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Tim O

2013 – a year of tragedy and triumph in New England

  • Concord High School defeated Pinkerton to become the division I state football champions at Memorial Field in Concord on Saturday afternoon, November 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Concord High School defeated Pinkerton to become the division I state football champions at Memorial Field in Concord on Saturday afternoon, November 23, 2013.

    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Pembroke's Matt Persons embraces Rene Maher and their coach Matt Alosa as Maher returned to the bench in the final seconds of the Division II state championship game against Souhegan on March 16, 2013 at UNH. Pembroke defeated Souhegan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

    Pembroke's Matt Persons embraces Rene Maher and their coach Matt Alosa as Maher returned to the bench in the final seconds of the Division II state championship game against Souhegan on March 16, 2013 at UNH. Pembroke defeated Souhegan.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

  • Boston Red Sox players celebrate on the field after they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 of baseball's World Series, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

    Boston Red Sox players celebrate on the field after they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 of baseball's World Series, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

  • A memento of flowers in a running shoe rests at a makeshift memorial in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood on Thursday, April 18, 2013, a few blocks from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where people continue to bring special objects to mourn and honor those who were killed and injured after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the race. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

    A memento of flowers in a running shoe rests at a makeshift memorial in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood on Thursday, April 18, 2013, a few blocks from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where people continue to bring special objects to mourn and honor those who were killed and injured after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the race. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

  • Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

    Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013.
    (JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)

  • Coe-Brown's Elisabeth Danis charges past Oyster River's Meagan Doody to cross the finish line second during the Division II state cross country championships on October 26, 2013 at Derryfield Park in Manchester. Danis and the Coe-Brown girls finished in first as a team. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff)

    Coe-Brown's Elisabeth Danis charges past Oyster River's Meagan Doody to cross the finish line second during the Division II state cross country championships on October 26, 2013 at Derryfield Park in Manchester. Danis and the Coe-Brown girls finished in first as a team.

    (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff)

  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football Division 1 championship quarterfinal game against Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. New Hampshire won 20-17. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

    New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football Division 1 championship quarterfinal game against Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. New Hampshire won 20-17. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

  • Brian Vickers celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.  (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

    Brian Vickers celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)

  • Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass.   (AP Photo/The Sun Chronicle, Mike George, Pool)

    Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass. (AP Photo/The Sun Chronicle, Mike George, Pool)

  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

    Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

  • Concord High School defeated Pinkerton to become the division I state football champions at Memorial Field in Concord on Saturday afternoon, November 23, 2013.<br/><br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Pembroke's Matt Persons embraces Rene Maher and their coach Matt Alosa as Maher returned to the bench in the final seconds of the Division II state championship game against Souhegan on March 16, 2013 at UNH. Pembroke defeated Souhegan. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)
  • Boston Red Sox players celebrate on the field after they defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1 in Game 6 of baseball's World Series, Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
  • A memento of flowers in a running shoe rests at a makeshift memorial in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood on Thursday, April 18, 2013, a few blocks from the finish line of the Boston Marathon, where people continue to bring special objects to mourn and honor those who were killed and injured after two bombs exploded at the finish line of the race. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)
  • Sunday Swett competes for Bow against Profile in the girls' division III tennis championships on Thursday afternoon, May 30, 2013. <br/>(JOHN TULLY / Monitor staff)
  • Coe-Brown's Elisabeth Danis charges past Oyster River's Meagan Doody to cross the finish line second during the Division II state cross country championships on October 26, 2013 at Derryfield Park in Manchester. Danis and the Coe-Brown girls finished in first as a team. <br/><br/>(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor Staff)
  • New Hampshire quarterback Sean Goldrich (5) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning touchdown during the fourth quarter of an NCAA college football Division 1 championship quarterfinal game against Southeastern Louisiana in Hammond, La., Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013. New Hampshire won 20-17. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)
  • Brian Vickers celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race, Sunday, July 14, 2013, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H.  (AP Photo/Mary Schwalm)
  • Former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, left, stands with his attorney Michael Fee, right, during arraignment in Attleboro District Court Wednesday, June 26, in Attleboro, Mass. Hernandez was charged with murdering Odin Lloyd, a 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits, whose body was found June 17 in an industrial park in North Attleborough, Mass.   (AP Photo/The Sun Chronicle, Mike George, Pool)
  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
  • Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, left, is congratulated by teammates David Krejci, center, and Nathan Horton, right, after his goal in the final minute of the third period, which tied the game 4-4 forcing overtime against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Game 7 of their NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series in Boston, Monday, May 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

