Monarch senior distance runner Isaac Green and Denver East sophomore sprinter Arria Minor were each named the 2016-17 Colorado Gatorade Track & Field Athlete of the Year on Thursday morning.
Green, a University of Washington commit, won 2017 Class 5A individual titles in the 800-, 1600-, and 3200-meters in addition to his role on the Coyotes’ state-best 4×800 relay. He is the first Monarch athlete to win Gatorade Player of the Year honors.
The performance capped a sensational prep career for Green, who is also a two-time cross-country state champion and a guy who has character that’s “above most 18-year-olds. The way he talks to people, his concern for other people, his concern for his teammates — that’s what makes him a special person,” according to Monarch coach Kent Rieder.
Meanwhile, Minor continues to rack up the accolades following her repeat 5A title showings in the 100-, 200- and 400-meters this season.
The phenom has a chance to end up being the best girls sprinter the state has ever seen thanks to a deadly combination of natural ability and an indomitable work ethic as she keeps developing into a nationally-renowned talent. [...]
Lorne Donaldson first burst onto the soccer scene as a 17-year-old on the Jamaican National Team. He’s currently the head coach of the Jamaican U20 Women’s National Team. The 61-year old still clearly has a lot of homeland pride, and tends to wear the yellow, black and green flag all over his clothes whenever he’s not roaming the pitches as the Executive Director of Coaching for Real Colorado.
But as Donaldson’s career flourished in the Mile High City — first as a three-time All-American at Metro State following his arrival in the U.S. in 1980, then by earning two American Professional Soccer League championships in his time as head coach of the Colorado Foxes, and a two-year stint as a Colorado Rapids assistant coach after that — even he admits the game shifted his self-identity.
“Colorado has become a part of me,” Donaldson said. “Jamaica is still home but it’s now my second home, because I’ve been in Denver for longer than I lived in Jamaica. I’ve seen the city grow from where there was really no soccer, per se, into a big-time soccer state.”
And just as Donaldson has become a Coloradan, the state, too, has gained much from him.
Donaldson is one of the primary architects of Colorado’s current girls soccer power, Real Colorado, the state’s crowning club jewel thanks to consistent winning and multitudes of professional and national team players such as Mallory Pugh and Janine Beckie.
Donaldson started Real Colorado as the Douglas County Blast in 1997. Since then the program has grown to more than 450 teams and become a national soccer force.
“I think I’ve become a part of the Real brand, so when I leave here, I see myself as basically done and retired,” Donaldson said. “There’s been a lot of great coaches and great players who have come through this program. Nothing lasts forever, but I’m grateful to have had the chance to build this program and build the sport in this state.”
And this week, Real Colorado has five girls teams competing in the ECNL Champions League playoffs as the club continues to chase its first ECNL title. The U14s, U15s, U16s, U17s and U19s are all currently in Rockford, Ill., battling to become just the second Colorado club to win an ECNL title. (The Colorado Rush U15s did so in 2012.)
Star striker Sophie Smith and reigning Colorado Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year Shae Holmes leads an explosive U17 side that features a stockpile of the state’s best prep players, while the U19s — a group that was the national runner-up last year at U17 — are paced by recent U18 U.S. Women’s National Team call-up Tess Boade as well as Jaelin Howell, who has been a rising star in the national team system.
“We have to play well, but in a championship round, you have to be a little bit lucky at times, too,” Donaldson said. “To win a championship and know that these are the best players in the country — that’s always special. We’ve been close, and we’ve been to a lot of finals. This could be the year one of our teams pulls it out.”
The Colorado Youth Soccer Hall of Fame member and co-founder of the Black Soccer Coaches Association of America is driven by two factors: to spread the joy of the beautiful game, and to make soccer a conduit to life success.
“We’ve sent over 1,000 players to college on scholarship since I started Real, and if I’m going to be proud of one thing, that’s certainly it,” Donaldson said. “That’s what the players strive for. Yes, we’ve had lots of national team players and professional players, but I’m more proud of how we’ve put players through college and help mold them into great women and men.” [...]
ThunderRidge’s Shae Holmes was named the 2016-17 Colorado Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year on Monday morning, capping a stellar junior season for the striker who netted 20 goals and seven assists in just a dozen games played.
Holmes, a University of Washington commit, also participated in the U18 U.S. Women’s National Team camp during the high school season and is a standout on the Real Colorado ECNL U17 team.
Real Colorado is ranked fifth in the ECNL’s Champions League cup standings and, with Holmes anchoring the defense, figures to make noise in the league’s upcoming playoffs.
