As we say good-bye (and good riddance) to 2021, we take a look back at the top sports stories we ran during the year that has just ended.
Just as the Covid-19 story continued to fill the headline news throughout 2021, the way local high school athletics was treated in 2021, because of virus mandates from the Colorado Department of Health and Human Services (CDPHE), also had a huge affect on most sports stories throughout 2021. It was a year where political gain outweighed making sense of the science that was becoming more and more obvious. It was a year where rules were every-changing and made little sense in their implementation. For instance, high school athletes were not allowed to compete in their extracurricular activity unless they wore masks, making it very difficult to breath while strenuously competing. They could not shake hands. Only a certain number of fans could be present at one time causing confusing rules, lotteries and irritation from all sides. The biggest issues facing coaches and players, and ultimately their schools and fans, were the seemingly arbitrary rules centered around quarantines. Some student athletes quickly learned the system and how to get around the quarantines, while some got caught up in unfair circumstances that not only affected the athlete, but also in many cases, the entire team.
Despite it all, however, the resiliency of the student athletes and their coaches was an impressive thing to watch as their love for sports and competition allowed them to battle through the madness that they faced in 2021 because of this history-making pandemic.
The scoreboard says it all in the background. The Eads 10U softball team were undefeated on the season and won the Lamar league tournament last week. Pictured are (front l to r) Alex Kent, Elizabeth Kent, Aubrey Mitchek, Brystal Bletzacker, Emma Hollis (back l to r) Holly Mitchek (coach), Presley McLoud, Cheyenne Brown, Lacie Kraft, Jordynn Turcotte, Reese Barnett, Emma Wollert, Kyle Barnett (coach).
The Eads 12U Softball team won the Lamar league championship tournament with a come-from-behind victory over Lamar in late June. Team members pictured are (l to r) Emma Wollert, Reese Barnett, Aubrey Mitchek, Peyton Eder, Aspen Nelson (back l to r) Denise & Sam Nelson (coaches), Addison Courkamp, Jordyn Turcotte, Bailey Sierra, Savanna Brown, Lacie Kraft, Mia Crow, Lily Hollis, Maddie McDowell (asst. coach).
The last few days of June saw the youth softball season for Eads in the Lamar league come to an end. The Eads girls had entered the Lamar league as only Eads and Cheyenne Wells had teams in the Southern Plains League this year. The 12U team lost just one game in the season and won the league tournament in Lamar in an exciting come-from-behind win, 11-10. The 10U softball team dominated all the teams and was perfect on the season winning the tournament with victories over a Lamar team, 16-5, in the semifinals, and the Knockouts in the championship with Reese Barnett throwing a no-hitter and winning, 8-0.
In the championship game for the Eads 12U team coached by Sam and Denise Nelson the young Eagles got behind 6-5 after a shaky first inning. Bailey Sierra was in the circle and settled in nicely with Reese Barnett behind the plate going into the second inning. Sierra would hold her own through the next four innings. Eads would win, 11-10, on their last at-bat when Barnett scored on a squeeze play at home.
In the 10U championship game there were only two registered hits for Eads, but they got on base with multiple hit-by-pitches and walks. Barnett and Savannah Brown each had an RBI. Emma Wollert stole 2 bases and Barnett stole one.
The Southern Plains 9U baseball team, consisting of all Eads players and one Kit Carson player, won the 9U Colorado State Baseball championship on Wednesday. Pictured are (back l to r) Jax Cordova, Jaxon Bohlander, Garrett Hainer, Thomas Chase, Mason Sierra, Bentley States, Liam Eder, Luke Barnett (front f to b) Brian Bohlander (Coach), Chael Cordova, Quinn Britten, Madyx Hough, Brantley Buller, Will Barnett, Kyle Barnett (Coach).
As of the start of the next week the Southern Plains 9U baseball team, consisting of all Eads kids except one Kit Carson player, Brentley States, who has always played with Eads, was in a 7-7 perpetual tie with the East Central 9U All-Stars and going into extra innings with the game on pause due to circumstances you couldn’t make up in a novel.
