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Legends of sports 2016

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Idaho state journal

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Legends 2 | LEGENDS | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal

in this issue

Xavier Finney 

Page 4

Tristen Hoge 

Page 7

Mark Liptak 

Page 8

Justin Arias 

Page 12

Tom Harrison 

Page 14

Maria Sanchez 

Page 16

Chris Frost 

Page 18

Vicky Galasso 

Page 20


LEGENDs | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal | 3

Contributing writers: Madison Guernsey |  mguernsey@journalnet.com Michael Guise | mguise@journalnet.com Josh Friesen | jfriesen@journalnet.com Jeff Papworth | jpapworth@journalnet.com Shelbie Harris | sharris@journalnet.com

On the cover: Former Idaho State football player Xavier Finney | Photo by Doug Lindley

Editor: Ian Fennell | 208-239-3121 | editor@journalnet.com Publication graphic designer: Danae Lenz | dlenz@journalnet.com

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LEGENDs | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal | 5

Xavier Finney Idaho State football player

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avier Finney left Idaho State on top. The running back finished his career in 2015 as the program’s all-time leading rusher with 3,542 yards. His 736 attempts also ranks No. 1 in school history, and his 26 touchdowns ranks third all-time. “It’s an honor,” Finney said after claiming the rushing record against Montana State on Nov. 15, 2015. “To be in this program for four years and be able to establish and accomplish something like that, it’s an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget this moment. I’m going to carry it with me for the rest of my life.” More Finney I Page 6

“To be in this program for four years and be able to establish and accomplish something like that, it’s an amazing feeling. I’ll never forget this moment. I’m going to carry it with me for the rest of my life.”


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Finney/from Page 5 He broke the rushing record with a 145-yard, 15-carry effort against Montana State in his final game at Holt Arena. The Bengals lost to Bobcats, 44-20. While a Bengal, Finney was named to the all-conference team twice, including a first-team selection in 2014 when he scored 14 rushing touchdowns, which is tied for the most in program history. He also recorded nine games of 100 yards rushing or more in his junior season, which helped him become the first Bengal to lead the Big Sky Conference in rushing. “The best running back that’s ever played at the school,” said coach Mike Kramer after the team’s game against Montana State. “And he’s got the numbers to prove it.”

As a freshman, Finney was thrust into the starting lineup. In his debut against Air Force, the running back accumulated 48 yards rushing on 18 carries and one touchdown. He also added 35 yards receiving on five catches. He finished his first campaign as a Bengal with 288 yards rushing and three rushing touchdowns on 77 carries. He started all 11 games, totaling 483 allpurpose yards. Each year Finney was on campus, he led the Bengals in rushing yards, attempts and rushing touchdowns. With everything Finney accomplished while at Idaho State, he cemented his spot as one of the greatest Bengals the school has ever had. “I’ve achieved it — it’s crazy,” Finney said after Montana State. “It’s an insane feeling. It’s so surreal. I’m so appreciative.”

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Tristen Hoge Highland High School football player

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he top Division I football programs all wanted Tristen Hoge. The offensive lineman held scholarship offers from 18 universities and visited Florida, Stanford and LSU. The former Highland star was a twotime Idaho Gatorade Player of the Year and the No. 48 player in the class of 2014 on the Scout 300 list.

As a junior, Hoge committed to Notre Dame, ending the courting for one of the best that has played in Idaho. “I can say I don’t have it any better,” Hoge said in 2013 after choosing Notre Dame. “It’s perfect. I committed to my dream school. It’s where I wanted to be, and it’s where I fit. From the beginning I knew their values fit perfectly with mine.”

More Hoge I Page 22


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Mark Liptak Idaho State football color analyst

