Max Siker/UW Athletics
The men’s basketball team after beating Xavier during March Madness.
Almost everybody I know seems in a hurry to put 2016 behind them and get started on a new year. Whether the culprit is the presidential election, the loss of several pop-culture icons or some personal tragedy, moving on has emerged as a theme.
Even the state of sports bummed people out this year. The NFL experienced double-digit drops in television ratings, the Rio Olympics were plagued with problems ranging from dead body parts to Zika, and — perhaps most painful for longtime Milwaukee Brewers fans — the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908.
On top of all that, the Green Bay Packers lost four in a row during a November skid that put head coach Mike McCarthy’s future in doubt. Yet, as of this writing, the Packers are on a four-game winning streak, and the NFC North title could come down to the final game of the regular season, when Green Bay meets the Lions in Detroit on New Year’s Day.
That said, 2016 was not all bad, especially when you’re talking about local high school sports. Verona won the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association’s girls’ basketball tournament, and Madison West’s boys and Sun Prairie’s girls claimed state championships in cross country. In boys’ swimming, Madison Memorial and Monona Grove won the Division 1 and Division 2 state titles, respectively, while Middleton and Edgewood took home top honors in girls’ swimming. Edgewood also won Division 2 championships in boys’ and girls’ tennis.
Greg Anderson; David Stluka/UW Athletics
The UW volleyball team celebrates its Elite Eight win over OSU (left); UW linebacker Ryan Connelly scores during the Big Ten Conference Championship against Penn State.
Better-than-expected seasons for the UW football, volleyball and men’s basketball teams took Badger fans for memorable rides, too, during a year in which we needed the distraction of sports more than ever.
The football team entered the 2016 season unranked and unproven but came within a game of potentially securing a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. The Badgers now face undefeated Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on Jan. 2.
The UW volleyball team, a dominant force all season, fell short of a national title in the NCAA Regional final at the UW Field House, and the UW men’s basketball team — reeling from the surprise retirement of longtime head coach Bo Ryan on Dec. 15, 2015 — turned things around in time to make a memorable run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. The No. 14 Badgers rode a six-game winning streak into the Florida A&M game on Dec. 23 and look capable of another deep tournament run in March.
Let’s not overlook the Madison Radicals, either. Despite snapping a 31-game winning streak at home, the city’s American Ultimate Disc League team hosted the AUDL Championship Weekend V at Breese Stevens Field and put Madison on the map as one of the sport’s most friendly cities in the country.
Looking ahead, Madison will host the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games at the Alliant Energy Center Aug 1-6. Ticket info will be released in the spring, and local volunteer opportunities will be available.