The Grizzlies made the Class 5A state tournament with Holmes leading the way, where they lost 1-0 in the second round to eventual runner-up Arapahoe. [...]
In local summer basketball, June is typically reserved for high schoolers to take a break from playing for their respective clubs and come together with their high school teams. Preps editor Kyle Newman breaks down five takeaways from this month’s high school girls basketball action:
Grandview’s reloaded once again
Even after graduating Michaela Onyenwere — who has been the state’s best player, hands down, over the past several seasons — Grandview’s summer roster proves the Wolves are ready to make a repeat Class 5A title run this winter. Senior forward Leilah Vigil, senior shooting guard Jaiden Galloway, junior center Alisha Davis and junior guard Allyah Marlett are seasoned and skilled, plus the Wolves have added a dynamic freshman to the mix in Addison O’Grady.
“Addison’s very skilled, athletic and fits in well with our group,” Grandview coach Josh Ulitzky said. “Plus, she’s 6-3 with long arms, she can defend well and she’s solid around the basket. She’s been a great addition to our team.”
Belibi makes Regis Jesuit a front-runner
Dunking phenom Fran Belibi, who is spending her summer traveling across the country and world to take part in elite camps and play high-level hoops — including winning a gold medal in Argentina at the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship — automatically makes the Raiders a 5A state title front-runner.
Plus, she’s surrounded by experienced senior guard Jasmine Gaines, senior center Noelle Cahill and sophomore point guard Jada Moore, in addition to highly-touted freshman point guard Avery Van Sickle.
“I’ve been telling people — you have to see this Van Sickle girl play,” Regis Jesuit coach Carl Mattei said. “She can handle the ball well, she can shoot the lights out with spot-up jumpers, fadeaways and runners. She played with Fran, Highlands Ranch’s Autumn Watts and Cherry Creek’s Jana Van Gytenbeek at the 3-on-3 tournament down with USA Basketball this summer, and as one of the only eighth graders there she helped them get to the finals.”
Cherry Creek changes up the pace
After a semifinal run last season, Cherry Creek’s in-state play this month at the Grandview Tournament and the UNC Team Camp, among others, has proved the Bruins are reloaded for another deep 5A tournament push.
Senior shooting guard Sydney Mech, sophomore point guard Jana Van Gytenbeek and senior forward Jaela Richardson highlight the dynamic core of the Bruins lineup as Cherry Creek heads to Notre Dame Team Camp this weekend and continues to hone their new up-tempo approach.
“We’re a little bit more fast-paced than last year, because we’re not quite as big,” Cherry Creek coach Chris Curneen said. “We have to run a little bit more and make more jumpers, but we can also press a little more and go up-tempo a little more. It’s different for our players, but I think it’s going to be good because it fits their style.”
Delaynie Byrne’s ready to make it rain
After having to sit out last season due to transfer, Ralston Valley’s Delaynie Byrne is poised for a breakout campaign. Byrne averaged 13.6 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore at Broomfield, and can play inside and outside for a Mustangs team that is young, yet talented. The senior has also turned plenty of heads lately on the club circuit with BC Denver Basketball, and she’ll look to her 2018 Elite teammate, senior point guard Samantha Van Sickle, to help her catalyze the Mustangs offensively.
“I’ve got five starters, with Delaynie leading the way. I’m trying to find the sixth, seventh and eighth players who will also help us out this year,” Ralston Valley coach Jeff Gomer said. “We’ll have to have those contributions off the bench, especially during league and tournament games.”
Other usual suspects will also challenge
Highlands Ranch is again looking primed to add to coach Caryn Jarocki’s already historic legacy, with senior point guard Tommi Olson and junior power forward Autumn Watts headlining a Falcons roster that figures to once again be one of the deepest in the state. Lakewood, too, has used the summer to show the 2016 5A state runner-ups aren’t going anywhere thanks to the return of 6-4 twin towers Kira and Camilla Emsbo.
Plus, Front Range League teams such as Fairview and Horizon and Denver Public League squads George Washington and Denver East have also made some noise this June. [...]
In local summer basketball, June is typically reserved for high schoolers to take a break from playing for their respective clubs and come together with their high school teams. Preps editor Kyle Newman breaks down five takeaways from this month’s high school boys basketball action:
Overland’s capable of another crown
Coach Danny Fisher’s Blazers, winners of back-to-back Class 5A titles in 2014 and 2015, are reloaded once again following last winter’s learning curve.
Overland captured titles at the C3 Challenge (at multiple sites in the south metro area) last weekend and the Metro State Tournament the weekend before that, proving that senior point guard Tucson Redding, senior shooting guard Daijon Smith, junior shooting guard Stephen Hayes and the rest of the Blazers are ready to make another deep postseason push.
