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Winter sports prep previews: Wilson takes over for Battle Mountain hockey

Battle Mountain might have a new head coach, but its winning tradition isn’t expected to go anywhere.

“The Battle Mountain High School ice hockey teams (varsity and junior varsity) are hopeful for a competitive and entertaining season for our community,” new head coach George Wilson stated in an email in advance of the 2022-23 campaign. “We are focused on continuing the winning tradition since I started with the team in 2018.”

From left, Declan Miner, Jensen Rawlings and Scott Suhadolink share a moment with the state-championship trophy before the parade in Eagle back in 2021.
Chris Dillmann/Vail Daily

Wilson takes over for Derek Byron, who led the Huskies to a 9-1 Mountain League mark and 14-7 overall record last season. The No. 2-seeded Huskies eventually fell in the 4A state semifinal 3-1 to No. 3 Colorado Academy. In 2021, Byron guided the Huskies to their first state title with a 5-4 overtime win over Crested Butte. For the curious stat junkies out there, Battle Mountain has also lost two state title games (2002 and 2008) in its history.

Wilson said the team’s goal heading into 2022-2023 is to defend the league title and return to the state frozen four. They’ll have to do so without graduated captain center Kyle Parliament, and assistant captains, defenseman Carter Large and goalie Logan Gremmer. Wilson said the returners are a talented bunch, however, starting with first-line center Nate Bishop.

The Huskies will be without Kyle Parliament, shown scoring a goal in last year’s state quarterfinal, in 2022-2023.
Thomas Green/Courtesy photo

“He will play a key role in our power play,” Wilson stated. “Nate has been on the varsity team and grown into a natural leader.” Providing support for Bishop will be assistant captain Declan Kelly. “His speed and hockey intelligence will be a strong impact for the team,” Wilson noted of the junior center.

Though he’s a defenseman, Wilson described Scott Suhadolink as someone who “can rush into the offensive zone and set up opportunities for the team.” Alongside Suhadolink is assistant captain Ollie Grems.

“He’s a shutdown defenseman that will play a large role in keeping opponents out of our defensive zone,” Wilson said of the senior. “He is an intelligent player that knows how to break the puck out and find opportunities to create offense.”

Veteran Kaia Borski will take over Gremmer in the net. Wilson said Borski has developed into a strong player over her three years on the team. “She is a game-changer and we have a lot of confidence playing in front of her,” the coach stated.

Over the off-season, Wilson said juniors Colin Spaeth and Trevyn Delong made strides and could be poised for breakout seasons.

“He is a big and strong presence on the ice; he’s improved his overall speed and scoring,” the coach said of Delong. Of Spaeth, Wilson added, “(He) has taken his game to the next level. He has improved his speed and physical play (and) that will contribute a lot to the team.”

Talent and skill-development are just part of the equation, though. As Wilson takes the reins, he knows overall environment is important, too.

“The Battle Mountain ice hockey team is to have a positive team culture with strong values,” he said. “Everyone is on board with developing a supportive team that is willing to help each other along with helping the junior varsity team develop for future teams.”

In order to reach the state semifinals — or further — the Huskies know they’ll need continued defensive growth as they learn and implement a new system designed to limit shots in front of Borski. Offensively, Wilson expects to see more improvement in stretching the ice and finding speed through the neutral zone.

“Our creative play in the offensive zone and power play will produce scoring opportunities and a lot of pressure on our opponents,” he said.

Senior-heavy Steamboat Springs, led by Andrew Kempers, Landon Ripley and Landon Smith, appear to be early league favorites; the Sailor’s games (Jan. 28 and Feb. 4) have been proverbially circled on the Battle Mountain athletes’ calendars. Another anticipated battle will be against rival Crested Butte. Wilson said everyone is also looking forward to a new opponent this season in Durango, a game that is yet to be scheduled.

“Glenwood Springs and Summit appear to also be strong this season,” the coach added. “It will be a battle for the Mountain 4A title.”

Wilson concluded by saying, “The coaching staff is excited to get the season started and the players will be ready to get going the first weekend in December.”

Alumni in Action: Diemar competes at women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship

Courtney Diemar, a former Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy and Battle Mountain High School student, competed at the women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championships on Nov. 12 for the University of Denver in Tempe, Arizona. Diemar was the sixth-fastest on her team, placing 34th overall in 1 hour, 10 minutes and 32 seconds.

Her sister, Hayley Diemar, who was a state qualifier for the Battle Mountain Nordic ski team and Glenwood Springs swim team as well as a varsity track and cross-country runner, is a junior at the University of San Francisco, which placed second at last year’s collegiate championships. Hayley has been unable to compete this season due to illness, preventing a sister showdown in Tempe.

Arizona State won the team title as the University of Denver finished in third.

Women’s triathlon became an NCAA emerging sport — sports recognized by the NCAA for the purpose of exploring new sports and grow participation opportunities for female student-athletes — in 2014. Emerging sports are given a 10-year window to demonstrate “sustainability and success at the NCAA level” meaning it’s recognized by the NCAA for the purpose of exploring new sports and growing participation opportunities for female student-athletes. Until women’s triathlon is given NCAA championship status, the national championship cannot contain the words “NCAA” and is technically called the Women’s Collegiate Triathlon National Championship.

In order to achieve NCAA championship status for Division I and II, there must be a minimum of 40 varsity NCAA programs for the specific sport, while only 28 teams are required for Division III NCAA championship status. This fall, California State Polytechnic University, Humboldt became the 40th school to offer the sport, meaning the steps left to take for triathlon to become a full-fledged NCAA championship event involve mainly “committee, council, divisional and budget approvals.”

