The year in rewind for Pilot sports

By The Beacon | April 20, 2011 9:00pm

(Kevin Kadooka -- The Beacon)

By Bruce Garlinghouse, Staff Commentary -- The Beacon

It is spring in Portland. The sun begins to show his face and people begin to leave their houses for more than the walk to school. It also signifies the end of another school year and unfortunately your last chance to read all that is sports on The Bluff. So as we bid adieu, we offer you a look back on some of the most memorable moments of this year in the wacky world of sports.

1. The No. 1 moment was a bittersweet one. In October, the University of Portland announced it would discontinue men and women's golf and would be adding varsity women's crew team in order to remain in compliance with Title IX.

The decision came during the best season the men's team had seen in years and left many students at a crossroads: transfer or give up the chance to play competitively at the university level.

"We've changed things over the last four to five years, and we're just looking to end it on a high point," senior Justin Smithhisler said.

In the program's last hoorah, Smithheisler's seventh place 219 led the Pilots to a sixth place finish in the WCC Championships.

Congratulations to the team that brushed off the inevitable and continued to strive for excellence, and good luck to those that will be leaving us after this year.

2. After an emotional win against rival St. Mary's, the UP basketball community lost its biggest fan, Mauro Potestio.

Potestio, class of '50 (undergraduate) and '54 (master's), passed away in February, leaving a huge hole in the heart of Pilots basketball that will surely not be replaced, as well as a legacy that epitomized a sports fan.

Known for his dapper attire, which always included his signature bow-tie, Potestio attended 898 consecutive home games, the first a 53-48 win over Pacific Lutheran on Dec. 8, 1949 and the last that emotional 85-70 victory over No. 24 St. Mary's.

Over the years, he was very involved in the Pilots sports community, serving as the basketball scorekeeper, sports information director and was the head coach for the Pilots golf team from 1988 to 2001. He was named WCC coach of the year in 1994.

This year, Potestio was awarded the "Ultimate Fan Award" at the 2011 Oregon Sports Awards because of his commitment to Pilot basketball.

In an article in the Portland Tribune, Potestio said, "I've had a lifelong investment in the University of Portland. I wouldn't call it a hobby, but a true devotion to the Pilots."

That devotion was surely noticed and will be missed greatly in the years to come.

3. Basketball on The Bluff has made leaps and bounds over the past four years, and a lot of it is thanks to senior Luke Sikma.

He played a vital role on last year's team, which saw its first 20-win season since 1994-95. With the departure of Robin Smeulders, T.J. Campbell and Nick Raivio, many questioned if this year's team could see the same success.

But Sikma silenced the critics and jumped to the top of the record books on Feb. 10 when he grabbed his 911th rebound of his career, passing Rick Raivio's 910 as the all-time rebounder in Pilots history.

There was no doubt that Sikma will be considered one of the best Pilots in history after all he has done in his four years at UP. He ended his career with 987 rebounds. With no one in even shouting distance of the record, Sikma has solidified a position in Pilots history for many years to come.

4. It is every athlete's dream to be on Sportscenter's Top 10. After an off-handed, electrifying put-back, senior Kramer Knutson made that dream come true.

"It was really cool," Knutson said after his first cameo. "We always watch it in The Cove and talk about being on it. Especially beating out Blake Griffin."

In fact, Knutson did beat Griffin, grabbing the number four spot with the Los Angeles Clippers star landing at number five.

The play came in an 85-70 route over conference rival and then No. 24 ranked St. Mary's making it that much more memorable.

With Knutson being ranked fourth in SportsCenter's Top 10 it only seemed appropriate that he be given the number four spot in my top five.

5. Ok I know I said this was my top five moments, but this guy gave me too many to choose from. Rounding out my top five is sophomore Trevor Dunbar. Yes, just Trevor Dunbar.

The Alaskan native has propelled to the top of American running and has made a name for himself internationally as well.

Last September, Dunbar placed 11th in the 5,000 meters at the World Championships and was named the West Coast Athlete of the Year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association.

After finishing at 25th in the National Championship, Dunbar was named an All-American and led the Pilots to a 13th place finish.

Did I mention he is just a sophomore? I am sure we will be seeing many more moments from Dunbar in the years to come.