By Dave Krider
Valley Southwoods (West Des Moines, Iowa) junior gymnastics superstar Shawn Johnson won one gold and three silver medals during the Olympic Games in Beijing, China.
Johnson’s all-around score of 62.725 was second only to USA teammate (and roommate) Nastia Liukin, who captured the coveted gold with a score of 63.325. Johnson finished with a brilliant floor exercise effort to pass up China’s Yang Yilin, who settled for bronze. The USA women also won silver in team competition, finishing second behind China.
During individual events, Johnson captured a silver medal in floor exercise with a score of 15.500. Floor ex gold went to Romania’s Sandra Izbasa with a score of 15.650. Johnson’s final event was the balance beam where she claimed her first-ever gold medal with a winning score of 16.225.
“It’s the Olympics and I just wanted to finish it off the best that I could,” Johnson said following her gold-medal effort. “Beam is my favorite event and I’ve been working so hard on it at home. I just put everything toward the beam. To finally get the gold for my beam coach (Liwen Zhuang) and for me on my very last routine, it meant the world.”
Other Youthful Olympians
* Two teenage swimmers and one wrestler also performed for the USA. Anoka, Minn., wrestler Jake Deitchler – at 18 the youngest USA Olympian in his sport in 32 years – lost both of his matches in the 145.5-pound Greco Roman competition. The University of Minnesota signee first lost to eventual silver medalist Kanatbek Begaliev of Kyrgyzstan, 6-0, 3-3. Then he bowed to eventual bronze medalist Armen Vardanyan of Ukraine, 1-1, 1-3, 1-1. (In the case of ties, the one who scores the final point is the winner.)
* The Americans’ youngest swimmer, Elizabeth Beisel, did not medal, but had a strong showing by placing fifth in the 200-meter backstroke in 2:08.23. (She earlier barely missed a medal when she placed fourth in the 400-meter individual medley.) Beisel, who just turned 16 on Monday, is a junior at North Kingstown, R.I.
* Kathleen Hersey, a recent graduate of Marist (Atlanta, Ga.), finished eighth in the 200-meter butterfly in 2:08.23. Hersey, who has signed with the University of Texas, was the third-youngest American swimmer. Last summer she earned four gold medals during the Pan American Games in Brazil.
Boys Basketball Notes
* University of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin continues to make recruiting in-roads by signing 7-foot-2 John Riek, who spent the last year at a prep school, Winchendon, Mass. The 240-pounder has a 7-foot-8 wing span. The Bearcats also have received a recent commitment from a promising sophomore, 6-6 Chane Behanan, who averaged an impressive 20.2 points as a freshman at Cincinnati Aiken.
* Illinois State has received a commitment from Missouri’s leading scorer, Justin Clark. The 6-4 standout averaged 25.6 points as a junior last year for Independence William Chrisman…Norfolk Collegiate (Norfolk, Va.) senior Donte Hill has made a commitment to Clemson. The 6-4 guard averaged 20.3 points, 7.9 rebounds and 6.3 assists last year…Nevada-Las Vegas has received a pledge from a hometown player, Mojave’s 6-3 Anthony Marshall, who averaged 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists as a junior.
* The balance of power could be shifting in some areas with the transfer of several players. Colin Borchert (6-8, 225) has transferred back to Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.) after spending his junior year at Glendale Raymond S. Kellis, where he averaged 23 points and 17 rebounds…One of Illinois’ premier players, 6-3 guard D.J. Richardson of Peoria Central, will spend his senior year at Findlay College Prep in Henderson, Nev. He averaged 17.8 points last year…In West Virginia, 6-2 junior Noah Cottrill, who averaged almost 31 points last year, is leaving Poca for Mountain State Academy in Beckley.
* Keep an eye on Martyre Demarco. Richard Obert writes in the Arizona Republic that Demarco’s dream is to be a 7-foot point guard, win three state titles and be the best player in the NBA some day. However, right now he is just a 6-3 sophomore. He averaged a respectable 17 points and eight assists and made A’s in the classroom as a freshman at Shadow Mountain (Phoenix, Ariz.). One thing in his favor: he spent the summer working out with veteran NBA guard Mike Bibby, who also starred at Shadow Mountain. To reach 7 feet, though, he’s strictly on his own!
Girls Basketball Notes
* Here’s a girl to keep an eye on. Sydney Moss is a 5-10 freshman at Ryle High in Union, Ky. The 14-year-old standout already has received letters from Louisville, Kentucky and Purdue. She has great hands, great leaping ability and great genes – her father is NFL superstar Randy Moss…Naismith Trophy winner Elena Delle Donne has decided not to play her freshman year at the University of Connecticut. She hasn’t said why publicly, but it appears she is just burned out on year-round basketball. It would be a shame if she never plays again, because she is one of the best shooters at her size (6-5) ever to play the game.
* On the recruiting front, Arkansas has received a huge commitment from 6-3 Sarah Watkins, who averaged 20.8 points and 12 rebounds as a junior at Houston (Tenn.). Houston’s Tim Smith calls her the best he’s coached in 25 years…Purdue has heard from 5-foot-5 lightning-bolt point guard K.K. Houser, who averaged 13.4 points and just under five assists as a junior for Nebraska Class A state champion Lincoln Southeast.
* Three Colorado preps recently made college commitments. Senior 6-2 twins Brenna and Meagan Malcolm-Peck of Thornton Horizon have chosen the University of Colorado. They combined to average 25 points and 13 rebounds as juniors. Iowa State landed highly-recruited 6-6 Anna Prins, who averaged 14 points as a junior while leading Broomfield to its second consecutive Class 4A state title…In Virginia, King’s Fork senior TaShauna “Sugar” Rodgers has made a commitment to Georgetown. The 5-10 standout averaged 22.1 points and just under 11 rebounds as a junior.
