2012 featured stories of big and small moments

Traits like hope, will, chance and love win out

Dec. 21, 2012

It was an interesting and successful year in the Germantown and Menomonee Falls prep sports world to say the least, full of successes expected (Germantown boys basketball team's state title) and unexpected (the Falls football team's upset of Hamilton).

There were moments that were lyrical and sad, some glorious and nostalgia-producing, all of which told of the human heart and will's ability to succeed despite adversity and fierce competition.

Congratulations to all, including basketball players Zak Showalter (Germantown) at Wisconsin and J.P. Tokoto (Falls) at North Carolina who are now endeavoring to play at the highest levels of elite collegiate competition as well as to the anonymous try-hard senior cross country runner who never could quite make varsity but who learned great life lessons from sports while turning in a personal best at the last chance Falls Meet of Future Champions.

With that in mind, here's a brief rundown of stories that caught my eye and in some instances touched my heart in 2012. They are in no particular order.

Falls soccer player Woodson thanks woman who helped her out of China (June 14)

A story that fell into my lap via the generosity of Shelley Woodson the mother of now graduated Menomonee Falls soccer player Jenna Woodson, who was adopted by Woodson and her husband from China with the help of a brave Chinese woman named Kit Yang Chan.

Under China's one-child policy, boys are preferred and girl babies are frequently killed at birth or if they're lucky, like Jenna was, left at a train station in box with a note. The Woodsons had trouble with fertility issues after the birth of their first child and went to China where Chan offered them an opportunity to adopt child No. 76 (Jenna) from Guangxi province.

The Woodsons visited Chan in China in 2008 and Chan returned the favor this past June and watched as Jenna played her last game of high school soccer and then graduated with honors from Falls High School.

The story was greatly enhanced by Jenna's writings from an advanced composition class, where she imagined her birth and eventual abandonment at the train station and also the feelings of her horribly conflicted birth mother.

Her words are wrenching and heart-rending and provide insight to a marvelous life that was given where before none was thought possible.

Showalters bask in the glory of another title (Feb. 23)

This story had little to do with the third straight North Shore Conference basketball title that the Germantown boys basketball team had just won with a victory against Nicolet and everything to do with fathers and sons and coaches and players.

It described senior night at Germantown and the ceremony before the game that honored nine seniors, especially coach Steve Showalter's son, Zak, who would soon be heading off to Wisconsin on a basketball scholarship. Hoops is as much a part of both men's DNA as the color of their eyes or their simple refusal to take losing lying down.

They had moments both quiet and loud over the four years Zak was on varsity and would continue to do so all the way through the team's historic first-ever WIAA state title won a month later.

But on this day and at this moment, they simply walked up to one another and held each other close as a crescendo of applause washed over the pair in congratulations for the success and entertainment that they brought to the school.

The two tough guys were both crying by the time they parted and got on with the game.

"I didn't want to let go either because when one of us would let go, it would be a sign that it was all ending for us (all the basketball they shared over the last four years)," Steve said.

Senior stars Showalter, Tokoto meet again one last time (March 8)

There have been basketball stars before and will be again at Germantown and Menomonee Falls high schools, but there will likely never be a paring like that of Zak Showalter at Germantown and J.P. Tokoto at Falls ever again.

The 2012 graduates both finished as their school's all-time leading scorers, both earned first-team all-state, both earned NCAA Division I scholarships. And there were other things. Showalter led the Warhawks to their first-ever WIAA state championship and Tokoto won a nationally televised, national dunk contest.

Because of Tokoto's notoriety, Falls even had to institute special ticket policies because demand for games in which he played drew that many people, including many college coaches.

The area will not only miss their skills, but it will also miss things like Showalter's tenacity, will and chutzpah (the dunk to open the state tournament semifinal win over Madison Memorial is nothing anyone who saw it will forget soon) as well as Tokoto's grace and ease under pressure.

His life often became a fishbowl in recent years because of all the attention he received but he always made time for fans, especially small ones. I recall a tough loss to rival Hamilton on the road, and Tokoto coming out of the locker room to gladly sign some autographs for a family with two young basketball fans in tow. Pure class.

Carry on and do well gentlemen.

For the Wolfs, coaching is as natural as saying 'I do' (Aug. 9)

Germantown baseball coach Jeff Wolf had to deal with the disappointment of the Warhawks losing their first-ever appearance in the WIAA state championship game to Oak Creek.

He had several consolation prizes including the achievements of his brilliant state player of the year pitcher Brian Keller, who finished the year unbeaten and who led Germantown to its first North Shore title in 22 years.

He also has his three exuberant sports-minded children, all under the age of 7, and he has his loving and dedicated wife, Corey Bronson Wolf, who just retired as coach of the Nicolet girls basketball team after leading the Knights to the WIAA state title in 2011.

The story details their coaching careers, their marriage and how they made it all work over the years with sacrifice, patience and the child care help of dedicated family. In short, they are North Shore coaching royalty.

"You go home, sit down across the table and ask 'What do you think of this?' It really helps to get a different perspective," Corey said. "You really appreciate what your spouse is doing."

Other stories worth mentioning:

"Germantown's Holcomb overcomes obstacles to win state high hurdle title" (June 7)

"Indian golfers earn first state tournament berth since 2000" (June 7)

"Clutch pass leads Indians to WIAA regional title" (June 7)

"Menomonee Falls High School benefitted from Petroff's return to the classroom" (June 21)

"The empire falls: Germantown drops seven-time champ Stevens Point …" (June 21)

"Germantown swimmer Kimmitt seeks one last shot at glory in Olympic Trials" (June 28)

"Former Falls diver realizes dream of competing in Olympic Trials" (July 19)

"Warhawk netters rally to earn state berth" (Nov. 8)

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