This group of seniors, the Eads High School Class of 2021, may have had to endure perhaps some of the most difficult hardships in a large chunk of their high school years due to the more than year-long mandates associated with the Covid-19 virus. They, above all, dealt with firsts and lasts in a whole new world of reality. But, by the end of the year, with many of them still playing sports because of Covid-19 controls and schedules they proudly marched down the gym floor at Eads High School on Saturday, May 29, 2021.
There were 14 of them and together they represent a talented group of athletes, intellects and personalities who are prepared to take the first step towards their next journey. The future for them is hard to define and many are taking a trade school route with the hope to begin making money soon. Others still yearn for the experience of attending a university --- even if those universities have changed drastically in the last decade.
Damien Barnes was an exceptional athlete while at Eads High School. He plans to attend Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska in the fall to pursue a degree in Physical Education. He also plans to continue his football career at the collegiate level while there.
Victoria Carey plans to get a job after graduation and attend college next fall online.
Zack Fowler is planning to take a gap year and then attend Seward County Community College in Liberal, Kansas where he will earn his diesel technician certification.
Cayce Grant plans to attend Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado next fall as a part of the nursing program there. She will earn her Associate of Science in Nursing degree and become a Registered Nurse.
Joe Haase plans to attend Embry-Riddle (Rid-el) Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida to major in aeronautical science and obtain his pilot’s license. Joe has been awarded the President’s Scholarship from Embry-Riddle for $16,000 per year for four years, for a total of $64,000.
Mollie Kelley plans to attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, Colorado in the fall to major in Hospitality Management with an emphasis in Culinary Arts. She will earn her Bachelor of Applied Science while there. Mollie has been awarded a housing scholarship and merit scholarship from Colorado Mesa. Mollie is also one of this year’s Daniels Fund Scholars, which means that she will be awarded up to $25,000 per year for four years, for a total of $100,000 over the course of her degree. Mollie was also awarded the Daughters of the American Revolution Eads High School nomination, as well as the Zonta Girl 2021 nomination. Mollie was honored earlier this year as one of the Society of Women Engineers recognition recipients. Mollie is also one of the two recipients of the William Glover Memorial Scholarship provided by the family of William Glover. Additionally, Mollie is one of two recipients of the Kiowa County Conservation District’s Book Scholarship for $250.
Amber Kopasz plans to attend Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado as a part of their 3 + 2 Master’s Program. She will earn her Bachelor of Arts degree in Public History and her Master’s in Museum Gallery Management while there. Amber has also been accepted into the Honors Program there and will receive the Slate Merit Scholarship for $9,000 per year, for a total of $45,000 over the course of her degree plan.
Brandon Lening plans to attend the University of Texas at San Antonio next fall to begin earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Sports Management. Brandon is a one of the recipients of the GN-Bank Scholar-Athlete scholarships for $750.
Lexi Lopez will attend The Toni and Guy Hairdressing Academy in Colorado Springs next fall. This is a special program that students cannot apply to until they have graduated high school, so her scholarships and financial aid awards are pending. Once she earns her certification, she will apprentice under a licensed hair specialist in the company before branching out on her own.
Bradley Musgrave plans to attend Western Colorado University in Gunnison, Colorado to major in mechanical engineering next fall. He has received a Western Colorado University Assist Scholarship Award for $1,000 per year for $4,000 total, the Freshman Scholarship Award for $2500 annually, renewable up to $10,000, and a first-generation scholarship for $500.
Hatch Nelson, another strong athlete and FFA student, gave the Salutatorian address. He plans to attend Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado to earn his Bachelor of Science in Soil and Crop Science, with a minor in Natural Resource Management. Hatch is also a Daniels Fund Scholar and will receive up to $25,000 per year for four years, totaling up to $100,000. Hatch is a recipient of the McClave State Bank Scholarship for $500, the Colorado Conservation Tillage Association Scholarship for $1,000, the Southeast Colorado Power Association Tri-State Scholarship for $1,000, the Lamar Elks Scholarship for $500, the William Glover Scholarship for $500, and the Colorado State Knowledge Bowl Tournament Scholarship for attendees of CSU for $1,000. The Colorado State Knowledge Bowl Scholarship was offered to students who had competed and placed at the state tournament and were planning to attend either CSU in Fort Collins or UNC in Greeley. Hatch is the second recipient of the Kiowa County Conservation District’s book scholarship for $250.
