Oak Ridge girls have super school year

Athletic teams win unprecedented five section titles in major sports
By: Matt Long
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Perhaps Steve White said it best by saying it’s a good time to be a female athlete at Oak Ridge. That’s because this year Oak Ridge’s female athletic teams won an unprecedented five Division II section championships, claiming titles in volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball and track and field. Roseville (1989-90) and Vacaville (2002-03) won section titles in volleyball, basketball and softball, but not in soccer or track and field. White, Oak Ridge’s athletic director as well as the coach of the section championship basketball team, knew the girls were having a good year and wasn’t sure if they had set any records until he received notice from the section office. “After the girls won the softball title, I got a text message from John Williams from the section office congratulating me (us) for being the first school to win four section titles in four major sports in one school year,” White said. “Then two days later after the girls won the section championship in track and field, I sent a text message back saying ‘better make that five.’ “It’s pretty impressive to do that, particularly in the major sports.” While Oak Ridge put it all together this year to win five section titles, the girls’ teams have been strong for a number of years, proving it’s not a fluke. The softball team has won three straight section championships, while the soccer team’s title was its second in the last three years and the volleyball team had won a section title in 2005 and was runner-up in 2006. The basketball team has been one of the better teams in the section for quite some time, as has the girls’ track and field squad. White said there are several factors that have played into the success of the teams. “We have quality coaches that have been around for awhile and have established their programs,” White said. “They’ve surrounded themselves with quality assistants and that consistency, I think, is the biggest key. We let our coaches work through some tough times. You can’t have any consistency if you’re changing coaches every two or three years.” It doesn’t end with the coaches, however. “Obviously, you’ve got to have great athletes and we’ve got kids who are strong both in the classroom and on the playing field. We’ve got supportive parents too that buy into the system.” Volleyball coach Becky Potter credited coaches at the lower levels for some of the school’s success. “I think the girls are getting involved at a younger age,” Potter said. “We carried three freshmen on our varsity team and I know that some other coaches had some younger players on varsity too. “Also, I think it’s a testament to those coaches below us because we’re getting talented girls when they get here as freshmen.” For the exception of the soccer title, which Oak Ridge won over Roseville on penalty kicks, 4-2, after playing to a 1-1 tie in regulation and a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, the other four section titles were won by a large margin. The volleyball team swept St. Francis in three straight games, 25-18, 25-9 and 25-20; while the basketball team ripped Valley, 72-28. The softball team shut out Del Oro 4-0, while the track team outscored runner-up Woodcreek by 20 points. It’s no surprise that section championship teams have solid seasons from start to finish, as well. The volleyball team posted a 41-4 record, while the basketball team went 30-4. The soccer team finished with a 13-2-3 record, while the softball team ended up 24-4-1. There were three athletes who won a pair of section titles: Kaleigh Durket, Jodie Richards and Lauren Adams. While Durket was a standout on the volleyball team, she cherishes the basketball title just as much as the one she earned as a star with the volleyball team. “The two section titles made my senior year the best,” Durket said. “I loved my role on the basketball team and the girls made it so much fun. It was sort of a change of roles for me going from starter to coming off the bench, but it was good for my character as an athlete. “In volleyball I was one of the better players and never sat the bench, but when I first came to the basketball team I was pretty much a practice player. It wasn’t my sport and it didn’t come easy to me. I had to pay attention in practice and watch others play and support them from the bench. “In the end I learned a lot and became comfortable in my role.” Richards played on the basketball and softball teams, while Adams was a member of the championship basketball and soccer teams.