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ark Liptak’s memory is nothing short of immaculate. He remembers the intricate details of his first Chicago White Sox game as a young boy on July 15, 1963, when Gary Peters threw a one-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles. He remembers his anxiety when he covered Super Bowl XX in 1985 when his hometown Chicago Bears whooped the New England Patriots, 46-10. He remembers his days as the weekend anchor for KNOE TV in Monroe, Louisiana. He remembers the day he began working for KPVI in Pocatello. And from former Idaho State women’s basketball player Jenna Brown stuffing herself in the overheard luggage compartment of a bus in 2007 to current Idaho State women’s basketball player Juliet Jones’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer in the quarterfinals of 2016’s Big Sky tournament, Liptak has plenty of memories from his current positions at ISU. Liptak is entering his third season as the color analyst alongside Jerry Miller for radio coverage of Idaho State football. Prior to that, he spent nine years as the studio host on the radio for ISU football. He’s also entering his ninth season providing play-by-play radio coverage of all ISU women’s basketball games. But Liptak’s story doesn’t start in Pocatello. It starts on Chicago’s South Side, where Liptak grew up playing baseball from sunset to sunrise in the summer. That’s where his passion for White Sox baseball began. “That’s all we did. We played baseball,” Liptak said. “There was a field in the neighborhood that we would clear out of rocks and bottles and

stuff. And we would just play all day. … You could not help but be a baseball fan in Chicago back in that time period.” Liptak left Chicago to study at the University of Kentucky, where he wrote for the student newspaper, The Kentucky Colonel, and was the campus radio station’s play-by-play announcer for Wildcat football and men’s basketball. After graduting, Liptak fished for jobs for about a year. He finally landed a gig as a sports photographer at WTVQ in Lexington, Kentucky. Soon after, he moved to Monroe, Louisiana, where he spent nine years as the weekend anchor at KNOE-TV. After the sports director left KNOE-TV, Liptak moved into his spot. But after two years, KNOE-TV brought a new general manager on board, and he was looking to install a crew of his own. Though Liptak had been with the station for over a decade, he suddenly found himself off the air and out of a job. “(The new general manager) basically wanted to hire his own people,” Liptak said. “Which I understand. I don’t like it, but that’s part of the game. And when you’re out of work, you call anybody you know.” One man Liptak called was Don Evans. The pair had worked together at a basketball camp at Western Kentucky University in 1981 — 11 years after Liptak was let go from KNOE-TV. It was 1992, and Evans was an assistant men’s basketball coach at Idaho State University. Liptak asked if he knew of any openings in the area, and Evans told him KPVI was looking for a sportscaster. Before long, Liptak was in Pocatello.

More Liptak I Page 10


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Liptak/from Page 9 “Where the deer and antelope play,” Liptak said with a smile. Liptak signed a two-year contract with KPVI. When those two years were up, Liptak stayed in Pocatello and split time between working at a sporting goods store and U.S. West (now CenturyLink) and calling selected home ISU women’s basketball and volleyball games on the radio. Then in 2007, Liptak’s career at Idaho State really began when Director of Athletics Jeff Tingey came calling. Liptak started at ISU as the studio host for the Bengal radio network for football, putting together halftime reports, providing score updates and helping with pregame packages. He also started providing radio play-by-play commentary for ISU women’s basketball games — home and away. Then in 2014, Liptak left the studio to provide color commentary for ISU football.

In one fashion or another, Liptak has been in the broadcasting business for nearly 40 years, and that provides plenty of time to meet more than a fair share of famous athletes. From interviewing Muhammad Ali to knocking back a few beers with Larry Bird, Liptak has been in the presence of the sport universe’s elite. And, man, he’s got some great stories, too. One of his favorites involves ISU head women’s basketball coach Seton Sobolewski in a tight game during the 2011-2012 season against Montana in Missoula — where the Bengals had won only once before. “It’s late in the game,” Liptak begins. “(ISU’s) Chelsea Pickering is fouled. Now, I’m right next to the ISU bench, and Chelsea goes to the free-throw line. … The player who committed the foul on Chelsea fouled out. (Montana coach) Robin (Selvig) has like 60 seconds or whatever to get a substitute in, so there’s a little bit of a delay. Chelsea is standing at the free-throw line, and I’ve personally

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LEGENDs | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal | 11

never liked that. I would always stand off the line rather than just stand there for X number of seconds.” Liptak’s eyes glisten and his smile gets wide as he delves further into the story. He continues: “I’m sitting here and Seton is standing right there. Seton looks over at Chelsea and says, ‘Chelsea!’ Chelsea looks at him. ‘You wanna hear a joke?’ And Chelsea’s looking at him like, ‘What?!’ And I know why Seton did that! Specifically so that Chelsea would look at him and not be thinking about, ‘Oh I’ve got these two free throws.’” Another of Liptak’s favorite stories — and one of his favorite calls he’s made on the radio — came just last year when ISU’s Juliet Jones buried an NBA-range 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded to lift the Bengals over top-seeded Montana State in the Big Sky tournament quarterfinals. The shot ended up on SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays and will go down as one of the top moments in Idaho

