While 2016 left a lot to be desired, it generated some of the most amazing college sports moments of my lifetime. Streaks were broken, Olympic glory was won and audiences were awestruck. Every team and every highlight on this list deserves to be there, so sit back, relax and take in the most impressive college sports moments of 2016.
9. Youngstown St. Beats Eastern Washington University on a Last-second Touchdown Pass
In a remarkable show of athleticism, Youngstown State tight end Kevin Rader made a incredible last-second catch by trapping a football against the back of an EWU defensive back in the semi-finals of the FCS playoffs. Youngstown will take on James Madison in the final on January 7th, 2017.
8. Providence College's Improbable Men's Soccer Tournament Run
When Providence entered the NCAA tournament, they were far from expected to be beating top seeded Maryland by scoring a remarkable four goals in the second half, but they did. Now they have an All-American midfielder in Julian Gressel who has been invited to the MLS Combine later this month.
7. Coastal Carolina Wins the College World Series
Providence wasn't the only team with a magical post season run. Coastal Carolina's legendary title run earned them the school's first CWS championship in school history. They did it in dramatic fashion too. In game three of the CWS against Arizona G.K. Young hit a home run to put Coastal Carolina up four to nothing. That game would end 4-3, meaning Young's historic home run won the game for the Chanticleers.
6. College Students in the Olympics
While I will be highlighting one athlete in particular towards the end of this list, it is important to remember that college athletes represented a large portion of the United States' dominant Olympic team.
5. Alabama Beats Clemson in the CFP Finals
Last year's College Football Playoff championship game was an electric and intense matchup. It left a blueprint for what a National Championship could be. It was back and forth, and had everything from onside kick recoveries to kickoffs returned to the house. We're spoiled to be getting a rematch between these two teams in this year's final.
4. UConn Women Win Their Fourth Straight NCAA Title
In a show of utter dominance, the UConn women's basketball team claimed their fourth title in four years. Breana Stewart won her fourth straight Most Outstanding Player Award in the Final Four. UConn is an absolute powerhouse and their dominant NCAA tournament run proved it.
3. Lamar Jackson's Emergence
Lamar Jackson's Heisman winning season took the college football world by storm. He threw for nearly 4,000 yards, and ran for almost 2,000 yards. Not to mention he was only a sophomore. If he'd entered the draft this year, he legitimately could've been a first round pick at nineteen. He is an absolute baller, and we were all lucky to have had him this season.
2. Villanova Wins the NCAA Tournament
Villanova's incredible NCAA title run was one of the most entertaining runs of recent memory. In a true requiem for the Big East Villanova shutdown opponents left-right-and-center in what Sports Illustrated called the most dominant title run in NCAA tournament history.
1. Katie Ledecky's Pure Dominance
2016 was the year of Katie Ledecky. What she did in Rio was just filthy. When she smashed the 800m freestyle record it was almost impossible to believe. Her next closest opponent was a full 11 seconds behind the Stanford swimmer. That doesn't sound like a lot, but in the 800m that is an eternity. I encourage anyone to read the New York Times' piece on Ledecky to try to grasp the enormity of her victory.
Congratulations to these athletes and their teams, and here's to 2017 bringing many more moments like these.
Lead Image Credit: Agência Brasil Fotografias via Wikimedia Commons