But some of the usual suspects were back in their normal positions, at the top of the heap, during 2021's sports seasons.
The state's high school athletics governing body went 14 months without awarding a state championship. And once it did, a Berkshire County dynasty claimed another one.
The trend continued in the fall when one perennial power defended its state title and another earned a return trip to the biggest sports venue in New England.
Here is a look back at some of the athletes and teams making headlines in 2021.
Coach Kevin Stannard's program earned its fourth straight trip to a state final and took home a second straight state crown.
This title run was like no other that came before and, perhaps, like none other that will come again.
Due to scheduling issues caused by the pandemic, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association moved away from its practice of scheduling late-round tournament games at neutral sites.
That meant Taconic got to host its Western Mass sectional semi-final and final games on its campus.
After taking both those games and a nail-biter in the state semi-finals at Springfield College, Taconic came back home to host the state title game at Wahconah Park.
In front of a packed house, Taconic defended its 2019 state championship in a 14-10 barn-burner that saw Eastern Massachusetts' Medfield score more than twice as many runs as Taconic allowed in a game all year but still lose.
Besides adding to the legacy of a powerhouse program, this championship run was historic in a number of ways. It likely saw the last state title game -- at least for a while -- contested in the hometown of one of the teams and, barring a final involving two Berkshire County teams, the last this far west. It was the final title awarded to a team that advanced to the state semi-finals by winning a sectional crown. And it was the last final contested in the month of July; due to playoff rainouts, the semi-final and final both were decided after June 30, the date the MIAA had identified as the absolute last play date for the shortened spring season.
Mount Greylock cross country
One of just a handful of Berkshire County programs to compete in an all-county fall 2020 season, the
Mounties made the most of a full schedule in 2021.
Mount Greylock's girls went undefeated in dual meets and kept right on winning through the post-season, taking first in the divisional final in Westfield and winning a D3 State Championship in Wrentham behind a third-place peformance by senior Kate Swann.
The Mounties finished just three points ahead of runner-up Weston in a field that included county rival Lenox, which placed fourth in the state.
Pittsfield Little League
Just like their counterparts in the high school ranks, local Little Leaguers lost out on their post-season opportunities a year ago.
But the American Division of the Pittsfield Little League came back with a vengeance in 2021, taking a state championship in the 10-year-old age group and coming within a game of claiming its second 12-year-old title (and trip to the New England regionals) in three years.
At the state tournament in Gloucester, Pittsfield's 12-year-old All-Stars went 3-0 in pool play before dropping a winner-take-all final on the last day of the tournament against a one-loss team from Peabody.
Mount Greylock girls tennis
Like the Taconic baseball team, the Mounties were one of the last teams to loft a Western Massachusetts sectional trophy when they outlasted Lee for a Division 3 crown in June.
Led by five seniors, including No. 1 singles ace Mia VanDeurzen, the Mounties gave Advanced Math and Science Academy all it could handle in the state semi-s before AMSA prevailed, 4-1, in a contest that saw both doubles matches go to three sets.
Wahconah boys lacrosse
The only thing that could stop Wahconah in the regular season this spring was a worldwide pandemic that limited the number of games it could schedule and forced an almost entirely county-based schedule.
Despite its limited opportunities for competition, Wahconah tore through the Central/Western Massachusetts Division 3 sectional tournament, outscoring its three opponents by a combined margin of 54-24.
After claiming the county's first sectional crown since Mount Greylock did the trick in 2014, Wahconah fell at home to Norwell in the Final Four.
Wahconah girls basketball
There were no state finals in 2020 or 2021, though the county did claim three co-state championships when the '20 title games were abruptly canceled at the start of the pandemic.
A year later, the idea of a sectional or state tournament was off the table, but the Berkshire County athletic directors did what they could to provide their teams with opportunities to compete -- scheduling a shortened season that saw teams join partway through or even in the last week just to get some time on the court.
The one constant throughout the season: the Wahconah girls, who went 20-0 behind the most prolific scorer in the school's history, Maria Gamberoni.
