‘Best feat ever:’ Battle Mountain cross country runner posts epic finish at nationals

On a chilly November afternoon two weeks before Nike Cross Nationals (NXN), Porter Middaugh and Will Brunner marked off a 1-mile loop around the snow-blanketed Eagle-Vail golf course. The agenda for the Battle Mountain runners final ‘man maker’ workout of the year: 5×1-mile repeats with three minutes rest. Fast.


“It was cold,” Middaugh answered. “We just kind of battled each other. Went almost as hard as we could.”

The blood-and-guts “Once a Runner” scene perfectly simulated a wet, windy and cold Dec. 2 morning in Portland, Oregon, where Middaugh once again uncorked the unthinkable.

“I don’t know if it’s sunk in all the way yet,” the future Project Podium triathlete said after finishing sixth out of the top-200 athletes in the U.S. at NXN.

“It’s the best of the best. If you get 200th in this race, you’re doing pretty awesome,” added head coach Rob Parish, who pointed out that roughly 270,000 high school boys compete in cross-country in the U.S.

“It’s not a niche sport,” he said.

Middaugh and Brunner two weeks ago became the first Eagle County male individuals to qualify out of the hyper-competitive Southwest Region (NXR) — one of eight regions which weeds out the top-5 individuals and top-2 teams from between 2,000-3,500 runners into NXN. Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair made it in 2019 en route to a 25th-place national finish. When the Huskies girls team placed third nationally in 2017, program legends Naomi Harding (55th) and Liz Constien (58th) also recorded the best individual national finishes in team history. Having witnessed the top-caliber field multiple times — and Brunner and Middaugh’s exhaustive list of feats up close the last three years — Parish said the trio talked about realistically aiming for the top 25.

“They even would maybe whisper higher than that, but it’s hard to say, ‘where do you fit in the country?'” he said. One thing was for sure: the worse the weather, the better.

The Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland, Oregon contained several large sections of mud and multiple course-width, shin-deep puddles for athletes to navigate. “I think our ingrained trail running translates well to muddy courses like that,” Parish said.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

“We feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations,” the coach stated. “That’s something we preach year-in and year out.”

Seeded as the 37th-best athlete coming into the meet by tullyrunners.com, Middaugh — shoes duck-taped to survive the star-studded stampede and shin-deep, course-width puddles — bolted off the line and into the top group. Crossing the 1-kilometer checkpoint 1.7-seconds off the lead in 14th, he said the initial pace felt comfortable, a surprise considering an inopportune respiratory virus had left him bedridden the Wednesday prior.

“At that point, I was kind of thinking, ‘I’m happy to be here, it’s going to a fun time,'” he said. When his health rebounded Friday, so did his expectations.

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Right before 2-kilometers, he rounded a corner into the top-5.

“At that point I was like, ‘alright, here I go,'” he said. Leaning into his trail running background, Middaugh relished the uneven footing and moved up on every hill. He said he tried to “hold on” along the flats, where he hovered between 13th and 15th throughout the next 2 kilometers.

“I just tried to keep focus on the top-10,” he said.

Criss-crossing the venue to cheer, Parish said he needed to be pinched every time he saw his athletes.

Will Brunner cruises into the finish at Nike Cross Nationals. The two-time Colorado state champion finished 60th overall in 15:59.5.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

“It’s one thing running around Meeker or Columbine or Grand Junction and seeing your guys in the front, but you don’t really expect to see your guys in the front at the biggest race in the country,” he said.

“It’s one of the top things in my coaching career.”

As eventual winner JoJo Jourdon’s surge separated contenders from pretenders over the final kilometer, Middaugh hung onto the back of a 15-person group. Only the most biased observer could have argued the hometown kid had a chance at the top-10 — much less top-6 — when he staggered past the 500-meter to-go mark in 13th. Even Middaugh said he would have been satisfied with 15th at that point. But a deal he’d made with himself regarding those final two 45-degree risers heading into the finishing straight made all the difference.

“No matter how you’re feeling, whether you’re in second or 70th, just hit those hills as hard as you can,” he recalled telling himself before the race. “You know, last high school race.”

With the mud and uneven grass disproportionately stressing every athlete’s aerobic capacity over and against their biomechanics — a clear advantage for the altitude-trained XTERRA prodigy — Middaugh’s drawn-out kick worked wonders.

“People were shedding from that front pack pretty severely,” he said. “I was just able to pick people up and the adrenaline increased with every guy I got.” 

He crossed the line in 15 minutes, 25.2 seconds, nine seconds away from Jourdon. Brunner, who won the Colorado state cross-country meet — a race in which Middaugh finished fourth, was 34 seconds back in 60th. It was a valiant effort for the Vail Mountain School student, who, because his NXN qualification was uncertain until the last second, flew out and raced a Footlocker regional meet seven days prior. The extra travel and 5k took a toll.

“Seeing the guys I was competing with makes me really excited for some indoor and outdoor track,” Middaugh said of his race. The Husky thinks he can run in the low 8:40s for 3200-meters this spring.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

“He would have liked to have been a little further up there,” Parish said of the future Harvard runner.  

For Middaugh, it was the ultimate conclusion to a season in which he ‘progressed’ from third at the Western Slope regional to fourth at state, fifth at NXR and sixth at NXN.