“We’re starting to get really good continuity and cohesiveness together as a group,” Fisher said. “They’re used to playing with each other because we’re basically returning everyone, so we know we’re going to have a leg up there.”
Denver East’s a serious title challenger, too
After falling in the Great 8 to eventual state champion Eaglecrest last year, coach Rudy Carey has the Angels in position to capture the program’s 12th state championship, which would give the Angels the most boys hoops titles of any Colorado school.
Denver East returns nine players with varsity experience and is led by one of the state’s top scorers in senior point guard Daylen Kountz as well as other key components such as junior guard Kwane Marble and junior forward Assane Diouf. The Angels do not play in any summer tournaments, instead electing to compete in its own East Summer League against Legacy, Far Northeast, Fairview, Hinkley and more.
“Our kids are always spread out too thin to play summer tournaments, and it’s not a true representation of our team,” Carey said. “But I know, with everyone we have back, we’re going to be the rabbit this year. Everyone will be chasing the rabbit.”
Other usual suspects looking strong
This month also proved that despite the departure of talent crucial to last season’s success, Regis Jesuit (three-time state champion) and ThunderRidge (two-time state champion) will be back in the title conversation this winter.
Coach Joe Ortiz’s Grizzlies leaned on senior point guard Kaison Hammonds and ever-improving junior Kevin Sax down in the post while impressing opposing coaches this June. And for Regis Jesuit, despite the graduation of point guard Connor Hobbs and the transfer of standout forward Samba Kane out of state, coach Ken Shaw expects his team to find its identity by wintertime.
“Guys like Elijah Martinez, Matt Wheelock and Sam Bannec will be big this year, but more importantly, the summer’s been great for developing a lot of our role players too and seeing who else is going to round out the starting lineup,” Shaw said.
Rising programs keep on rising
If this summer has been any indication, expect programs who made big waves last year to continue their ascent into the 2017 season.
Rock Canyon, which made the 5A semifinals last season and won the UNC team camp this month in Greeley, boasts the senior point guard duo of Sam Masten and Tyson Gilbert. Smoky Hill, which returns every starter from last season’s Sweet 16 run, is highlighted by the 6-foot-11 senior tandem of Will Becker and John Harge. And Chaparral, another 2016 Sweet 16 contender, has also made its presence felt this summer thanks to the play of sophomore point guard Kobe Sanders and junior forward Ronnie DeGray III.
The success of all three aforementioned programs doesn’t hinge upon star power, though; it’s all about depth and toughness in the parity-laden 5A landscape.
“We’ve been a senior-led group the last couple years, which has been a great thing for us,” Rock Canyon coach Kent Grams said. “But our bench, as most coaches would probably say, needs to get tougher. We need to make sure we’re doing a better job on the defensive side and understand that if we don’t put an emphasis on rebounding, we’re going to lose a lot of games.”
Teams outside metro area also potent
Palmer was the last team outside the Denver metro area to win the Class 5A state title, in 2000, but June has proven a number of teams from up north and down south are ready to make a run.
Front Range League contenders Legacy and Fairview drew praise from a number of metro coaches who came across their path, while defending Colorado Springs Metro League champion Doherty — under the direction of new coach Eric Steinert — will also challenge behind the play of senior guard Kyrele Benford and senior forward Joseph Golden.
“I didn’t know they were as solid as they were with their leng [...]
It was 119 degrees Tuesday in Phoenix, the hottest temperature on record for June 20 in the city’s history.
And thermostats hit 99 in Denver — also a city record for the date — leading the way into an electric evening at Coors Field as the Rockies outdueled the Diamondbacks 4-3 to kick off a series between the two NL West and geographic rivals whose showdowns have become increasingly heated.
“We knew we were playing a really good team where they had a seven-game winning streak and we had a five,” said Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzales, who had a solo homer in the fourth. “We’re not too far from each other in the standings or talent, and having a big crowd is always extra motivation for these divisional games.”
Both the Rockies (founded 1993) and the Diamondbacks (1998) are relatively new by baseball terms, and both fan bases have long loved to hate the division’s California teams — especially as Los Angeles has cruised to four consecutive division titles and San Francisco has captured three championships over the past seven seasons.
The two clubs, despite their moment on the big stage against each other in the Rockies’ sweep of the Diamondbacks in the 2007 National League Championship Series, have often been on the fringe of the fight for division success — not facing off against each other in the fight itself.
But in a 2017 season where the Rockies truly believe they are as good as their 47-26 record shows and the Diamondbacks are on a rebound following their 2016 bust, the stakes are high between the familiar foes.
