VERDE VALLEY - Choosing the best 2012 sports photos of Cottonwood area athletes proved harder than I expected. I took far too many exceptional photographs to sift through them all and pick the best - not a brag, just a fact, and more a reflection of athletic excellence than my photographic ability.
One stood out above all the rest, the Mingus girls track team victory pose after winning a state title. So that one is my favorite, but the rest are in no particular order and were also chosen for what they signify, not just aesthetics. There are some obvious snubs in this list, for instance the Aftershock distance club that competed at a national level, but I didn't have photos readily available to visually tell their story. Just know those young ladies have already accomplished a lot, and will continue to amaze in the years to come.
Members of the 2012 state champion Mingus Girls' track team pose for a picture on the track infield at Mesa Community College before accepting a team trophy (May 12). From left to right: Torey Braly, Emma Schraner, Delaney Scanlan, MacKenzie Mabery, Skyler Storie, Stephanie Gilboy, Taylor Jochim, Heather Calandra, Laura Wylie, Justine Taylor, Monica Soliz. VVN/Sean Morris
Marauder Micah Nevarez picks off a Bradshaw pass in the first half Friday night (August 31) on Bright Field. It was Nevarez's first interception as a varsity player and part of a defensive domination by Mingus as they won, 23-7. The win started a six-game winning streak that had people thinking about a state title, but it wasn't meant to be. VVN/Sean Morris
Cassie Norman hits a home run in the seventh inning off the best pitcher in Division III Saturday (May 5) in the third round of the state tournament against Payson. I had not taken a picture of a batter for the whole game, I figured the Maxpreps guy had it covered, but when Cassie Norman stepped to the plate I intuitively knew she would hit a home run (when watching sports is your job, stuff like that happens). I climbed up the railing along the bleachers to get a good angle and snapped the shot. It ended up being her last plate appearance as a Marauder. Very fitting the ball landed on the other side of the fence. VVN/Sean Morris
Mark Mccoy board slides down a 13-stair rail (March 16). This trick made my jaw drop. Mccoy has nerves of steel, straight up. He talked about doing it for a long time, years maybe, and after downing a can of red bull that spring afternoon he was ready to make it happen. For him it's just one more notch on his belt. VVN/Sean Morris
Aleonna Sanchez demonstrates a back flip layout in practice Thursday (March 29) at Flip City Gym in Cottonwood. Sanchez placed second at the level seven state competition and if history repeats itself, she'll win level eight in 2013. VVN/Sean Morris
Clancy Odegard glides to the basket and attempts a scoop shot against Sedona (Jan 20). Mingus won the game, 70-50, for their fourth win in a row. The Mingus team beat Camp Verde the night before, and the win streak signified a change in culture under new head coach Mark Owens. VVN/Sean Morris
Alex Brewer out jumps a Flagstaff defender and catches a pass from Luke Simmons Tuesday (June 19) on Bright Field in a 7 on 7 scrimmage. After watching the Mingus team in summer training, I started to get excited about the football season. Brewer was a big part of that excitement, and he went on to make some great catches in the regular season. VVN/Sean Morris
The 2012 Verde Valley Majors baseball All Stars pose for a team picture holding the District 10 banner after defeating Camp Verde in the Championship game Wednesday (July 11) in Cottonwood. All all star teams are good, but this team was superb and went undefeated in district play. They went (2-2) in the state tournament. The 9-10 year-old Verde Valley baseball team also won district 10. VVN/Sean Morris
The 2012 Mingus volleyball team celebrates a 5-game win over Catalina in the first round of the state playoffs at Tim's Toyota Center (Nov. 2). Mingus lost in the second round to the eventual state champs, Tuba City. The Marauders really caught fire at the end of the season and came up with some quality wins over teams like Sedona and Northwest Christian. VVN/Sean Morris
Justine Taylor rests her head on teammate Monica Soliz after the Mingus girls' cross country team accepted the second place trophy at the Division III cross country finals at Cave Creek Golf Course in Phoenix (Nov. 3). The ladies had an exceptional season and will contend for a team title again next year.