Just as she has on the basketball court for most of her life, and especially during the 1996-97 high school season, Kim Condon has come out on top.
Condon’s ability to overcome a severely sprained ankle and lead her Presque Isle Wildcats to Eastern Maine and state Class A basketball championships was voted by readers of the Bangor Daily News and listeners of Bangor sports radio station WZON (620 AM) as Maine’s top sports story of 1997.
In a close vote, Condon’s heroics edged out the feats of another basketball star, University of Maine guard Cindy Blodgett, who led the nation in scoring for the second straight year.
The No. 3 story was Winterport native Mike Bordick’s replacement of Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken at shortstop. The rest of the top 10 is as follows:
No. 4 – Newburgh native Ricky Craven’s third-place finish in the Daytona 500, No. 5 – Bangor High School’s fourth straight Class A state championship in baseball, No. 6 – The University of Southern Maine’s Division III national baseball championship, No. 7 – The UMaine football team’s rally and triple-overtime win over Connecticut, No. 8 – The UMaine men’s basketball team’s upset of Marquette University, No. 9 – The Bangor Blue Ox minor league baseball team dissolving after a City of Bangor stadium proposal was defeated, No. 10 – The NCAA’s denial of the UMaine hockey team’s appeal of sanctions imposed by the NCAA for recruiting violations.
No. 1, Kim Condon
The news of Condon’s exploits being voted No. 1 came as a surprise to her family.
“I’m very proud of her and I knew she’d captured a lot of people’s hearts,” said Becky Condon, Kim’s mother. “She got a lot of mail right after the tournament ended, but I guess we didn’t know how many people were still following her. A lot of people came up to us at stores or wherever and told us they had voted for her as the top story. Several people told me they had even voted by e-mail.”
People voted by electronic mail, hand delivery, fax, and the mail service – especially from Aroostook County.
“I guess it was just the performance she’s had all year that made me want to vote for her,” said Brad Johnson of Presque Isle. “It wasn’t just one game that did it for me. She did it day in and day out.”
Even fans of Presque Isle’s traditional rivals, the Caribou Vikings, were drawn into the ever-increasing Condon rooting section.
“They’re our neighboring town and a traditional rival, but when the tournament started, we rooted for them like they were our team,” said Tom Hale of Westmanland.
“She was like a magician,” Hale added. “You never knew what she was going to do next. You just knew something was going to happen. You didn’t know what, but you knew something would happen where she’d amaze you. And you were never disappointed.”
Hale and several other voters pointed to Condon’s game-tying 3-pointer with two seconds left in regulation in the Eastern Maine championship game and Presque Isle’s overtime win as the defining Condon moment for them.
But the most vivid memory for most Condon voters was her 18-point effort and clutch shooting despite a badly sprained ankle in that EM title game.
“After that, there was never a question as far as what story I was voting for,” Hale said.
“Her father didn’t even think she’d be able to play,” said Johnson. “She could have laid right down and said, `No I don’t think I can play,’ but she didn’t. I don’t think she could do any more than she did.”
No. 2, Cindy Blodgett
While Condon was amazing high school hoop fans, Blodgett continued to win admirers and fans at the collegiate level. The junior guard averaged 27 points per game to lead the nation while also leading her Black Bears to a third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
Mildred Carson, a longtime football fan from Texas who’s now living in Orono, is a great example of what Blodgett has done for women’s basketball in the state.
“I never watched a basketball game in my life until I began watching the women’s basketball team up there. I can’t stand to watch men play, whether it’s college or pro,” she said.
Carson said she became a fan of Blodgett and the Maine women a couple years ago after she made up her mind to flip to a game on TV “to see what all the fuss was about.”
“I watched her play and I guess I was hooked from then on,” she said. “I’m 86, so I don’t go to games, but I watch the Maine women whenever they’re on TV.”
Carson said it was hard to peg just one reason for rooting for Blodgett, but that it probably had to do with her small-town background.
“I think the fact she’s a small town girl from a practically unheard-of place in Maine who’s making national headlines and risen to the top… I feel that’s very important,” Carson said.
Carson admitted picking Blodgett No. 1 was a tough choice. She almost voted for the UMaine football team’s triple-overtime win over Connecticut.
One of the few Aroostook County voters who didn’t vote Condon No. 1 was Margaret Duffy of Sherman Station.
“Kim Condon’s from Presque Isle and that was just Presque Isle whereas Cindy is in college and playing against some real talented teams all over the country,” said Duffy. “Cindy Blodgett and Mike Bordick were the first two things that came to my mind.
“I love her talent and I love the way she plays. I look up to her because she’s a very good role model.”
No. 3, Mike Bordick
While basketball reigned supreme in the voting, Bordick’s supplanting of a legend at shortstop didn’t go unnoticed.
“I don’t think we’ve ever had a player from the state of Maine in any sport playing pro ball that’s played alongside a future Hall of Famer like that,” said longtime Dexter High School basketball coach Ed Guiski.
“I know we have guys like Billy Swift and other pro players in hockey, but it’s not going to be very often we get a guy from Winterport, Maine, to play at the top level of a sport and do what he has. I think that’s a heck of a story.”
Many voters related to the perseverence and determination Bordick has exhibited not just to become a major league player, but to become one of the most respected at his position.
“I just like the way that he went in there and did it when no one else gave him a chance,” said Ken Wood, a WZON sales representative from Bangor. “I think it was just the fact that somebody recognized him for the talent he had and his work ethic that was impressive.
“I coach kids who aren’t great natural talents, and seeing a guy like him progressing through hard work and effort, that means a lot more to me than some guy just getting by on natural talent. It provides a great example for kids to follow.”