Over the weekend Lamar hosted the Colorado State 9U Babe Ruth Tournament with the winner advancing to Minnesota to the Regional 9U Tournament. Throughout pool play the Southern Plains group dominated all the teams winning in three straight pool play days over East Central All-Stars, 12-2, Lamar All-Stars, 26-11, and the Centennial All-Stars 7-1.
On July 4th the tournament bracket began with Southern Plains sitting at the top of the heap on the bracket with a perfect record. They would take on the Lamar All-Stars in the semifinals, loser elimination, game on Sunday morning. SP controlled the Lamar All-Stars to a major decision winning 15-5 and advancing to the state championship scheduled for 5:00 pm on July 4th.
In the championship game, Southern Plains would jump out to a huge 6-0 lead over the East Central All-Stars who had defeated Centennial in the semifinals. However, 4 throwing errors behind the runner cost SP big and allowed the East Central boys to creep back into the ball game. After six full regulation innings of play over nearly 2.5 hours of action the Southern Plains group found themselves down to their last at-bat and trailing by a run. Will Barnett would start things out with a walk and then stole second and third waiting for Chael Cordova to come to the plate. Cordova hit a towering fly ball double scoring Barnett and tying the score back up.
With one out all Eads needed to do was bring in Cordova but the next two batters committed outs as huge thunderclouds quickly came rolling in. As the teams prepared to go into extra innings, the clouds opened wide in a deluge sending everyone scrambling for their cars and the little players huddling in the dug outs with their equipment. It rained hard for nearly an hour obviously stopping all play for the night due to the field condition.
On Tuesday night the Colorado Babe Ruth Commissioner called both Southern Plains and the East Central All-Stars, consisting of players from Limon, Stratton, Flagler, Burlington, Goodland and Colby, and told them the finish of the championship game would be played the next evening, Wednesday, in Lamar at 6:00 pm.
The players, coaches, parents, grandparents and fans showed up at the Lamar field. While Southern Plains was warming up it became apparent that the East Central team was a no show.
That observation became reality as the Babe Ruth Commissioner declared Southern Plains the state champions, distributed the medals over each player’s head, and handed them over the traditional championship banner. The little boys, although disappointed, were thrilled to finally realize their goal.
Four years in a row for the Ryder Cup Championship for the Eads Golf Club. The Ryder Cup players from Eads celebrate ongoing perfection after winning the 4th Annual Southeast Colorado Ryder Cup Tournament over Cheyenne Wells on June 12. Pictured are: (front) Justin McLoud, Sean Lening, Gail Crawford (back l to r) Robert Framel, Tom Richards, Jason Dechant, Trey Eder, Neil Richardson, Randy Holmen (not pictured) Kyle Barnett and Brian Bohlander.
Another Ryder Cup Tournament, not quite as lucrative or well-known as the one between the United States and Europe, has just wrapped up its fourth year of competition in southeastern Colorado. In 2018, as the Americans were losing to Europe in the 42nd Annual Ryder Cup competition in France, members of the Eads Golf Club and the Cheyenne Wells Golf Club were duking it out for Ryder Cup supremacy in southeastern Colorado. In that first tournament in 2018 hosted by the Cheyenne Wells Golf Club, the visitors grabbed the Cup and took it home with them. In 2019 and even in 2020 when the pandemic was in full throttle in the rest of the country, the Ryder Cup Tournament in southeastern Colorado was played.
Eads won the last three Cups and now, on June 12th, as they hosted the 4th Annual Southeast Colorado Ryder Cup Golf Tournament, they made it four in a row. Justin McLoud is the team captain for Eads. Generally, the players have stayed the same through the four years of competition. This year’s Eads team consisted of Brian Bohlander, Trey Eder, Jason Dechant, Robert Framel, Gail Crawford, Tom Richards, Randy Holmen, Sean Lening, Kyle Barnett and Neil Richardson.