"This is our state championship," coach Liz Kay told her team prior to its season finale against Pittsfield, and after cutting down the nets after the final day of high school basketball in the gym a the old Wahconah High School, her team road off into the mid-March night on the kind of fire truck procession that Dalton traditionally gives its championship teams.
As indicated above, the Central Berkshire Regional School District opened its new high school this fall, and the Wahconah football team christened the building with yet another league championship and trip to the state title game.
Although an early-December loss at Gillette Stadium left Wahconah one-game short of perfection and the crown it coveted, the 2021 edition of Big Blue showed that the school's athletic prowess will continue long after the original building is gone.
Continuing a theme, Wahconah claimed yet another title in the (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime Fall 2 season as coach Dave Lussier's senior-laden squad earned a three-set win over Lenox in the Berkshire North title game.
That Berkshire North tourney was one of four post-season championships organized by the county's ADs to fill in the gap left by the absence of MIAA tournament play in Fall 2 -- itself a pandemic-necessitated creation that allowed fall teams to play during the springtime.
Other Fall 2 titles were claimed by Monument Mountain's volleyball team in the Berkshire South Division, the Wahconah (North) and Drury (South) girls soccer teams and the Mount Greylock (North) and Hoosac Valley (South) boys soccer teams.
Speaking of new types of tournaments, this fall saw the advent of a Western Mass regional tourney under the auspices of the Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference.
With the death of sectional tournament play in favor of a statewide tournament format, the PVIAC athletic directors decided to keep the tradition alive by creating eight-team post-season tourneys in the final week of the MIAA's regular season for team sports.
In the first go-around, Berkshire County saw six teams advance to Western Mass finals: the Lenox and Mount Greylock girls soccer teams, Mount Everett and Mount Greylock boys soccer and Lee and Mount Greylock volleyball.
The Wildcats emerged victorious in an all-Berkshire final to capture the county's only regional title of the fall.
Mount Greylock, meanwhile, went on to advance to the state semi-finals in the 43-team field of the Division 5 state tournament.
The only fall sport that featured traditional sectional tournament play this year was golf, where the Millionaires rolled to a Western Mass crown in Division 3 at the Country Club of Greenfield.
Mount Greylock placed third in D3 and earned a trip to the state tournament, where Lenox finished fourth.
Thanks to a couple of moves that chose efficiency over tradition, the county's high school athletes got to spend a lot more time on yellow school buses in 2021.
The switch away from sectional tournaments that feed into a four-team state tournament has meant 32-team post-season fields that sent teams crisscrossing the commonwealth for midweek games this fall.
At the same time, the old Berkshire County League -- with those North and South divisions -- is a thing of the past as the county's teams have been blended into pre-existing PVIAC conferences in most sports.
Other top stories from 2021 included:
Pittsfield football, an unofficial but decisive Berkshire County Fall 2 title after going 3-0 with a rare win at Wahconah.
Emmanuel Nda, Pittsfield High, Central/Western Mass Division 1 title in the 100 meters (10.80 seconds).
Meredith McCandless, Pittsfield High, Central/Western Mass Division 1 title in javelin (103 feet, 8 inches).
Lenox girls 4-by-400 relay (Solia Schmid, Elyssa Scrimo, Savanna Reber, Mary Elliot), Central/Western Mass Division 2 title (4:15.92).
Monument Mountain 4-by-400 relay (Gavin Santos, Colin Kinne, Quinn Redpath, Lucien Firth), Central/Western Mass Division 2 title (3:32.44).
Elizabeth Dupras, Mount Greylock, Central/Western Mass runner-up in the 100 hurdles (16.39) and pentathlon (2,528 points).
Mount Greylock girls lacrosse, Central/Western Massachusetts Division 2 finalist.
Mount Greylock softball, Western Mass Division 3 finalist.
Pittsfield softball, Western Mass Division 1 finalist.
Mount Greylock boys soccer, State Division 5 quarter-finalist.
Wahconah boys soccer, State Division 4 quarter-finalist.
Hoosac Valley football, State Division 7 semi-finalist.
Pat McLaughlin, Wahconah, medalist at Western Masachusetts Division 2 golf championships.
Nate Murphy, Taconic, runner-up at Western Massachusetts Division 2 golf championships.
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