Peak Performers
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Tristan Widic, Mesa Ridge soccer

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Tristan Widic, Mesa Ridge soccer

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Tristan Widic, a striker on the Mesa Ridge High School soccer team, has most of his individual goals accomplished six games into his senior season. He’s already set the Grizzlies’ program scoring records for goals in a career (69), goals in a season (28) and goals in a game (7). He scored five and added an assist in a 7-0 win over Pueblo West, helping Mesa Ridge to a 5-1 record, on Tuesday to earn Gazette Prep’s Peak Performer of the Week. “That’s a big win for us,” Mesa Ridge coach Mario Sigala said. “They were in the top four last year, so it was a big win for us and for the team.” With the records and a commitment to join Colorado Mesa’s soccer team - a Division II program currently ranked No. 6 in the United Soccer Coaches poll - taken care of, Widic is focused on getting the Grizzlies back in the postseason. “It’s nice,” Widic said of the individual accomplishments, “but we’re focused on the team. We want to make it to the playoffs. That’s my ultimate goal.” The Grizzlies last went to the playoffs in Widic’s freshman year, but he missed the game due to a red card. He’s doing what he can to make the most of his final opportunity at a run to state with 10 goals and eight assists through six games. “His versatility and his speed and accuracy... It’s an amazing gift,” Sigala said. He's added three field goals and six PATs for the Mesa Ridge football team this fall. In the end, the coach hopes the senior has one more award to go with a trip to the postseason, a Colorado Springs Metro League MVP. “He’s been runner up for the last couple years,” Sigala said. “It’s been one of those things.” Sigala and Widic agreed the true striker is most dangerous with the ball at his feet where he can beat defenders on the dribble. He’s also improved his weaker left foot. “He’s a full package,” Sigala said. That much was evident after the senior tallied 11 points in a match against the Cyclones. With his individual abilities established, the senior is putting his focus on the group. “I think we can make the playoffs, and I think we can go far too,” Widic said.   Other Peak Performers Christa Vogt, Colorado Christian School volleyball : The junior finished Tuesday’s sweep of James Irwin with nine kills, which tied for the team lead. Vogt also added five digs, three service aces and three solo blocks to help the Lions improve to 2-1. Cory McLellan, Palmer Ridge football : The senior came up big in his final Battle of Monument, helping the Bears to a 35-7 win over Lewis-Palmer. McLellan caught two short touchdown passes and intercepted a pass. He finished with six catches for 49 yards. Samm White, Cheyenne Mountain field hockey : The sophomore midfielder scored the game-winning goal on a tip-in with 17 minutes left against Kent Denver, last year’s state champions. Mason Norman, the Classical Academy : Norman beat teammate Ryan Moen to the line to win first place at Saturday’s Eagle Valley Invite. The Titan sophomore finished in 16 minutes, 27.6 seconds, more than 20 seconds ahead of Moen. TCA finished second at the meet. Kylee Bunnell, Mesa Ridge softball : The sophomore helped the Grizzlies pick up a pair of wins last week. She scattered three hits in a six-inning win over The Classical Academy and went 4 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs scored. She added another RBI and three runs scored in a win over Canon City on Thursday.
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Alan Bautista, Sand Creek boys' soccer

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Alan Bautista, Sand Creek boys' soccer

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Call Alan Bautista a distraction. A skillful, speedy, pleasant distraction. As a sophomore forward, he's helped the Sand Creek boys' soccer team to a 4-0 record with eight goals ahead of Tuesday's home matchup against Kennedy of Denver. It's not like the Scorpions necessarily needed more offensive firepower with the return of midfielder Garrett Kramer, who scored 17 goals last season, but they'll take it. And when the ball is placed in front of his feet, Bautista is quick to send it toward the goal. Take, for example, what happened Wednesday, when the Scorpions took on Mesa Ridge in a road game. Related: Sand Creek rolls to another easy boys' soccer victory, this time over Mesa Ridge The Sand Creek defense stole the ball after kickoff and directed it to Bautista, who quickly kicked in the game's first score in an eventual 7-1 win. The blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment took 15 seconds. In last week's games, Bautista scored a total of five goals against Mesa Ridge and Widefield - enough to earn him the Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week honors. "He has one look," coach Jeremy Tafoya said. "He never gets flustered. He looks like he's having fun. If he's near the goal, he's scoring because of that reason. He's always composed." The coach never expected Bautista's arrival. He's from Mexico City, and he's here for one year through a military exchange program as his dad, a high-ranking official in the Mexican Air Force, is training with the American military. The Scorpions said his presence could change the complexion of the season and help them make the playoffs for the first time since 2012. Bautista's presence is also making life easier for Kramer, who averaged a goal per game last season. The senior midfielder can either keep the ball for himself or dish it off to Bautista. For the Scorpions, that's a nice distraction. "When I get the ball from the defense, I can turn around and play him and know that he can keep the ball for us," Kramer said about Bautista. "He's fast, very skillful and not afraid to take the ball against other players, which is a really good quality to have." Besides trying to improve his soccer skills, Bautista is working on his English. He says he understands the language but doesn't always feel comfortable speaking it. That's why when he's on the field, Tafoya makes sure there's at least one Spanish-speaking player around. The coach has the luxury of four translators on the roster. Asked what he brings to this year's Scorpions, Bautista didn't need help expressing himself. In English, he used a one-word response: "Goals."
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Julian Cooks, Doherty