The Cheyenne Wells golfers included Trey Brown, Rex Hyle. Kent Sramek, Dusty Tallman, Doug Tallman, Blake Pearce, Craig Smith, Remy Sexton, Quade Pelton and Kendall Pelton.
Senior Hatch Nelson was at the top of the Eagle 1-3-1 zone defense all year long.
It has been much more than a decade since the Eads Boys’ Basketball program had a winning season, let alone a season that advanced them into the second round of the state playoffs. But this year they combined years of hard work and determination together and ended up in Denver in the Sweet 16 against one of the best 1A teams Eads basketball has seen in years. They would eventually end their season losing to the #1 ranked Belleview Christian Bruins, 76-48.
The Bruins start a defensive back line that runs 6’ 10”, 6’ 5”, and 6’ 4”—all taller than any player on the Eagles’ team. Sophomore Nathanel Owen had 30 points in the contest with five coming from the arc. Three other Bruins were in double figures.
One of the advertised players that everyone in the state is buzzing about is Assane Diop, a talent that is rarely seen in the Colorado 1A ranks as the 6’ 10” sophomore has probably more like a 7’ 2” wingspan and superior court vision that even the Eads boys had to admire. Of Assane, Eads senior Damien Barnes, who got the dubious assignment to guard Diop said, “He could see the court incredibly well. He made 75’ passes seemingly without looking.”
Diop hales from Senegal, West Africa and is a product of the private school’s International program. The Bruins’ head coach Timothy Owen, who also coaches sons Logan Owen, a 6’ 5” senior, and Nathaniel Owen, a 6’ 4” sophomore, brought Diop under his wing and into his home as part of the program. Owen describes Diop, “He’s a 6-foot, 10-inch point guard. You don’t find that often.”
Reese Barnett from Eads won the U.S. Kids 9-10 Division Spring Tour Golf Championship on Sunday at the Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo.
Eads youth Reese Barnett mowed down the competition in the U.S. Kids Golf 9-10-year-old division on Sunday by shooting a +3 over 39 at the Walking Stick Golf Course in Pueblo with the wind howling upwards of 25-30 miles per hour winning her third U.S. Kids Tour Championship in the last two years.
The Spring Tour consisted of six weekend tournaments held at a number of golf courses along the front range of Colorado. The golfer with the most points, with placings determining point values, wins the overall Tour Championship. Ten-year-old Barnett competed at four of the tournaments during the Spring Tour winning all four and earning enough points to win the overall championship.
The Granada Bobcats basketball team took top honors in the 57th Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament held Dec. 16-18 at the Lamar Community Building. The Bobcats defeated Wiley, 39-29, in the championship game that was played in front of a full house on Saturday night. It was the first time that a Granada boy’s team had won the tournament title since 2008. The Bobcats are now 6-0 on the season. Players, coaches, and managers include: Front row, l-r, Oryan Hainer, Bailey Hernandez, Brandon Gonzales, Ivan Yanez, Jose Sanchez, Aidyn Bohlander (manager) and Patrick Raines (manager). Back row, l-r, Head coach Traegon Marquez, Alan Ayala, Thomas Pete, John Hainer, Dominic Coleman, Jonus Guevara, Maddox Coleman, Elijah Rodriguez, Terence Hainer, Assistant coach Tyndan Marquez, and Assistant coach Kody Wallace.
It had been 11 years since a Granada boys basketball team had the opportunity to play for the championship in the prestigious Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament. The Bobcats last won the tournament title in 2008 beating Kit Carson, 41-37. The dry spell finally came to an end as Granada defeated the Wiley Panthers, 39-29, for the 2021 championship before a packed house at the Lamar Community Building.
Granada head coach Traegon Marquez was elated to see that the long wait was over. Himself and his older brother Tyndan, who serves as assistant coach, were both on the last Granada tam to bring home a Lamar tournament championship. That team defeated Kit Carson, 41-27, to win the 16th championship for the Bobcats in the 57-year history of the tournament. Now make it 17.
