By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
1. North Laurel wins school’s first basketball region title
Since the school was formed in 1992, no North Laurel basketball team, boys or girls, won a region title. That is until 2012, when the Jaguars put together a late season run that culminated with three wins in the 13th Region tournament, beating Middlesboro, Knox Central and then Clay County in the finals, 54-52.
The Jaguars, under new head coach Brad Sizemore, were not picked by many to win the region. Most were expecting Clay County or Harlan County to capture that honor. North had fallen to Harlan County in the region season, and Clay County twice. They also lost to Barbourville, Bell County, South Laurel, Knox Central and Corbin, all 13th Region teams. Coming into the post season, the Jags were just 4-6 against region teams.
But come tournament time, the Jaguars went 4-1, their only loss coming in the 49th District finals to Clay County. But they were able to avenge that defeat with the win in the region finals.
The Jaguars lost in the first round of the state tournament to Rowan County, 64-46, but 2012 will always be remembered as a magical year for the Jaguars.
2. Ashley Woolum wins state track and field title
Coming into her senior season at North Laurel, Ashley Woolum had come close to winning a state title in track and field before, but this time, she was finally able to bring home a gold medal with her win in the long jump of 17 feet, 3.25 inches. She would almost make it a double as she finished second in the triple jump. She also took fourth in the high jump.
After her success at North Laurel, Woolum signed to compete in track and field at Eastern Kentucky University.
3. Caroline Moore wins region golf title
The North Laurel golfer capped off her senior season with a region title, then finished 7th in the girls’ state golf tournament.
Moore became the second Lady Jaguar to win a region title. She won the title by one stroke over Pulaski County’s Elsa Moberly, 74 to 75. North Laurel took second in the team competition.
She then placed 7th in the girls’ state tournament, while her team took ninth. Her fantastic golf career at North Laurel led to her signing with Lee University.
4. Neha Rao, Baker/Jadhav capture region tennis titles
It was a good year for tennis in Laurel County. South Laurel’s Neha Rao captured her second straight girls’ region singles title, while the North Laurel doubles team of Brad Baker and Rajeev Jadhav took home the boys’ doubles titles.
Rao won her opening match in the state tournament over Johnson Central’s Mikayla Estepp, 6-0, 6-0, then beat Sarah Stearman of Manual, 7-5, 6-0. Those wins advanced her to the third round, where she fell to Christian Academy of Louisville’s Ellie Gerlach, the No. 2 seed in the tournament, 6-2, 6-3.
Baker and Jadhav, despite being a region champion, drew the tournament’s No. 5 seeded team, Joe Hodapp and Cameron Shulak of Manual, and lost in the first round, 6-1, 6-1.
5. North Laurel football makes first playoff trip since 2004
For football fans on the north side, 2012 turned out to be a pretty good year, as the North Laurel Jaguars returned to the state football playoffs for the first time in eight years, and the first time under coach Chris Larkey.
The Jaguars, led by Michael Nelson and Gabe Blair, finished the regular season with a 6-4 record, their first winning season since the finished 6-5 in 2004. They beat crosstown rival South Laurel, 35-10. Their 35-14 win over Lincoln County in the final game of the regular season advanced them to the playoffs, where they fell in the first round to Whitley County, 41-20, to finish with a 6-5 record.
6. South Laurel Cardinals, North Laurel Lady Jaguars win 13th Region baseball, softball titles
One was expected. The other wasn’t.
The North Laurel Lady Jaguars, under first year coach Becky Osborne, won their sixth straight region title and yet another trip to the girls’ fast pitch softball tournament. North beat South Laurel in the 13th Region finals, 4-1, to advance to Owensboro, where it won its first game over Ashland Blazer, 3-1. They then fell to Ryle, 1-0, to drop into the consolation bracket, where the Lady Jaguars beat Scott County, 6-3, and Green County, 6-1, before being eliminated by eventual state runner-up Lone Oak, 9-8.
On the other side of town, the South Laurel baseball team wasn’t really in discussion for the region title at the start of the year. Most people were expecting North Laurel, Middlesboro, Clay County or Harlan County to advance to the state tournament.
The Cardinals faced Harlan County in their regular season finale and beat them, 3-1. Prior to that win, South had dropped four of its last five games. But that win over the Black Bears ignited a post season run that saw South win the 50th District title over Corbin, 3-2, then beat Harlan County, Clay County and Middlesboro in the 13th Region tournament to advance to the state tournament, where the Cardinals fell to Ashland Blazer, 7-0.
7. South Laurel Lady Cardinals win region soccer title
Two year’s ago, the South Laurel Lady Cardinals saw their string of five consecutive region titles come to an end at the hands of Letcher County Central. That loss didn’t sit well with the Lady Cardinals, and they were determined to once again claim their rightful spot atop the region rankings.
With the KHSAA realigning the soccer districts, that meant the Lady Cardinals and Letcher County Central would not be in the same region. The Lady Cardinals rolled through the district and region tournaments to once again be crowned champions. That set up a first round state playoff game with Letcher County Central, giving South a chance to avenge its defeat last year at the hands of the Lady Cougars.
And avenge they did, rolling, 11-1, to advance to the second round of the state, where they lost to Notre Dame Academy, 4-0.
Over at North Laurel, the boy’s soccer team turned in one of its best seasons ever by capturing the 49th District title and winning a game in the region tournament.
8. Lauren Wombles finishes career at Cumberlands with several records
The former South Laurel standout basketball player wrapped up a successful career at the University of the Cumberlands by garnering several individuals honors.
Wombles was named to Mid-South Conference Player of the Year and was a member of the State Farm WBCA All American Team. On the individual side, she became Cumberlands’ all-time leading scorer with 2,063 points. She finished with 919 rebounds, also a school record, 204 assists and 260 steals during her four years at the Williamsburg university. While a Lady Patriot, she played in the national tournament three of her four years.
9. Marcus Carson signs to play baseball with UK
North Laurel’s two-sport star became a Wildcat in November when he signed to play baseball at the University of Kentucky.
The Wildcats first noticed the North Laurel outfielder when he was a freshman attending their camp. The coaches timed him as he ran to first base in 3.2 seconds, and at that point, the courtship was under way.
He verbally committed to UK at the end of his sophomore year, but didn’t make it official until he signed his letter of intent in November.
He will join former teammate Zack Storm at UK. Storm signed in 2011 and is playing his first year with the Wildcats.
10. Laurel County adds swimming, fishing and archery as team sports
North and South Laurel students have three new sports to compete in: Swimming, fishing and archery, as the school board approved all three to become varsity sports.
Swimming was the first sport to get under way in December, and North Laurel won the very first swim meet it ever competed in, while South Laurel finished fourth.
Archery has been a club sport for the past few years, but only recently has the KHSAA made it an official sport, along with bass fishing.