One of the fun duties of the sports editor each December is to go back through a year's worth of newspapers and compile a list of highlights for our annual look back, which was included in Friday's edition of The Sentinel.
There were a handful of individual highlights that stood out, but for the most part, four story lines dominated 2011:
* Molestation - the Penn State scandal, first reported in March, rocked the nation when it cost a living legend his job running the football team.
* Meteorology - a good bit of the spring and fall were wiped out due to heavy rain. Rainouts are part of the game, but not like this.
* Merger - Mifflin County High School was formed, the second time the county has had all its athletes play under one name, and the first under one roof.
* Money - Juniata County dropped funding for its athletic programs, which continue under a self-funding plan.
Not surprisingly, it's those last two I get asked about the most. And the questions all fall under the general category of, "How's that working out?"
My take on Mifflin County is, it's working fine. I wasn't here for the Penn Highlands "experiment," but from the stories I've heard, it's clear this merger has the general support of the community, which the other one did not.
More important is what it doesn't have - an ongoing effort to undermine the merger.
That was the case a half dozen years ago when Middleburg and West Snyder became one school, and it only harmed the kids and the image of the folks who made ludicrous claims about what was happening inside the building.
When I attend a Mifflin County sports event, I see Mifflin County fans - all decked out in purple and black. Lewistown and Indian Valley will always be in their past and their memories, but not in your face. That unified support speaks well of the people in the community, their acceptance of a difficult decision and their belief in their kids' future ahead of their own past.
At the schools down the road, the answer isn't so clear. Yes, Juniata County has fielded all the teams it did last year (save one combined golf squad), and all have finished the season, so far.
I told several people at the outset that if the two schools in that county made it through the fall, I expected they'd make it through the first year. But it's fair to note that all the booster clubs, who have to cover the cost of sports not funded by activity fees, started the year with money in the bank.
And, the school district eventually provided some money to help offset the first-year costs, which made up for the fact that the prediction of paid coaches handing their salaries back to the boosters didn't seem to materialize (and for the hours they put in compared to the amount of pay, these folks earn that money - trust me).
But don't let anyone try to convince you it's a sports utopia.
Tom Feltman, the East Juniata football coach who nearly lost his job at the beginning of the season, quietly stepped down at the end. Gary Klingensmith, long a curmudgeon on the topic of a football co-op between the county's two schools, conceded to me after the season that perhaps it might not be so bad.
Parents from East Juniata's field hockey team complained that Juniata killed a potential co-op there, even though it was the Tigers' athletic director who brought the idea of two teams to the school board. Rumors put forth about the reason could not be substantiated.
And the number of forfeits at least raises the question of whether wrestling should have been a one-team effort, despite universal agreement to field separate squads at each school.
Several of this year's parents have insisted their money will not be left behind in booster accounts, making it harder for future student athletes. Parents who gladly forked over $250 to $750 per child to play this year may not have that luxury in the future.
The county has a new school board, which perhaps will take a more hands-on role than the board that created this situation. It may mean more difficult decisions, including the possibility of a forming cooperatives for all sports, or even cutting programs.
How's it working out? The Magic 8-Ball, at this point, would undoubtedly say, "Reply hazy, try again."
Jeff Fishbein is sports editor of The Sentinel. Contact him at email@example.com.