“It feels great to get back in the winner’s column,” smiled Marquez. “The last time Granada won the tournament I was playing alongside my brother Tyndan during his senior year in 08-09.”
The McClave Lady Cardinals defeated Springfield, 54-29, to claim the championship crown in the 57th annual Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 18. It marked the first time since 2008 that a McClave girls team had won the tournament. Team members and managers: Front row (left to right) Cassidy Jagers, Maggie Chase, Anna Beckett, Ajah Moreno, and Edith Mungaray. Back row (left to right) Ashlynn Steinbrunn, Ansley Herrera, Kylen Riner, Kristen Marks, McKayla Kiniston, Chloe Weber, Kennedy Vallejos, Kenna McElroy, Windsor Leighty, Abrielle Gomez, Addison Vallejos, Myla Oquist, Carlin Weber, and Zoe Martinez.
It’s been since 2009 since the overpowering and feared full-court, man-to-man, in your face McClave defense that won many championships throughout those years made its presence onto the court at the Lamar Holiday Basketball Tournament, and it has been just as many years since Dick Peecher was on the bench for the McClave girls urging them to put every ounce of energy they could find into their team defense. That kind of smothering defense worked then and over the weekend it worked like a charm again as the Lady Cards defeated Springfield, 54-29, in the championship contest winning their first Lamar HBT crown since Peecher walked away in 2009.
But there is one small, but mighty difference in the McClave teams of old and this new and improved 2021 version, the father is now the mentor on the bench, and the reins are firmly controlled by Peecher’s oldest daughter, Brianne Howe. Like father, like daughter, so it would seem.
The Holly Wildcats celebrate upon winning the 1A Colorado Baseball State Championship.
The 2021 Class 1A state baseball championship game turned into a classic battle between the No. 3 seed Holly Wildcats and the No. 1 seed Flatirons Academy at University High School on June 23 in Greeley.
One swing proved the difference between two teams battling for a championship.
In the top of the sixth and with one out, Holly’s leading hitter Jose Magallanes came to the plate and blasted an 0-1 pitch over the left-field fence to give his team a 1-0 lead. It was the 10th home run of the season and ironically it broke the school record that was previously held by his dad Jose who had held the mark for 22 years. His dad also served as an assistant coach on the team.
“Unbelievable,” Magallanes said. “I just can’t believe I did it, and on a big stage like this in the state championship. It was crazy.”
A pitcher’s duel also highlighted the showdown between Holly senior southpaw Brigden Parker and Flatirons Academy junior righthander Trenton Rowan.
The two pitchers combined for 26 strikeouts with 13 each and allowed just four hits.
“It’s surreal,” said Parker in an article by CHSAA.com. “It’s just crazy. It’s madness. It’s all your best friends all over you. It’s the best feeling you can get.”
Parker capped the season with a 6-0 record and an 0.00 ERA. He recorded 51 strikeouts and just 4 walks.
The Eads throwing team had a banner day at the 1A Colorado State championships as Colby Stoker (left) and Kyra Sheridan (right) went 1st and 2nd in the shot put.
Eads sophomore Maggie Haase is pictured here clearing 5' 3" and winning the 1A state high jump championship.
Cheyenne Wells junior Cade Mitchek was the 200M state champion in a time of 23.10.
John Hainer Granada shot 1st 45-00.25.
Over the summer those who document the sports achievements at Eads High School will have to update their wall banner that denotes Track & Field state champions as Eagle Nation got, not one, but a rare two state champions over the weekend at Jeffco Stadium in Denver. Sophomore Maggie Haase will join her mother, Duff Liebl Haase on the banner as she became just the second state high jump champion in school history. The first one was her mother a generation ago. Senior Colby Stoker will be added onto the banner, as well, and joins a long line of outstanding Eads throwers down through the years.
