FINAL POINT : Thank you for making this opportunity and area great
     2012-11-22      By Terry Gaston   
Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

If you are a fan of “Late Night” comedy, the Olympics or even credit card commercials with a revolting red-headed toddler, you likely know Jimmy Fallon – or, at least who the comedian is.

My favorite part of Fallon’s act is when he closes a week of “Late Night” shows on Friday, or a two-week Olympic Games broadcast by NBC, by writing Thank You notes, usually in a satirical fashion to make light of the week’s top newsmakers.

So in honor of Thanksgiving, I offer my own set of Thank You notes, roughly compiled over the past year. Some are fun, but mostly they are to offer my gratitude for the successes and hard work that coaches, athletes and others connected with our student-athletes contribute to their ultimate success as people.

Thank you Giovana Melo, coach of the Western Nebraska Community College volleyball team, for leading an amazing program that has not only qualified for the NJCAA Division I National Tournament for 14 straight years but made the tournament’s semifinals an astonishing nine years in a row. Whether academicians like it or not, athletics in America puts your colleges and universities on the map. And WNCC is on every junior college volleyball program’s radar every November because of the quality students that Melo, and before her Chris Green, were and are able to bring to WNCC and the North Platte Valley to play volleyball and earn their associate degrees along the way.

On the other end of the spectrum, thank you to those student-athletes who go out and practice hard every day during their season but may only taste victory just a handful of times, or perhaps not at all. Your dedication to your program and to being a solid teammate will prove more beneficial in life than had you not gone out with your fellow players and given the game you play your best shot.

Thank you to Josh Guerue, the Scottsbluff girls’ junior varsity basketball coach, who early last season had his players in a huddle during a timeout very late in a game, holding to a one-basket lead but having to stop the in-bounds play. He firmly told his girls, “You have to deny the in-bounds pass.” The kicker? He asked, “Do you know what deny means?” The Bearcat players nervously nodded their heads, but the moment was priceless. If I remember correctly, the opposition got in the in-bounds pass but it could not convert on its go-ahead opportunity. Anytime I run into Josh, and even Dr. Cyndi Guerue, all I have to say is, “Deny” and we laugh.

Thank you to football linemen, who sacrifice their identities so the running backs, quarterbacks and receivers can make the plays because of your blocking and tackling execution. As a lineman in high school or even the next level, you have to sacrifice yourself physically for success, but those who score touchdowns and field goals usually thank their blockers first when their achievements are recognized.
Thank you to Tim Marquez, who these past few years has been more known as Nate’s dad, but his allegiance to Nate and his Gering American Legion Post 36 Platte Valley Seniors baseball team was immeasurable.

In this first of two notes to Tim, thank you for that moment we will never forget when we were trying to correctly score a fielding play as a hit for the batter or an error on the fielder. And then after some dispute in the press box, Tim just took his toy – in this case, the iPad with the GameChanger program that served as the 36ers’ official statistic keeper – and went to the home dugout. Similar to Josh Guerue and the “Deny” moment, when Tim and I cross paths at games or elsewhere, it always starts with “Hit or error?”
Thank you to Scottsbluff girls’ varsity basketball coach Mike Burda for another comical moment last season, although it took place in the middle of the action on court. To a player whose innocence will remain protected, and frankly I couldn’t tell you for sure who it was anyway, Burda yells out with a nearly silent gym, “You are the blondest brunette I have ever seen.” Again, a priceless moment.

In fact, in general, thank you to our area coaches, activities directors and school secre— oops, that’s administrative professionals – for your assisting in getting us information on their schedules, games and cooperation in giving us good quotes that help make my job easier and better for our readers.

And I also want to say thank you to our schools’ activity bus drivers, who may have the most challenging physical and mental task by ensuring that the bus is mechanically ready for the long travel that most of our teams here in the Panhandle have to endure to reach their destination for competition. Then, as I waited for my son and his Math Club teammates to arrive home Thursday night from Lincoln, I thought of my days of riding on long bus trips to athletics and other activities, and how alert the bus driver has to be. So kudos to all of you whose job it is to say, “Leave the driving to us.”

Thank you to Kaitlyn Krzyzanowski, for not only having a challenging name that I make sure I have spelled every time I type it, and not just for your great golfing successes in winning 16 tournaments over two years after becoming a Gering Bulldog, including that elusive district medalist title this year.

Even more so, thank you for leading your young teammates in a way that Gering coach Annie Boggs says is like having you as being a second coach. While you may be disappointed in finishing fourth individually at state in October after placing second last fall, you and your teammates brought Gering back into the girls’ golf picture at the state level by finishing fourth as a team.

And to the Scottsbluff girls and Coach Mike Klein, thank you for your continued successes and taking third in the state team race.
Thank you again to Tim Marquez, this time for speaking in Nate’s Economics class, taught by Randy Plummer, last spring. And in tongue-in-cheek fashion, you said you told members of the two-time state tournament-qualifying Senior Legion team that he didn’t think they had what it took to win the state championship like he and his Legion mates did in 1982. In early July, the 36ers were in a slump and didn’t even earn their No. 1 district seed – which actually turned out to be a blessing the way the bracket worked in their favor. By Aug. 1, Gering had its third state Legion championship. Many times, the best success can come from being challenged.

Thank you to Chuck Bordeaux, who organized a long-time-coming reunion of the 1982 state championship Gering Legion baseball team. And although only six team members were present at the barbecue, the stories they told – and with a few faded memories, they worked as teammates to piece together the long-forgotten facts – were far more filling than the food Chuck grilled that July Saturday evening. We didn’t realize it at the time, but the event served as the perfect prelude to the 2012 Senior 36ers’ late-season run that culminated with their winning their own state championship and formed a special bond between the 1982 and 2012 Legion state-winning teams.

Speaking of state championships, thank you to Scottsbluff High School boys’ basketball and track and field team members who earned your state titles respectively last March and May. Thank you to Scottsbluff sophomore Matthew Barraza for your hard work culminated by winning the Class B boys’ cross country individual title, leading the Bearcats to a second-place team finish after he and junior Anthony Parra led Scottsbluff to the team title in 2011.

In addition, thank you to Matt Williams and Hometown Family Radio in letting me “cover” the state basketball tournament as if I were sitting in the press area at the Bob Devaney Sports Center in Lincoln.

Thank you to Matt Palomo for his desire in seeing tennis become part of the Gering activities program. While, like any first-year program, the Bulldog boys struggled but they defeated Scottsbluff in their home dual. One day, when we start seeing successes from both Gering and Scottsbluff tennis players at the state level, we can say we were there when the building of one program under Palomo and the rebuilding of another under Scottsbluff coach Ron Swank all began.
Thank you to Lisa Betz and the Citizen staff who read through my stories and column each week to try to keep this longtime, yet imperfect, sports journalist looking good my catching my ugly grammatical errors. It is a joy to be a part of this still-budding effort to serve the Gering community and our surrounding cities and towns.

Most of all, thank you to our readers and subscribers who believe in the mission of the Gering Citizen. Thank you for having me provide you with the opportunity to write about our student-athletes and ultimately provide you with your children’s achievements in their scrapbooks.

And finally, thank you to James Naismith and ancient Greeks for respectively creating basketball and wrestling, which beginning next week we get to enjoy in earnest at the high school level for the next three months.

Also beginning its season next week is the Scottsbluff/Gering Seacats swimming team – who may most exemplify in area athletics the spirit of two schools but one team and our ethic in the North Platte Valley of working together.

Again, Happy Thanksgiving, and thank you, Jimmy Fallon.

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