The top 10 Washington University sports moments of 2018

| Senior Sports Editor

As always, it was an eventful year in Washington University sports. The Bears said goodbye and said hello; revisited the past and confronted the present; and experienced heartbreaking losses and thrilling victories. Without further ado, here are Student Life’s top 10 sports moments of 2018.

Screen Shot 2018-12-06 at 1.54.47 AMGraphic by Grace Bruton and Jon Lewis

10. Men’s basketball ends up on SportsCenter for the wrong reason

It got 5,452 likes on Twitter. It was almost assuredly the most exciting play in a Bear sports game this year. And it was definitely terrible, on Wash. U.’s end.

But it is also impossible to leave off a list like this. On March 2, the No. 4 men’s basketball team was ousted in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by Aurora University, in the Field House, no less. Down three, sophomore guard Matt Nester hit a three to tie the game with 1.6 seconds—during which Aurora inbounded the ball 75 feet and hit a buzzer beater to eliminate the Bears.

Yes, two weeks before No. 1 seed Virginia lost to No. 16 UMBC in the Division I bracket, the first such loss in history, Wash. U. pulled off the DIII equivalent first. At least it was the best of both worlds: The Bears went viral, but also got overshadowed by an even more shameful defeat.

9. Men’s cross-country posts best finish in program history

Under head coach Jeff Stiles, the men’s cross-country team has evolved into an annual contender. The Bears didn’t qualify for nationals in seven of his first eight years, then quickly morphed into a consistently elite squad: seventh, ninth, then top-five performances in six of seven seasons. This year, they placed second, the best in Wash. U. history. The trend is still positive, and there’s only one spot to go—who knows, maybe there’s a title in the near future.

8. Olympic rings spectacular goes up on Danforth Campus

In an elaborate ceremony awash with important figures and luminescent fireworks, Chancellor Mark Wrighton and company unveiled an Olympic rings sculpture, known as a spectacular, to be displayed permanently on campus. After 114 years, the addition may seem to come at an odd time, but hey, it’s cool nonetheless. As a bonus, Wrighton announced that Francis Field will be rebranded Francis Olympic Stadium, blanketing Wash. U. in its Olympic legacy.

7. Water polo wins fourth straight title

Want a dynasty? Look no further than Wash. U.’s most impressive club sport. They play teams at all collegiate levels, from SLU to Ohio State, and level their opponents. Imagine—there are players who joined the team as freshmen, played all four years and never experienced anything other than being the best in the country.

6. Wash. U. women stand with each other

In the most empowering story of the year, 95 Wash. U. women came together to stand up to gender norms. Wearing shirts that read “FEMALE ATHLETE” with the word “FEMALE” struck through, the women simultaneously took pride in their accomplishments and supported each other’s. And for their accomplishments, look no further than the top three spots in this list—they’re all you need to know about the Wash. U. women and their achievements.

5. Mark Edwards retires after 37 years as men’s basketball head coach

Mark Edwards is Wash. U. men’s basketball. Simply put, he is the program. He played for the team for four years starting in 1965, spent a year as an assistant and took over as head coach when the program was reborn following a decade hiatus. He built it from literally nothing to a two-time national champion. This year, the Bears finally waved goodbye to their leader. In May, they said hello to Pat Juckem—the first non-Edwards coach at the helm in 48 years.

4. Football beats No. 12 Wheaton for signature win

Speaking of long head coaching tenures, let’s look at football’s Larry Kindbom. The man’s been in charge since 1989, and in 2017, produced his worst record at 3-6. How did they respond? They joined a new conference, a tougher one ostensibly, in the CCIW. Then they went 8-2 and finished the year ranked No. 25. The biggest moment of the year came when they were 4-1 and we still weren’t sure if they were for real. They proved it, though, beating No. 12 Wheaton College in a 17-10 thriller at home.

3. Graduate Kendall Gretsch wins two gold medals at Paralympics

In a year of Olympics, past and present, a pair of golds takes bronze in these rankings. Four years after graduating from Wash. U., Kendall Gretsch made Paralympic history, capturing the first American biathlon gold medal as well as one in cross-country skiing. Judge athletes by their accomplishments is right: Gretsch, in 2015, earned an ESPY nomination for Best Female Athlete with a Disability.

2. Women’s soccer dominates en route to perfect regular season

The women’s soccer team’s dominance is well-documented. The Bears started 21-0, rising from a preseason No. 10 ranking to No. 1 by the end of September. They outscored opponents 65-6; if you watched one of their games, it was more likely than not they would shutout the other team and win by at least two goals. Unfortunately, their season ended abruptly in the Final Four, but that should not distract from what was an incredibly successful season, one of the best in Wash. U. history—all sports, all years.

1. Women’s cross-country delivers Wash. U.’s 23rd national championship

To the victors go the spoils. The women’s cross-country team takes the top spot, just as they did in the NCAA championship. They did it in style: by a single point, over two-time defending champion and current No. 1 Johns Hopkins. And they did it with heart, being multiple career-bests in many final career runs. They’re No. 1 on this list and No. 1 in our hearts.

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