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Julian Cooks, Doherty football

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Neither Doherty football coach Jeff Krumlauf nor Spartan running back Julian Cooks attempted to track the senior’s statistics during Friday’s season-opening win over Rangeview. Any try likely would’ve ended up being a waste of brainpower. When the game concluded, the duo learned Cooks ran for 303 yards and five touchdowns on 25 carries. “Honestly, I didn’t even know how many carries he had or how many yards he had or how many touchdowns he had until after the game,” Krumlauf said. Prep roundup: Harrison, Cheyenne Mountain gain football wins Cooks carried the Spartans to an 83-55 win and was chosen as this week’s Peak Performer. Outside of a 63-yard rushing touchdown early in the game, Cooks said he picked up his yards in smaller bunches, averaging 12.1 yards per carry in the Spartans’ run-heavy scheme. “We love to run power. We love to run counter and buck,” the coach said. “That sets everything else up that we have going on. It’s who we are.” Listed at 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, Cooks has the build to work between the tackles. He’s also working on his ability to make opponents miss in the open field. “Last year, I invited contact,” the running back said. “This year, I’m going to run more elusive, but you know if they happen to be in the way, I’m not going to avoid contact.” That versatility has got the attention of college coaches. According to Krumlauf, a couple Division I programs and a bunch of Division II schools hope to have Cooks on their campus next fall. The coach considers the running back’s potential to be “untapped” and “unlimited.” After finishing his junior season with 1,011 yards and 10 touchdowns, Cooks’ goals for his final prep season are of the team variety. “Go to the playoffs with my team, that’s it,” Cooks said. “I just want to win.” The Week 1 showing bolstered the back’s confidence. It likely got the attention of the Spartans’ opponent Friday, Cherry Creek, as well. “Every week we know teams are going to say ‘Hey, we gotta stop No. 2,’ ” Krumlauf said. “We challenge them to do that. If they’re loading up the box, we’ve got weapons other places.” No weapon in the area was more dangerous than Cooks in Week 1, even if he didn’t realize it at the time. “I didn’t really sense anything,” Cooks said. “I was just out there doing my job.”

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Shelby Shepherd, Rampart softball

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Rampart High School softball coach Ryan Sheets had a good idea what he would get from senior Shelby Shepherd at the plate this season. What she would provide in the circle was more uncertain after spending her first three seasons as a middle infielder. “This is kinda a new role for her pitching all the time,” Sheets said. So far, she’s delivered. Prep roundup: Cheyenne Mountain softball takes second straight win against Mitchell In addition to her .600 batting average, The Gazette’s Peak Performer of the week owns a 4-0 record with a 1.40 earned run average. She’s mixed an improved fastball with offspeed stuff. “I’d say I do throw a lot harder this year than I have in the past,” Shepherd said. “I’m definitely working on the strength. I’m trying to keep the spin tight for my pitching. It just kinda comes hand in hard, I guess.” The senior has struck out 34 batters in 20 innings. Of the 12 runs she’s allowed, just four have been earned. “She’s working ahead in the count, really just being a bulldog out there and getting after it,” Sheets said. “She throws two pitches for strikes. At this level, if you can throw your fastball for a strike and a secondary pitch for a strike, you’re going to be pretty well off.” The Rams are off to an unbeaten start with wins over Palmer, Doherty, Heritage and Boulder, scoring at least 14 runs in each game. “So far, (it’s going) really well,” Shepherd said. “We lost a couple seniors last year, but this year we have strong talent coming in. We’ve been able to perform at the plate.” Shepherd is amongst the team leaders with eight RBIs, eight runs scored and three doubles. She’s had at least two hits in every game. Her approach is simple. “The way I think when I go into the batter’s box is just (look for) a solid hit, a base hit, and sometimes you get doubles, triples, home runs,” Shepherd said. “I just think ‘solid contact’ and go from there.” As a freshman, Shepherd played second base. Sophomore and junior year were spent at shortstop. She’s pitched every inning for the Rams this fall, but her future position is more uncertain. Shepherd is committed to play at Regis University. Ranger coach Daven Bond likes what she can do at the plate. “He doesn’t know defensively yet where he wants me, but he loves my stick,” Shepherd said. “That’s what I’m going there for.”
The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer: Maria Mettler, Air Academy

The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer: Maria Mettler, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