Hermosillo wins RMAC wrestler of the week

Defending 149-pound NCAA DII national champion Noah Hermosillo opened up his sixth-year senior season in fine form, claiming the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference wrestler of the week last week. Hermosillo went 4-0 last weekend at the Younes Hospitality Open, hosted by Nebraska-Kearney. His dominant performance in the 157-pound division included pinfalls in half of the matches and a 9-2 title-match win. Next up for Hermosillo and the Grizzlies is the Doug Moses Open on Dec. 3, in Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Winter prep previews: Battle Mountain Alpine and Nordic skiing

It’s not very often a title-winning team brings everyone back the following season. For the defending girls state ski champions at Battle Mountain, it’s at least half-true coming into the 2022-23 season.

“Our goal is to continue to be at the top of the podium and have another successful season for both the boys and girls teams,” said Jeff Apps, head Nordic coach. Apps returns his entire girls team, including state skimeister champion Lindsey Whitton as well as Haley McKenzie, Presley Smith, all-state classic skier Addison Beuche, Molly Reeder and Bella Willliams.

Whitton’s fall fitness jump, demonstrated by her 18:17, 25th-place finish at the Nike Southwest Regional cross-country championships last weekend, should stoke plenty of fear in Colorado prep skiers hoping to unseat the current Alpine-Nordic-combined queen.

Battle Mountain won its sixth 2022 girls state ski championship last season and returns all of its Nordic skiers for the 2022-2023 season.
Jeff Apps/Courtesy photo

While the Nordic team was left intact, it’s a little bit different story on the Alpine side, where head coach Erik Gilbert must move forward without program stalwarts Kamryn Brausch and Robin Pavelich. Pavelich was all-state in both slalom and giant slalom.

“This is a growing year as we lost a few key players to graduation and experience is growing within our team,” Gilbert said. “We will work hard to compete across the disciplines and with the full horsepower of our Nordic team, we will strive to defend our girl’s state title.”

Gilbert expects perennial power Summit to be strong again, as well as Aspen and Grand on the Alpine side specifically. Gilbert is hoping the team’s process-driven goals will foster accountability and ownership.

“This year is about culture and commitment,” the coach said. “Ski racing is a fun sport with a lot of joy, while at the same time it challenges our personal limits. We are focusing on a team that supports, commits and grows together.”

All-time state ski championships

Girls (School, titles, most recent)

Summit – 21 (2015)

Aspen – 10 (2021)

Battle Mountain – 6 (2022)

Middle Park – 6 (2010)

Lake County – 4 (1996)

Durango – 1 (1976)

Vail Mountain – 1 (2017)

Boys (School, titles, most recent)

Summit – 20 (2022)

Aspen – 11 (2021)

Durango – 9 (1976)

Battle Mountain – 8 (2016)

Lake County – 5 (1984)

Middle Park – 4 (1999)

Vail Mountain – 2 (2017)

The boys have also graduated a few key athletes in Will Bettenhausen, state skimeister champion Seamus Farrell and Zander Armistead. Gilbert plans to lean on Jakub Pecinka, Henry Regrut, Andrew Conley, Theo Kreuger, Maddy Brown, Ruby Randall and Whitton in 2022-23.

Lindsey Whitton and Seamus Farrell pose with their 2022 state skimeister trophies.
Tonia Whitton/Courtesy photo

The team’s home slalom race on BearTrap at Beaver Creek is Feb. 10. For the Feb. 16-17 state championships, the Huskies travel to Copper Mountain. The Nordic team won’t host a race this season, but on Jan. 28, VMS hosts a wave start classic race at Maloit Park. The state championships are set for Feb. 16-17 at Frisco Nordic Center.

Colorado High School Ski League Nordic Schedule
  • Jan. 13, Snow Mountain Ranch – wave start classic and individual start skate
  • Jan. 21, Steamboat Touring Center – individual start skate
  • Jan. 28, Maloit Park, wave start classic
  • Feb. 4, CMC Leadville campus, CHSSL Relay Championships
  • Feb. 9, Gold Run Nordic Center – individual start skate
  • Feb. 16-17 – CHSAA State Championships, Frisco Nordic Center

 

The boy’s Nordic team took a bit of a hit with the loss of Sullivan Middaugh, who placed second in the state skate race and third in the state classic race last year, but still returns seven state skiers — Jacob and Zach Lindall, Kyle Ross, Theo Krueger, Luca Isom, Sawyer Blair and Miles McKenzie.

“We also will have a very strong and deep team that has many athletes that have yet to reach their top-performing goals,” stated Apps.

With races beginning the first week of January but wrapping up mid-February, the competition portion of the calendar is relatively short.

“We have six weeks of training and then it’s game on,” said Apps, who is pleased to have Innes and Lisa Isom and his son Christian Apps on his coaching staff. “This coaching team is a “dream team” as I have the opportunity to coach alongside my friends and my son!”

Colorado High School Ski League Alpine Schedule

Jan. 6, GS, Loveland

Jan. 12, SL, Beaver Creek

Jan. 19, SL, Howelsen Hill

Jan. 27, GS, Keystone

Feb. 3, GS, Aspen

Feb. 10, SL, Beaver Creek

Feb. 16 – State GS, Copper Mountain

Feb. 17 – State SL, Copper Mountain

“Each year there are always some surprises and some expected returning strong skiers,” Apps said regarding the statewide outlook. “Some schools have a rebuilding year and some will continue to be strong. Looking forward to another awesome ski season.”

Anna Baker: When hitting for average isn’t enough

Bases loaded. Final inning. Final game.

Up-to-bat and trailing, league-power Palisade (17-4 at the time) hopes to avoid a senior night home upset. Whack! A member of the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs drills one to shallow right-center field. If it falls safely in front of Eagle Valley’s charging centerfielder Anna Baker — whose bevy of knee-slide catches will elicit a “Rock of Ages” reference during softball coach Jason Vargas’ season-celebration banquet speech — Palisade is poised to at least tie the game. If the senior outfielder makes the improbable catch, the much-improved Devils walk away with a program-defining victory. 

