The 2014-15 school year proved to be a memorable one locally not for the record-setting efforts, state championships, or the abundant electricity generated in the various performance arenas.
What set this year apart was the lengthy list of farewells the BoCoPreps.com-area was forced to impart upon a startling number of longtime coaching leaders.
Erie's Bob Bledsoe, winner of 11 state titles.
Broomfield's Mike Croell, one of the most successful girls basketball coaches in state history.
Ditto for Monarch's Gail Hook, who hung up her whistle after 432 varsity wins.
Stan Jozwiak was the only coach in the history of a Fairview boys soccer program he started 35 years ago. His longtime colleague at Centaurus, Ken Ebersole, held his post for 28 years.
It was a year of goodbyes, interspersed with a wide array of moments of triumph. Here is a look at the BoCoPreps.com top moments of 2014-15.
1. CROELL EXITS WITH CROWN
Really, could any ending have been scripted more perfectly? Few of Croell's 457 wins in 20 seasons leading the Broomfield girls basketball team were as big as his final one, a 47-42 decision against ThunderRidge that gave the Eagles a title in their first season at the Class 5A level.
Croell informed his team at the previous year's end-of-season banquet that the 2014-15 campaign would be his last, and he proceeded to turn in a masterful job of keeping his players focused on the task at hand instead of worrying about honoring their coach. The title was the sixth for Croell in a 20-year run that included nine title-game appearances and 14 Final Four appearances.
"Even when the buzzer went off it was like, 'Did that really happen?'" Croell said after the victory. "It was the way a state championship game should be. We gave everybody a good show. For my last game, to go out like that, I'm glad I'm still standing."
2. FAREWELL, OLD FRIENDS
It would be difficult for any region in the state to duplicate the lengthy list of coaching greats who opted to step aside alongside Croell in 2014-15.
Bob Bledsoe already is a Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Famer who, despite winning 11 state titles, may have turned in one of his best coaching efforts last fall when he rallied his Erie Tigers from a 3-7 start to reach the 4A state softball semifinals.
Gail Hook won a state title in 1991 while leading the Centaurus girls basketball team before starting the program at Monarch. The Coyotes consistently ranked among the state's best during her tenure, and her final season ended with her eighth appearance in the Final Four.
Likewise, Stan Jozwiak was the only coach to ever lead the Fairview boys soccer program during his 35 years at the helm. His run also ended in the state semifinals last fall. His contemporary at Centaurus, Ken Ebersole, stepped aside after 28 years.
Fairview lost a number of longtime leaders, including the head man in athletic director/boys basketball coach Frank Lee, who built the Knights into a formidable Front Range League power. Fairview lost two other coaches with at least 10 years experience in wrestling coach Jim Lefebvre and volleyball coach Brooke Simmons.
Honorable mention goes to former Skyline football coach Kevin Rice (eight seasons), recently resigned Frederick baseball coach Ted Clapp (11 seasons), and Tim Leahy, who spent the last five of his 28 seasons as a coach guiding the Erie boys basketball team.
3. LONGMONT'S STIRRING RUN
With apologies to the Longmont boys basketball team, which also finished as the Class 4A state runner-up after leading the state polls for much of the season, the Trojans' football team found itself in must-win situations every week after a 1-3 start both surprising and frustrating.
And win they did. Nine times in a row, to be exact, until falling in the title game against Pine Creek. Leading the way was a rugged defense that pitched two shutouts during the nine-game winning streak and held four other opponents to 14 points or less.
4. EAGLES SOCCER SOARS IN 5A
So much for the move to 5A clipping the wings of Broomfield's powerhouse soccer programs.
The boys club put together a sparkling run during the second half of the season last fall, finishing the playoffs with an overtime blast from Tyler Hulst to overcome Fairview in the semifinals before topping Boulder 2-0 in the title game.
The girls team was equally dominant this spring, topping top-seeded Mountain Vista in the semifinals thanks in large part to a late goal from Makena Bambei that was launched from an eerily similar spot on the Legacy Stadium turf as Hulst's winner months earlier.
Though the Eagles fell short in the girls title game against Grandview, the 2014-15 season made it clear Broomfield's soccer dominance will not wane at the 5A level.
5. BUDD REPEATS FOR MEAD
Mead wrestler Sage Budd watched Kyle Couch make school history ahead of him by winning repeat state titles. Budd decided to up the ante even further, not only winning his second consecutive state title but by putting together a season for the ages by going undefeated.