State athletic history. “I was on target,” Liptak said. “I was vocal, but I wasn’t yelling at the top of my lungs. It was good. I mean, I enjoyed that game. Juliet will certainly remember that for the rest of her life. … I had the perfect angle. J.J. launched it right in front of me. Literally. And all I had to do was turn my head slightly, and I knew it was good because the ball was halfway through the net before the light went off.” Liptak’s stories don’t end there. Between meeting and interviewing White Sox legends for the Chicago Baseball Museum and shooting the breeze with ESPN’s Michael Wilbon (then with the Washington Post) during the first round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in Boise, Liptak has kept himself busy soaking up all the experiences he can. “Whether it’s ISU or the White Sox or whatever, it’s the stories that make it. It’s the stories,” Liptak said. “Man, I’ve got some memories that I never would’ve imagined.”

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12 | LEGENDS | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal

Justin Arias Idaho State football player

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n 2014, when Idaho State had its first winning record in 11 years, it was quarterback Justin Arias leading the way. “We’re a quarterback-centered football team and our quarterback is one of the best in the country,” Idaho State head coach Mike Kramer said during the 2014 season.

The then-senior had multiple performances that made the record books in the Bengals’ 8-4 season. Arias’ most memorable outing may have been in a loss, when the Bengals fell in a 56-53 shootout at then-No. 2 Eastern Washington in the middle of the season. Arias went toe-to-toe with Vernon Adams, who started for FBS power Oregon the following year. The ISU QB tossed six touchdown passes, tying Jerry Dunne for the school record, and compiled 421 yards passing. “We’d get them in third and 12 and third and 14 and then they’d dice us up,” EWU defensive lineman Dylan Zylstra said in 2014. “If we brought pressure, they’d make us pay for it. If we’d hang back and only rush three, (Arias) would pad the ball and make a great decision.” Idaho State used the highly contested

game as a launching point, winning six of its next seven games. One of the victories was over Southern Utah, which Arias sliced through for 465 yards passing — seventh-best in ISU history. “He stays pretty steady,” said thenISU offensive coordinator Don Bailey in 2014. “He never really has a lot of peaks and valleys. He’s pretty level throughout a game.” The signal caller capped his career with a 46-28 win over rival Weber State in front of a home crowd at Holt Arena. While the Bengals just missed the cut for the FCS playoffs, Arias was a Walter Payton Award finalist after tallying 4,076 yards passing and 38 touchdowns in his final college season. Arias finished first in school history in career passing touchdowns (64), while he was second in career passing attempts (1,165), completions (676) and yards (7,971).


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14 | LEGENDS | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal

High school football coach

Tom harrison

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or a man who’s been a football coach longer than he hasn’t, there’s no denying Tom Harrison, a man with 11 state championships at three divisions in Idaho, is a legend of the Gem State. In 1982, Harrison took his first coaching gig at Ririe High School. With the position, he became the youngest 11-man head coach in the state. “I was 22-years-old,” Harrison said. “Thought I knew a lot and found out I didn’t know much at all.” His tenure in Ririe was short. After winning 10 games in three seasons, Harrison was fired. It didn’t take long for him to figure out how to win, however, and just four years after he started coaching, Harrison won his first championship with Raft River High School in 1986. Two years later, Harrison assumed the head coaching role at Snake River High School. He spent 14 years with the Panthers, winning eight state championships — seven during an eight-year stretch and five consecutive from 1998-2002.