Baker, the game’s unquestioned defensive stalwart and arguably the offensive player of the night, too (stat line: 2-for-4 and a pair of RBI’s), lays out for the ball and corrals it into her glove. Upon hitting the field, however, it pops loose. 

The image of the ball jolting from its once-secure home paints an appropriate picture of the 17-year-old’s own high school career. 

Her story goes beyond winning the 2022 Western Slope League player of the year on a team she joined 15 months ago (after moving across the state mid-pandemic), or being on the region-sweeping VMS tennis squad last spring — or getting straight-A’s. It’s about a player her coaches and teachers call a young ‘light’ — on the field, in the classroom, and on the court — who chose to navigate the classic ‘new-school-new-friends’ conundrum as well as COVID-19’s novel challenges with a timeless compass: belief and hard work.

Rare breed, uncommon motivation

Eagle Valley physics teacher Steven Schachtner was watching students complete an assignment when he noticed an irregular social phenomenon for 2022. The girl who joked with him earlier in the year for being ‘friendless’ had made quick work of his worksheet — but that was normal. 

“Rather than reaching for her phone like most students, she would quiz a fellow student in vocab for their English class,” Schachtner recalled of Anna Baker’s habitually uncommon behavior. 

“She holds herself to a very high standard and works hard to achieve her goals. These qualities are rare nowadays. Beyond Anna’s undeniable creativity and intelligence, her very nature establishes a level of compassion and civil discourse throughout the class,” he continued. “She has the rare ability of truly listening to another and engaging them in productive collaboration.”

The summer of 2021 move from Canon City — responsible for Baker’s temporary loneliness — weighed on her dad, Pat, who remembered the “tear-filled” drive directly from the state tennis tournament Anna had qualified for (in her first year trying the sport) to the family’s new Eagle home. 

“Technically, she’s one of the best players on the team,” lauded VMS tennis coach Steve McSpadden before the Gore Rangers swept the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 singles and Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 doubles at the 3A Region 8 championships. Baker played for the No. 4 doubles team and hopes to move up this year.
Courtesy photo

“You can imagine that moving for a 10th grader, away from her home and friends where she was rooted and connected, was an extremely difficult situation and burden to bear,” Pat said.

“I was very distraught,” Anna reflected. “The move was really hard, obviously, especially as a teenage girl.”

On the diamond, Anna quickly forged friendships with her new teammates, according to Eagle Valley head coach Matt Kreutzer, who credited the smooth transition to her pupil’s character.

“Anna is one-of-a-kind. She has a light that shines so bright it’s contagious,” he said.

“Her character is so strong, she makes others around her better people. She is an amazing young woman and someone you just want to be around.” 

Fellow coach Jason Vargas concurred, remarking how his first impression of the centerfielder was, “this is one happy girl.”

“If she swung at a bad pitch, she would laugh at herself. Just her stepping onto the field was done with a certain level of humility and of course, a smile,” he said.  

“Her smile definitely rubbed off on the team and the coaches.”

Baker switched to a happy-go-lucky mindset when she first pulled on a Devils uniform, a conscious decision after leaving her old life behind. 

“I just kind of realized that I don’t have to make myself sick worrying about my performance. I’m going to be the best I can be. I decided I could control what I can control, and I can control my attitude about the game, so I’m going to have the best attitude about the game,” she said. 

“I’m not going to worry about the rest because it’s in God’s hands and the glory is going to him whether I do well or not.”

Kreutzer said the five-tool player brought “a strong work ethic, enthusiasm and great attitude” to his team, which was coming off of a 2-14 2020 mark. In her junior year, the Devils went 9-12. This season, after a slower start offensively, Baker’s potent stick provided reliability from the batting order’s third position. Nowhere was that more evident than against Rifle, a team Eagle Valley hadn’t beaten in six years until this fall. 

“She put on a hitting clinic,” Vargas described of Baker’s 3-for-4, two doubles and four RBI-effort in a seven-run comeback win. 

“Going into that game, none of us thought there was even a chance to beat them,” Baker admitted. Before taking the field, the team was inspired by pitcher Mattie Hobbs’ words: “Guys, I really want to beat them — we gotta beat them.” 

“I think we just went in there with a determined mentality,” Baker continued. “I think we were really good at being the underdogs (this year). Even just coming back from a loss, we were very good with our mental game.”

Throughout its winning season, Eagle Valley benefited from Baker’s astute angles chasing down fly balls, and of course, her trademark slides. 

“She played stellar defense all year long and came up with gigantic plays in big games against our league opponents,” Kreutzer said. “That’s the key to being named player of the year in the western slope.”

In overcoming an untimely move and battling the first COVID-laced prep quadrennial, the senior’s resiliency and pursuit of success is a welcome breath of fresh air. Her foundational philosophy of excellence, however, is maybe her most unique quality. When asked what drives her to do things like extra studying — when her homework is finished and GPA sits comfortably at a 4.0 already — Baker’s response is immediate and grounded. 

“Honestly, I’m a very strong Christian and I base all my principles off of the Bible and I believe that when you’re working for something, it’s like you’re working for God,” she said. In a society saturated by those who’ve settled for, as the old baseball phrase labels, “hitting for average,” Baker’s deepest desire is to absolutely maximize her talents.

“I want to do my best in everything I try because it’s like I’m doing it for God,” she continued in a 1 Corinthians 10:31 vein.

Even the tumultuous move had a silver lining, she said, as it catalyzed her convictions and set in motion a tangible spiritual shift that bled directly into her perspective on athletics. 

