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Top High School Stories of 2011: 11-15

All week long, ESPNHS.com counts down the stories, events and trends that shaped the 2011 year in high school sports. Today, we look at stories 11 through 15.

15. The legend of Bubba Starling

The stories about Starling resembled something straight out of "The Natural." He hit 500-foot home runs, threw 95 mph fastballs, ran the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds -- you get the picture. The scary part is that it was all true.

A two-sport star at Gardner-Edgerton (Gardner, Kan.), the senior signed a football scholarship to play quarterback for Nebraska but ultimately turned it down to sign with the Kansas City Royals, who selected the outfielder with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2011 MLB draft.

14. New NCAA recruiting rules' impact

Back in October, the NCAA's Division I Board of Directors approved major changes aimed at cleaning up recent high-profile scandals. The headliner was the decision to allow conferences to add $2,000 "full cost-of-attendance" stipends to scholarships. As is often the case with the NCAA, it couldn't be that easy. Now the measure is on hold as 125 schools requested a delay.

The measure will be reconsidered at an NCAA convention in January. Academic standards for players and teams were increased, with recruits now needing a 2.3 GPA in 16 core courses to be eligible (as opposed to the previous 2.0). And teams that don't meet certain standards will be ineligible for postseason play. Schools can now choose to award multiyear scholarships (as opposed to those renewable on a year-to-year basis), and they cannot be revoked based on athletic performance. Finally, basketball coaches can make unlimited calls and send unlimited text messages to recruits after June 15 of their sophomore years.

13. Girls make impact on gridiron

Girl athletes made headlines -- and big plays -- all over the football field this fall. Senior Brianna Amat was dubbed the "Kicking Queen" and gained national attention for making the game-winning field goal for Pinckney (Mich.) on the same night she was named homecoming queen. Andrea Marsh, a senior cornerback at Panama (N.Y.), was named one of 12 finalists for the High School Football Rudy Award after leading her league in interceptions. Shawnee (Springfield, Ohio) senior kicker Carly Gregory became the first girl in Ohio state history to score in a state championship game when she made two extra points. And Lisa Spangler, a 5-foot-5 sophomore, was the starting middle linebacker for Fort Vancouver (Vancouver, Wash.).

"I never expected to have a girl be my middle linebacker," Fort Vancouver coach Eric Ollikainen said. "But my job is to get the best 11 on the field, and she's one of my best."

12. Philadelphia trio, Julia Smith reach new heights in polo

You won't find many polo games breaking out in inner-city Philadelphia, but three teens -- Daymar Rosser, his older brother Kareem and Brandon Rease -- gave the sport a try a decade ago. The trio was introduced to the sport through the Work to Ride program, which gives at-risk, inner-city kids a unique and positive alternative to the streets. And in March, they became the first all-African-American team to win the USPA National Interscholastic Championship.

Meanwhile, this summer Baldwin School (Bryn Mawr, Pa.) senior Julia Smith led Work to Ride to the UNICEF Cup championship in Nigeria. Smith, who was the only girl competing in the tournament, captured MVP honors.

11. Resiliency of Austin Hatch

Showing a resiliency far beyond his years, Austin Hatch persevered through great tragedy in 2011. Over the summer, the Canterbury (Fort Wayne, Ind.) basketball player survived a small plane crash that killed his stepmother and his father, who was piloting the craft.

Hatch had also been in a 2003 plane crash that claimed the lives of his sister, brother and mother, so going through such an ordeal for a second time caught the attention of the entire nation.

Hatch suffered a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a serious head injury in the June crash, so he isn't playing ball this season. But the junior forward and Michigan recruit is determined to make it back on the court.