member of the Nordic ski team and the boy’s swim team.

Off into the blue yonder – The aforementioned Burrill, the TTHS Associated Student Body President this year who is headed for the Air Force Academy this fall, is quite a character. Although well-known for being a top swimmer, Burrill didn’t quite have the same picture-perfect form on the Nordic ski trails. One day I overheard a Wolverine coach tell the junior varsity squad, “See how Ashley’s skiing – just do the opposite and you’ll be OK.”

Burrill once told me he liked a column I had written about swimming, but he said there was a major mistake in it. He refused to tell me what was wrong with it until I was about ready to twist his arm to tell me.

“You forgot to run my photo with the column,” he said.

While the majority of graduates Saturday remained remarkably restrained, Burrill was ecstatic after the ceremony, inviting everyone within shouting distance to join in his family photos.

(So, Grandma Burrill, when you see that unidentified person in sunglasses at the far right of graduation photos, you’ll know it’s the local sports reporter. )

The name’s been changed – His birth certificate may say his name is Ryan Dustin, but today everyone just calls him “Ryno” – including the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District. That’s right – the official diploma Dustbin received Saturday is made out to Ryno Dustbin, who gained his nickname by charging over opposing football players while playing defensive lineman. Ryno’s headed for Butte College in the fall to play football. I just hope his professors don’t address him as “Ryan;” otherwise he won’t know whom they’re talking to.

Overexposed – Truckee junior varsity boys’ basketball coach Mike Flohr exposed himself to be one of the most enthusiastic coaches on the Wolverine staff this year – and his clothes paid the price. During a home game against Spring Creek, Flohr ripped his pants when he jumped up to protest an official’s call. As Flohr continued to coach, the rip continued to enlarge, causing just a few snickers and giggles throughout the gyn.

Flohr’s enthusiastic style of coaching, although tough on the pantseats, proved to be popular with the Wolverine players. He’s scheduled to take over the varsity team next winter, with current boys’ varsity coach Mike Merriman set to coach the Wolverine girls.

Lucky in Vegas – Although the Wolverines 21-14 win over Virgin Valley in the state AAA football championship didn’t involve much luck, Truckee students must have felt like they had hit the jackpot when U.S. Bank chose Josh Lawrence (all-state in soccer) to represent Truckee in the bank’s halftime Punt, Pass and Kick contest which donated $2 to the school for each yard amassed by the student in the contest. Lawrence booted two kicks more than 50 yards and then threw the pigskin another 60 yards, raising nearly $350 for Wolverine coffers.

Go Cossacks – When I went to the school in the late 1980s, Sonoma State was the school you went to “when you couldn’t get into Santa Rosa Junior College.” Nowadays, the school is considered one of the best small, public schools in the state and I’m glad to see that several top Wolverine student-athletes, including Nick Santamaria, Myra Borden and Brooke Maes will become “Cossacks” in the fall.

I told Maes I had two words of advice for her when she takes the mound next spring for SSU.

“BEAT DAVIS.”

End of an era – After seven seasons and two state titles, varsity baseball coach Craig Anderson hung up his spikes following the season. His baseball spikes, that is, as sounds as if Coach is going to work on his golf game next spring. He’ll still teach at TTHS and will assist with the varsity basketball team – but it’ll be strange to see Anderson without a baseball uniform on.

And while Anderson didn’t want to conclude his coaching career with two home losses in the Division Tournament, he approached the losses with his usual philosophy.

“It’s high school baseball – anything can happen,” he said.


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