“The hardship and how much it hurt to leave, I think that’s what brought me closer to God and ultimately that’s what changed my attitude about things,” she said regarding her faith. 

Anna Baker went 3-for-4 and had 2 doubles and 4 RBIs in a seven-run comeback win over Rifle this season. It was the first time the Devils had beaten Rifle in six years.
Courtesy photo

“I was just like, ‘it doesn’t really matter how well you do. Everything is fleeting. But what matters are the girls around you and how you perceive yourself. Just being happy and being a good sport…. so that people can see that’s how you deal with things, I guess.”

“I honestly can say now that I would not want it any other way,” she continues, spelling out her theology behind the worn adage, ‘everything happens for a reason,’ before concluding, “I’m really happy here and I’m glad we moved.”

While there are many facets to Anna Baker, the clear heartbeat has rubbed off on those around her. 

“She is a testament to the way her parents have raised her,” Kreutzer noted. “Anna always gives her best in everything she does and she puts in the work. The more work you put into something, the more you get out. She has been taught to never give up, stay persistent, and always give her best.”

Baker, who said she spent “half of her childhood” watching her older brother and two older sisters play sports, cites her dad, who received an MLB tryout at 16, as her main sporting role model. She remembers playing catch together after dinner and getting a night-before crash course on bunting before her first varsity tryout. 

“I know it’s important to him and I thought it was really cool that softball could be important to me, too,” she said. “He was really my main idol I guess.”

“Kimberly and I believe that in most instances, our kids have turned out well in spite of us rather than because of us,” Pat humorously stated.

A fitting finish

“I just remember feeling a buzz all game because we were actually not being beaten by Palisade — we were holding them,” Baker recalled of her final softball game ever. The senior’s shortlist of colleges includes Pepperdine University, Colorado State University, Colorado College and the University of Utah — tennis, her favorite sport, is still in the cards, but she’s closed the last softball chapter.

With two outs and the Devils’ lead on Palisade hanging in the balance, Baker tracked what would end up being the final fielding play of her career. As it lofted between first and second base, she went into an all-out sprint. 

“I remember thinking, there was no way I’m going to get this if I don’t leave my feet,” she recollected. Her half-dive, half-slide led to an initial reception, but the ball suddenly shook out. On the ground, Baker saw it floating above her body for a slow-motion second, then smashed it against her stomach with her free, bare hand, securing the ball — and the outcome. 

Shaking from excitement, she lay for an extra moment, waiting for the umpire’s official call. It came, awarding the Devils with a season-ending league win. 

“That was just an incredible end to an incredible journey with softball,” she beamed, clearly content. “It’s my favorite sport season ever.”  

With every distressing story on how the last few years have negatively impacted young people, and for the many instances where it’s perhaps true, the Anna Bakers of the world provide a positive hope for teachers, coaches and others who pour their time and energy investing in kids. 

“I can’t say enough about this young woman,” said Schachtner. “I am sorry she had to overcome the hardships associated with moving at such a tough time, but I am so glad she came into all of our lives here at Eagle Valley High School. She is the type of person that makes wherever she is a better place.”

“I remember hearing coach Matt (Kreutzer) say at one point during the season that if there was one person he’d like his daughter to be most like, it would be Anna,” Vargas added. “ I can’t say that I disagree.” 

The Devils were an RPI sliver away from the playoffs. Even so, for Baker, it isn’t just about winning awards. After all, numerous Front Range players over the years have possessed gaudier numbers and led undefeated teams to state titles. Her real modus operandi isn’t based on the world’s standard, though. Instead, it’s rooted in what she feels is an unshakeable source of purpose.

“I try to do my best everywhere because that’s honorable to God,” she said. “And I’m just trying to bring all the glory to God that I can with the abilities that he’s given me.”

Local prep harriers compete at NXR Southwest regional championship

Three weeks after impressive performances at the Colorado state cross-country meet, area prep runners traveled south for the Nike Cross-Country (NXR) Southwest regional championships to race for a spot at the Nike Cross-Country national championships Dec. 3 in Portland, Oregon. Lindsey Whitton and Will Brunner turned in the top times for Battle Mountain — i.e. “The Vail Valley Running Club” and Jake Drever led the Eagle Valley contingent last Saturday in Mesa, Arizona.

Whitton covered the Coyote Run Golf Course 5k in personal best time of 18 minutes, 17.26 to place 25th overall as Rob Parish’s girls placed ninth overall as a team.

“The girls ran really well, especially Lindsey,” Parish said. “She was unbelievable. She’s got a strong PR to began with, but to get 25th in that field was impressive.”

With the return of the Nike nationals meet for the first time since 2019, Parish said the regional meet was more heavily stacked than it has been the last couple of years.

“Last year, the field was strong, but it was nowhere near as strong as it was this year,” Parish said.

During most meets this year, Whitton has been Milaina Almonte’s shadow, forming a dynamic 1-2 punch for the Huskies. The stacked nature of the championship meet, though, prevented the junior from spotting her senior teammate at the start or running in her hip pocket throughout, a factor which ultimately worked to her benefit. Whitton was aggressive from the start, positioning herself into the top-50. She would go on to pass 20 athletes in the final mile.

“I think she got out ahead and never saw her (Milaina),” Parish said of Whitton. “In running, you sometimes insert yourself into the prescribed pecking order, but it just didn’t happen this time. She just kind of ran how she felt instead of running off of other people.”

Almonte, who had been the Huskies top runner throughout the season, placed 55th in 18:51.95. The other monster performance on the girls side, according to Parish, was from Presley Smith, who finished 73rd overall in 19:19.48.

“She had the best cross-country race of her career — that was awesome,” Parish said. Lindsey Kiehl (19:26.43) was 81st and Addison Beuche (20:06.13) was 141st to round out the top five. Kira Hower (20:33.54) placed 176th and Gabby Leonardo (20:54.57) was 184th in the team’s sixth and seventh spots.