Will Brunner and Porter Middaugh after finishing the Nike Cross Nationals meet. The two were the first boys from Eagle County to qualify for the meet individually. Eagle Valley’s Samantha Blair finished 25th in 2019.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

“We all knew that it was there,” Parish said of his athlete, who at this point seems rivaled only by Mikaela Shiffrin in his ability to make your humble correspondent read like a writer who cried wolf. From his sub-9 two-mile to the second-fastest prep 5k ever run on Colorado soil to stunning XTERRA’s finest, Middaugh’s consistently mind-blowing performances make it hard to definitively state, “this was the best thing ever.”

“Look, this is a once-in-a-million thing,” Parish said.

“It could be the best feat ever for a high school athlete out of Eagle County and we just need to celebrate it.”

Parish, Brunner and Middaugh met with former Husky and current Nike athlete, Olympian Val Constien before the meet. “It puts a lot of things into perspective,” Middaugh said. “It makes it seem possible for a smaller school like Battle Mountain to develop athletes like her.”
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

Winter prep previews: Eagle Valley boys basketball bringing ‘team-first’ theme to 2023-24 season

The Eagle Valley boys basketball squad has always played a team-first brand of basketball. This year, it’s the main storyline.

“Last year’s seniors were very talented and not replaceable,” head coach Justin Brandt said.

“But this year’s team loves and cares for each other better than any team I have coached at Eagle Valley.”

The Devils are 1-0 heading into this weekend’s three-game tournament in Steamboat Springs, which kicks off Thursday against Mitchell at 3 p.m. According to Brandt, the returners have proven able and ready to fill the void left by the graduated Branden Escudero, Max Jaramillo, Gunther Soltvedt and Nikko Von Stralendorff — a core that guided the Devils to an 18-6 record in 2022 and an 11-12 mark last season.

“One big benefit of playing an uptempo style of basketball and playing more players is that our sophomores who contributed last year are coming in as very experienced juniors,” he said, adding that he expects key contributions to come from 10th, 11th and 12th graders this year.

“We have 12 different guys that will play and can fill the box score on any given night.”

The Devils looked thinner during pre-season scrimmages, though, thanks to injuries to Elias Pena (collarbone), Brian Fontana (shoulder), Eli Melzer (wrist) and Tyler Bates (leg). Brandt utilized the opportunity to grant up-and-coming underclassmen extra playing time against high-quality competition. It could come in handy against the small, but competitive 5A Western Slope.

Defending champion Glenwood Springs returns the conference player of the year in Sim Wenger, who is averaging 14.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5 assists per game in his first four contests this year.

“Glenwood is definitely the most athletic team in the conference,” Brandt said of the Demons, who have a new coach in Matt Chilson. Palisade’s star guard Hunter Howard has another year under his belt and will bolster a continually improving Bulldog team. The sophomore is averaging 13.7 points per game so far this year.

“Those two teams will be tough to beat this year, but we are excited to battle with them,” Brandt continued.

Dylan Zoller and Parker Newbanks led the Devils in their home-opening win on Nov. 30. Newbanks hit five 3-pointers as the pair scored 48 of the team’s 71 points. Brandt said he witnessed significant strides from both players, as well as Jonah Medina, during “a productive” off-season.

“We had a lot of athletes put in a big amount of off-season work,” he stated before praising the seniors on his roster.

“(They) are so fun to coach. It is hard to pick out one, but Kaden Kraft and Kevin Hasley are amazing leaders. They act as coaches on the court. Aedan Phalen is just a workhorse on defense. His defensive focus leads the mentality of our team.”

Brandt said the team’s goal is two-fold. On the court, they hope to win the conference. “Off the court, our goal every year is to build young men that will lead, provide and protect in their future communities,” he stated.

“Our program is in a really healthy place right now.”

From Gore Ranger gals to U.S. Alpine Ski Team pals, Part 3: Kaitlin Keane is putting the pieces together

Kaitlin Keane’s U.S. Ski Team profile page indicates a unique hobby.

“I love puzzles,” the second-year D-Team athlete confirmed during a media day interview halfway through the team’s Copper Mountain training camp this November. Completing her daily sudoku at Starbucks is an essential afternoon ritual for the former Ski and Snowboard Club Vail skier. The 19-year-old also looks forward to receiving her traditional birthday and Christmas gift: a specialty wooden jigsaw from Liberty Puzzles in Boulder.

“With regular puzzles, you have to go on color, because the shapes are pretty similar. But these all look so different, so you can also go on shape,” she explained.

“As you get used to it, it’s really fun.” 

Ski-racing fans should probably get used to Keane, who’s been at Copper Mountain since the end of October, putting the pieces together for her 2023-24 season.

A typical day at camp consists of waking up at 5:30 a.m., finishing an on-snow training session by 9, eating, chilling (with puzzles of course), an afternoon gym session, video analysis, dinner and bed. The future Dartmouth athlete hopes the grind will lead to regular podiums on the NorAm circuit, which kicks off this week at Copper Mountain.

“I think for me it would mainly just be to score well, have fun,” the Vail Mountain School graduate said of her season gap-year goals before adding the “ideal” scenario would be to earn a World Cup start via NorAM performances.

“But, I’m not trying to set too high a goal. I just hope it comes.”

Skiing sisterhood

Living in Boston until she was 4, Keane grew up chasing her three ski-racing older brothers.

“I’ve always wanted to be like them,” she said of her siblings, two of whom competed for Dartmouth.

Keane originally did gymnastics as well, but chose skiing when she was 9.

“I just loved ski racing,” she said. “I honestly am so entertained on the same run everyday, skiing gates. Like, I love freeskiing, but I also don’t get bored when we’re doing the same thing over and over.”