He attributes much of his success to the unique running style offense and physicality he demanded of players. “I like running the ball,” he said. “I thought when you are able to run the ball, it makes players more physical as opposed to passing teams. And in order to win titles, you have to be physical.” As if winning eight titles wasn’t enough, Harrison also penciled the Idaho state record for the longest winning streak of 54 consecutive games. In 2000, Harrison was inducted into the Idaho State High School Football Hall of Fame as the state’s winningest head football coach. During his career, Harrison has a 250-84 record. He turned Snake River into a nationally recognized program. He left with a 150-19 overall record before taking command of the Pocatello High School Indians in 2003, a team that was 2-17 in its previous two seasons. “Things went pretty fast and were good for us when I came to Pocatello,” Harrison said. “I came with a lot of the same staff I had in Snake


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River so that helped the transition.” Harrison coached the Indians for 12 seasons before resigning in 2014. He finished with 7540 overall record and the 2006 state championship after routing defending champion Bishop Kelly 35-0. Harrison said the dynamic of having three quality football programs in the Pocatello area with Highland, Century and Pocatello High Schools made it difficult to recruit top talent. “That’s something Pocatello is going to fight for a long time,” he said. “Tough situation in Pocatello, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.” Out of all his accomplishments, it’s hard for Harrison to pick out a favorite, but he said winning five consecutive titles in Snake River and beating Highland 40-20 in the Black and Blue Bowl on the way to the 2006 state championship with Pocatello are high on the list. After 32 years of leading Idaho high school football players to war, Harrison took his first assistant coaching position with Emmett High

School in 2015. That same year the team went 11-0 and won its first-ever 3A state championship. An assistant role is something Harrison relishes. He said it’s no longer about winning every game but enjoying the time out on the field as much as he enjoys time away from it, time he spends with his wife and small children. While most of his success in coaching has happened on the football field, Harrison has also had success as a golf coach. During his career, Harrison has won three girls and one boys state golf title. He added another boys golf title while at Pocatello. For Harrison, football is much more than a sport or a test of his football knowledge. Football, in the eyes of coach Harrison, is a family affair and a lifelong opportunity to build and develop relationships. “Football teaches so many things in life that I think are important,” he said. “It teaches toughness, perseverance, teamwork and sacrifice. Those are qualities that make that sport so unique.”

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Maria Sanchez Idaho State soccer player

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merican Falls did not waste time before retiring Maria Sanchez’s jersey, holding a ceremony before she graduated in 2014. The soccer player was

that good. “We decided not to wait,” then-American Falls athletic director Nathan Whittle said in 2014, “because why wait 10 years when we know we’re going to do it?” Sanchez finished her prep

career by scoring 68 goals (four per game) as a senior. She tallied 178 over her career. The result of her success was the opportunity to play at the Division I level, at Idaho State. “Hopefully it inspires other kids that you don’t have to live


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“… you don’t have to live in a big city or have a lot of big things to make it — to reach your goals.”

in a big city or have a lot of big things to make it — to reach your goals,” Sanchez told the Journal in 2014. The American Falls graduate continued where she left off in high school, tallying two goals and one assist in her college debut against Minot State. Sanchez compiled 22 points in her freshman season, with seven goals and eight assists. The forward scored multiple goals four times in 2015, including against Utah State when she netted a hat trick. The two-year ISU player accomplished more than most Bengals have ac-

complished in their college careers. Sanchez is second or tied for second in the ISU record books in the following career statistics: goals (22), points (56), shots (155) and shots on goal (79). After her freshman season, Sanchez played for the Mexican National Team. She saw World Cup action in a 2-1 loss to England, entering play in the 77th minute.

“All the work was worth it,” Sanchez said following the game. She has since transferred from ISU. She plans to start playing again next year for Santa Clara, a team that went 14-6-2 and made it to the NCAA tournament for the 25th time in 27 years in 2015. If the past is any indication, Sanchez will find more success in California.


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Chris frost Highland High School coach

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he wall on the west end of Highland’s gym is spattered with numbers. The newest, a red “16,” is just part of Chris Frost’s legacy. The recently retired longtime Rams multisport coach had a hand in close to two dozen state titles as a coach and player at the school on the hill. His last game? The 2016 5A state boys basketball championship: the game represented by the shiniest number on the white wall of greatness. It was a fitting, although maybe untimely, bookend to Frost’s career. He took the Rams to

a championship in his first year as head coach in 1990 and repeated the act 26 years later in his final stanza. Frost was set to return for season No. 28, but wanted to do so while retiring from teaching. A Public Employee Retirement System of Idaho (PERSI) rule states that retirees “have at least a 90-day break between retirement and reemployment with the same employer.” The 90-day period would have cut into the early part of basketball season, and Frost elected to step down as head coach rather than shortchange the 2016-17 team. “I wanted to continue to coach that group,” Frost said.