It was an odd year for sports here in New England, a year when terrorism and murder demanded our attention as much as titles and superstars. Our region has grown accustomed to center stage on the national scene in recent years, but that’s been more about triumphs, not tragedy.

The real theme for 2013, however, has been resilience – overcoming setbacks to win championships, or, more importantly, to rebuild lives and galvanize communities. With that as our backdrop, here are the Monitor’s Top 10 sports stories for 2013.

1) Boston Marathon bombing

The three people who died and the 260-plus who were injured on April 15 on Boylston Street won’t be forgotten. But the legacy that will live on from that fateful day is how the city and region responded.

Boston shut itself down to find the terror suspects, and succeeded. Instead of being scared away, runners have been applying in record numbers to participate in the 2014 Boston Marathon, which has already increased its field size by about a third to 36,000. The Concord community rose up to help Jeff and Csilla Bauman renovate their home to be wheelchair accessible so the younger Jeff Bauman, who helped identify one of the suspects after losing both his legs in the attack, would have an easier time visiting his family. And the local professional baseball team rallied around the

city and its energy to pull off a stunning season.

2) Red Sox win World Series

The 2013 Red Sox will always be linked to the Marathon bombing, which is just how the Sox want it. Boston General Manager Ben Cherington, a New Hampshire native, built a team with character, and that’s just what the Sox showed as they embraced the “Boston Strong” motto that sprung from the Marathon tragedy. They cut it into their outfield grass, stitched it on a jersey that hung in their dugout all year, and stopped their victory parade for a moment of silence on Boylston Street. That character also came through as the team turned around last year’s last-place division finish to tie for the best record in the majors and then completed the reversal with a dramatic run to a World Series championship. Red Sox Nation did more than just watch this ride, they participated, reminding everyone that every little thing gonna be all right.

3) Roll Tide

The Concord High football team didn’t have to overcome any tragedy in 2013, but the Crimson Tide hadn’t even made the playoffs since 2004. The Tide turned that history around this fall with a team that excelled on both sides of the ball and had too many stars to list them all here. Concord won its regular-season games by an average of 30.1 points, but it also proved to be clutch with a last-gasp, 21-14 comeback victory over Pinkerton Academy. The Tide capped their 12-0 season with a 42-14 win over Pinkerton to seal the school’s first-ever undefeated and untied season (12-0) and delight the thousands of fans at Memorial Field.

“It was truly done for the city today,” Concord senior Seimout Smith said after the championship game, “and the city came out and we had a blast today.”

4) Spartans win ’em all

There was no questioning the Pembroke Academy boys’ basketball team status as a Division II powerhouse, but there were other questions surrounding the Spartans, including their ability to win a title. Pembroke reached the semifinals in 2008 and 2009, and the final in 2010, but couldn’t collect a championship in those years. And after a pair of 16-2 regular seasons, the Spartans were upset in the 2011 and 2012 quarterfinals. But in 2013 Pembroke proved it could win the big one by claiming a 49-41 win in the final against Souhegan to cap a 22-0 season. The Spartans had their worst offensive half of the year to open that title game and trailed 21-14 at the break, but they bounced back in the second half behind guards Rene Maher (game-high 17 points) and Pat Welch (14 points) to earn the school’s sixth state title, the most in D-II/Class I history.

5.) Misplaced tennis maelstrom

The record books will simply state that Bow High senior Sunday Swett was the 2013 girls’ singles state champion. And Swett, with her powerful serve and forehand and her aggressive all-court game, deserved the title, but it wasn’t really all that simple.