Keane burst onto the U.S. team’s radar with a first and second in back-to-back GS races at Copper Mountain in Dec. 2021. She finished 48th in the 2022 NorAm overall, as well as 30th in GS and 20th in the super-G standings. Four top-10 finishes last year bumped those numbers up to 28th, 22nd and 10th, respectively.

When asked about her specialty now, Keane said, “It really depends on the day. Sometimes I am a slalom skier, sometimes I’m a speed skier, but GS is the most consistent for me.”

Keane said her first D-Team campaign forced her to self-analyze.

“I’ve learned I don’t do well under a lot of pressure. Last year was really tough for me because I felt like everyone was caring what I was doing, even though that’s not really the case,” she said.

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“I found that the year before, I was just having a lot of fun with it — I was just enjoying it — versus being worried about the results. I was more focused on the process rather than the result.”

Keane’s final race of the 2023 season was a sixth-place super-G finish at U.S. Nationals on April 2. But ripping down the Sun Valley slope, Keane could tell something was off.

“I’m coming around the last bend, and my pole is not clicked into my gloves, so I was looking at it,” she recalled. “Suddenly my edge caught and I crashed really hard through the finish.”

Kaitlin Keane’s skis fly into the air as she crashes while competing in the women’s super-G during the U.S. Alpine Ski Championships last April.
John Locher/AP photo

The resultant full MCL tear, partial ACL tear and small tibia-fibula fracture on one leg and high-ankle sprain on the other sidelined Keane for four months. Her off-season activities were limited. Hobbling around with a boot on one leg and a knee brace on the other, she eventually progressed to playing a “little bit” of pickleball.

“Even though I wasn’t supposed to,” she said sheepishly.

Coming into the NorAm openers, Keane said she now “feels pretty strong.”

Emma Resnick, another former Vail Mountain School graduate on the D-Team, said she’s heard from multiple women on the team that Keane has made a point of checking in and cheering for her teammates throughout her own rehab.

“Even though maybe she was struggling herself, she was always supportive of everyone else,” Resnick said.

Kaitlin Keane (left) supports her teammates while donning a knee brace on one leg and a boot on the other.
Kaitlin Keane/Courtesy photo

Resnick characterized the D-Team’s culture as familial, with Keane winning the award for “fun aunt” and team chef.

“Banana bread all the time,” the fellow former Gore Ranger laughed before recalling some VMS memories.

“She’s a genius,” Resnick said of Keane. “She was always in our math classes, and we were in the advanced ones, so she was just, like, really ahead of our time.”

The pair grew close during summer Park City camps and the fall prep period, Resnick said.

“It’s been really fun kind of having these girls come through,” she said regarding the recent slew of VMS/SSCV ladies who’ve joined the D-Team — Keane and Kjersti Moritz in 2022 and Liv Moritz in 2023.

“We’ve grown up in the same valley, we’ve had the same community aspect, we’ve kind of gone through and grown up with the same values being instilled with us.” 

Former Ski and Snowboard Club Vail and Vail Mountain School athletes Emma Resnick and Kaitlin Keane pose for a picture during a fall training camp.
Kaitlin Keane/Courtesy photo

Copper’s collegiate atmosphere has what speed skier Kyle Negomir called a “first-day-of-school-feel.” Dorms and term papers are replaced by ski-in condos and technique analysis — but there’s still books, communal dining service … and space for shenanigans.

“What I love about Copper this time of year is everyone is here,” Resnick stated. “You get to see all the teams, see old friends, we have dinner together — we talk about everything.”

The D-Team’s book club recently mowed through Kristin Hannah’s historical fiction, “The Nightengale” and is currently deep into Phil Knight’s memoir, “Shoe Dog.” The team spent a recent evening playing a hilarious, but subtly competitive ‘name game.’ Before Thanksgiving, they held their annual gingerbread house competition between all members of the women’s team.

“You don’t make a generic gingerbread house,” joked Keane, who constructed a Harry Potter-themed home for the contest, which enlists male athletes, techs and coaches for voting purposes.

“Emma’s was an absolute disaster, but she thinks it’s good,” Keane continued, adding that the bond she has with her teammates has given her the sisters she always wanted. 

“Kaitlin has three brothers,” Resnick said before turning to smile at her teammate. “But we’re all her sisters now.” 

From Gore Ranger gals to U.S. Alpine Ski Team pals, Part 2: Liv Moritz stars on the pitch and the slope

Call it twin telepathy — or maybe it’s just genuine honesty.

When asked if her successful freshman soccer season at the University of Denver this fall came as a surprise, Liv Moritz’s answer was identical to her sister’s response: Yes.

“It surprised me a little bit because we’re from the mountains and you don’t really play soccer up here, so I thought compared to all the city girls, she would have had a harder time,” twin sister Kjersti said from a training camp at Copper Mountain, her November home as a second-year U.S. Alpine Ski Team D-Team member.

Meanwhile, back in Denver wrapping up classes before Thanksgiving break, Liv, a first-year D-Team member emailed, “Yes, I definitely surprised myself!”

The Summit League Newcomer of the Year led her team in shots on goal and finished tied for second in the conference in points (18) and fourth in goals (7).

“Going into the season, I was not expecting to play,” she said.

“So, my mindset going in was to challenge myself with a higher level of soccer and try my best to improve little by little every day.”

With the NorAm speed season starting at Copper Mountain this week and the tech calendar kicking off at Mont Tremblant, Quebec, on Dec. 13-16, Moritz — one of five Vail Mountain School and Ski and Snowboard Club Vail alumni on the U.S. women’s team this winter — hopes to keep the momentum going as she trades Pioneer colors on the pitch for stars and stripes on the slope.