Heading into Tuesday, Colorado had won four of six on the season against Arizona.
It was well-pitched by starters German Marquez and Zach Greinke. It was well-fielded, despite two early Diamondbacks’ errors, in a game that included multiple flashes of leather by the Rockies. And it was exciting as a feverous crowd brought an atmosphere in a weeknight game that this rivalry has rarely seen.
“Both these teams are playing great right now — we’ve both got great stuff from their starting pitchers, we’ve both got great hitters,” said longtime Diamondback and current Rockies outfielder Gerardo Parra. “It’s a great moment, right now, when these teams meet.”
The eighth inning typified Parra’s sentiments, with Diamondbacks veteran slugger Paul Goldschmidt slugging a two-run blast to give the Diamondbacks the lead only to see Arenado come right back with a two-RBI triple in the bottom of the frame to regain the advantage for the Rockies.
By the time Greg Holland came in to shut the door in the ninth for his 25th save — amid an array of lightning bolts just beyond the stadium throughout the inning — the Coors Field crowd was all on its feet. They chanted LET’S GO ROCKIES and were eager to high-five to not just another win (there have been plenty of those this season), but a win against one of the NL’s best teams and a division foe.
It’s still plenty early in the summer, and these teams are scheduled to meet a dozen more times this season, including twice more this series.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve had some good games and it’s always back and forth, but it’s a little different when you get to the end of the year and you’re fighting to win the division,” Goldschmidt said. “It hasn’t been like that between the Diamondbacks and Rockies, but hopefully it will be this year.” [...]
Drew Beckie was just 11 years old and his younger sister Janine was only 7 when their father, Gary Beckie, passed away following a three-year battle with skin cancer.
It was a loss that molded both future professional soccer players in a major way.
“It shaped me and my siblings into who we are — it brought us a lot closer even though I think something like that can often tear a family apart,” Janine Beckie said. “We also surrounded ourselves with sports, and friends, and soccer coaches and teammates to help us get through it. Real Colorado was amazing to us during that time, and we owe a lot to the club for that.”
In the 16 years since his death, both players have done much to make their late father proud.
Drew, 26, starred at Arapahoe High School and the University of Denver before building a career for himself as a defender in the North American Soccer League, where he plays for Jacksonville Armada FC.
Meanwhile, former Valor Christian and Texas Tech standout Janine, 22, is one of the top strikers on the Canadian Women’s National Team, in addition to her burgeoning pro career with the Houston Dash of the National Women’s Soccer League.
Their success is largely a credit to the strength of their mother — Sheila Beckie raised all four Beckie kids by herself following her husband’s passing — as well as their participation in Kids Alive Colorado while their father was sick. The program that provides support for children whose parents have cancer.
Drew’s experience in the program caused him to found Walking In Grief’s Shadow (WINGS) in 2014, a program that helps kids and their families deal with the death of a parent. He earned the 2015 NASL Humanitarian of the Year Award for his efforts, which included grants from the city of Ottawa for the club to put on parties and other events for affected families.
“Kids Alive had a profound effect on me as a child on dealing with those emotions in the correct way, and I really wanted to bring that therapy I got from that program to soccer,” Beckie said. “It was about bettering someone’s life by bringing them around a professional sports environment and getting their mind off of whatever they’re going through. I’m certainly not a therapist by any means, but I know that support and that talking about things can make the process easier.”
At 15, Drew moved to Canada to sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps of United Soccer League, only to change his mind after two months and return to Arapahoe, retaining his amateur status for college.
“Everyone in that program wanted to be the next players to go over to Germany and play for clubs like Borussia Dortmund or Mönchengladbach,” Drew said. “At the time, I didn’t think I was ready for that, even though a lot of players did stay and get those opportunities to play in Germany. But a lot of those players, maybe 75 percent of them, aren’t playing soccer anymore. They got burnt out, and I didn’t want that to happen to me and not have an education to fall back on.”
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Meanwhile, Janine, the 2012 Colorado Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year, continues to focus on honing her goal-scoring skills. She netted the fastest goal in Olympic women’s soccer history last year in Rio de Janeiro when she scored 20 seconds into Canada’s match against Australia, and has racked up 18 goals in 34 appearances for Canada to date.
“My national team success has a lot to do with the belief the team has in me, and coach John Herdman has put a big emphasis on me doing big things in the game,” Janine said. “Playing next to a legend like Christine Sinclair doesn’t hurt, so this environment really allows me to be my best and I’ve found another level of my game. And I think there’s another level that hasn’t yet been unleashed, and that’s only going to come with time and experience against more international opponents.”
