When local sports fans look back at 2019, they will recall a 12-month period that included a spate of individual triumphs and a handful of the decade’s most successful male and female prep sports teams.
Names such as Eli Tomac, Avery Wright, Caden Showalter, Teagan Whiteskunk, Dimery Plewe, Blake Keetch, Presley Frost, Breccen Morelli and Chorbin Cressler will never be forgotten, while memories of school records and state tournament appearances will live on forever.
Below is a recap of the top ten local sports stories of 2019.
M-CHS track team sets new standardsWhile numerous individuals and teams stood out during their 2019 campaigns, no group of local athletes was as impressive as those who led a Montezuma-Cortez High School girls track team that will go down as one of the finest in school history.
Chief among the standout athletes on the M-CHS team was freshman Avery Wright, who won Class 3A state titles in the 100-meter dash (12.36 seconds) and 200-meter dash (25.23) and broke school records in both events.
Avery Wright also anchored several outstanding relay teams that included senior Arielle Wright, senior Morgan Short and sophomore Elena Short. Together, the two pairs of siblings broke school records in the 4x100-meter relay, 4x200-meter relay and 800 sprint-medley relay and set meet records at several prestigious meets.
“There’s an aura between all four of them,” longtime M-CHS head coach Bob Archibeque said. They see a light at the end of the tunnel, and they work their butt off to get to the light. They’ve also been real fortunate to have been blessed with some athletic gifts.”
Eli Tomac win third straight title
Continuing a run of dominance that has stretched more than a decade, Cortez native and motocross superstar Eli Tomac captured his third consecutive Monster Energy American Motocross Association championship in the 450cc division.
Over the course of the 2019 motocross season, Tomac finished on the podium at all but one of the series’ venues and finished first in an almost unbelievable 11 of 24 individual races on the year.
“What a day, and what a year,” the Kawasaki-sponsored rider said after winning at the Ironman National course in Indiana in the series’ final race of the season. “Even though the title was clinched … the mindset was to attack.”
Caden Showalter wins state track titles
Making the most of his third year of high school track while etching his name into Mancos High School lore, junior Caden Showalter took the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships by storm by capturing top honors in the discus (161 feet) and the shot put (48 feet, 1½ inch).
Showalter’s state meet performance followed an impressive regular season that included several individual meet titles in both throwing events as well as a trend of consistent individual improvement.
Thanks to his string of impressive performances, Showalter secured an athletic scholarship from University of Colorado Colorado Springs, where he will compete on the school’s track and field team beginning in fall.
M-CHS basketball team returns to state tournament
Capping off a memorable season that was highlighted by a handful of thrilling victories and a regional title, the Montezuma-Cortez High School boys basketball team advanced to the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
Among the key players for the Panthers were junior shooting guard Teagan Whiteskunk, who averaged a team-high 17.3 points per game on the season, and senior forward Cordell Baer, whose 12.2 points and 11.3 rebounds per game and indelible leadership carried M-CHS to a 19-6 record overall.
“Their fight (makes them special),” head coach Michael Hall said. “They have fight like nobody I’ve ever seen before. I can’t say anything other than they never quit.”
Mancos football advances to state quarterfinals
Few teams captured the hearts of their fans to the extent that the Mancos High School football team did during a season in which it finished 9-2 overall and advanced to the state quarterfinals.
The Bluejays, led by senior quarterback Breccen Morelli and senior running back Anthony Medina, made a magical run that was highlighted by a 36-6 playoff victory over Caliche and a narrow 34-28 loss to Fowler its season’s final game. Sophomore running back Chase Moore rushed for 1,900 yards and 31 touchdowns.
“I’m going to remember the men that we turned into since we were in third grade,” Medina said. “Coach Allen (Matthews) has taken us from little boys to what we are now. My whole football career, I will never forget him or any of my other coaches.”
M-CHS boys golf team wins regional title
Led by experienced senior Blake Keetch and talented freshman Thayer Plewe, the Montezuma-Cortez High School golf team won the Class 3A Region 4 Golf Tournament in Aspen and placed seventh in the Class 3A State Tournament.
Individually, Keetch captured top honors at the regional with a 2-over-par round of 73, and Plewe led the team individually at state when he tied for 13th place. Keetch placed 18th at the state tournament, and junior JJ Brunner finished 69th in the state tournament standings.
Senior Casen Allmon also competed as a member of the 2019 team.
Mancos basketball team advances to stateLed by first-year head coach Elijah Knepper, junior forward Caden Showalter and a spate of talented underclassmen, the Mancos High School boys basketball team advanced to the Class 2A State Tournament for the first time in nearly two decades.
Prior to advancing to state, the Bluejays won 17 of their 23 games and captured the Class 2A Region 6 title, thanks to victories over Center High School and a tough Heritage Christian High School squad.
“All of the hard work that we put in is (going through my mind),” Caden Showalter said, shortly after his team won its Regional title. “It takes a lot of energy a lot of confidence and a lot of teamwork to make state.”
Dove Creek football team returns to playoffs
After a three-year absence from Colorado’s eight-man playoffs, the Dove Creek High School football team returned to the postseason in 2019 after a solid regular season that saw it finish 5-4 overall.
Leading the way for the Bulldogs throughout much of the year was sophomore quarterback Chorbin Cressler, who rushed for 1,157 yards and 18 touchdowns and threw for 678 yards and nine touchdowns in what amounted to a dual threat display.
“We’re definitely way more physical this season,” junior Hayden Gray said. “What we try to do is make (our opponents) remember who they came to play and make them not want to do it again. We are upperclassmen now, and we are a lot more confident.”
M-CHS softball team qualifies for state
Led by second year manager Brittney Whiteman, a handful of talented upperclassmen and sophomore starting pitcher Taiah Wilson, the Montezuma-Cortez High School softball team finished 17-7 overall and played in the state tournament for the first time in more than a decade.
Although M-CHS fell to Sterling High School by a score of 10-5 in the first round of the 16-team tournament, the Panthers delivered numerous memorable performances during a season that will not soon be forgotten.
Dolores girls golf team finishes seventh at state
Leaving little doubt as to its status as the most successful girls golf team in Dolores High School history, state qualifiers Dimery Plewe, Kiara Lingenfelter, Kalli Partington, and Kailey Case led their team to seventh place at the Class 3A Tournament at the Eagle Valley Golf Club.
Plewe led the way individually for the Lady Bears with an eighth-place finish, while Lingenfelter finished 18th and Partington placed 69th.
“I’m so proud of these girls. They are really making history in our area,” Dolores head coach Monica Plewe wrote in a text message to The Journal. ”We have had one of two (state) qualifiers every year, but this was the first time in our program’s seven-year history that we qualified three.”