“This entire season, I want to have moments that I can say I am proud of,” the 19-year-old said. “For this to be a successful campaign, I’d say I would continue to enjoy both sports as much as I always have, and continue to improve.”

Switching the focus to the slopes

Steven Kornreich/Courtesy photo
Liv Moritz competes in the slalom at the U.S. Alpine Ski National Championships at Sun Valley Resort last spring.
Steven Kornreich/Courtesy photo

Moritz said she’s grown since leading VMS to a 13-2 record last spring. The dual-sport D-I athlete made a splash in her first college game, scoring the Pioneer’s only goal in a 1-1 tie against Colorado State.

“I feel like I’ve just been able to push myself to do things I didn’t know I could do,” Moritz said, adding that her “intensity” and “drive to improve” increased each day of the season.

“I felt like I was constantly trying to prove to myself that I could do hard things I’ve never been able to do in the past.”

Moritz racked up a Summit League offensive player of the week award after notching a goal in a 6-0 win over Colgate on Sept. 7 and tallying both Pioneer scores in a 2-0 win over Oregon on Sept. 10. She was also ranked 34th in the Top Drawer Women’s Soccer Top-100 Freshman midseason team as the Pioneers earned the No. 1 seed in the Summit League tournament.

“One of our early-season goals was to make other teams never want to play us because we were going to be the most fit, most relentless and driven team on the field,” Moritz said.

Despite checking those and other team targets, the Pioneers ended up losing to No. 4 Omaha in a semifinal-round shootout.

“Obviously, we wanted to make the NCAA tournament, but any team is beatable on any day,” Moritz reflected. “We unfortunately felt like the result didn’t reflect how the game went or how we played, but in the end, it’s about scoring goals.”

Moritz transitioned to skiing a week after the final buzzer. “Luckily, Loveland has been getting some snow so I was able to get on snow pretty soon after,” she said.

She restarted her ski-specific strength regimen in the gym and got on snow at Loveland. Heading into Thanksgiving week, she’d accumulated six days of slalom practice and two GS sessions.

“When I just started skiing, it felt like my skis were more in control of me,” she said.

“My body is still pretty trained for running, and skiing requires a whole different set of muscles and movement patterns, but I’m excited to get adjusted.”

Moritz joined the D-Team in Park City in June, lifting with skiers in the morning and adding on DU-prescribed soccer workouts afterward. She said much of her recent six-week break from school has been spent with the D-Team again at Copper.

“On snow in general, my personal objectives have been to adjust to skiing so that I feel like I can make changes to my skiing in any way,” she said of her late-November goals.

Moritz, whose mom was a skier and rugby player at Dartmouth and dad played soccer and skied at the University of Colorado, said she plans to race with the U.S. Ski Team at NorAms and compete for DU at university races in-between.

She finished last season on a high note, placing third, fifth and 10th in the national championship super-G, slalom and giant slalom respectively. She also took second-place in the slalom at the Whistler NorAm on March 28. This year, her goals are to make the world junior team and “embrace every part of ski racing, including all of the struggle.”

“I’ve always struggled with burnout and balance,” she said. “I know there’s not a ton of consistency in this sport, so my challenge for myself is to embrace the struggle so I can grow and learn.”

And perhaps surprise herself — and others — a little more.

FIS file: Liv Moritz

NorAm Cup overall finishes


  • Overall – 87th
  • Slalom – 37th
  • Giants slalom – 73rd


  • Overall – 18th
  • Slalom – 10th
  • Giant slalom – 19th
  • Super-G – 13th

NorAm Cup podiums: 1 – second-place slalom in Whistler, CAN on March 28

Prep notebook: Huskies defeat Regis Groff, fall to Niwot at weekend tournament

The Battle Mountain girls basketball team split a pair of weekend tournament games on Friday and Saturday. The Huskies defeated Regis Groff 32-27 on Friday at Niwot High School before falling to the tournament hosts 42-38 in overtime on Saturday.

Anna Glass led the Huskies with seven points against a physical Regis Groff squad, and Izzy Zastrow and Ari Gill each chipped in six apiece.

The Huskies were up 12-5 after the first quarter.

“We jumped out to an early lead and never looked back,” stated head coach Daniel Caballero. “We faced some adversity in the second half with a few mistakes, but we were able to get some younger players valuable experience that we believe will only help out depth in the long term.”

In Saturday’s game against Niwot, the Huskies trailed 21-13 at halftime and were behind by as much as 13 points in the second half. Battle Mountain stormed back, however, outscoring the Cougars 14-7 in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

Izzy Kovacik and Ashley Rodriguez each tallied 10 points for Battle Mountain, which lost a few starters to foul trouble in the final minutes.

“Hats off to my bench,” Caballero said. “(They) played huge in the fourth quarter and overtime.”

Elle Glendining, Zastrow and Gill each scored five points in the four-point loss.

“I am super proud of my girls for finding a way to compete until the final whistle,” Caballero concluded. “We do not quit.”

Battle Mountain (1-2) travels to Thomas Jefferson (0-1) on Tuesday.

The Battle Mountain boys basketball team lost to Denver North 64-58 on Thursday and Niwot 52-45 on Friday. The Huskies are at Praire View on Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Vail Mountain boys take two at Vail Christian tournament

Charlie Vidal moves the ball up court and looks for an open teammate during the Gore Rangers game last Friday against Clear Creek.
Sloane Thompson/Courtesy photo

The Vail Mountain School boys basketball team defeated Clear Creek 44-40 on Friday and Lake County 58-44 on Saturday to improve to 2-1 on the season. The Gore Rangers lost their season opener against Coal Ridge on Nov. 28.