“To get ninth in that race with six or seven nationally-ranked teams is fantastic,” Parish said. In 2017, the Vail Valley Running Club took the overall region title en route to a third-place finish at the national championships.

Summit’s Ella Hagen, who won the Colorado 4A individual state title, placed seventh overall in the championship girls race.

Another bright spot for Parish’s group was the performance by Lily Whelan, whose inspirational road to recovery from injuries suffered in a horrific car accident in June of 2021 was featured in a lengthy Runnerspace.com story earlier this week.

“That was a great tribute to Lily when that came out,” Parish said, adding that Whelan was interviewed by Nike brass for 15 minutes on the stage at the course on Friday. “She’s had a lot of well-earned, positive attention. It was fun to have her at the race.”

Whelan competed in the small-school race with fellow Huskies Ruthie Demino (20:46.82), Stella Jackson (21:25.00), Bella Williams (21:51.42), Hudson Turner (22:17.02), Reese Davis (22:33.29), running 21:11.75 to place 54th.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Parish summarized of the comeback.

In past seasons, the Southwest regional has been held in Casa Grande on a faster, flatter course. Parish said the Coyote Run venue, which has hosted both the Desert Twilight and the NXR Southwest event for the first time, was a fun cross-country course, but was not particularly fast.

“It was rolling, had a lot of turns, but it was fun — it was definitely a cool cross-country course, it just wasn’t a barn burner, like the last eight or nine years,” he said.

On the boys side, the top Huskies were Brunner (15:43.42) in 37th and Porter Middaugh (15:59.63) in 70th.

“The guys worked hard and went for it, but I think there was some disappointment,” Parish said, noting that Middaugh fell and was trampled early in the race. Brunner, who posted two sub-15-minute marks earlier this year, came in as a potential top-10 threat and outside national qualifier — the top-five individuals not on a qualifying team make it to the national meet — but was unable to assert himself in the lead group from the start. American Fork’s Daniel Simmons won the race in 14:44.80.

Eagle Valley’s Jake Drever ran 15:53.21 to place 53rd. Drever was familiar with the course, having run 15:32 there in the Sept. 30 Desert Twilight, the Southwest Regional preview.

Jake Drever competed at the Nike Cross-Country Southwest Regional championships last Saturday, running 15:53.21 to place 53rd in the boys championship race.
Melinda Brandt/Courtesy photo

Parish said Brunner might compete at the Champs (formerly Footlocker) Midwest Regional in Kenosha, Wisconsin this Saturday, as he will be visiting family in the area over Thanksgiving.

“He has a decent chance at making the top 10 there and making that national meet,” Parish said. “That would be really cool for him to make that race.”

A contingent of Battle Mountain girls are flying out to Alabama for the RunningLane national meet, an event Middaugh may also contest. Prior to the state meet, Drever said he intended on racing RunningLane as well.

With the cross-country chapter of the year coming to a close, Parish said he thinks athletes are ready to ski, play basketball and shift their focus before gearing up for the track season.

“We know that both groups have incredible potential in the spring,” the coach said.

Eagle Valley Nordic ski team reloads after winning boys state title in 2022

After graduating all of its point scorers on the boys side — including Ferguson St. John, who swept the classical and skate state titles last February — and its top girls skier, one would predict a hint of nerves in the Eagle Valley wax truck. That’s not the vibe, though. For Paul Steiner’s crew, embracing the Nordic lifestyle is what those over-distance workouts in three-degree weather is really all about. Success comes courtesy of culture.

“Our goals are simple — embrace the Nordic lifestyle, push our boundaries as skiers in both disciplines and bring others with us,” he said in advance of the 2022-23 season.

Steiner’s “two-fold, individual and team-oriented” approach certainly reaped more than just tangible podium blessings. There was St. John’s dominance and the boys Nordic team score title of course, but even after the state meet, St. John and fellow Devil, Lukas Bergsten, skied 200 kilometers in a 24-hour event in Leadville. If there ever was proof of true love for a sport, that would probably be it.

Even with some of his program pillars gone, Steiner is optimistic.

“We’re looking forward to our up-and-coming women’s and men’s crew,” he said, noting top-20 state finishes by returners Ethan Barber and Ava Bergsten.

“We’re looking to build on that with them as well as keep our team vibe going strong,” he said. “Our goal is to open the door for the up-and-coming Nordic nerds on the team as well. Set the lifestyle and then the racing will happen.”

Brynn Moody (34th at state skate, 35th in classic), Addison Marsh (45th skate), Emma Bergsten (47th classic) and Justine St. John (44th classic, 52nd skate) were other non-seniors who competed at the state meet. Jake Drever (12th classic, 7th skate) was consistently the Devils’ third skier last year as a junior. Brody Nielsen placed 12th in skate and 17th in classic last year as well.

While Gypsum’s drier weather and historical athletic interests make forging a skinny ski-centric culture harder than say Lake County — Karl Remsen has dialed in the formulas for annually churning out competent, competitive skiers — the Eagle Valley program is gaining steam largely because the coach centers his focus on keeping a smile on kids’ faces as they learn life lessons and develop mental toughness. Over Thanksgiving, Steiner’s crew logged a few big days in Grand Mesa and Leadville — seeking out remote mining roads for suitable conditions.

The Eagle Valley Nordic ski team refuels during a long day of training at Grand Mesa last weekend.
Paul Steiner/Courtesy photo

“Come on snow!” Steiner wrote in an email. “Cold temps and snow are what we need.”

The coach is hoping for the same conditions on race days, a wish reflecting his perception of the incoming team.

