EDITOR'S NOTE: Plenty of big stories broke between the lines and on the playing fields, courts and tracks in the Heartland in 2013. Wins and losses aside, certain moments transcended the games themselves and stuck out as the top stories of the year.
This is Highlands Today's annual year-end run of the stories that had a major impact on the local sports scene. The ranking was determined by the sports department: sports editor Mark Pinson and sports reporter Brandon Howard.
Sebring's Miranda wins state weightlifting
1 Sebring's Mark Anthony Miranda claimed the Class 2A 199-pound title at the boys state weightlifting meet at the Kissimmee Civic Center in April. Miranda lifted 375 pounds in the bench press and followed that up with a 315-pound effort in the clean-and-jerk to give him the state championship with a combined weight of 690 pounds.
Miranda lifted 290 in his first lift, but missed 315 the first time, making it come down to the wire, where he came through.
"I just kept thinking 'I have to do it," Miranda said.
Sebring coach Steve Berry said Miranda has lifted 335 before, but you never know what's going to happen in a big meet and how kids will react to the pressure.
"It came down to the wire," Berry said. "It was real exciting."
Tubbs places at state track
2 Sebring's Taylor Tubbs ran to a second-place finish in the 1,600 meters at the Class 3A state track and field meet in Jacksonville on a day that was dominated by inclement weather.
The rains, mixed with winds of 15-20 mph, ruled out any meet records being set on the day.
Tubbs took part in one of the most exciting races of the day, as Fort Myers' Emily Edwards crossed the finish line in 5:00.60 compared to Tubbs' time of 5:00.79 in a race between two of the top mile runners in Florida.
Dragon girls district hoops champs
3 It was only fitting that the Lake Placid Green Dragons were the home team on the scoreboard in the Class 4A-District 10 championship game. Even though the game was played on DeSoto's home court, Green Dragon fans made up three-fourths of the crowd and they went home happy, as Lake Placid claimed its first district title since 2004-05 with a 55-47 victory over DeSoto.
The Green Dragons were led by senior Bria Wilson and senior point guard Alex Coyne.
"It feels great," said Wilson. "I knew we were going to come in here and win the district championship."
Lake Placid made it to the regional finals before losing to Fort Myers Dunbar.
Audi win 12 Hours of Sebring
4 Less than an hour into the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring it became apparent that the only battle people were going to see up front was between the No. 1 and the No. 2 Audis. At the end of the first hour, the two Audi e-tron quattros had lapped every car but the No. 6 Muscle Milk car and that came shortly thereafter.
When the checkered flag came, it was the No. 1 Audi driven by Benoit Treluyer, Marcel Fassler and Oliver Jarvis that finished 7.679 seconds in front of the No. 2 Audi and five laps in front of the next closest competitor.
"This Sebring race is known in Europe and it is a very big win," Fassler said. "For the last time that Audi is to come to Sebring and to leave a winner is a great feeling."
It was the first American Le Mans Series victory for all three Audi drivers.
The No. 12 Rebellion Racing held off a late run by Muscle Milk to take the final podium spot.
Streak golfers swing to state
5 The Sebring boys and girls golf teams had a banner season with both the boys and girls qualifying for the state finals for the first time in school history.
The Blue Streak boys and girls won the Class 2A-District 18 golf tournaments at River Greens Golf Club in convincing fashion. The Blue Streak boys won regionals at Sun 'n Lake Golf Club while the girls placed second at Highlands Ridge North to qualify for state.
The Sebring boys finished 10th at state and the girls came in 14th with freshman Kendall Griffin coming in second place as an individual.
Sebring bowlers roll to state
6 The Sebring High School boys and girls bowling teams made history this season, reaching the state high school finals in Orlando.
The girls finished third while the boys came in seventh, as Adrianna Stacy led the way for the Streaks, with an impressive average of 237. Her individual scores (247, 268, 170, 263) were higher than all but three of her male counterparts.
Sebring Cross Country runs to state
7 For the first time since the 1990s, Sebring sent a boys cross country team to the state finals. After an impressive second-place finish in the Class 3A-Region 2 meet, the Blue Streaks made the trek up to Tallahassee to compete in the state meet.
Sebring finished 15th out of 24 teams, accumulating 441 points along with a handful of top 100 times. Streaks junior Eric Foster placed highest for the Streaks, finishing in 53rd with an impressive time of 16:33.52. Freshman Malcolm Holden was next, coming in 93rd at 17:21.72. Holdman was the only Sebring freshman to compete in the state finals.
Shelton excels at state
8 Lake Placid's Dalton Shelton was the only Green Dragons runner to represent the team in the cross country state finals. He had the highest finish among any cross country runner from Highlands County, placing 12th with a sizzling time of 16:24.61 - also a personal best for Shelton.
The top 15 finish was made even more special because it was Shelton's last high school race. Running in the regional meet with a severe illness the year before, Shelton barely missed the cut to make it to state, finishing just one spot shy of the top 15.
Dragons win district volleyball
9 The Lake Placid volleyball team won the Class 4A-District 9 championship under the guidance of first-year Green Dragon coach and alumni, Charlotte Bauder, who was named Florida Athletic Coaches Association District 17 Coach of the Year. Bauder guided Lake Placid to an impressive 22-6 record and a berth in the regional quarterfinals. Under her guidance four players - Jacalyn Baldwin, Mary Grace Bates, Bella Carabello, and Breauna Corley - qualified for a state all-star tournament. Bauder had previously been assistant on the staff and was also a standout player for the Dragons in the late 1990s.
Devil boys win district hoops
10 In his first year as coach of the Red Devils, Marty O'Hora guided Avon Park to the Class 4A-District 9 championship. The Devils knocked off DeSoto in the title game, but first had to overcome county rival Lake Placid in the semifinals. Beating the Bulldogs game Avon Park its second consecutive district championship. With the victory, the team advanced to the regional quarterfinals, where they were defeated by Tampa Catholic.