Christian Mills wins the opening tip against Clear Creek on Dec. 1.
Sloane Thompson/Courtesy photo

The Gore Rangers host North Fork on Friday in their first home game of the year.

Vail Christian jumped out to a 20-7 first-quarter lead on Saturday against Clear Creek en route to a 56-43 win. The victory was the Saint’s first of the year after falling to Lake County 68-48 on Friday. Vail Christian (1-1) hosts Plateau Valley on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Tiki Jaffe scores a lay-up in Vail Mountain’s win over Clear Creek on Friday at Vail Christian High School.
Sloane Thompson/Courtesy photo

Battle Mountain hockey drops first two games of the year

Battle Mountain lost its first two games of the hockey season over the weekend. The Huskies fell to Chaparral 5-0 on Friday and Colorado Academy 4-2 on Saturday. They’ll look to get into the win column at home against Lewis-Palmer on Friday at 5:15 p.m.

Winter prep sports previews: Battle Mountain girls basketball team embraces underdog status

Summarizing the main difference between the last year’s Battle Mountain girls basketball team and the one opening its season this weekend requires only one word: experience.

“Last year, you know we took our lumps, but we had a really young team,” second-year coach Daniel Caballero said regarding a squad that went 4-16 in 2022-23. That pack of Huskies had just four girls enter the year with varsity experience — and only one with significant playing time. This year, Caballero has 11 veterans returning.

“We really laid the foundation last year and talked about the principles we wanted to establish as a program, the work ethic we needed and the focus that had to be brought every night,” Caballero said. “Not only in games, but practices.”

Two things Caballero was pleased to see his players more seriously weave into the team’s cultural fabric during his first year at the helm were effort and work ethic.

“Teams can easily pack it up when they’re down by 15 or 20 and say it just wasn’t our night. But that’s not the mentality this team has. On a nightly basis we showed that,” the coach said, pointing to the Huskies mid-season efforts against Durango and Glenwood Springs, two teams that made state tournament final four runs.

“We instilled that whatever it takes, we’re going to put in the work, and on a nightly basis, we’re never going to give up,” he continued. “That’s everything we preached over the summer and since we started in November.”

A healthy contingent of eager athletes have been meeting to work on their game since the team’s voluntary open gyms began last March, Caballero said. The coach felt the team “held its own” against Front Range and Western Slope competition during the Adams State University summer team camp. Since tryouts started 2 1/2 weeks ago, Izzy Zastrow and Elle Glendinning are two players whose growth has grabbed the coach’s attention.

“She’s improved immensely on the offensive side,” he said of Glendinning before adding that Zastrow has improved her jump shot.

“She was already very difficult for some of the guards in our league,” Caballero said of the junior, who was often tasked with guarding the Western Slope’s best players — Glenwood Spring’s Joslyn Spires or Eagle Valley’s Josie Fitzsimmons — during her sophomore campaign. 

“Someone that’s super long and athletic, a multi-sport athlete — she did an incredible job (this off-season).”

The Huskies also added transfer Ari Gill from South Carolina, a player Caballero has been impressed with during the first few weeks of practice.

“We return a super deep team, so I’m excited for that,” he said.

Last year, Caballero intended to ground the youthful team’s identity in its athleticism, but inexperience stalled those plans. Thanks to the team’s off-season work, he’s expecting this year to be different.

“We’ve had girls in the gym working on that, working on pushing tempo, hitting shots in transition,” he said before qualifying his approach by stating that “everything is going to start on the defensive side of the ball.”

“We’re going to use our length and athleticism in the zone and the full-court press. We’re going to try and make some chaos happen, and we’re going to get out and run.”

Senior captain Alessandra Caballero — the coach’s younger sister — is the court general.

Alessandra Caballero is a senior point guard and captain for Battle Mountain. She led the team in assists as a junior and averaged 1.6 steals per game.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“She knows where we want to push, when we don’t want to push,” the coach stated. “So if we can get her those interceptions in the full court press, then we can start and run and go from there.”

From a league standpoint, Caballero thinks it’s probably once again Glenwood Springs’ to lose. The Demons have gone 12-0, 8-2, 12-0 and 6-0 in league play the last four seasons.

“Rhonda does everything in her power to make sure those girls are ready whether they return a lot of experience or not,” Caballero said of longtime Demons coach Rhonda Moser. Caballero thinks Eagle Valley and Palisade will be tough matchups as well. The Huskies open their league calendar against the Devils on Jan. 23.

“It definitely adds some motivation — the girls are always motivated for that one — but you know, the way we’re taking it is one game at a time,” Caballero said.

“It’s one of those things where I have the utmost respect for Vinny and everything he’s done to change the culture and the mentality of Eagle Valley basketball.”

Caballero said the team has embraced their underdog status, but is shooting for a playoff game this season.

“The girls want to win. They’re competitive. We’re fine knowing teams may overlook us, but that doesn’t change who we are or what our mentality is,” he said. “We’re always going to bring 100% effort, regardless of what the score is.” 


Eagle Valley girls and boys basketball teams topple Basalt for season-opening victories

The Eagle Valley girls and boys basketball teams opened the season with a pair of victories over Basalt on Thursday night in Gypsum. Justin Brandt’s boys team defeated the Longhorns 71-58 and Vinny Cisneros’ girls squad won by a score of 72-19.

“It was a complete and total team effort. The defense was stifling and the offense was efficient,” Cisneros stated after the Devils’ first season-opening win at home in seven years.