Allyson Spady is the Class of 2021 Valedictorian. She plans to attend Adams State University in Alamosa, Colorado next fall to earn her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. She will then pursue her Doctorate of Physical Therapy to become a Physical Therapist. She hopes to someday work with veterans and/or children in a children’s hospital setting. Ally would also like to continue her basketball career at the collegiate level while at Adams State. Ally was honored earlier this year as one of the Society of Women Engineers recognition recipients, as well. Ally has been awarded the President’s Scholarship for $3,000, renewable for four years, totaling $12,000 and the Valedictorian Scholarship for $1,000. Ally is also a recipient of the GN-Bank Scholar-Athlete Scholarship for $750. Ally was selected as the Ethel Johnson Memorial Scholarship winner for $500, as well. Ally has also been selected as the Eads FFA Alumni Association Scholarship winner for $1,000. The Weisbrod Employee Fund Scholarship committee has chosen Ally as this year’s recipient of their $500 scholarship. Finally, Ally will receive one of the two Eads Alumni Association Scholarships for $500. She also received a $500 scholarship from the Women Empowered group who works to improve the community through various projects and events.
Colby Stoker plans to attend Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado next fall to earn her Phlebotomy Certification. She is a recipient of the 3.0 Scholars Scholarship at OJC for $1,000 per semester, for a total of $4,000. Colby is the second recipient of one of the Eads Alumni Association Scholarships for $500.
Bryson Watne plans to spend some time exploring his post-secondary options during a gap year where he will determine his path.
The grand total for scholarships for the Eads High School class of 2021 was $351,000.
Eads High School Class of 2021 (front l to r) Victoria Carey, Amber Kopasz, Colby Stoker, Caycee Grant, Lexi Lopez, Mollie Kelley, Ally Spady (back l to r) Brandon Lening, Hatch Nelson, Damien Barnes, Bryce Watnew, Joe Haase, Zack Fowler, Bradley Musgrave. (Eads High School Photo)
The following speech was given on stage by the Eads High School Valedictorian Ally Spady:
“Man, what a feeling to finally be graduating. The past umpteen years of school, countless assignments, and tons of “I can’t wait to graduate” groans have brought us to this day. Yet, the unforgettable friendships and life-long memories have brought us to this day, too. Graduation day. How did this all happen so soon? It seems like time has flown these last few years, and really, time does fly by when you’re having fun. But today is the day we’ve all been waiting for, counting down the days since the first day of Senior year. And it’s finally here.
I can almost guarantee that everyone in this room has heard of the phrase, “It’s all about who you know.” This couldn’t be more true and we all have seen that firsthand in many situations. Growing up these past years, our class has been surrounded by endless love and support, from the community, school, and friends that have turned into family. The connections with these people that we have created run deep, and the connections are strong. Those people we know have allowed us seniors sitting here today to be molded and shaped into who we are. But, undoubtedly, the internal connections that each and every one of us has created within ourselves and to ourselves is far more important than any other bond we could have formed. The opportunity to truly know ourselves and to be able to trust our own hearts, minds, and souls is my biggest hope for us all.
High school is one of the most fun, yet most challenging, times of our lives. But simply, it is a time when we all start to understand and know ourselves as a person, an individual, a human. We begin to find ourselves and what we hold to be valuable and important in our lives. We begin to truly know the ins and outs of our minds. Our personalities, our characters, our values, our strengths -- everything about us -- all come together like puzzle pieces -- puzzle pieces that fit perfectly together to make us our true selves. With that puzzle in place, we can see the entire image of where we have come from and how we got to where we stand today. Then, with that image deeply rooted into every bit of our being, we are then able to venture forward in our lives and towards the future we aspire to create.