After Swett won the first set in the final, 6-4, her opponent, Bishop Guertin’s Briana Leonard, walked off the court and, eventually, forfeited the match. Leonard’s family felt the environment at the match was too hostile, and they encouraged Leonard to leave, but no one else who was at the match (including this writer and the Guertin coach) ever came forward to corroborate that story. To the majority of those in attendance, it felt like poor sportsmanship from Leonard. That didn’t stop Yahoo Sports blogger Cameron Smith from writing a story that claimed Swett was a “crowd-induced state champion.” The blog post drew over 10,000 comments, most of them disparaging Swett, and incited angry phone calls to Bow High from as far away as Utah.

6) Long distance dominance

Coe-Brown has been chasing down the best girls’ cross country teams in New England for the past few years. In 2013, the Bears caught them all. After taking third in 2011 and second in 2012, Coe-Brown won the New England championship this year, finishing with 78 points for a comfortable cushion over second-place Barrington, R.I., (99 points), the defending champion. The race was held on familiar ground for the Bears, Manchester’s Derryfield Park, and they took advantage with their fastest times of the season, led by Hannah Parker (ninth overall), Elisabeth Danis (15th), Jessie Carney (24th), Brooke Laskowsky (32nd) and Meg Scannell (55th).

7) Hernandez horror show

On Aug. 27, 2012, the Patriots inked Aaron Hernandez to a five-year, $40 million contract extension that included a $12.5 million signing bonus, the largest signing bonus ever given to a tight end. On Aug. 22, 2013, a grand jury indicted Hernandez for the murder of Odin Lloyd. That precipitous downfall has been marked by shocking news and images – Hernandez being led from his house in handcuffs, reports of investigations for gun trafficking and other murders, allegations of PCP addiction, a history of violence dating back to his college days, a long line of former fans returning No. 81 jerseys, and Hernandez looking stone-faced in the courtroom. It all adds up to a face-slap reminder about how dark the dark side of professional sports, and life, can be.

8) Finally, semifinals

After starting 1-3, it looked like this would be the University of New Hampshire football team that ended the school’s streak of playoff appearances. Instead, it became the team that broke the streak of quarterfinal losses and pushed UNH into the FCS semifinals for the first time in school history. Behind an improving defense and a diverse offense, the resilient Wildcats won six of their final seven games to earn a postseason berth for the 10th straight year, the best streak in the country. The ’Cats kept rolling with a 45-7 first-round win against Lafayette, a 41-27 decision at rival Maine and then the historic quarterfinal victory, a 20-17 comeback thriller at Southeastern Louisiana. The joy ride ended when UNH lost to two-time defending champion North Dakota State, 52-14, in the semifinals. Still, the Wildcats took justifiable pride in reaching that level.

“We took a step this season that we hadn’t before,” UNH Coach Sean McDonnell said. “The biggest one is still in store.”

9) Drama on ice

Making it to their second Stanley Cup finals in three years might have put the Boston Bruins on this list, but the way they reached the finals, and how they lost them, ensured it. It looked like the Bruins’ season would end in the first round of the playoffs when they trailed Toronto, 4-1, with less than 11 minutes left in Game 7. But Boston rallied for a miracle comeback, capped by two goals from Patrice Bergeron – the equalizer with 51 seconds left in regulation and the game-winner in overtime. The Bruins then surprised some with their 4-1 series win over the New York Rangers, but they shocked most with their 4-0 sweep of Pittsburgh for the conference championship. The finals against Chicago didn’t turn out in Boston’s favor, but it was filled with memorable moments nonetheless – three overtime games and a stunning comeback for the Blackhawks when they scored twice in the final 1:16 of Game 6 to clinch the Cup.

10) Revival at NHMS

When Brian Vickers won the Camping World RV Sales 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on July 14, it completed a remarkable odyssey for Vickers. It looked like his career might be over in 2010 when blood clots in his legs and near his lungs forced him to miss most of that season. He lost his ride at the end of the 2011 season and made only a handful of starts in 2012. But his perseverance was rewarded in Loudon when he came through in a thrilling green-white-checkered finish to hold off Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Jeff Burton and win for the first time since Aug. 16, 2009, a span of 139 races.

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