“Young, savvy and gritty,” he stated of the team’s theme approaching 2022-23. “We got nothing to lose and everything to gain.” Steiner explained that a new scoring system this year is likely to favor the strong and talented groups. Even down valley, the Devils are thankful to be close to numerous competitive programs.

“We’re thankful to have tough teams so close,” he said. “To be the best you have to ski against the best.”

“There are a bunch of tough Nordic skiers all over the state,” Steiner continued. “In the county, Jeff (Battle Mountain) and Shawn (VMS) field rock-solid teams year after year. A pretty sure bet is that Karl’s crew over in Leadville has the ability to straight crush and beat skiers into the frozen ground below.”

Battle Mountain’s girls won the overall (Alpine and Nordic) state team title last year and return several of their top skiers, while Lake County went 1-2 in the state skate individually and return the top boys candidate, Jace Peters. All of the on-paper predictions are meaningless, though, in light of the Eagle Valley Nordic way. No matter what, the Devils will keep kicking and gliding.

“Improve and hone our technique, surpass yesterday and value today,” the no-nonsense Steiner said in describing his coaching philosophy.

“Genuine courage, mental fortitude and enthusiastic training. Trust in the plan, trust in self.”

2021-22 Colorado High School Ski League season team results

Girls

(Rank, School, Summit Invite, Maloit Park Invite, Leadville Relay, Steamboat Invite, Total)

  1. Battle Mountain          159 144 145 350 157 955
  2. Poudre                            139 155 126 295 144 859
  3. Steamboat                      158 116 134 305 125 838
  4. Eagle Valley                   148 114 109 280 134 785
  5. Lake County                   130 162 174 150 166 782
  6. Middle Park                  139 160 145 175 162 781
  7. Nederland                     131 108 111 145 111 606
  8. Summit                         94 160 167 0 132 553
  9. Colorado Rocky Mt.    96 120 119 120 58 513
  10. Aspen                             98 121 131 0 137 487
  11. Clear Creek                   59 78 76 110 87 410
  12. Vail Mountain School 67 60 61 130 34 352
  13. Evergreen                      61 56 56 115 32 320

Boys

(Rank, School, Summit Invite, Maloit Park Invite, Leadville Relay, Steamboat Invite, Total)

  1. Eagle Valley                                         171 162 159 310 159 961 (state as tiebreaker)
  2. Battle Mountain                                 168 155 146 335 157 961
  3. Poudre                                                 145 130 127 320 142 864
  4. Middle Park                                        117 158 154 165 162 756
  5. Vail Mountain School                       150 143 155 155 84 687
  6. Lake County                                        106 127 125 140 135 633
  7. Summit                                                 145 161 165 0 153 624
  8. Steamboat                                           121 108 113 145 118 605
  9. Nederland                                            103 111 97 125 106 542
  10. Colorado Rocky Mountain               113 97 105 120 39 474
  11. Evergreen                                            109 69 73 135 77 463
  12. Clear Creek                                          80 83 60 115 62 400
  13. Aspen                                                    26 26 27 0 30 109

Eagle Valley volleyball sweeps Western Slope player and coach of the year awards

After going 10-0 in Western Slope League play, it’s perhaps no surprise that Eagle Valley took the lion’s share of the conference end-of-year awards. Mike Garvey was the league’s coach of the year and setter C.J. Yurcak was the co-player of the year as the Devils had two athletes earn honorable mention (Ava Geiman and Taylor Hooper) and four earn all-conference (Yurcak, Ione Pedersen, Talia Crawford and Natalie Izbicki).

“That’s what you get when you have that kind of talent,” Garvey said.

Yurcak also earned a 4A Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports (CCGS) all-state selection.

“She was a setter for us the last three years, so this is just kind of all of it culminating all together, just as it should have,” Garvey, who will be one of the 4A all-state team coaches, said. The Eagle Valley coach was recognized by Rocky Mountain News in 2001 as the 1A coach of the year when he was at Vail Mountain School. He was quick to credit his players for this year’s recognition.

“Most of the time, it’s just a tribute to the team,” he said.

“If the coach gets coach of the year, likely I was supported. If you look at our all-league players and all-league honorable mention players — not too challenging to be coach of the year when I have those young ladies to work with.” 

All but two of the award-winners will return next season. “As much as this year was a great year, we’re excited to reload with the next group,” Garvey said, noting that several of the players have an all-around, multi-position skill set, starting with the springy sophomore, Hooper.

“This year she was an all-around player — serving, defense, serve-receive, — we relied on her heavily,” Garvey said of the player who was second on the team in receives and third in total kills.

“To have her back for two more years with another year under her belt,” the coach continued. “When you bring somebody who plays six positions and essentially doesn’t come off the floor and returns, it’s a big base for us.”

Eagle Valley’s Ava Geiman was an honorable mention all -Western Slope League player this year.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Geiman, another total-package-type athlete, is someone Garvey anticipates leaning on even more next season.

“I think if we would have had to go to Ava in the back row (this year), we could have,” Garvey said. “Knowing that she can be an all-around player next year — it’s not really a question of whether or not she can, it’s just going to simply be her time to do it.” 

Karlyn Frazier’s kill attempt is blocked by Ione Pedersen from a game against Summit last September.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

Pedersen is another Swiss-army knife. “She’s another player that we had going all the way around,” Garvey said. “She was a phenomenal attacker, blocker and server and those things are only going to continue to get better. Really excited to bring her back — it’s great to bring back an all-conference player.”

Crawford and Yurcak developed chemistry playing beach volleyball tournaments over the summer, something that Garvey saw translate into success on the court as well.

“I think with both of them it just added to their skill set,” he said, adding that new setter Ashley Jones, who saw action this year, is ready to step in Yurcak’s spot.

Ashley Jones will replace Western Slope League co-player of the year C.J. Yurcak at the setter position next year for the Devils.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

“These girls got sets up with Ashley every practice, so I think it’s going to be a pretty smooth transition,” Garvey said.

