Top 10 Sports Stories in Indian Country From 2013
Indian Country had plenty of athletic accomplishments to boast about in 2013.
Here is a top 10 list (in no particular order) of some of the most noteworthy sporting feats reported in Indian Country over the past 12 months.
1. Barefoot team wins tournament
A Mexico-based team of Trique Indian boys generated headlines, not only for winning a basketball tournament, but for how they won it. The majority of the team's members played barefoot. At the 2013 Champions of the International Festival of Mini-Basketball, the team from the Mexican city of Oaxaca won all six of its contests at the tournament, which was held in Argentina.
Though team members were offered shoes, many opted not to wear them for the tournament as they are accustomed to doing everything barefoot.
2. Ellsbury signs with Yankees
Just over a month after winning his second World Series ring with the Boston Red Sox, Jacoby Ellsbury signed a free agent contract with the team's most bitter rivals. Ellsbury, a 30-year-old center fielder, who is a member of the Navajo and Colorado River Indian tribes, inked a seven-year, $153 million deal with the New York Yankees in earlier this month.
Ellsbury, who won his first World Series championship in '07 with Boston, was a key part of the Red Sox successes this past season. He had a .298 batting average and led all Major League Baseball players with 52 steals in 134 games.
3. Joba joins Tigers
A week after acquiring Ellsbury, the New York Yankees lost their veteran Native American pitcher via free agency. Joba Chamberlain, who played the past seven seasons with the Yankees, signed a one-year contract worth $2.5 million with the Detroit Tigers in mid-December.
Chamberlain, a member of the Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska, won a World Series title with the Yankees in 2009.
The 28-year-old appeared in 260 career games with New York. He had a 23-14 record and a 3.85 ERA. During the 2013 campaign, however, Chamberlain only pitched 42 innings and had a 4.93 ERA.
4. HUGE high schooler
Most high school football players don’t get national news attention. But then again, Tony Picard, who has Sioux and Umatilla-Nez Perce Indian ancestry, is not your average high school athlete.
Picard, a senior from White Swan High School in Washington state, made headlines in the fall when it was reported that he was a whopping 400 pounds. Picard is 6-foot-4 inches.
Besides playing on his team's defensive line as a nose tackle, Picard earned notoriety for also being used as a running back, a move which often required several opposing players to tackle him.
Picard's televised appearances included interviews with CNN and ABC's Good Morning America.
5. Sibling hoopsters
Basketball fans from across the country cheered ecstatically for two college players who have earned a special place in Indian Country.
That's because the Louisville Cardinals women's basketball squad featured sisters Shoni and Jude Schimmel.
Thanks in large part to these sisters’ (who grew up on Oregon's Umatilla Indian Reservation) hard work the Cardinals pulled off several upsets in their NCAA tournament this past March and April.
Louisville advanced all the way to the national finals before losing 93-60 to the University of Connecticut Huskies.
Shoni, who was a junior, led the Cardinals in scoring last season averaging 14.2 points per game. Her sister, who was a sophomore, averaged 5.7 points per match.
6. Two Native coaches
History is being made in the National Hockey League this season.
For the first time in the league's history there are two Natives, Craig Berube and Ted Nolan, who are serving as head coaches.
Berube, who is Cree, was brought in as the head coach of the Philadelphia Flyers in October, after the club had lost its first three regular season matches.
Nolan, an Ojibwe, was hired as the interim head coach of the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 13. The Sabres' opted to bring in Nolan, who previously coached the franchise for two seasons in the mid-90s, as the clubs only registered victories in four of their first 20 contests this year.
7. Hall of Famer
Powerlifter Brady Tanner became a hall of famer and made a bit of history in March.
Tanner, who is Cherokee, became the first Special Olympian to be inducted into the American Indian Hall of Fame.
The hall is located on the campus of Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, which is also Tanner's hometown.
Tanner won four medals (three gold, one silver) at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, which were held in Athens, Greece.
He was one of six inductees into the hall of fame this year.
8. Mills awarded medal
Almost five decades after winning an Olympic gold medal, Billy Mills was presented with another prestigious honor.
Mills, who is Oglala Lakota, was one of 18 individuals who were presented with a Presidential Citizens Medal this year. He received his award from President Barack Obama at a reception at the White House in February. The award, established in 1969, recognizes people who have performed exemplary deeds of service for their country or their fellow citizens.
Mills shocked quite a few people when he captured the gold medal in the men's 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
9. Goodrich drafted by Shock
Star basketball player Angel Goodrich returned to her home state of Oklahoma to play professionally.
Following a stellar career with the Kansas University Jayhawks, Goodrich, who is Cherokee, made history this past April.
Goodrich became the highest drafted Native player in WNBA history when she was chosen 29th overall by the Tulsa Shock.
Two years earlier, University of Nevada grad Tahnee Robinson, who is Northern Cheyenne, had been selected 31st overall in the league. She was draft by the Phoenix Mercury.
Goodrich, a 5-foot-4 point guard, netted 1,262 points during her collegiate career at Kansas.
10. Hoopsters win again
The Northwest Indian College Eagles managed to successfully defend their national men's basketball title.
For the second straight year, the Eagles, who are based in Bellingham, Washington, won the American Indian Higher Education Consortium National Tournament.
The Eagles won all six of their matches at this year's tourney, which was staged in March in Cloquet, Minnesota. But the Eagles had to work a bit of overtime before they were able to celebrate.
Northwest Indian College edged Oglala Lakota College 111-107 in OT in the championship contest.
11. Change the Mascot Campagin becomes a movement (BONUS)
The campaign to change the Washington NFL team started years ago, but this year it became a movement as civil rights groups, politicians, media and even the president got involved. Dan Snyder, the team's owner, said that he will never change the team's name, but several media personalities like Wash Post columnist Mike Wise have predicted otherwise.
Who knows, maybe 2014 will be a name-changer.
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