It’s a guarantee that we will see good fortunes and opportunities come our way in the future. But, it’s also a guarantee that we will be faced with challenges and obstacles that truly test our abilities. In those times of hardship, or discouragement, or struggle, our true self will be tested. Will you remain steady with your values or character? Or will you crumble under pressure and feign who you truly are and what you believe in?
I have seen a spark in each and every one of your hearts, a spark that tells me your spirit won’t weaken when tested. Staying true to yourself and to who you are as a person is one thing that I hope you never overlook. Because if we all stay true to ourselves, we will always fall back on who we are, what we believe in, and how we have grown through our lives. If we stay true to ourselves, we will stand confidently in a crowd, in a sea of conformity, shining a light into others’ hearts. If we stay true to ourselves, then we can bravely chase the dreams that scare us, knowing that we will grow astoundingly in the simplest forms of opportunities. If we stay true to ourselves, we will be able to stay connected to who we know -- ourselves and our families -- and how those around us have positively impacted our lives for a long time to come. If we stay true to ourselves, we will be able to do whatever it is that we wish to do, without a single bit of fear within us. Because we will stay true to ourselves, we will stay true to our hearts, our minds, and our souls.
And because of that, we will always know each other, know those sitting next to us in this room, and we will know ourselves. Everything we have seen and done makes us who we are, and I wish that you will always trust that your intentions come from a good place within your heart. So, never be afraid to do what you desire, what sparks that fire in your heart, what drives you to want to be better, or what will make you grow as a person.
To everyone in here, thank you. Thank you for your endless support throughout the years and thank you for accepting my family into this community. I know many of you will always have my back if I ever needed it, and for that, I am forever grateful. To my family, I love you all the most. I confidently stand up here today because of all you guys have taught me, even you Porter.
Class of 2021, it’s been real, and it’s been fun, and it has definitely been real fun. Thank you for all the memories that I’ll have forever. Stay true to yourself as you end one chapter of your life today and begin another chapter tomorrow. We will always be Eagles, and we will always be family. Never forget who you are. Love on love for you all. Thank you.”
The Eads Girls’ Basketball program is looking to take a big step forward in the competitive world of girls’ 1A basketball as they return all five starters to a team that, by the end of the season, ended up in the Regional championship game. Unfortunately, because of their early season losses, they ended up seeded in the Briggsdale region where the Lady Eagles would lose to the eventual state champions, 57-25.
Head coach Trey Eder, who is in his 15th season as the girls’ head coach, is excited with his crop of players this year. After a 12-12 season record a year ago, and a disappointing 1-4 league record in the Hi-Plains League, his young team has now matured and is ready to bring it up a few more notches.
“We have lots of young, talented returners. We’re still lacking that upperclassman experience, for the most part, but even though they are young they have tons of game experience as they all started a some point last year.”
Eder will be looking to build off the five returning starters including one senior, a junior, and three sophomores. Tailee Weeks-Johnson, a strong sophomore guard/forward, led Eads last season by averaging 9.9 points per game. She also contributed 6 rebounds each outing and 3.6 steals per game.
Alessandra Paez, a junior guard, is a strong defensive player and took up much of the point guard services a year ago. She’ll have to run the ball a lot this year. Paez averaged 5.0 points per game and had 4.6 rebounds. She also added 2.4 steals and 1.5 assists per outing.
Lexi Shotton, a rough and aggressive sophomore guard/forward, returns and will lead Eads on defense. She managed to score 5.0 points per game a year ago, pulled down 2.2 rebounds each outing, took 2.2 steals per game, and distributed 1.4 assists.
The only senior on the team, Madison McDowell, will bring her extensive services to the court for Eads. McDowell can shoot the three, can help bring up the ball, and can also rebound well. She averaged 4.3 points per game and 3.7 rebounds per game a year ago.
Kara Wilson is a long, 5’9 sophomore forward who improved exponentially during her freshman campaign. She would eventually earn a starting spot and averaged 4.3 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game, and grabbed 1.5 steals each outing.
Eads is also pleased to have Landri Tuttle, a 5’8 junior, transfer onto the team this year when her family moved back to Kiowa County.