With Izbicki — who replaced star Anna Gill — departing, Ray Forman is next in line in Garvey’s libero pipeline. “She saw a little time and I think she’ll pick up right where Natalie left off,” he said. “I think we’re really fortunate that we’re pretty deep in our program.” 

“Just fortunate to be working with such great young ladies,” Garvey concluded.

“We kind of all reaped the benefits from each other. I think each one of them would echo that they couldn’t do it without their teammates, I can’t do it without them. So, just wonderful to have the opportunity to do it together.” 

Winter preps previews: Eagle Valley girls basketball

In each of his two seasons as Eagle Valley’s girls basketball head coach, Vinny Cisneros has seen the total win tally increase. Having lost only two seniors from last year’s 8-16 team, Cisneros expects the Devils to continue progressing.

“This is the year consistency pays off,” he told the Vail Daily in advance of the 2022-23 season, which kicks off Dec. 1 at Basalt.

“The core of our program is entering into its third year together and the familiarity of the culture and systems we’ve been building should translate into more consistency. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and what we’re capable of, seeing consistent improvement in a lot of different areas over the last two years.”

The two losses — Jasmine Fontana and Anna Gill — weren’t miniscule. Both players averaged nine points per game, tied for second on the team, and were the co-leaders in 3-point field goals made. “We’ll need some players to step up to fill that scoring void,” Cisneros said.

Junior Josie Fitzsimmons, who led the team with 10 PPG, might be called upon to shoulder even more of the scoring load this year.

“She sets our tone of intensity with her endless energy,” Cisneros said, adding that his seniors “will provide great leadership and be our anchor in executing our offensive and defensive philosophies.”

Emily Davis-Provoste battles for an offensive rebound against Cedar Fitzsimmons in last year’s game between Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

The Devils return five varsity players, each with starting experience. Cisneros’ “floor general,” C.J. Yurcak, returns at the point guard position, along with Cedar Fitzsimmons and Alyssa Jones, both of whom the coach expects to solidify the team’s presence in the paint on both ends of the floor. Lauren Hauseman is the fourth senior returning; she’s suffered season-ending knee injuries in back-to-back years. “Her grit and resilience will be a driving force for us this year,” Cisneros said.

Eagle Valley’s last 10 seasons

(Year, overall record, league record)

2021-2022: 8-16, 5-7

2020-2021: 2-11, 2-9

2019-2020: 5-15, 4-8

2018-2019: 3-18, 1-11

2017-2018: 6-17, 4-8

2016-2017: 14-10, 7-5

2015-2016: 12-9, 9-5

2014-2015: 15-6, 10-4

2013-2014: 12-11, 8-6

2012-2013: 6-17, 2-10

Cisneros was quick to praise the work of coach Sarah Brubeck in developing the current sophomore and junior classes, which he feels are “loaded with talent” and capable of providing “quality depth on the varsity roster.”

“It’s tough to pinpoint who will break out for us this year, but we’ve got great size, speed and shooting that coach Brubeck has developed well at the junior varsity level and we’re excited to see their contributions on the varsity floor this year,” he said.

The team also added Kindi Backstrom to the coaching staff. Backstrom, who was Battle Mountain’s head coach when the Huskies last won the Western Slope League title back in 2018-2019, will lead Eagle Valley’s C-team this winter, “elevating our staff with her championship pedigree and experience,” Cisneros praised. “We’ve got some great pieces in place to reach new heights.”

The theme of the season — consistency — is also the team’s primary process goal.

“Too many times last year we dropped winnable games because of poor execution or flat starts,” Cisneros pointed out. “Being more comfortable in our system should lead to more consistent and competitive performances. We’re coming off a competitive first-round playoff appearance and we’re not only looking to get back to the big dance but advancing as well.”

After a February four-game skid, the Devils went to Steamboat Springs and beat the Sailors — who finished with a 7-5 league mark — on their floor, 60-49. The Devils then lost to Lewis-Palmer 58-43 in their final game.

With CHSAA expanding basketball to include a 6A division, Eagle Valley (enrollment 944) now finds itself right on the smallest edge of the 63-team 5A (enrollment: 939-1,452) classification.

“We have some tough tests on our schedule in the form of 5A powerhouses Central, Montrose, Fruita and Durango,” Cisneros added. “Competing against those teams early in the schedule will really help prepare us for league play.”

The third-year coach believes things will run through Glenwood Springs and its returning league player of the year, Joslyn Spires. “Coach Rhonda Moser and the Lady Demons are the standard on the Western Slope, so those two games are always circled on our schedule,” Cisneros said.

“To be the best, we gotta beat the best.”

Vail Christian High School senior Grace Engleby selected for Colorado 2A All-State volleyball team

Vail Christian High School’s senior volleyball player Grace Engleby has been selected to participate in the Colorado Coaches of Girls’ Sports (CCGA) All-State volleyball games. The games will take place on Nov. 20 at 10:30 a.m. at Fossil Ridge High School in Fort Collins. The team is comprised of the top 16 players in the 2A division; those athletes are broken into two eight-woman teams. Prior to her game on Sunday, Grace will join fellow nominees for photos, team building, practice and scrimmages on Saturday afternoon. 

CCGA began sponsoring the all-state volleyball game in 1978 to provide girls an opportunity to showcase their talents. Each senior athlete is nominated by coaches within her league, while coaches representing all leagues make a final selection of 80. Players are chosen based on talent, dedication, team play and leadership. 

“Grace has been instrumental to our success in past years and this season especially. She took it upon herself to make volleyball fun again, and look at what she was able to accomplish. Grace is not only an outstanding athlete and volleyball player, a fierce competitor, but the true difference this season was her leadership,” coach Adina Petersmeyer said.