Josie Fitzsimmons led all scorers with 16 points, but Cisneros said the big surprise of the night was Addison Mandeville’s 15 off the bench. The Devils had nine players score in total, with Abby Talbot and Zakia Shreeve adding 11 and 9 points respectively.

The boys game didn’t have quite as much Devils dominance, especially at the start. Basalt jumped out to a 10-0 lead with two minutes remaining in the first quarter.

“We showed no sign of fear,” Brandt said, adding that the Devils quickly “turned the game around on the scoring backs of Parker Newbanks and Dylan Zoller.” The pair scored 21 of the team’s 31 first-half points as the Devils went into the break with a five point lead. Newbanks tallied five triples to end the game with 26 points while Zoller added 22.

Brandt praised the play of Aedan Phelan and Brian Fontana on the full-court press and Kaden Kraft and Tyler Bates in locking down Basalt’s best player, Elias Schendler. Schendler scored 10 first-half points but only mustered three in the second as the Devils defense wore out the Longhorns.

Dylan Zoller drives through the lane for a score during Eagle Valley’s 71-58 win over Basalt on Thursday in Gypsum.
Connie Melzer/Courtesy photo

The Eagle Valley boys travel to Mitchell on Dec. 7 while the girls will look to keep the momentum going at Moffat County on Dec. 2.

“We hope to continue to build on our strong start,” Cisneros said. 

Huskies fall to Denver North

Battle Mountain opened its 2023-24 campaign with a tough 34-22 loss to Denver North at a tournament in Niwot on Thursday.

Head coach Daniel Caballero was proud of his team for “setting the defensive tone” in the first half by taking two charges. The Huskies led the Western Slope in charges taken last season.

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“But we struggled to get into the rhythm of our offense against their lanky, athletic guards,” he said. “They are a well-coached team, so hats off to them.”

The Vikings’ largest lead was 19-7 early in the second quarter, but the Huskies battled back to make it 23-18 with seven minutes remaining in the contest. Denver North found additional separation in the final minute when Battle Mountain started gambling for steals. Izzy Kovacik led the team with seven points. Anna Glass and Elle Glendining added five and four, respectively. Battle Mountain plays Regis Groff on Friday.

Huskies, Saints and Devils fill fall sports Western Slope all-league teams

4A Western Slope girls cross-country

Lindsey Whitton led the Huskies to a sixth-place finish at the state cross-country meet this October.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

First team

  • Ella Hagen, junior, Summit
  • Lindsey Whitton, senior, Battle Mountain
  • Addie Beuche, senior, Battle Mountain
  • Presley Smith, senior, Battle Mountain
  • Avery Eytel, junior, Summit
  • Lily Benbow, freshman, Summit
  • Ellie Shroll, senior, Eagle Valley

Local athletes receiving honorable mention: Ruthie Demino, sophomore, Battle Mountain and Ginger Reilly, junior, Eagle Valley.

Coach of the Year: Rob Parish, Battle Mountain

4A Western Slope boys cross-country

First team

  • Will Brunner, senior, Battle Mountain
  • Porter Middaugh, senior, Battle Mountain
  • Josh Shriver, junior, Summit
  • Cooper Filmore, senior, Eagle Valley
  • Jay McDonald, freshman, Summit
  • Armando Fuentes, senior, Eagle Valley
  • Tyler Blair, sophomore, Eagle Valley

Local athletes receiving honorable mention include Eagle Valley’s Jackson Filmore, Jack Packert and Eric Asselin and Battle Mountain’s John McAbee.

Coach of the Year: Melinda Brandt, Eagle Valley

Boys soccer

Battle Mountain’s Daniel Sanchez and Alexis Dozal were both named to the 4A Western Slope all-league team after leading Battle Mountain to a state title this fall.
Brent W. New/Courtesy photo

4A Western Slope

First team

  • Alexis Dozal, Battle Mountain
  • Jacob Methvin, Battle Mountain
  • Jack Ruiz, Battle Mountain
  • Zeke Alvarez, Battle Mountain
  • Will Hayden, Steamboat Springs
  • Charlie Reisman, Steamboat Springs
  • Jose Chavez, Glenwood Springs
  • Luis Venegas, Glenwood Springs
  • Ivan Macias, Eagle Valley
  • Daniel Sanchez, Battle Mountain
  • Reece Bosgraaf, Summit

Locals receiving honorable mention: Battle Mountain’s Leo Martinez and Eagle Valley’s Bernabe Lopez and Will Gerdes.

2A Western Slope (only Vail Mountain School athletes listed)

First team

  • Rutley Heinemann, junior
  • Drew Johnson, junior

Honorable Mention

  • Alex Krupka, senior
  • Will Roy, senior
  • Evan Sapp, Senior
  • Hunter Iverson, junior

Girls volleyball

Three Saints, including senior Logan Nobrega, were named to the 2A Western Slope all-league first-team after guiding Vail Christian to an 18-5 overall record and 14-0 league mark.
Heidi Cofelice/Courtesy photo

2A Western Slope (only Vail Christian and Vail Mountain School athletes listed)

First team

  • Jessie Allen, Vail Christian, junior
  • Grace Armstrong, Vail Christian, senior
  • Logan Nobrega, Vail Christian, senior

Honorable mention

  • Hannah Leonard, Vail Christian, senior
  • Mary McClarrinon, Vail Christian, freshman
  • Maggie Rothenberg, Vail Christian, senior
  • Leslie Hernandez, Vail Mountain School, senior