The team rounds out with four freshmen who are coming off an Eads middle school team that went undefeated last year. They include Anna Wollert (strong forward/center); Bailey Sierra (guard/forward); Kennedy Gyurman (strong forward/center); and Savanna Brown (forward).
Eder believes their strength this year will come from their size. “We will have to be strong on defense and try to use some of our length that we have this year to our advantage.”
But, with their inexperience, Eder knows it will take some time to get to the level they need to play at. “We have to immediately have good play and overall effective offensive play for us to win.”
As with the rest of the league, Eder sees McClave as their biggest challenge, “McClave will definitely be the front runner again this year, but our league, I think, will be strong overall once again.”
The Lady Eagles are finally, after a full fall season of being on the road as the gym floor in Eads was being rebuilt, will be at Home Sweet Home on December 1 when they welcome the Hi-Plains Lady Patriots for the home and season opener. Then, the week of December 5-9, the Eads girls will be in the Border Wars in Kansas for three separate nights of tournament play. Finally, they are excited to get back to the Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament on December 14, 15, 16.
In the meantime, Eder and his Lady Eagles are excited about how far they can get this year. “We’re definitely looking to build upon what we did last year making the finals of Regionals and hopefully make that jump to the state tournament.”
The Dechant brothers, Damon and Jason, will be on the bench again this year for the Kit Carson Wildcats as head coach Damon Dechant enters his 6th year. He’s hoping to build upon a tough season from a year ago where the Wildcats were 4-16 overall and lost every league game in the very tough Hi-Plains conference. They missed the playoffs by one spot that depends on RPI rankings as they had played tough against the league opponents all season.
The big job ahead of the coaches is the fact that they lost 4 starters off last year’s team including Brandon States (8.6 ppg); Alex Mitchek (6.9 ppg/7.7 rebounds per game); Tanner Conaway (5.5 ppg/3.0 rpg); and Paul Mitchek (5.5 ppg / 4.1 rebounds).
However, the Wildcats return four key players who had a great deal of playing time a year ago.
Keaton Marriott will be their guard and will also help with the rebounding as the senior is a strong, athletic player. Marriott average 3.4 ppg a year ago, pulled down 2.5 rebounds per game, and grabbed 1.3 steals. Of Marriott, Dechant says, “Keaton is our Senior leader. He worked very hard over 4 years on his offensive game. He’s an all-league defender and we expect that to continue.”
Josiah Irwin is a tall, long player who will help the Wildcats significantly on the boards. He has a soft shot and was the leading scorer a year ago with 9.3 points per game and 6.2 rebounds. Irwin is a senior this year and the coaches will depend on him to play multiple positions. “Josiah came to us very raw in junior high. He has caught up with his body and is very athletic. We expect him to rebound well and to keep improving on the offensive and defensive end.”
Two other players who had some good time on the court include Brennan Framel, a good-sized junior, who averaged 1.8 ppg and 2.1 rebounds a year ago; and Fernando Ferrales Fierro who saw limited time but is athletic and will be able to develop quickly this season.
Dechant added, “Brennan is a well-rounded ball player. He can play anywhere we ask him. Fernado didn’t see much time last year but he’s been with us long enough that we are going to depend on him to keep improving.”
The Wildcats were also hoping to have sophomore Mason Marriott, but he was injured in football and it looks doubtful he’ll be able to play basketball this year.
“We will have a mix of younger players and upperclassmen so getting cohesiveness early on will be key for us. We have some major losses to graduation, football injury and transfer so some of the guys that haven’t seen much time will play. We’re going to need Gunner Randel Jr, George Jackson So, O’Shea Farmer Fr. And Rhilin Turner Jr. to step up and contribute when called upon. We also have 9, so we will have to be in good shape, be able to play solid defense without fouling, and find a way to put the ball in the hoop.”
Dechant has always emphasized how difficult the Hi-Plains League is. “Cheyenne Wells, Eads, Granada, Cheraw, and McClave all should be considered as top 10 teams with the ability to make a run-in late February and early March.”
The Wildcats will begin their season in the Flagler Tournament on Friday and Saturday, December 8 and 9. They will then be one of the 8 boys’ teams at the much-anticipated Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament on December 14, 15, 16.