The winner of the 4A 126-pound title as a junior, Budd claimed the 3A 132-pound title by topping reigning 3A 126-pound champ Ruben Lucero of Valley with a 9-2 decision in the title bout. The victory gave Budd the BoCoPreps.com Wrestler of the Year honor and an unblemished record 45-0 — becoming the first Mead wrestler to compile an undefeated mark.
6. FAIRVIEW'S DOUBLE SINGLES CROWNS
While winning a team title still proved elusive for the Fairview tennis teams, senior Ignatius Castelino and freshman Amber Shen helped the Knights earn the rare distinction of capturing the No. 1 singles title at both the boys and girls state tennis finals.
Castelino entered his final state final as the owner of three state runner-up finishes, including a loss in the 2013 title match at No. 1 singles. Castelino simply refused to lose in his final prep match, falling behind one set against Cherry Creek's Zach Fryer before evening the match with a tiebreaker win in Set 2. Castelino outlasted Fryer 7-5 in the third set to claim the title.
Though less experienced than Castelino, Shen was no less composed during her winning effort last month at the Gates Tennis Center. Ignoring the mounting tension as the chair umpire overruled six calls by Cherry Creek's Kalyssa Hall, Shen also rallied from a Set 1 loss, persevering for tiebreaker wins in each of the next two sets to prevail in a title-match thriller.
7. JESSUP, TROJANS LIGHT UP 4A
Ranked at or near the top of both state polls throughout the boys basketball season, the Trojans nearly capped an undefeated campaign with a state title, though those hopes were dashed in a 64-59 overtime loss against Air Academy in the 4A title game.
Leading the way for the 27-1 Trojans was junior sharpshooter Justinian Jessup, who averaged 17 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.2 steals a game while shooting 42 percent (47 for 113) from 3-point range. Among the season highlights was a Northern League title and a buzzer-beating shot from Kolton Bachman that allowed the Trojans to survive Valor Christian in the state quarterfinals.
With Jessup and a large contingent of Longmont's contributors slated to return, look for the Trojans to crack this list once again in 2015-16.
8. ROBERTS RUNS ON
The only thing more impressive than the array of first-place medals Lyons' Paul Roberts is collecting is the ease which he uses to decimate the opposition.
The Lions' distance-running standout enjoyed a banner junior season, starting with his third consecutive Class 2A state cross country championship last fall. Roberts' winning time of 16 minutes, 31.1 seconds established a 2A course record at the Norris-Penrose Event Center and stood as the top time of the day across all classifications.
Roberts once again was the leader of the Lions' pack last month at the state track and field finals, winning the 3,200-meter run and claiming his third straight title in the 1,600-meter run. Roberts also helped pace Lyons to victory in the 3,200-meter relay while leading his club to its third team title in four years.
9. BARLOW FLIES TO REPEAT TITLE
Monarch's Andrew Barlow once again flew above and beyond the rest of the competition.
Though he fell short in his attempt to break a 29-year old state meet record in the pole vault, Barlow still elevated well ahead of the pack, winning the 5A title with a vault of 16 feet, 18.5 inches that eclipsed the nearest competitor by over a foot. It was the second consecutive title for the Cornell-bound Barlow, who won in 2014 with a vault of 15-06.
10. FEILER ENDS BOULDER TITLE DROUGHT
Curt Colby has been the leader of the Boulder High boys swim team for 17 seasons. Through the first 16, the Panthers never boasted an individual state-title winner.
Christian Feiler ended that drought this year at the 5A finals, taking first in the 50 freestyle. His 50 time of 20.56 in the state preliminaries established a new school record. Feiler also took second in the 100 freestyle and anchored the Panthers' winning effort in the medley relay. Feiler's effort helped the Panthers finish fourth in the team standings.
• Frederick softball sweeps Tri-Valley League and suffers only loss in 4A title game.
• Johnny Feauto's record-setting season electrifies Fairview football.
• Monarch hockey records third consecutive state runner-up finish.
• Dawson School enjoys banner year at small-school level with Yale Kim winning 3A boys golf title, the first boys lacrosse Final Four berth in program history, and a runner-up finish in the state's first 2A girls soccer title game.
• Jefferson Academy's Jennifer Kupcho wins second straight 4A girls golf state title.
• Holy Family sends three wrestlers into state championship matches.
• Despite graduation of Elise Cranny, Niwot girls track and field wins third straight 4A team title.
• Silver Creek freshman Rylee Anderson wins 4A high jump title.
• Peak to Peak baseball makes state tournament debut.
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