Coach of the Year: Britney Branson, Vail Christian

4A Western Slope

First team

  • Addie Ritterbush, Palisade, junior (Player of the Year)
  • Ione Pedersen, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Sabrina Landman, Palisade, junior
  • Hannah Crowe, Summit, senior
  • Talia Crawford, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Braeleigh MacAskill, Palisade, junior
  • Rilyn Goluba, Glenwood Springs, senior
  • Layla Hammond ,Steamboat Springs, senior
  • Lily Suman, Battle Mountain, senior
  • Ava Geiman, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Ashley Jones, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Ava Walitt, Palisade, senior

Honorable mention

  • Kyra Birch, Palisade, junior
  • Lauren Hardin, Palisade, senior
  • Taylor Hooper, Eagle Valley, junior
  • Sierra Durloo, Summit, senior
  • Chloe Nicholds, Summit, senior
  • Karlyn Frazier, Summit, senior
  • Keena Shikverg, Battle Mountain, sophomore
  • Molly Kessenich, Battle Mountain, senior
  • Amanda Madden, Glenwood Springs, junior
  • Zoey Hyatt-Worley, Glenwood Springs, senior
  • Grace O’Reilly, Steamboat Springs, senior


Kevin Hasley sprints to the endzone after an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown set the tone in the second quarter for Eagle Valley against Glenwood Springs earlier this season. The Devils beat the Demons 19-16 in that game. Hasley was one of five Devils who received all-league honors.
Ben Roof/Courtesy photo

A-8 League 2 (only Vail Christian athletes are listed)

First team

  • Will Neumann, senior
  • Maddox Shull, junior
  • Christian Mills, senior
  • Asher Morris, sophomore
  • Ben Harrison, senior

Honorable Mention

  • Hunter Gilbert, junior                        
  • Ian Salyer, junior                                
  • Jack Pryor, senior

4A Western Slope

First team (only Eagle Valley athletes are listed)

  • Kevin Hasley, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Caiven Lake, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Noah Denise, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Keaden Lake, Eagle Valley, sophomore

Honorable mention

  • Elias Pena, Eagle Valley, senior
  • Camden Carle, Eagle Valley, senior


Winter prep previews: Eagle Valley girls basketball looks to build on second-place Western Slope finish

The Eagle Valley girls basketball team has gone 2-11, 8-16 and 10-11 in each of the last three seasons. Head coach Vinny Cisneros said the goal is to continue climbing up the win-loss ladder.

“We’re looking to continue that streak that gets above .500 this year,” he stated in advance of the 2023-24 season, which begins at home against Basalt on Nov. 30.

“Just like every year, our main goal is to compete for the league title, which is never an easy task when the road to the championship always runs through Glenwood Springs.”

The Demons have gone 12-0 and 6-0 in league-play the last two seasons. Last year, their fourth-straight league title catapulted them into a final four run at the state tournament. Even though Rhonda Moser’s squad lost six seniors, Cisneros thinks they’ll reload well.

“Moser is a legend, so you know she’ll field a competitive squad,” he said, adding that he expects Palisade, which finished 2-4 in the league and 7-16 overall, to be much improved. In their second year of 5A reclassification, the Devils went 4-2 in league-play to finish second in the Western Slope. They return six seniors and three juniors from that squad.

“With that experience I expect to see much better efficiency in terms of offensive production, limiting turnovers and an overall growth on our confidence,” Cisneros.

The Devils will be led by senior Josie Fitzsimmons, who averaged 12.6 points per game last season and 9.9 as a sophomore in 2021.

Josie Fitzsimmons has been the leading scorer for Eagle Valley each of the last two seasons.
Nate Peterson/Vail Daily

“She has relentless competitive drive that sets the tone for our team,” Cisneros said of the three-year starter. The fourth-year coach expects the guard to get plenty of help from juniors Abby Talbot and Zakia Shreeve, whom he expects to contribute on both ends of the floor. “I expect (them) to be two of the premier two-way players in our league,” he said. 

Over the summer, the Devils played in two tournaments, finishing 3-3 against southwest Colorado and Front Range competition. “(We) were pleased with the experience and the chemistry that we developed,” Cisneros said.

With only four teams in the Western Slope, each league game matters. Still, one probably stands out.

“Obviously, the players are always extra motivated when we play the Huskies,” Cisneros said of the Jan. 23 and Feb. 5 contests. “And I know coach Caballero is going to have his team ready to compete.” 

Battle Mountain runner qualifies for Nike national cross country meet

Get some swag.

That was the gist of Rob Parish’s pre-meet motivational speech to Will Brunner and Porter Middaugh at last Saturday’s NXR Southwest regional championships in Mesa, Arizona. For the 22 teams and 50 individuals fast enough to qualify from each of the country’s eight regions to Nike Cross Nationals (NXN) in Portland, Oregon, next month, the apparel giant provides spikes, shorts, singlets and more.

The coaches? They get one humble long-sleeve.

“I don’t bring them out much,” Parish said of the souvenirs from 2017 and 2018 Lady Huskies’ team national trips. Before Saturday’s race, he gave one to Brunner and the other to Middaugh. Then he told them, “now, go get your own.”

The dynamic duo answered the challenge.

“Kind of marked that on the calendar at the beginning of the season — knew we were probably fit enough for that to be a reasonable goal — so, super happy with how it played out,” said Middaugh, who covered the muddy Coyote Run Golf Course 5K in 14 minutes, 54.43 seconds, placing fifth out of 250 championship-field entrants. Brunner (15:03.39) rallied from 12th to seventh in the final half-mile.

