The year 2013 was a big one for sports in Tucson, for individuals and teams alike.
And for some no longer in the city, even.
There was Ka’Deem Carey darting through defenses and Nick Foles throwing darts, long-time coaches finally tasting victory and a surprise draft pick hearing his named called by the NBA commissioner. One Wildcat leapt her way to glory, and others climbed the top of the college basketball polls. And on the most exciting day in recent city memory, the Arizona football team knocked off a giant.
Here’s a look back at the year that was around Tucson.
1) Carey’s dominant year
It seemed as if the only ones who could stop Ka’Deem Carey this season were the folks on the Heisman Trust. Opposing defenses sure didn’t — Carey finished the season over the century mark every week, continuing a streak that stretched back four games into last season. The Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year was remarkably consistent — he topped the 200-yard mark just twice, but he had no less than 119 yards and scored in all but two games. Once was against Colorado, the other against Oregon, which was one of his two 200-yard games (see ranking No. 5). Perhaps the biggest stat to convey Carey’s dominance: Against ranked teams, he averaged 161 yards. Although he was stiff-armed for the Big Prize, Carey did take home numerous All-American honors for the second straight year.
2) UA hoops rises to top
The Arizona men’s basketball team started the 2013-14 campaign ranked No. 6 in the country — considered a contender, but maybe a notch below the creamiest of the crop. Then, slowly and consistently, the cream went sour. One by one, they fell off their perch. By Week 3, Kentucky and Duke had lost, and Arizona was in the top 5. Another week, another loss, this one by Louisville, and now the Wildcats jumped up to No. 4. Then Kansas dropped its first game of the year a week later, and Arizona leapfrogged Kentucky. The Wildcats were staring up at only Michigan State. Within two weeks, the Spartans would fall, and Arizona slid right into the top spot in the polls, the Wildcats’ first No. 1 ranking since 2003.
3) El Tour tragedy
A day of celebration for the triumph of the human spirit ended in tragedy at the El Tour de Tucson in late November. John S. Henderson, a 59-year-old Tucson resident, was killed during the race when he was accidentally struck by a driver from behind. Authorities said a medical condition may have affected the 78-year-old driver, who was not thought to have been speeding or driving impaired. It was the second fatal accident in El Tour’s 31-year history, and the first major accident at the event since 2008, when a 91-year-old driver hit a pack of 10 cyclists, leaving five injured. Before the 1996 El Tour, 28-year-old David Von Kersburg was struck by a driver and killed on his way to the race.
4) Lancers take first title
Salpointe Catholic head coach Dennis Bene had been so close to the mountaintop for so long that even as his team piled up blowout win on top of blowout win, cruising through what would become easily the most dominant regular season in Tucson high school football history, he still couldn’t quite grasp what was right in front of him: a state championship trophy. It would take a similarly dominant playoff run to finally give Bene the golden goose, the one he so longed for, with past semifinal and quarterfinal losses finally distant memories. The Lancers’ season was one for the ages — 14-0, a scoring margin of 697-101, 40-plus points in every game — capped by a 46-20 state-championship win over Scottsdale’s Chapparal High at Arizona Stadium.
5) Cats demolish Ducks
As they poured down from the Arizona Stadium stands and onto the field on Nov. 23, Wildcat fans sprinted around in a state of rabid delirium. They could not believe what they had just seen, and neither could the Oregon Ducks. Arizona did not just beat the Ducks that day, it plucked their feathers in deliberate and ruthless fashion. Oregon, the No. 5-ranked team in the land, was left naked and ashamed, courtesy of a 42-16 throttling that seemed to stun even the Wildcats. Of course Carey carried the Cats, rushing for 206 yards and four touchdowns.
6) Foles the Fantastic
One touchdown, OK. Three touchdowns, great. Five touchdowns, wow. Seven touchdowns — WAIT, WHAT? Former Arizona quarterback Nick Foles thrust himself into the NFL record books with perhaps the single greatest day by a professional quarterback in league history in a 49-20 win at Oakland on Nov. 3. The Philadelphia Eagles’ young starter — who took the reins from Michael Vick for a second straight season — threw a league-record seven touchdown passes in the stunning performance, added 406 yards on 22 of 28 attempts, and finished with a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3. Foles went on to start his 2013 season with 20 touchdowns before his first interception, and through nine games, he boasted a sparkling 117.0 rating. In a 2012 quarterback class that was already looking like one of the best in recent memory — with Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Ryan Tannehill leading the way — Foles came out of nowhere to cement the lofty status.
7) Brigetta’s the best
Arizona high jumper Brigetta Barrett capped an astounding college career with her June selection as Pac-12 Woman of the Year, the Wildcats’ fifth athlete to win the honor. The 2012 Olympic silver medalist concluded her time in Tucson as one of the top female athletes in collegiate sports history, with six NCAA championships and three Pac-12 outdoor championships. It didn’t end on the field, though. Barrett graduated cum laude in theatre arts, was named Arizona’s homecoming queen, was selected a Capital One Academic All-American. She was also named to the Dean’s List in 2009, was an honorable mention Dean’s List selection five times, and served as co-president of the Pac-12 Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. Quite the career.
8) Another sweet March
Like this year, the UA hoops team got off to a hot start in 2012-13, winning 14 straight to start the season. Just before Valentine’s Day, though, the Wildcats hit the skids on a 3-4 streak that included losses to Cal and Colorado and a woeful SoCal swing in Los Angeles. A devastating two-point loss to UCLA in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament could have derailed the season, but Arizona rebounded in Salt Lake City to advance to the Sweet Sixteen for just the third time since 2005. After back-to-back wins over No. 11-seeded Belmont and No. 14-seeded Harvard, the Wildcats ran into a tough Ohio State team in the Sweet 16. The Buckeyes’ LaQuintin Ross hit a tiebreaking three-pointer with two seconds left to deny Sean Miller a second Elite Eight in three years.
9) Cervi owns Vegas
Once again, Marana’s Sherry Cervi struck gold in Sin City, winning her fourth barrel-racing championship at the National Finals Rodeo in mid-December in Las Vegas. Cervi pulled off the rare feat of finishing in the money in each NFR go-round, and her total score of 138.15 set the record for the event. After collecting $155,899 in Las Vegas for her brilliant run — she became the fifth barrel racer and first in 16 years to finish in the top six in every round — she pushed her season earnings to more than $300,000.
10) Pacers pick Hill
He hasn’t exactly lit up the league early in the NBA season, but then again, many people never thought ex-Wildcat Solomon Hill would get there in the first place. Certainly not without a much tougher road than the one on which he traveled, as he was a surprising mid-first-round pick by the Indiana Pacers. General manager Kevin Pritchard and head coach Frank Vogel thought Hill would fit in with the Pacers’ defensive prowess, and judging by their league-best scoring defense, it would appear they kept their eyes on the prize. Not that Hill has done much in the NBA. He has averaged just nine minutes through the team’s first 24 games, in which he played in 16. But just being on one of the finer NBA teams should be enough for a player who improved every year for Arizona.