* Last week’s signing deadline for high school players taken in June’s Major League draft made millionaires of several teenagers. The big one was American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) third baseman Eric Hosmer. The 6-4 slugger, who batted .470 with 11 home runs this spring, received the biggest signing bonus ($6 million) ever given by the Kansas City Royals, who had made him the No. 3 overall pick.
* Holt (Mo.) pitcher Tim Melville, who was drafted in the fourth round due to a question of signability, received $1.25 million from the Royals. The 6-5, 205-pound right hander was the 115th overall pick after compiling a career record of 23-3 with a 1.48 ERA and 290 strikeouts in 170.3 innings. Last summer he received the Jackie Robinson Award during the Aflac All-America Game ceremonies.
* Oklahoma State has received a commitment from Max Walla, a slugger from Albuquerque Academy (N.M.). As a junior he batted a cool. 500 with 56 RBIs and a school-record 16 home runs. He played several positions, including pitcher where he led the team in victories…Newman (New Orleans, La.) catcher Wes Luquette has made a commitment to LSU. He batted .333 as a junior and is outstanding on defense. The 6-0, 200-pounder also had a future in football, because he runs 40 yards in 4.6 seconds and last year accounted for 2,487 yards and 37 touchdowns as a quarterback.
* Arkansas landed some strength up front with the commitment of 6-4, 300-pound senior guard Alvin Bailey from Broken Arrow, Okla…Washington was happy to hear from 6-4, 295-pound defensive tackle Deandre Coleman of Garfield (Seattle, Wash.)…Brent Qvale, a 6-7, 300-pound senior tackle from Williston (N.D.), has chosen Nebraska.
* Washington State has received a commitment from an outstanding wide receiver, Gino Simone of Skyline (Sammamish, Wash.). The 6-0, 165-pounder caught 70 passes as a junior for 1,420 yards and 20 touchdowns…Syracuse also has heard from a standout pass catcher, 6-2, 180-pound Alec Lemon of Arundel (Gambrills, Md.). As a junior, Lemon snared 70 passes for 969 yards and 13 touchdowns.
* Raymond Graham, a running back from Elizabeth (N.J.), has made a commitment to Pittsburgh. The 5-9, 177-pounder suffered a broken collarbone as a junior, but still rushed for 750 yards in only four games…Highly-ranked corner back Brandon McGee (6-0, 190) of Plantation (Fla.) says he will attend the University of Miami.
* The U.S. Under-18 Select Team finished with a 2-4 record during the annual Under-18 Memorial of Ivan Hlinka Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic. In their final game, the Americans nipped Switzerland, 6-5, on a goal by Paul Phillips (Darien, Ill.). Caleb Herbert (Bloomington, Minn.), who scored a pair of goals, was named Player of the Game.
The Americans’ other victory was a 6-2 decision over Slovakia in their second outing. They lost to Canada (6-4), Russia (5-1), Finland (6-5) and the Czech Republic (5-2). Steven Whitney (Wakefield, Mass.) had a short-handed goal and three assists against Finland. The U.S. team consisted of 21 players from 13 different states.
* St. Mark’s (Dallas, Texas) sophomore Anthony Paolucci drilled a 6-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to win the Junior PGA Championship at TPC River’s Bend in Maineville, Ohio. Paolucci and another Dallas sophomore, Jordan Spieth of Jesuit, each shot 12-under-276 in regulation play. Both players qualified for the Junior Ryder Cup team which will play Europe on Sept. 15-16 in Bowling Green, Ky…In the girls division, Danielle Frasier (Encinitas, Calif.) captured the title with a score of 277.
* Top-seeded Gail Brodsky defeated third-seeded Coco Vandeweghe, 7-5, 6-1, to win the USTA Girls 18 National Championships at the Berkeley Tennis Club. Jamie Hampton, who won doubles with Vandeweghe, received the coveted Maureen Connolly Brinker Award.
* Lake Norman, though lacking experience, is zeroing in on North Carolina’s all-time soccer winning streak. Lake Norman has won 56 straight games, including two Class 3A state titles. The record of 65 by Asheville Ben Lippen has stood for 38 years.
* The Fellowship of Christian Athletes National High School Lacrosse Team defeated Ontario Edge Senior Elite, 15-6, 15-8, 9-7, during the second annual North American Cup Series in Toronto, Canada. The U.S. team consisted of players from Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and West Virginia.
* The U.S. edged Canada, 13-12, to win the water polo gold medal during the Junior Pan American Games in Brazil. El Toro (Calif.) senior attacker Griffin White scored a team-high five goals in the title match and finished with a tournament-high 27 goals. Another Californian, Villa Park senior Josh Samuels, had 16 goals during the five-match tournament.
* The National Wrestling Coaches Association will be presenting its Dan Gable “America Needs Wrestling” Award in 2009 to three recipients: Rex Jones of Chadron (S.D.), Danielle Hobeika of Naperville (Ill.) and Jim Root of Saratoga (Calif.).
* Movie actor Denzel Washington has donated $100,000 to help Mount Vernon (N.Y.) keep its fall sports after taxpayers had voted down this year’s athletic budget. The school has raised $300,000, but winter sports still are in jeopardy.
* Alan Sutton has left the Chicago Tribune following a 32-year career. In recent years he specialized in high school girls sports. The 60-year-old newspaper veteran took a buyout package as layoffs continue to strike the industry, but this writer hopes he will resurface soon and continue to publicize prep sports in some capacity.