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Huskies sign on dotted line

SPT Emily LyBarger DT 2-6-08
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EAGLE-VAIL ” It’s no longer, “Go Huskies.” It’s, “Go Warhawks” and “Go Rams” for these two.

Wednesday was Signing Day across the country and Battle Mountain soccer’s Emily LyBarger and cross country and track’s John O’Neill signed national letters of intent.

LyBarger is headed to Division I University of Louisiana-Monroe, while O’Neill put his John Hancock on the dotted line with Colorado State.



Welcome to the Warhawks

LyBarger is an accomplished multi-sport athlete with assorted honors in softball and basketball, but the soccer pitch is where she has shined in her years at Battle Mountain. She was the 4A Slope Player of the Year last spring on a star-studded team which won its first league championship.



The starting center midfielder, LyBarger first got in touch with Louisiana-Monroe coaches through an annual summer camp up in Steamboat Springs. She also broadened her experience by playing with the Colorado West Nike club team, based in Denver.

Playing Division I soccer has been a goal for LyBarger for a few years now.

“It was probably a couple of years ago (Huskies soccer coach David) Cope and I talked about making it a goal,” LyBarger said. “I’ve always wanted to play Division I soccer.”



LyBarger, who hopes to major in sports medicine, joins the Warhawks, who play in the Sun Belt Conference which includes the University of Denver. Louisiana-Monroe finished 4-6-1 in the conference and 8-11-1 overall last year.

Cope remembers the first time LyBarger showed up at soccer practice as a freshman. He started her in a game down in Grand Junction just to see her skills and she’s been a starter ever since.

“It shows the kids that there is a top end here you can reach for and you can reach your dream,” Cope said. “Emily’s done so much to make herself a player. She’s played at a high level with her club team. For our girls, she’s been a great role model. I think she’s been the best female athlete at Battle Mountain for a few years now.”

Fort Collins-bound

O’Neill’s story is an improbable one. He was a one of the faceless pack of JV cross country runners his freshman year. He was 103rd at the state meet in 2006. Last fall? Sixth.

“John is the model for what’s possible,” Huskies cross country and track coach Rob Parish said. “That’s what hard work will get you. He’ll be the model for years to come when I talk to kids about working hard and sticking to the program. Nothing’s impossible.”

O’Neill’s emergence last fall helped the Huskies to a second-straight state title in cross country. In the process, he started getting noticed. O’Neill credited Parish’s training program.

“Coach Parish is really good about setting us up,” O’Neill said. “We have essentially a college-preparatory program.”

And that should suit O’Neill well as he transitions from a high-school program to running at the Division I level.

“I think having serious competition week-in, week-out on our team will be helpful,” O’Neill said. “I think coming from (Battle Mountain), we have an advantage because we have to fight every week for our spot.”

Not done yet

There will likely be more college-bound Huskies. McKenzie Stevens is going to Division III Middlebury for hockey. Jonny Stevens (cross country/track) has yet to make a commitment. Runners Cecilia Garcia and Tony Crisofulli also are coming close to decisions.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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