“She was constantly able to look beyond her own needs and lift her team up in tough situations. I can think of no one that deserves this honor more than Grace Engleby. I am so proud of her and I love her so much!”

“Going into this season, it was pretty obvious that Grace was going to be the captain of our team; she has been a leader since the day she stepped on the court,” teammate Aria Webster said.

“Although it took a little getting used to, she settled into the role and turned out to be exactly what our team needed: a strong, encouraging, and extremely talented individual who could lead us into every game with the confidence that we could win if we worked together. She’s our glue. Every day in practice she kept up the intensity of play while also keeping volleyball fun with her jokes and random dances.”

Webster continued, praising Engleby for helping the team in its journey to the state tournament last weekend. Engleby averaged 3.4 kills per set and led her team in aces and kills. 

“I think the rest of the team would agree with me when I say that we wouldn’t have gone where we did without her and I’m so proud and excited about what she accomplished,” she said. “It’s been an honor to be her teammate and friend for the past seven years. She deserves every bit of the all-state title.”

In talking about the season, Grace Engleby reflected, “I am definitely going to miss the environment and community that is Saints volleyball. Every single player and coach consistently works their hardest to make us better players and individuals.”

“Even though volleyball is my passion I do not plan on playing in college. However, I hope to join club teams or even participate in intramural volleyball while at college.”

“I am honored to have received this level of recognition,” Engleby continued. “Yesterday, I was thinking about how cool it would be to obtain the all-league award; when coach Adina called to inform me that I was nominated for the first team all-state I was absolutely ecstatic.”

No. 16 Battle Mountain falls to No. 2 Northfield 3-0 in 4A state title game

No. 16 Battle Mountain’s magical run to the 4A state soccer championship game didn’t have a fairy-tale finish, but it wasn’t for a lack of hustle, toughness or fight. In fact, Saturday night’s 3-0 loss to the now two-time champion Northfield Nighthawks was a game where the scoreboard didn’t tell the whole story — namely that it was defined by just two moments that went against the Huskies. But hey, that’s soccer.

Junior midfielder Erik Aguirre passes the ball during the first half of the 4A state title game.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“Soccer is a funny game,” head coach Dave Cope aptly summarized of the two fluky Nighthawk first-half goals that would prove detrimental to his team’s upset bid. After Northfield capitalized off an awkward bounce rebound goal four minutes into the game and added another breakaway score 20 minutes later, it was the No. 16 Huskies who had the No. 2 Nighthawks on edge.

Leo Martinez shows off his flexibility with a nice pass during the first half.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“We had the No. 2 seed on the ropes,” Cope said.

After eluding a problematic free kick from the top of the penalty circle just 30 seconds into the game, Edwyn Montes — whom Cope described as the rock, the “piano carrier” of the team — helped Battle Mountain settle down and get into their system. Like they have throughout the season, the seniors Montes and Arturo Aguilar and the shifty Alexis Dozal proved tough matchups for Northfield. Dozal set up Aguilar with a good look from the wing that was wrapped up by Northfield goalie Zander Kosmas with 32 minutes to go.

A group of Huskies gather inside the box in a first-half scoring chance against Northfield.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

Three minutes later, however, the defending champs strutted their stuff.

Jack Freimann took a deflection off the bounce and belted the one-hopper into the left side of the net from the penalty circle to give Northfield an early 1-0 advantage.

“They were opportunistic,” Cope said. “But we didn’t quit, we worked hard and then we got them on the ropes.”

Edwyn Montes leaps for a header in Saturday’s game between Battle Mountain and Northfield.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

The Huskies replied with two shots from Daniel Sanchez and Jonathan Espinoza in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, respectively, but both opportunities ended with Kosmas’ catches. Then, with 15:30 to go, Ren Garfield received a pass with open pastures ahead. Kneeing it himself, Garfield moved inside of 30 yards. It looked like Husky goalie Zeke Alvarez assumed he could meet the ball before the junior midfielder reached the penalty circle, but Garfield anticipated the goalie’s move, bumping it over to the left at just the right time, and the goalie could only turn and watch the game’s second goal roll into the net.

Jack Ruiz punches the ball ahead to a teammate during Saturday’s state title game.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

From that point on, the Huskies controlled possession and pressed into Northfield.

Players battle for the ball during the 4A state title game between Battle Mountain and Northfield.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

 “Anybody who came into the stadium, unaffiliated would have let your emotion and style of play and skill win them over,” Cope would tell his squad in the locker room after, referring in large part to the fight and resiliency the underdogs demonstrated in the second half.

Northfield’s Chance Jaques heads the ball as Battle Mountain’s Max Macfarlane defends.
Rex Keep/Courtesy photo

“In any sport, that’s what you want: to show your character. And there’s no regrets, we left it all on the field.”

The consequence of their aggressive posture was that, Quinn Tettero was able to get behind the defense in the final minute, putting a 3-0 stamp on the successful title defense.

Battle Mountain finished the 2022 season 13-5-2.

“Coming into the year, no one really believed in us,” senior captain Edwyn Montes said. Montes and his four senior teammates took their careers from the c-team to junior varsity and, after hardly receiving varsity minutes on last year’s senior-led semifinal team, all the way to the state title in their final hurrah.

“We kept our text message thread as ‘c-team’” Montes smiled, a little reminder of his and Manny Molina’s, Aguilar’s, and Diego Rodriguez’s journey.

“That’s an incredible story,” Cope said of his seniors. “When someone thinks you can’t do a job, when you have difficult moments in any endeavor, you can hold onto that.”

“They’ve had one of the all-time great Battle Mountain seasons,” he praised of his young team, which, at one point this year had just the third-best record in the Western Slope.

“I couldn’t be prouder of them.”