A look back at 2022: The year in prep sports
Area athletes shattered records and brought home multiple state titles
Taylor Shull is an absolute beast: Shull brought a 245-yards-per-game average into the Saints’ playoff rematch against Sanford. Throughout the season, he’d amassed video-game-like stats worthy of a Fantasy Football Weekly feature — 1,961 yards, 12.4 yards per carry and 24 touchdowns — in leading the Saints to a 7-1 record. Shull, Carlos Chavez and Theo Moritz all earned all-state honors.
Vail Mountain School brings home two fall-sport state titles: When VMS boys soccer made the move down from 3A to 2A, high expectations filled the Gore Ranger locker room. They ended up taking home the ‘ship, but made fans sweat it out, scoring three second-half goals to secure a comeback win over two-time defending champions Crested Butte in the semifinal before rallying to beat Lotus School for Excellence 2-1 in the title game. It was one of my most enjoyable days as the humble sports correspondent.
Meanwhile, VMS had added a state title to the trophy case already. After placing second at the home meet and winning the regional, Felix Gruner, Stewart Bruce, Hunter Salani and Tiki Jaffe led VMS — which finished fifth in 2020 and third in 2021 — to the 3A golf team title.
Oh so close! No. 16-seed Battle Mountain made an exhilarating run through the 4A boys soccer playoffs — all the way to the state title game — despite being arguably the third-best team in the Western Slope earlier in the season. The young Huskies made strides each week, defeating Air Academy in the quarterfinals and getting revenge against Mullen in a semifinal overtime win before falling to Northfield in the title game.
The runner-up spot was also where the Battle Mountain girls cross-country team, and Will Brunner — arguably the No. 1 runner all season in the incredibly deep 4A boys cross-country field (at least based off his record-setting, sub-15 5-kilometer performances in Grand Junction) — would end their respective seasons. Brunner finished second at the state cross-country meet in one of the more dramatic individual and team events Penrose has seen. His teammate, Porter Middaugh, finished third. The Lady Huskies, fresh off claiming a 12th straight region title, finished second for a fifth straight season in the overall team standings.
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Record breakers: Speaking of runners, both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain saw a slew of school records go down in 2022. Jake Drever continued to push the boundaries of the Devils program he’s led for the last four seasons, running 15:22 and then 15:19.40. The Devils proved to be the class of the Western Slope at state, finishing fourth as a boys team, the highest showing in program history. Porter Middaugh actually got the record-setting start way back in April, running 9:14.03 at the Arcadia Invitational in California. His older brother Sullivan almost stole the mark — at altitude — running 9:15 at the state meet, a race coach Rob Parish said was the program’s “best track distance race ever — for sure — by any quantifier.”
Vail Christian honors coaches: Kathy Alexander and Sheldon Kuhns had the Vail Christian volleyball and basketball courts named in their honor this February. Kuhns is the only basketball coach in school history and Alexander established the Saints’ successful volleyball culture from 2001-2015.
VMS tennis dominates: The four-school conglomerate carried a 71-6 record across individual matches and 11-0 team mark into the state title — after sweeping the region tournament — where they would finish fifth as a team.
Eagle Valley volleyball goes undefeated in the Western Slope league and Vail Christian makes it to state: No one could stop Eagle Valley on the volleyball court this year, at least in the Western Slope. The Devils finished 10-0 in the league, hosted a state tournament first round weekend and swept the Western Slope player and coach of the year awards. The most exciting volleyball game, however, goes to Vail Christian, who nearly came back to upset No. 3 Meeker in the second round of the 2A state tournament, falling just two points short. The Saints ended their season with a 21-5 record.
Battle Mountain softball gets the green light: Thanks to Karly Woodbridge and others’ efforts, we saw the first Eagle Valley vs. Battle Mountain girls softball game. Speaking of softball, Eagle Valley had a dazzling season — Anna Baker earned league player of the year honors — capped by a win over No. 5 Palisade in the season finale.
State ski ‘ships come home: The Eagle Valley boys Nordic ski team had a season for the ages, with Ferguson St. John sweeping both individual state titles and the team taking the cumulative season and state titles as well. The Battle Mountain girls won the whole ski (combined Alpine and Nordic) championship and Lindsey Whitton and Seamus Farrell also swept the skimeister state titles for the Huskies.