As for the future? Both Beckies are ready to jump on any opportunity that comes their way, whether that means Janine’s emergence into an international star or another shot at playing in the MLS for Drew.
“I’m a very spiritual guy, so I’m on God’s plan, and I know that if I get an opportunity, I’ll take it,” Drew said. “Right now, I’m excited I get to play soccer for a living a [...]
Grandview graduate Brie Oakley added another accomplishment to a long list, running the second-fastest two-mile race for a high school girl Saturday at the Brooks PR Invitational in Seattle.
Oakley, a two-time Colorado high school champion in the 3,200 meters who is headed to the University of California this fall, finished in 9 minutes, 51.35 seconds which is the fastest ever run outdoors. The only girl to run faster was Mary Cain (9:38.68), who set the mark indoors.
Oakley won the Colorado 5A cross country title last fall and the Nike national cross country meet in December. Lauren Gregory, a Fort Collins High School grad who will attend the University of Arkansas, placed fourth Saturday in 10:05.26.
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To Susan Odenbaugh, retirement is a relative term.
The longtime Lewis-Palmer volleyball head honcho who led the Rangers to four Class 4A state titles in 15 seasons — including a dominant undefeated campaign en route to the championship last fall as the team finished fourth in the MaxPreps national rankings — stepped down from teaching and coaching this May to conclude a 34-year career.
“I’m officially retired, but I couldn’t just walk away completely,” Odenbaugh said. “I just love being around my students, so now I’m teaching part-time.”
Such is the academically-oriented sentiment that’s come to define Odenbaugh, the 2017 winner of the Dave Sanders Colorado Coach Award, presented annually by The Denver Post to a teacher-coach who has demonstrated longevity and success in teaching and coaching female athletics.
After all, it could be argued that the 58-year-old has plenty of volleyball seasons left in her — and more championships to go with. Lewis-Palmer, now under the direction of longtime varsity assistant Wade Baxter, is an early favorite to repeat in 2017 and the competitive Odenbaugh knows this — but she’s content with her decision to redirect her efforts.
“A lot of my students would come in and they’d seek extra help, and I was never available because of my commitment to coaching after school,” Odenbaugh explained. “When you look at the reality of things, most students aren’t going to make their careers playing volleyball, and I think now I’ll have a larger impact on helping students with their academic careers.”
And beyond the classroom, the “retired” Odenbaugh is also stepping into a new role with the Rangers athletic department where she’ll leverage her coaching background to oversee the school’s participation in the Positive Coaching Alliance and the Shift Why initiative.
“It’s important, with the way youth sports are progressing right now, that people don’t stray away from the true meaning of sports,” said Odenbaugh, who also won two state titles as a Rangers assistant coach. “Sports are a medium to teach character and character development, and we shouldn’t put our emphasis on winning at all costs. Winning should be a byproduct of the commitment to that development.”
It’s a mindset Sanders, a renowned softball coach, basketball coach and teacher who gave his life to save students in the 1999 Columbine shooting, certainly shared.
“Dave would be proud of anyone who was a teacher first and then took all those attributes that great teachers have and applied them to whatever sport they coached,” said Rick Bath, Sanders’ best friend and the 2002 award winner. “It’s about producing the same excellence in the classroom as you do on the court, and Odenbaugh does that.”
Odenbaugh’s players recognized and respected her didactic tactics, which proved consistently successful as the Ranges won 347 matches to just 89 losses during her tenure.
“She would always bring a quote to practice the day after a game, and that quote would apply to how we had played or something that had happened in the game,” said Elizabeth Reich, a captain on the 2016 title team who now plays at the University of Portland. “We would break down the game that way, and that not only made us better, it made us closer. It’s those personal touches that you don’t get from other coaches.”
Those touches translated to lessons on writing essays and dissections of literature, as Odenbaugh — who has served as the English Department Chair for 18 years and will continue to do so — brings her competitive mindset to her students, determined to make them more than college-ready.
“She wants every kid to succeed in their own way, so she pushed me a lot,” said Alexa Smith, a captain on the undefeated 2014 title team that finished ranked first in the nation. “She lets people know what she expects, and she holds people to that very high standard. Her players and her students have always respected that, and that’s why she excels in what she does.”
It’s been a long road for the Gilcrest native and 1977 Valley graduate, who, as a junior, was a member of the Vikings’ Class 2A state championship volleyball team in the first year the sport was sanctioned in Colorado — and who, as an adult, transformed prep volleyball, a feat that’s not lost on even her foremost Pikes Peak League rival.
