Paul Aiken / Daily Camera
Cliff Grassmick / Daily Camera
STERLING TO COLORADO SPRINGS — My job is awesome.
And the best part of this little gig of mine is having the chance to cover state championships.
I was blessed this last fall to witness some some outstanding stories that need to be retold.
It started in late September in Sterling.
Boys golf: Dawson School sophomore Yale Kim’s performance during the second round of the Class 3A state tournament was something to behold. The native of South Korea didn’t actually lead the tournament until the 33rd hole and even after he finished 36 holes, it still wasn’t his. With dusk approaching quickly, Kim and Vail Christian senior Cooper Gould went back to play the 18th at Northeastern 18 for a fourth time and it would be the last time. Gould missed a two-footer for par that would have forced a fifth playoff hole and Kim became the Mustangs’ third state champion. After spending the summer at home in Korea, without the benefit of playing a round of golf and literally not stepping on grass until his return to the States, Kim listened to his family and friends who said, “You are going to do it, you are going to win something big. And I trusted in that and I think I finally did.”
That’s one state champion.
The next weekend was at Gates Tennis Center in Denver.
Boys tennis: Ignatius Castelino’s story was well-documented heading into his fourth and final state tournament. Three times a state runner-up, the Fairview senior nearly was dealt the same fate for a fourth time. But instead he fought off two match points against Cherry Creek’s Ethan Hillis and rallied to win his first state title in an epic three-set thriller. “This feels amazing, like something that could have happened the last three years, and it finally did and I’m so happy,” he told me after the match. “It’s the best way to go out, senior year, state champ.” Not only did Castelino win, but so to did his teammates Tommy Mason and Alec Leddon for a Knights sweep of singles.
Up to four state champs
Softball: I’m not going to lie, I was more than prepared to write my annual Legacy story, but that never happened. Instead it was Broomfield that made the run and did so with style. The Eagles cruised into the state semifinals on Saturday at the Aurora Sports Park and were stymied by Grandview for six innings. The Wolves carried a 2-0 lead to the bottom of the seventh, when the Eagles rallied with two strikes and two outs to force extra innings. They would ultimately lose to Grandview in the 10th inning, but if ever there was a game that defined Paul Seifried’s team, this was it. “It is because of them that we we went so far. The believed in themselves and us as coaches. And we believed in them as players. It’s a great family win and it stinks that we are going down on this one, but we’ll be back,” said Seifried after the game.
Still at four state champs.
Cross country: The best moment of the season for me in cross country came the week before we traveled to the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs for the state meet. At the regional meet up in Lyons, it was the effort of a resurrected Longmont program that epitomized what high school sports is all about. The Trojans didn’t win or even finish second, but coach Kevin Akers’ team finished third that day and after years of suffering returned as a team to the state meet for the first time since 2006. Count how many times senior Jared Wells says the word “we” afterwards when he spoke to me in a group interview after the race: “It’s one of the greatest things we have done in a long time.We ran together all summer long and we pushed each other every day and now we are here, and it’s the greatest feeling.” I did see Lyons and Paul Roberts win their state titles, so that kind of counts for my total.
Up to five individuals and one team.
Gymnastics: Still remains one of my favorite events to cover in the fall simply because of the passion of not only the participants, but the coaches as well. Yes, it’s a couple of long days and it can be confusing for the novice reporter, but this guy has it down to a science. One year after coming so close to defending their title, Broomfield was again painfully close to getting back to the top of the mountain in the team competition, falling less than 0.5 points short of Overland. It was on the second night where the Eagles made their mark. The remarkable season-long effort of Sarah Holbrook, who battled a painful back situation, culminated with a victory on the balance beam. “It was worth it,” said Holbrook, who chose to compete because she simply loved being around her teammates. Kailey Licata also won a title, taking top honors on the floor.
Up to seven individuals, one team and now one team runner-up
Boys soccer: Best line of the year came after Broomfield won its semifinal match at Legacy Stadium against Fairview when Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher asked Eagles coach Jim Davidson to, “Let me know when you guys adjust to this whole 5A thing!” I’d say the Eagles fit right in. In one of the more remarkable runs in recent memory, Broomfield beat Boulder 2-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park and capped a five-game playoff bonanza that saw them outscore opponents 13-1. It all came in the wake of tragedy at Broomfield, a school reeling from the losses of two of their own in Mason Wedan and Chad Britton. “Broomfield needed a hero and we all really wanted to step up be that hero that Broomfield needed,” Armando Ocampo said.
Seven individuals, two team and two runners-up.
Football: I saw a lot of good games this year, but the one that stands out was on a cold November night in Fort Collins. Longmont’s path to the state title game took them back to French Field to try and knock off the undefeated Lambkins. They did just that, hanging on for a 42-35 win. Afterwards, with a gigantic hole in his pants he obtained from standing too close to the one of the propane heaters on the sideline, Trojans coach Doug Johnson, whose team rallied to make the title game after a 1-3 start, summed it up best when he said: “Our shirt says ‘faith’ and you’ve got to have faith. And my faith dictates it and I’ve come to realize why that faith and that belief is so important.”
So when all was said and done, I got to see seven individual champions crowned and reach the pinnacle of their sport on this level. I saw two teams win state titles and two more come painfully close.
I love my job.
Follow Jon on Twitter: twitter.com/JonEYunt