LEGENDs | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal | 19

Frost’s career n Career wins as Highland’s basketball coach: 446 State championships as head coach: 3 n Head coaching win-loss record: 446-245 n State championships won as a coach and player: 21 n Games as head basketball coach: 691 Warren Whitaker. “I just hope people keep it going like they (started),” Frost said.

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Old habits die hard, and Frost’s coaching prowess won’t be easily replaced. He leaves Highland as the winningest basketball coach in school history — 446 wins with three state titles. Frost’s .645 winning percentage is second all-time to Ron Kress’, and Frost’s 691 games coached are more than all other coaches put together. Frost also coached golf, softball and track and field for the Rams. He was on the staff for all 10 of Highland’s football state championships, and won the school’s only softball state title as an assistant coach. “He’s been a part of 21 state championships from softball to football to golf to basketball, let alone being in the weight room as a teacher,” Highland athletic director Travis Bell said when Frost retired in May. “He’s much more than just an outstanding basketball coach.” Frost went to Highland, coached at Highland — was there “for an eternity.” And in retirement? Golfing with fellow Highland legends Jim Koetter, Don Nevis and


20 | LEGENDS | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal

Vicky Galasso Idaho State softball player

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oftball has taken Vicky Galasso from Southern California, to Southeast Idaho, to the Windy City, to the Lone Star State, briefly the nation’s capital and back to Big Sky territory. The former Idaho State standout — no, the best softball player in school history — is the first softball player from Idaho State and the Big Sky Conference to sign a professional softball contract, and recently landed a job as an assistant at two-time defending league champion Weber State. Galasso earned two Big Sky MVP honors and left Idaho State as the all-time leader in nine statistical categories. She helped the Bengals win three consecu-

tive regular-season conference titles and announced the program’s arrival as a Big Sky power. Galasso came to Pocatello when Idaho State was in its infancy of rebuilding under then-head coach Julie Wright. The Bengals went 12-36 her freshman season, then proceeded to take the Big Sky crown over and over and over again. “It was an unreal group that (Wright) put together,” Galasso said. “Most of us weren’t from there, hadn’t heard of the school, and put them on the map and became something bigger than ourselves.” Galasso spent the summer of 2015 with the Chicago Bandits of the National Pro Fastpitch league, the only professional


LEGENDs | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal | 21

Galasso’s career at ISU n Career batting average: .395 n Home runs: 62 n Runs batted in: 222 n Big Sky MVPs: 2 n Regular-season conference titles: 3

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women’s softball league in the United States. The Bandits went 35-17 and took the Cowles Cup Championship. Galasso then signed a two-year contract with the Dallas Charge. She hit .262 in a part-time role this past season. Galasso had an opportunity to join Wright at the University of Maryland on a volunteer basis, but she accepted the job at Weber State. When the Wildcats visit Pocatello next season, Galasso will be wearing different colors. But she’ll always remember where she got her start. “It was so cool to be a part of that with them and look back and say, ‘Yeah, that’s what we did,’” Galasso said.


22 | LEGENDS | September 2016 | Idaho State Journal

Hoge/ from Page 7 At Highland, the center started 47 consecutive games, from first game of freshman season through the team’s state title game in his senior campaign, helping Rams to 41-6 record over that span. In the state title game as a senior, Hoge and Highland capped off a 12-0 record with a victory over Mountain View. After finishing his career at Highland, Hoge was a firstteam offensive lineman on 2015’s Parade prep All-America squad and a 2015 first-team offensive lineman on the MaxPreps All-American Team. He was also selected to play

in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “Since he was a young kid he’s had certain goals in life,” Highland head football coach Gino Mariani said about Hoge after his U.S. Army selection. “And I think all of that is start-

ing to culminate in this type of selection ... I’m flabbergasted by the fact that he came from Highland. That’s awesome. The Army couldn’t have picked a better selection. It’s a tremendous honor.” In his first year at Notre Dame, Hoge redshirted. He was one of 10 scholarship freshmen who spent the season on scout team and did not see the field. But he did make good use of his redshirt season. Hoge was named the offensive scout team player of the year. This season, he has appeared in two games and was locked in a preseason position battle to be the starting right guard for the Fighting Irish.

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