The top-five individuals not on national-qualifying teams automatically advanced. Nationally-ranked No. 1 American Fork took the team win and their best runner, Daniel Simmons, won the individual crown. Parrish said it’s “highly likely” Brunner will join him on Dec. 2 because Riverton XC Club — which took third in the team race — is expected to be awarded an at-large team bid, and their number one runner placed third overall. The official national field won’t be determined until next weekend.

“Crossing the fingers for Will,” Middaugh said of his teammate, who won the 4A state title on Oct. 28. “I think he has a pretty solid shot.” 

Even though dozens of Huskies have gone on to NCAA DI careers, none — not even 2021 Olympian Val Constien — have ever qualified for NXN individually.

“It’s incredibly difficult. It’s so competitive,” Parish said. “I would even say, they could stand to add some more individuals.”

Pealing back the results of the most-competitive championship field proves Parish’s point. The top runner for national-No. 15 Niwot ran an impressive 15:17.82 — but only mustered 16th. Jacob Sushinsky, the state runner-up to Brunner, was less than four seconds back, but finished 24th, one spot ahead of the 5A state champion, Brennan Draper. Plus, the NXR Southwest meet also featured one ‘small school,’ two ‘medium school’ and three ‘large school’ races, each with between 150 and 410 athletes — for both genders.

“There’s good runners all over the country, but the Southwest Region is one of the best individual and team regions in the country,” Parish continued.

“If you’re top five in the Southwest, I would think you have a good chance of being in the top 20 in the country.”

Aware of the depth, Parish advised his pupils to “establish themselves near the front” early on.

“We got out quick,” Middaugh shared before adding, “the pace kind of stalled for that first mile” as the presumptive favorite, Simmons, hung back.

“Everybody kind of looked around at each other,” described Middaugh, who used the opportunity to slide into the the top three and even took the lead at various points. When the American Fork star, also ranked No. 1 in the U.S. individually surged, the peloton’s pace “picked up pretty severely” Middaugh said. The future Project Podium triathlete locked into the breakaway group of five.

“In the third mile, it was looking pretty good for Porter,” Parish said, but Brunner “looked tired,” in drifting to 12th. With his season-long goal hanging in the balance, Middaugh said he was still running “pretty scared” in the final stretches.

“I was just trying to push up the whole race and not worry what was behind me,” he said. Meanwhile, Brunner blew past five runners in the final 500 meters or so.

“He just had a monster kick, and I mean, we’ve seen that from him before,” the coach said. 

Simmons crossed first (14:41.13) with Joseph Jourdon (14:51.06), Samuel Ghiz (14:53.65), Austin Westfall (14:54.25), Middaugh, Kyle Steadman (14:55.93) and Brunner following eight seconds later.

Seven Battle Mountain girls competed at NXR Southwest last weekend. Lindsey Whitton raced the championship division and six others earned a seventh-place team finish in the small-school division.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

Parish said abnormally wet conditions made those times equally if not more impressive than the 14:38 and 14:47 Middaugh and Brunner respectively ran earlier in the season.

“Their times are unbelievable for how nasty it was,” he said. “It was a total mud fest by the time they got to it.” 

Middaugh said it might have been his best race ever, even better than the aforementioned Warrior Classic effort, which was two seconds from being the fastest prep 5k ever run on Colorado soil.

“I think so,” he said. “Just with the amount of competition in the race and the poise I needed to stay in the top five.” More importantly, it served as redemption for his fourth-place finish at state.

“I was definitely not super happy with the state race. I definitely had a little more to show than that,” he said. “So, got done, went right back to work for I think two of my best weeks of training and then another week of resting and tapering leading into this race. Definitely had (state) in mind — didn’t want to end on a low note, so, happy I had this one.”

 He said the result hasn’t changed his commitment to triathlon, but he views the national meet at Glendoveer Golf Course on Dec. 2, as a “great opportunity.”

“I’m really excited about it. I’m also super excited to get into the tri training shortly after that,” he said. “I feel good. I think I’m the most motivated I’ve been all season. Obviously a little bit of fatigue in there, but I’ll have plenty of time to rest up.”

When asked about his goal for the meet, he answered, “It’s tough to gauge. Anything can happen for sure. … I think I would walk away feeling really, really proud with a top 10.”

Lindsey Whitton (18:50) finished 79th as the only Husky in the girls championship race, while the Battle Mountain team placed seventh out of 24 teams in the girls small-school division. Addie Beuche (19:54) led the way in 21st out of 250 runners. Parish was pleased with underclassmen Ruthie Demino (49th, 20:33) and Snow Swihart (58th, 20:48).

From left: Porter Middaugh, Nate Beuche, John McAbee, Sawyer Blair and Will Brunner at NXR Southwest in Mesa, Arizona last Saturday.
Rob Parish/Courtesy photo

“It was nice to see the next generation of girls assert themselves,” she said. 

Kira Hower (110th, 22:04), Bella Williams (139, 22:57) and Coco Boock (236, 26:58) also competed and John McAbee (64, 17:25), Nate Beuche (83rd, 17:39) and Sawyer Blair (136th, 18:11) ran alongside 409 other athletes in the boys small-school division.

Thus, with daylight waning and winter sports starting, cross-country continues.

“The kids sometimes say, ‘cross-country, it never ends,'” Parish laughed. “I think it is a testament to their work ethic and determination. You always talk about running your best in October and November, but it doesn’t always work that way. All the kids — their steadiness to the plan — is so they can hit it when it matters the most.”