“Every time we played each other, the gyms were packed, it was loud, it was crazy — it was everything you want high school volleyball to be,” Cheyenne Mountain coach David Barker said. “There’s no one else I’d rather face, though, because her teams come prepared and they’re always very competi [...]
Last year around this time, Tommy Gillman had just graduated from Columbine and Jake Eissler had just graduated from ThunderRidge, and both ballplayers spent the summer together on the Slammers Black club team in a final home-state hurrah before departing for college.
But this summer, the stakes are much higher for Gillman, a shortstop at Texas A&M, and Eissler, a right-hander at Texas Christian University. Both freshman’s teams advanced to the College World Series, which starts Saturday at TD Ameritrade Stadium in Omaha.
“It’s crazy how fast things have changed, because just last summer I was playing right behind Jake while he pitched,” Gillman said. “Now, we’ve both got work to do and dreams to chase in Omaha.”
Gillman has seen limited time this season, hitting .222 with two RBIs in nine plate appearances. But Aggies head coach Rob Childress clearly has confidence to call upon the freshman when needed, as Gillman saw action in the Super Regional clincher, a 12-6 win over Davidson, by pinch-running and getting an at-bat toward the end of the game.
Meanwhile, Eissler has emerged as a reliable reliever in his first season in Fort Worth. He’s 4-0 with a 5.02 ERA in 37.2 innings, and has also racked up 38 strikeouts for the Horned Frogs.
“Eissler is a guy who’s mentally sharp, and that’s why he’s had so much success as a freshman,” Gillman said. “He’s also great out of the pen because he can get out of jams and he’s got confidence in his stuff to get the big strikeout when you need one.”
And while it’s been a fast learning curve at the Division I level for both players, it’s one that has been made easier by the depth of the programs they find themselves in.
“Being around the older guys, I’ve learned how to go about things at the college level because it’s obviously very different from high school,” Gillman said. “And on our team, a lot of the younger guys have stepped up this year, especially as we got deeper into the season and we adjusted to the college game. It’s a big contributing factor to why we’re here now.”
The two former teammates could face other other on college baseball’s biggest stage. If both teams win Sunday, they’d meet Tuesday in a winner’s bracket game.
“That’d be an awesome moment for us as friends, and for Colorado baseball as a whole, if I happened to step into the box against him,” Gillman said. “But I’m not worried about that, or playing time. I’m concerned with doing whatever I need to do to be a good teammate, and helping Texas A&M win a national championship. I know Jake has the same mind-set.”
Kyle Newman, The Denver PostThunderRidge graduate Jake Eissler was 5-1 with a 1.28 ERA as a senior while leading the Grizzlies to a 15-8 record.
This weekend’s College World Series schedule
Saturday, June 17
Game 1 | Cal State Fullerton vs. Oregon State, 3 p.m. ET | ESPN
Game 2 | Florida State vs. LSU, 8 p.m. ET | ESPN
Sunday, June 18
Game 3 | Louisville vs. Texas A&M, 2 p.m. ET | ESPN
Game 4 | TCU vs. Florida, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN2 [...]
Eaglecrest’s Davis Bryant has been making noise in the Colorado prep golf scene for some time now. Bryant finished as the Class 5A state runner-up last fall while establishing himself as one of the top golfers in the Class of 2018 and earning a scholarship to CSU.
But it was on Wednesday that Bryant recorded his career’s most signature moment yet, posting a wire-to-wire victory at the Colorado Junior PGA Championship at Eisenhower Golf Club in Colorado Springs. Bryant shot one-under to secure the two-shot win and a berth in the National Junior PGA Championship from July 31-Aug. 3.
“I’d been looking forward to this tournament since it got put on the schedule, because I feel really comfortable with the course,” Bryant said. “It’s a difficult course, but I played well over 54 holes and I had all parts of my game where they needed to be over each of the three days.”
The win gave Bryant his first Junior Golf Alliance of Colorado major as the two-time Colorado Junior America’s Cup selection eyes continued improvement.
“My ball-striking has been really good lately,” Bryant said. “Also, my proximity to the hole on the green has been good the last month or so too, so I feel like I’m really close to cutting a few more strokes off my rounds if the putts start to fall in with more consistency.”
Bryant is the son of Green Valley Ranch Golf Club GM Matt Bryant, and growing up with a golf pro for a dad laid the base for his rapid development over the past several years.
He tied for 30th at the state tournament his freshman year before tying for 12th as a sophomore and then coming up one leaderboard spot short of the title last year.
