Over the course of four months, prep sports fans in Southwest Colorado were treated to a multitude of memorable highlights produced by local athletes. Medals were won, records were broken, as a whole, several teams came through with their best seasons in several years. Below are the Top 5 story lines from the spring sports season.
Austin Wagner strikes goldCompeting at the Colorado State Track Championships in Lakewood,, Montezuma-Cortez High School senior Austin Wagner came through in a big way, finishing as the top-ranked triple jumper in Class 3A with a mark of 44 feet, 9 inches.
For Wagner, the championship-winning leap served as the culminating moment of an impressive senior season that featured several lengthy leaps and multiple podium finishes.
“It was kind of like a storybook finish for (Wagner),” said M-CHS boys’ coach Bob Archibeque. “It all came down to one jump, and he nailed one and he won by an inch.”
Although Wagner has yet to settle on a college for next year, the M-CHS standout plans to compete at the college level next season.
Baseball team makes playoffsFor the first time in more than a decade, the Montezuma-Cortez High School baseball team qualified for the postseason, thanks to a memorable campaign that featured 10 total wins and a 7-3 record in the West Slope League.
Among the top performers for this year’s team were junior Jasen Engel, who batted .509 and drove in a team-high 27 runs. Engel also excelled on the mound for the Panthers, finishing the season with a team-high five wins and a 4.04 ERA.
“I’ll always remember how we came together as a team over the course of the year,” said Panthers manager Tim Passell.
“It wasn’t just one individual. It was somebody different that came through for us each outing,” he said.
“Making the playoffs and getting the experience will help us for next year.”
Freshmen make big impactSuiting up for her first season of high school soccer, Dolores High School freshman McKenzie Howerton reminded fans that inexperience at the high school level does not necessarily preclude big-time results. She scored eight goals in 14 games for the Montezuma-Cortez High School girls’ soccer team.
Also making the most of her first year as a high school athlete was Dove Creek High School freshmen Kiara Lingenfelter, whose 39th-place finish at the Class 3A State Golf Tournament capped off a season that saw her lead the Dolores High School golf team to its first tournament victory ever.
Rounding out the area’s top first-year prep performers was Mancos High School freshman Cayden Showalter, whose sixth-place finish in the discus (135 feet, 9 inches) and 15th-place finish in the shot put (39 feet, 4¾ inches) at the state track meet ranked best amongst freshmen in Class 2A.
Keeping the record in the familyCompeting at the Colorado State Track Championships in Lakewood, Colo., two Montezuma-Cortez High School track athletes broke school records.
Among the record-breakers was M-CHS senior Josh Ramos, whose time of 1:55.62 placed him second in the state and broke his brother, Justice Ramos’ record of 1:55.74.
“Josh broke his brother’s school record, and that was a feather in his cap,” said M-CHS coach Bob Archibeque. “Josh is one of those workers that all coaches dream of.”
Also breaking a family member’s school record was sophomore Aryelle Wright, whose 400-meter dash time of 58.28 broke her mother, Amber Cunningham’s school record of 58.6, which was set in 1990.
“After my race, I went up in the stands and (my mom and I) just embraced each other,” Wright said. “We didn’t even say anything. We were both just hugging each other and crying.”
Dolores baseball team improvesAfter finishing last season 0-16 record, the Dolores High School baseball team showed fast improvement this season en route to a 7-12 record.
Highlighting the Bears’ season was a 14-7 victory over Ignacio in the Class 2A District 3/5 Tournament, which allowed the Bears to advance to a Regional Tournament game against eventual Class 2A state champion Paonia.
Among the leaders this year was sophomore Dakota Smith, whose .452 batting average and nine RBIs over the course of 12 games led the Bears.
“We played good baseball ... and teamwork was the biggest key for us,” Bears manager Rusty Hamilton said. “We are improving every day, and I expect our future to be bright.”