The Western Washington University athletics department is unlikely to forget 2012 any time soon.
Not after the men's basketball team won its first NCAA Divison II national championship in March - arguably the greatest athletic accomplishment in school history.
Winning their final six games, three each at the West Regional and NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournaments, the Vikings took their first national title in a sport they have played for over a century. The run culminated with a 72-65 victory over Montevallo (Alabama) in a title game televised nationally by CBS.
Upon returning to Bellingham via a charter flight, the Vikings were greeted with a police escort from the airport to campus and numerous celebrations and honors in the following months, including a meeting with Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, the presentation of national championship rings and an exhibition game at current NCAA Division I No.1-ranked Duke.
WWU finished with a 31-5 record, the win total being a school record.
Brad Jackson was the consensus national Coach of the Year. Five months later he ended a 27-year, 518-win career with the Vikings by accepting an assistant's position at the University of Washington.
Long-time WWU assistant Tony Dominguez took over as head coach and the Vikings have yet to lose in nine games under his tutelage. The 15 straight wins over the last two years and the nine-game unbeaten start are both the second-best marks in school history.
Two months after the men's basketball success, WWU placed second nationally in women's rowing - a huge accomplishment despite the disappointment of having a string of seven titles end. Seniors Megan Northey and Jean Piette were both first-team CRCA All-Americans as the Vikings placed among the top three for the 11th consecutive year.
Northey received the Elite 89 award for the 2012 NCAA Division II Women's Rowing Championship, having the highest grade point average of all the competitors. She was the first Viking to receive that honor in any sport.
In all, 14 WWU athletes earned All-America honors in 2012, one of them in two sports.
Senior goalkeeper Jamie Arthurs and junior defender Brian Sych were both second-team All-Americans, and junior forward Kristin Maris received honorable mention on a women's soccer team that finished 19-4-0 - the win total being a school record - won both the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles and won a pair of NCAA tournament games in overtime to reach the West Regional championship game, matching the school's best post-season run since it joined the NCAA in 1998.
Arthurs, who also was the GNAC Player of the Year, had a national leading 0.39 goals against average. She posted 16 shutouts - one shy of the NCAA II national record - and her save percentage of 88.2 ranked seventh nationally. Arthurs' four-year career total of 39 shutouts tied her for sixth nationally.
Sych, who was the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, had five goals and five assists and played a key role on a defense that allowed just nine goals in 23 games. During one stretch, the Vikings recorded 10 straight shutouts and had a scoreless string of 919 minutes and 29 seconds - both school bests.
Maris, MVP of the GNAC Tournament, ranked 19th nationally in game-winning goals with five. She finished with a team-best tying nine goals and was second in both points (24) and assists (six).
Travis Connell, who became the sport's winningest coach in school history during the season and is currently 121-59-19 in 10 campaigns, was named NSCAA West Region Coach of the Year.
Senior volleyball outside hitter Marlayna Geary, a first-team AVCA All-American and the GNAC Player of the Year, ranked 15th nationally among NCAA II leaders and led the GNAC in both kills (4.12 average per set) and points (4.72).
Geary and sophomore libero Samantha Hutchinson, a second-team All-American and GNAC Defensive Player of the Year, led the Vikings to a 24-4 record and the GNAC title, a final national ranking of No. 15 and the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Geary finished her four-year career with 1,354 kills, second among WWU leaders and 25 shy of the school record, and Diane Flick was named GNAC Coach of the Year for the seventh time in 13 years at the school.
The men's golf team placed ninth nationally and won a fifth straight GNAC title, as junior Dylan Goodwin was named a third-team GCAA PING All-American for the second straight year and senior Nick Varelia received All-America honorable mention and was the GNAC Player of the Year.
Steve Card earned GNAC Coach of the Year recognition for the fifth consecutive season.
On the last weekend of December, Goodwin will play in the Patriot All-America Invitational, which features 84 of the nation's top collegiate golfers, at The Wigwam Golf Club Gold Course in Litchfield, Ariz.
Five Vikings earned All-America honors in track and field and cross country. Junior pole vaulter Karis Anderson achieved that recognition at both the indoor and outdoor national championships, placing fifth and eighth respectively.
At outdoor nationals, junior Emily Warman, who was named WWU Female Athlete of the Year for 2011-12, placed sixth in the women's triple jump. Senior Alex Harrison was seventh in the decathlon as was freshman Katie Reichert in the javelin.
Junior Dak Riek placed 37th at the cross country nationals.
In women's basketball, the Vikings were 22-8 and reached the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007, then opened the current season with a 8-2 record, as coach Carmen Dolfo picked up win No. 450 in her 22nd season.
Bo Stephan was named GNAC Coach of the Year and Claire Rachor was picked Player of the Year, as the women's golf team took a second straight league golf title, and track coach Pee Wee Halsell was selected Coach of the Year in leading the Vikings to another men's conference championship.
WWU placed 13th nationally among 300 NCAA II schools in the final 2011-12 Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings. It was the Vikings' fourth straight top-15 finish, and WWU won its fourth-straight and eighth-overall GNAC all-sports championship in the 11-year history of the league.
WWU had four athletes earn GNAC Player of the Year honors in 2012, and five coaches were named Coach of the Year. The Vikings won six conference championships.
And WWU accomplished this while maintaining rates 14 to 15 percentage points higher than the national averages in both the federally mandated graduation rate and the NCAA Academic Success Rate.
WWU was ranked 10th among all NCAA Division II schools in the National Collegiate Scouting Association Power Rankings.
First-team CoSIDA Academic All-America honors went to men's basketball standout Rory Blanche, who was the WWU Male Athlete of the Year for 2011-12, and Harrison. Northey earned second-team recognition with men's soccer player Justin Moore and Maris receiving all-district academic honors.
Harrison was the GNAC and WWU Male Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2011-12, and Northey was the WWU Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
In all, 46 Vikings were recipients of the DII Athletics Directors Association Academic Achievement Awards with cumulative GPAs of 3.50 or better, 15 were on the GNAC Faculty Athletic Representative Academic All-Star team with accumulative GPAs of 3.85 or better and 65 were named GNAC academic all-stars.