“When I was younger, my dad was hard on me and wanted me to do everything perfectly, but as I got older he took a step back,” Bryant said. “It was good to be on my own in the game like that, because I still use his technique and his advice — especially on the mental side — but I had to figure out the details of golf for myself, too.”
Another golf pro’s kid, Holy Family’s Hailey Schalk, won the girls tournament at the Colorado Junior PGA Championship by an outlandish 11 strokes to also punch her ticket to the national tournament. Schalk is the daughter of Colorado National Golf Club GM Matt Schalk, and last month she won the Class 3A state title as a freshman.
Both Bryant and Schalk are favorites to win their respective individual state titles in 2017-18. [...]
It’s a mid-June early morning in the Arapahoe weight room, and the Warriors’ football team is putting in sweat equity on the power clean platforms while most of their peers sleep. Behind the players wearing sweat-soaked grey shirts that proclaim EARN IT, head coach Mike Campbell revs up his guys while music blares and reminders of the dedication necessary to succeed — All we ask is all you’ve got, one sign says — are everywhere.
It’s a prep football rite of passage that unfolds three to four times per week at just about every high school in the Denver metro area, when teams collectively rise with the sun to converge upon their weights, tracks and practice fields and put in the work that often defines a team’s fate come fall.
“The summer, to us, is about getting stronger and faster, but it’s really more about team bonding, toughness and leadership,” Mike Campbell said. “Especially because we don’t have the kind of numbers that a lot of the teams we play do, and we don’t have the Division I players that other schools do — so we have to rely on the culture we create here in the summertime to get us wins during the season.”
And while the average big-school contender like Arapahoe uses the summer to stay competitive, power programs such as Cherry Creek, Valor Christian and Pomona are all grinding, too, in order to remain in the championship conversation.
“If you’re really serious about competing at the top level of the sport in Colorado every year, you’ve got to put the work in,” Cherry Creek head coach Dave Logan said. “The days of just showing up two weeks before school starts are long over.”
Logan said he’s kept his four-days-a-week, eight-week program consistent over the past 25 years of his prep coaching career at Arvada West, Chatfield, Mullen and Cherry Creek — and that the seven state titles earned over that span are a direct result of his teams’ buy-in during the summer.
“My deal with my team is, if we get an 80 percent turnout rate in the summer, then we don’t go two-a-days,” Logan said. “And we’ve never gone two-a-days in all my time as a head coach, because my kids come out and commit to the workload, and our entire coaching staff comes out and commits to the summer, too. It’s where we’ve always laid the base.”
The Bruins’ program includes a football-specific lifting program, speed work such as interval sprints and agility drills, old-fashioned conditioning as well as the installation of the offense and defensive schemes throughout the summer.
Plus, beyond the intangibles that Campbell described, the summer gives schools competitive advantages that can be measured — like how Cherry Creek boasts 27 players who can squat 400 pounds or more — and those measurables, Logan said, translate to the field.
“That’s the overall team strength that’s essential if you’re going to compete at the highest level,” Logan said. “You might not have the biggest team in any given year, but you have to have good team strength that enables you to hang in there against bigger teams and more talented teams.”
Summer programs are also being tailored to a team’s specific style, as head coach Jaron Cohen has done at Ponderosa.
“We’re going to run no-huddle with a really fast tempo,” Cohen said, “and the way we train our players in the summer is modified to play that type of game in the fall because we’re going to be relentless on both sides of the ball.”
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The Mustangs, who made the 4A quarterfinals last season, have also added an innovative competitive wrinkle to their workouts. Cohen appointed six senior captains before the summer started; those captains then drafted other varsity players enrolled in the program to form teams that compete for points and corresponding prizes such as T-shirts and pizza parties.
“Instead of coaches getting on kids, we’ve got kids getting on kids in a positive way,” Cohen said. “And if our players have accountability to each other, it gives them more incentive to get out of bed and get their work in, because a team gets points for everyone showing up.”
Each Friday is competition day at Ponderosa, with the ultimate prize being what Ponderosa strength coach Patrick Nolan calls “the championship bell,” which is a boxing bell with a chain attached to it. Friday’s team winners get to wear it and write on the back of it in Sharpie, and the team already has plans to take their coveted bell out to games this fall.
“We’re all about competing on Fridays and simulating that Friday-night-lights mindset,& [...]
After four former Colorado high school stars were selected over the first two days of the 2017 MLB Draft, ten more local prospects heard their names called during the rapid-fire final day of the event.
Peyton Remy, a 2015 Legend graduate and current righthander at Central Arizona College, got things going for Colorado on Day 3 when he was selected by the Cubs in the 17th round with the 525th overall pick.
