Pandemic, state titles, NIAA honors highlight 2020 in Churchill County sports
Sports were thriving in Churchill County at the beginning of the year.
Fallon won another basketball championship. Oasis Academy was in the middle of its first year of eligibility in the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association. And there was excitement around the spring season for both schools.
Then, the pandemic hit, shutting down high school sports for the rest of the year.
Although middle and high school sports have been on hiatus since mid-March, not all was lost in the Lahontan Valley. Motorsports completed another season, golf tournaments were popular and some youth sports teams were able to compete in the latter half of the year.
Here are this year’s sports moments that stood out in Churchill County.
Jennifer Hucke was voted into this year’s class of the NIAA Hall of Fame for her success on the volleyball and basketball courts. Hucke, who was inducted into the Greenwave Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2017, was a force on the volleyball court, leading Fallon to two state championships. Hucke continued her career at Stanford, leading the Cardinal to two national championships.
Leilani Otuafi, who led Fallon to three state basketball titles, made her first start at the Division I level in January. She started for BYU in the Cougars’ road game against Saint Mary’s in the Bay Area.
Tommy McCormick was one of the most dominating wrestlers in the state. During the postseason, he pinned all his opponents, including his final opponent of his career in less than 30 seconds to win his third state title. McCormick was also named the Nevada state winner of the Dave Schultz High School Excellence Award.
Fallon’s archery team won the state championship in Las Vegas.
Oasis Academy’s boys basketball team finished second in its division behind state champ Mineral County. The Bighorns advanced to the playoffs and were two wins from the state tournament but fell in their opener.
Fallon’s boys basketball team had an encore performance like none other. After Fallon defeated Elko for the state title last year on a buzzer-beater by Elijah Jackson in overtime, the Greenwave did it again. Jackson hit a similar 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Fallon its second-straight state title.
One week into the game schedule, everything was put on hold because of the pandemic. And middle and high school sports across the country were canceled for the rest of the spring season, ending the careers of many seniors.
On the collegiate circuit, the effect was the same as several ex-Greenwave stars, including Megan McCormick and Tristen Thomson, saw their softball and track seasons end abruptly.
For the first time in school history, two Fallon students were selected as recipients for the NIAA’s Top 10 Student-Athlete award for Northern Nevada. McCormick, who also played football, and Ashby Trotter, who competed in tennis and swimming, received the honor.
Several Fallon seniors signed their letters of intent to play sports at the next level, including Jackson (basketball, Southern Oregon), Sione Otuafi and Levi Andrews (football, Feather River) and Makenzee Moretto (basketball, Butte). Oasis Academy’s Arhman Bradley (Lassen) and Kate Dunkin (lacrosse, New England College) also signed to play collegiately.
The Greenwave Hall of Fame announced its fourth induction class, which will be honored in next year’s ceremony with the Class of 2021.
Because golf was one of the few sports allowed at the beginning of the pandemic recovery, the Fallon Golf Course saw an uptick in play. Many tournaments flooded the weekend schedule during the summer and into the fall.
Motorsports at Rattlesnake and Top Gun raceways completed another season although it was more abbreviated because of the pandemic. Rattlesnake features dirt-track racing and Top Gun hosts drag racing.
In July, the NIAA announced that all sports would not start until January 2021 with the winter season followed by fall and spring.
Some youth sports were able to compete after the state provided additional guidance in October. Travel and club teams were in action, including the Fallon Vipers, a youth girls soccer program, and Fallon middle and high school rodeo.
Chelle Dalager, who finished her third season coaching the Fallon boys basketball team, was named a Top 40 finalist for the Influential Women of the Sierra Nevada award but she received the trailblazing award for her impact in the region. Dalager became the state’s first female coach of a boys basketball team and then proceeded to guide the Greenwave to back-to-back state championships.
Just like her cousin in January, Leta Otuafi made her first start at the Division I level as she suited up for the Wolf Pack in their season opener in November. Otuafi, who transferred after one season at Utah State-Eastern, has been a regular starter at Nevada.
Fallon native Jade Corkill competed in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Texas, finishing eighth in the team roping event.