BOULDER -- This was a ceremony decades in the making.
Roughly two and a half weeks after the Boulder boys soccer team made history by capturing the program's first state championship, the team was feted Thursday in the school gymnasium during an hour-long ceremony that put an emotional exclamation mark on the Panthers' improbable run.
"There are really not words to describe it," stunned junior Mason Douillard said moments after the Panthers' championship banner was unveiled. "I'm at a loss for words right now. This adds to the specialness of it. It's just been amazing."
A state athletic power a generation ago, the act of hanging championship banners at BHS has been few and far between during the past two decades. While the Panthers have collected a handful of individual state championships over the past 10 years in track and field, wrestling, and tennis, the Panthers' 3-1 victory against Smoky Hill in the Class 5A title game on Nov. 12 brought the first team state title to Boulder since the volleyball squad's championship in 2000.
None of the Panthers' boys programs had won a team title in 20 years, going back to the 1992 football team.
"People I'd never talked to before coming up to me and congratulating me, it was cool to see I was playing for something more than the school. I was playing for the whole community," senior Lake Brant said. "I feel honored to have been a part of it."
Thursday's ceremony, attended by Boulder Valley School District Superintendent Dr. Bruce Messinger in addition to a number of other dignitaries, provided a victory lap of sorts of a team that began the season 2-5, yet reeled off an incredible run of 12 wins in 13 games to earn the state title.
After parading into the gym, with senior defender Rojan Shrestha toting the championship trophy at the end of the line, each player was introduced before receiving their state medals and championship T-shirts. A season highlight video recapped the many big moments the Panthers put together before the festivities came to a fitting climax with the unveiling of the school's newest championship banner.
"I think now that we're a few weeks from winning the state championship, I think it sinks in even more what the success of the team has meant to the community and the school," Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said. "I think the motto of our team, the makeup of our team, and the personality of our team is still being talked about as much as the state championship is.
"It's been 20 years for a boys team and 12 years since a women's team, so it's a new experience. It's pretty neat to see."
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