Thursday, August 2, 2012.
That was it. The dominant performance that produced a gold medal yesterday in Hampton Court, England, was Kristin Armstrong’s grand finale in competitive cycling, and we need to mark the occasion. We’ve seen an amazing 10-year story unfold for the one-time director of aquatics at the Downtown Boise YMCA. Armstrong was originally a triathlete, but after being diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both hips in 2001, she turned to cycling. Her first major race was the final HP Women’s Challenge in Idaho in 2002, and she finished seventh. It was a big deal at the time—a local athlete finishing in the top 10 in that international field. Armstrong ascended quickly after that and was at the Summer Olympics in Athens two years later, placing eighth in the road race.
But Kristin’s specialty would be the time trial, and it was in that event that she became Boise’s first Olympic gold medalist, summer or winter, at Beijing in 2008. Her resume also includes world time trial championships in 2006 and 2009. Armstrong temporarily retired to start a family following the 2009 title. Her son Lucas was born in September of 2010, and by the end of the year, Armstrong had announced a return to the sport. And she went out on her terms yesterday in London. She’ll celebrate on her terms with a city bash in Boise a week from Saturday—her 39th birthday.
Another Idahoan enters Olympic competition today, as Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, a member of the U.S. equestrian team, rides her horse Wizard in the dressage. Some call dressage the equine equivalent of the floor exercise in gymnastics. Lyle is coached by Hailey’s Debbie McDonald, who rode Brentina to a bronze medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. It’s funny—in gymnastics, women are considered washed up by the age of 19. Lyle is 27 and is considered very young for her sport.
SI.com’s Stewart Mandel recently came up with a college football “Program Pecking Order,” dividing schools into Kings, Barons, Knights and Peasants. Mandel included all current AQ-conference programs, major independents and “a certain blue-clad team that falls somewhere in between.” For the record, as the only team listed from a non-AQ league, Boise State was a Knight. It was a fun little exercise, unless you’re Louisville coach Charlie Strong. His team was rated Peasant, so Strong worked Mandel’s piece into a big poster and placed it in the Cardinals’ football complex. As motivation for his squad, Strong added the word “LOSERS” next to Peasants. And he highlighted in yellow five teams placed above Louisville: Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, and Boise State. Maybe it’s Louisville that will be the Broncos “natural rival” in the Big East.
Boise State players report for fall camp tomorrow and begin practice Saturday. The Broncos say they had 100 percent participation in player-run practices again this summer. That includes most of the incoming freshmen. Hard to believe there will be 25 seniors checking in this weekend. That sounds impressive, but there are lots of career role players and special teamers in that group. Only six of those are returning starters. Role players are key to this program, though, and this year they can finally be a lot more than that.
Idaho opens fall camp today as it looks forward to its season opener August 30 against Eastern Washington. Most attention will be on the quarterback battle between juniors Dominique Blackman and Taylor Davis. Accuracy will probably tell the tale, and Blackman had the edge in the spring. The key to the season, however, is probably on the offensive line. Coach Robb Akey says he has only one player in ink for a starting spot, sophomore center Mike Marboe, who’s on the watch list for the Rimington Award. Akey stresses that the Vandals will have chips on the shoulders this season after the pounding they’ve taken in the conference realignment wars.
Hits, hits and more hits. The Boise Hawks piled ‘em on last night as they outslugged Spokane 14-10 for their season-high fifth straight win. The Hawks reached the 17-hit mark for the first time this summer. Every Hawks position player had at least one hit, six of them had more than one, and two hit home runs—a three-run shot from Xavier Batista during a seven-run fifth inning and a two-run dinger from Stephen Bruno. Batista, Jeimer Candelario and Dong-Yub Kim knocked in three runs apiece. The one hit we need to make note of, though, was a triple by Caldwell’s Izaac Garsez. It was the former College of Idaho star’s first hit as a Boise Hawk.
Stephen Fife got his first major league decision yesterday, but it wasn’t the one he wanted. Fife was steady but not spectacular in his third big league start for the Dodgers. The problem, though, was run support—L.A. provided none. The Borah High grad went 4 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks and allowed two runs, leaving with a 2-0 deficit in the fifth. The D-Backs went on to win, 4-0, and Fife is 0-1. He did scratch out one of the Dodgers’ two hits and is now 2-for-6 at the plate. Elsewhere, former Boise Hawks right-hander Alberto Cabrera made his major league debut yesterday for the Cubs, tossing a scoreless eighth inning in an 8-4 loss to the Pirates. Cabrera, who pitched in Boise in 2007, becomes the 97th former Hawk to make the bigs.
ESPN.com’s Andy Katz reports that in addition to a previously-revealed home-and-home men’s basketball series with Memphis, Boise State will get one with fellow Big East newcomer Temple as well. In February it was reported that the series with Memphis would go four years, with two games in Boise. Katz didn’t mention a Boise State-UConn, which was also part of that February story. Katz noted that landing home games with the Tigers and Owls is a coup for the Broncos, and he got no argument from BSU coach Leon Rice. "Memphis is a perennial top 25 program and in the last eight years Fran (Dunphy) has Temple rolling,” Rice told Katz. “You can't get those type of teams into Taco Bell Arena. That's terrific."
A KTVB.com “Mountain West Forgotten Fact of the Day”: In the past 40 years, Nevada and Boise State have played each other every season except four. The Broncos and Wolf Pack skipped 1978, the year before Nevada joined the Big Sky; 1992, the year the Pack joined the Big West; 1995, the year before Boise State joined the Big West; and 2000, the year Nevada joined the WAC. Otherwise, it’s been fire and brimstone between the two schools. They have one game as Mountain West foes before this long rivalry, like so many others, goes on hiatus. Wolf Pack coach Chris Ault hopes both teams embrace the significance December 1. “It’s the last time we’re going to play for awhile,” said Ault. Will he be feeding off Nevada’s historic 2010 upset of the Broncos in Mackay Stadium? No. “Two years ago is two years ago,” Ault said.
This Day In Sports…August 2, 1979:
Thurman Munson, at that time the heart and soul of the New York Yankees, dies in a private plane crash at the age of 32. Munson was the Yankees’ catcher and captain when they won the World Series in 1977 and 1978. The Yanks would not win another until 1996. Munson hit .292 in his career and is still the only Yankee to win both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards. Club owner George Steinbrenner immediately retired Munson’s No. 15 upon his death.
(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment Sunday nights at 10:30PM on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors five sports segments each weekday on 93.1 The Ticket. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)