Remy struck out 90 batters and made 14 starts for the Vaqueros this year and is the fourth Titans player to ever be drafted, per CHSAANow.com’s draft tracker.
Then in the 18th round, two former Rocky Mountain stars and current University of New Mexico players were picked.
First, the Angels took 2014 RMHS graduate Tyler Stevens off the board with the 535th pick. Stevens was 7-6 with a 4.81 ERA as a junior for New Mexico this spring and was the winning pitcher in the 2014 Class 5A state title game for Rocky Mountain, which has had former players selected in 11 of the last 12 drafts.
His classmate, Carl Stajduhar, was then taken by the Mets with the 547th overall pick. The junior infielder earned 1st-Team All-Mountain West honors this year after hitting .350 with 17 homers and 69 RBIs. He was also the Mountain West Player of the Year as a sophomore.
Recent Rock Canyon graduate Matt Givin became the first Colorado high school senior picked in this year’s draft when the Marlins came calling in the 20th round with the 599th overall pick.
The pitcher/shortstop earned All-Colorado accolades this spring while leading the Jaguars back to the 5A state tournament and is committed to play at Xavier, where his older brother, Chris Givin, is already a starter. Givin is the second Jaguars player to be picked but first straight out of high school.
The Cubs selected Niwot shortstop Skyler Messinger in the 22nd round with the 675th overall pick. Messinger hit .484 with 21 RBI and four homers for the Cougars this spring, and is committed to play at the University of Kansas. He is the seventh Niwot player to be drafted but first since 2008.
Heritage then got its moment in the spotlight, with two selections that underscored the talent within the fast-rising 5A program. All-Colorado catcher Casey Opitz (Arkansas commit) got picked in the 27th round in the 822nd slot by the Indians, and then a round later, righthander Jacob Hilton (New Mexico) went to the Rangers with the 854th pick.
Pine Creek graduate Reagan Biechler was taken next by the Rockies in the 31st round with the 926th pick. The senior lefty reliever for Wichita State had a 2.84 ERA in 31.2 innings this year and is the fourth Pine Creek player to be drafted.
In the 35th round, the Rockies selected their third local player of the draft with Broomfield righty James Notary at the 1,046th pick. Notary, a Texas Christian University commit, pitched the Eagles into the 5A state title game this spring.
And to conclude Colorado’s draft representation, the Rockies again went to the prep ranks to select Ralston Valley senior righthander Drake Davis in the 38th round at 1,136th overall. Davis, an Arizona State commit, was 4-3 with a 2.27 ERA this spring and is the sixth Mustangs player to be drafted.
Regis Jesuit graduate David Peterson was the first Colorado player drafted during Monday’s first round with the 20th overall pick, and three more locals went on Tuesday with the selections of Legacy alum Lucas Gilbreath, Columbine alum Blake Weiman and Sand Creek alum Josh Keaton.
Colorado Draft Recap
In all, 14 former Colorado high school players were selected in the draft, including six seniors. The signing deadline to go pro or return to/attend college is July 15.
Round 1 Pick 20 David Peterson LHP, New York Mets (Regis Jesuit 2014, Oregon)
Round 7 Pick 206, Lucas Gilbreath LHP, Colorado Rockies (Legacy 2014, Minnesota)
Round 8 Pick 238, Blake Weiman LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates (Columbine 2014, Kansas)
Round 10 Pick 308, Josh Keaton RHP, Baltimore Orioles (Sand Creek 2012, Adams State)
Round 17 Pick 525, Peyton Remy RHP, Chicago Cubs (Legend 2015, Central Arizona College)
Round 18 Pick 535, Tyler Stevens RHP, Los Angeles Angels (Rocky Mountain 2014, New Mexico)
Round 18 Pick 547, Carl Stajduhar 3B, New York Mets (Rocky Mountain 2014, New Mexico)
Round 31 Pick 926, Reagan Biechler LHP, Colorado Rockies (Pine Creek 2013, Wichita State)
Class of 2017
Round 20 Pick 599, Matt Givin RHP, Miami Marlins (Rock Canyon, Xavier)
Round 22 Pick 675, Skyler Messinger SS, Chicago Cubs (Niwot, Kansas)
Round 27 Pick 823, Casey Opitz C, Cleveland Indians (Heritage, Arkansas)
Round 28 Pick 854, Jacob Hilton RHP, Texas Rangers (Heritage, New Mexico)
Round 35 Pick 1,046, James Notary RHP, Colorado Rockies (Broomfield, TCU)
Round 38 Pick 1,136, Drake Davis RHP, Colorado Rockies (Ralston Valley, Arizona State) [...]