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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Zach, Shawn Johnson highlight year in Iowa sports

Friday, January 4, 2008

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - It was a good year to be a Johnson from Iowa.

Cedar Rapids native Zach Johnson surged past Tiger Woods to win the Masters. Shawn Johnson, the 15-year-old gymnast from West Des Moines, won the all-around title at the world championships. Each received a day in their honor from Gov. Chet Culver and worldwide acclaim.

Todd Lickliter, new Hawkeye basketball coach
But while the Johnsons dominated the headlines in 2007, they were hardly the only folks making news.

Iowa landed the reigning National Coach of the Year, Todd Lickliter, to take over for Steve Alford. Drake coach Tom Davis handed the reins to his son, Keno Davis - who helped the Bulldogs match the best start in school history - and Iowa State football coach Gene Chizik kicked off his first season with the Cyclones.

Here are some of the most memorable moments in Iowa sports this year:

ZACH JOHNSON WINS THE MASTERS: Asked to describe himself shortly after donning the fabled green jacket at Augusta National, Masters winner Zach Johnson famously said: "I'm from Cedar Rapids, Iowa."

Good luck ever paying for a meal in this state again, Zach. Johnson closed with a 3-under 69 for a stirring Easter Sunday win that, along the grace he showed in victory, endeared the former Cedar Rapids Regis and Drake golfer to Iowans everywhere.

Johnson, perhaps the unlikeliest Masters winner in two decades, finished 8th on the PGA money list in 2007.

SHAWN JOHNSON TAKES WORLD TITLE: The precocious West Des Moines teenager dominated the U.S. championships in San Jose in late August, then burst onto the international scene by winning the all-around title at the world championships in Stuttgart, Germany, a few weeks later.

Get ready for Johnson mania this summer. Johnson will likely head to Beijing as the favorite to win gold, and her talent and infectious personality makes her seemed destined for the cover of a Wheaties box.

ALFORD, DAVIS EXIT: Steve Alford and Tom Davis had been linked since 1999, when former Iowa athletic director Bob Bowlsby replaced "Dr. Tom" with Alford, then one of the hottest young names in the coaching carousel.

It was fitting that they both walked away from their teams within a 48-hour span last March. But while Alford's jumped from Iowa to New Mexico, ending a contentious tenure and stirring a range of emotions from Hawkeyes fans, Davis exited the game gracefully. He left Drake better than he found it, retiring after leading the school to its first winning season in 20 years.

Keno Davis, who coached under his father at Drake, led the Bulldogs to their first win in Iowa City in 40 years on Dec. 14.

IRL MAKES DEBUT IN IOWA: Iowa had long supported open-wheel racing, but it wasn't until this past June that the state landed a major event. Sure, fans waited hours in traffic as rain washed away many of the fields that Iowa Speedway officials had pegged for parking, but the inaugural Iowa 250 was undoubtedly a hit. The Speedway was packed on race day, and Dario Franchitti survived a series of crashes to win the race on Newton's helter-skelter oval.

Speedway officials still have tweaks to make, and the IRL needs to figure out the right car specifications for the track. But the Indy Racing League raved about the support the state showed for the race, and announced in August that it had extended its agreement with the Iowa 250 through 2009.

NORTHERN IOWA'S PERFECT REGULAR SEASON: There were hints all along that the Panthers would be among the nation's Football Championship Subdivision contenders, but nobody thought in August that Northern Iowa was headed for perfection. The Panthers dominated Iowa Sate in Ames in September and entered the playoffs 11-0, completing the first unbeaten season by a Gateway Conference team in the league's 23-year history.

Northern Iowa's storybook season ended in the FCS quarterfinals with a 39-27 loss to Delaware.

WEBB'S MILE: It was a great year for track in Des Moines. Renovations to Drake Stadium were completed, prompting USA Track and Field to award the 2010 Outdoor National Championships to the city, and the Drake Relays featured sunny skies and packed crowds.

But it was long distance start Alan Webb who stole the show. Cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd that could sense history in the making, Webb shattered the 25-year-old American record for the mile in 3 minutes, 51.71 seconds.

SHAGGY STUNS THE HAWKS: Expectations were low for Iowa State when they hosted Iowa on Sept. 15. The Cyclones had dropped home games to Kent State and Northern Iowa, and some in the state were wondering if they could avoid a winless season. But Iowa State jumped out to a surprising early lead, and a 38-yard pass play that the coaching staff drew up on the sidelines set up Bret Culbertson's game-winning field goal.

Culbertson, known as "Shaggy" because of his resemblance to the cartoon character, hit five field goals on the day to lead the Cyclones to a 15-13 win.

BRONCOS BUST IOWA'S BOWL HOPES: Iowa had been through it all - off-the-field issues, injuries and constant questions about the direction of the program - but the Hawkeyes entered the season finale against lowly Western Michigan needing just one more win to ensure a bowl bid. It didn't happen. Iowa lost, 28-19, and the 6-6 Hawkeyes were passed over for a bowl for the first time since 2000.

DRAKE WOMEN WIN THE VALLEY: The Drake women's basketball team hobbled into the Missouri Valley tournament with eight healthy players and a 10-18 record. But the Bulldogs won four games in four days, capped by a thrilling 65-64 OT victory over Creighton in the tourney final, to earn a bid to the NCAA tournament. Drake, one of two teams to reach the Big Dance with a losing record, lost to eventual national champions Tennessee in the first round.

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