Haase would win the high jump by blowing away the 1A field of competitors. She would clear 5’ 3” in her first ever state track meet. The sophomore nearly got over 5’ 4” so it will be fun to see how she develops in her last two years of competition. Stoker, although not quite hitting her best throw of the season, was stellar in the shot put winning the event with a best throw of 38’ 2”.
The area was well-represented with outstanding performances as the Cheyenne Wells boys finished in third place overall as a team. Leading the way for the Tigers was junior Cade Mitchek who had a stunning finish in the 200M open winning the championship in a time of 23.10. Mitchek just nosed out Granada’s Dominic Coleman who placed second in the 200M in a time of 23.37.
Granada had a state champion in sophomore John Hainer in the shot put. The Bobcat threw an impressive 45’ .25” and blew away the competition by more than 5 feet to win the event. Cheyenne Wells’ Wyatt Ball placed 3rd in the shot put behind Hainer with a toss of 38’ 1”.
It is very rare indeed for a 6-Man football team to have 6 quality seniors on the team. Pictured are the coaches and seniors on the first-ever state championship football team Cheyenne Wells has ever had. Pictured are back l to r: Asst. Coach Jason Scheler, Kody Ryser (#45), asst. coach Joel Carroll, Evan Worley (#28), head coach Myles Smith, Dillon Ball (#44), Cade Mitchek (#5), Rogelio Rangel (#21), asst. coach Blake Bogenhagen. In front is Wyatt Ball (#80).
It was certainly a long time coming, but the Cheyenne Wells Tigers put everything together this year and pulled off a perfect season topping it off with a 62-21 state championship win over their nemesis the Stratton Eagles on Saturday at the Thunderbowl located on the CSU-Pueblo campus.
The state champions were ready to go at the very start of the game. They sent a message early they were not going to be eliminated by this opponent who had ended their season in the past two years.
Cheyenne Wells jumped out to a 24-0 lead after the first quarter and that hole was one the Stratton group, despite their experience, could not dig out of.
Mitchek scored 6 touchdowns including five on the ground and another from the air. He would be a work horse for Cheyenne Wells with 26 carries for 219 yards. Mitchek also caught 3 passes for 61 yards. The senior Tiger was truly remarkable on Friday being named the MVP in the state championship game. Mitchek was named Player of the Year by CHSAA. Coach Smith was named Coach of the Year 2021.
A cloud of uncertainly surrounded the Lamar High School Lady Savages volleyball team, just days before the start of the Class 3A Colorado State Championships on May 11-12 at the Broadmoor World Arena in Colorado Springs.
The Lady Savages weren’t sure they would be able to compete in the single-elimination tournament.
Earlier in the week, Lamar was informed by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment that they wouldn’t be allowed to compete because of a recent positive COVID-19 test within its program.
The Lady Savages were finally given the green light after much back-and-forth discussion between the state health department, the Colorado High School Activities Association, the Prowers County Commissioners and the Prowers County Health Department.
Also involved were high school administration, school board members, lawyers, community members, and parents.
“We didn’t know for sure if we were going to be able to play until we were about 10 miles from Colorado Springs,” Lamar head coach Dave Tecklenburg said. “Not being able to practice and the ups and downs of thinking we were not going to get to play to now we can play just took a toll on all of us.”
Once the team arrived in Colorado Springs, they had to wait on the bus for more than 45 minutes before they were allowed in the arena after being tested.
Lamar’s first-round match against the University Lady Bulldogs was scheduled to start at 2 p.m.
Lamar players and coaches finally stepped on the court at exactly 2 p.m. The match was delayed to 2:20 p.m. to give the Lady Savages time to warm up (clearly not enough time).
Unfortunately, the Lady Savages got off to a slow start and could not recover.
The No. 5 seed Lady Bulldogs knocked off the No. 4 seed and previously undefeated Lady Savages, 25-17, 25-15, 13-25, and 25-22.