The Air Academy girls' track and field team was an underdog heading into the 4A state meet. Niwot's team had six first-place finishes during the season and were favorites to win the state championship. But the Kadets had Maria Mettler. Her performance helped lead Air Academy to the 4A state championship, and earned her The Gazette's girls' track and field Peak Performer of the Year. Related: The Gazette 2017 Girls' Track and Field All-Area teams The senior distance runner had already won the 2016 state championship in cross country, and she had set her focus on the 3,200 as her next conquest. "For me, over the summer last year I trained really hard, so my goal was to do really well in cross country," Mettler said. "... So I really just wanted to continue that success. And I had did have an idea, like I wanted to win the 3200 state title, because I love the 3200. I love long distances." Mettler reached her goal, winning the 3,200 by nearly 10 seconds. She wasn't done. Mettler won the 800, finished second in the 1,600 and helped her 4x800 team finish fourth. Overall she played a part in 34 points for Air Academy. The Kadets had relied heavily on Mettler, but she didn't mind. "I wanted to be a leader, but I didn't feel any unnecessary pressure," Mettler said. "I just wanted to perform well for myself, and I knew what I was capable of, and I wanted to achieve my goals. But I didn't feel any pressure on me, but I did want to lead my team and be a good example. So by doing my best for myself I felt like I could do that." The commitment that aided in Mettler's success isn't just on the track. It also shows itself in her eating and sleeping habits at home. They are habits that were instilled in her at a young age by her mother - a runner in her own right - and Mettler maintains them to this day. "(My family) all eats pretty healthy, and getting enough sleep is the main thing," Mettler said. "That's kind of hard with school sometimes - you'll have late nights. But when you can get to bed early, that's the main thing. You have to go to bed and get enough sleep." All of this - Mettler's training, health habits, leadership and natural skill - makes for an impressive athlete. It's the type of athlete that isn't easy to replace, which is why coach Chuck Schwartz has tried to build a program in which the upperclassmen, like Mettler, mentor the underclassmen to better prepare them for being successful in the future. That atmosphere has left it's mark on Mettler. "It's really important," Mettler said. "When you're running and you're just getting into it, and you're like a freshman or sophomore and you're young doing it, it's sometimes easy to lose the fun in it. Running is a really hard sport - racing and training - it's a really hard sport to find the joy in it. So for me, like showing them, 'Hey, you can find the fun in doing good in workouts,' it's just something that I enjoy. And I think when I portray that, it really affects the younger runners." Schwartz hopes this will help to ease the loss of Mettler, but he knows that's a tall task for any program. Perhaps he put it most appropriately when discussing his senior. "It's impossible to replace a leader like Maria."
The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Coach of the Year: Chuck Schwartz, Air Academy

The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Coach of the Year: Chuck Schwartz, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Coach Chuck Schwartz knew his Air Academy girls' track and field team had the potential to be something special. He had experience on his roster in senior thrower Katelin Gallegos, senior distance runner Maria Mettler, and junior sprinter Olivia Whitaker, who were all poised to have successful seasons. But Schwartz knew he had to get contributions from his other runners too - not just for this season, but for when Gallegos, Mettler and Whitaker are gone. He had prepared for this, though, implementing an atmosphere where the upperclassmen are expected to mentor the underclassmen. This approach helped Schwartz to be recognized as The Gazette's girls' track and field Coach of the Year. His technique also paid off at the 4A state track and field meet. Gallegos, Mettler and Whitaker combined for 64 points by themselves, and if you include the relay teams containing Mettler and Whitaker, that number jumped to 78, which would have been good enough to place the Air Academy second overall. But the Kadets needed more to overcome Niwot, the favorites to win the state meet. Senior Kamerin Valdes came through, finishing fourth and sixth in the 200 and 400, respectively, for 10 points, while senior high jumper Allyson Stanley finished seventh in the high jump to earn three points. Add that to freshman distance-runner Tatum Miller's ninth-place finish in the 3200 and Air Academy had 92 points. Niwot had 83. The Kadets had won and lived up to Schwartz's expectations from the beginning of the year. "I had a good idea that we would have an outside shot at being one of the top teams in the state, it's just a lot of things had to come together," Schwartz said. "You had to avoid some injuries and make sure we get people on board, so yeah I had a sense it was there, and a lot of things fell together well." Schwartz's job isn't done now, though. He may be losing Mettler, Gallegos and the rest of the senior class, but he's prepared his team to make up for their losses. It starts with finding a way to replace Mettler's leadership. "We spent this year preparing for that well," Schwartz said. "We invest a lot in our underclassmen. ... I think we had four freshmen at (the state meet). We had three freshmen sprinters and then Tatum (Miller) who's a freshman distance runner, and I think we had a few alternates who were freshmen. But, yeah, we put a pretty heavy emphasis on our underclassmen to try to . we started doing that so that we can not feel the loss so much, because it's impossible to replace a leader like Maria. Hopefully she passes it on and a kid picks up the torch." The transition won't be all bad - Whitaker's return for her senior season will assure that. But Schwartz certainly has his work cut out for him. Yet, if his investment in the freshmen this spring pays off, perhaps the he will find himself with that same good feeling at the beginning of next season.
The Gazette Boys’ Track Peak Performer: Tanner Norman, TCA

The Gazette Boys’ Track Peak Performer: Tanner Norman, TCA

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Past disappointments and falling short of personal goals have served as motivation for Tanner Norman. That translated into quite a sendoff for the TCA senior distance runner. “This year was pretty good,” said Norman, the boys’ track and field Peak Performer. “I set my goals pretty high, and I used any frustration of coming up sort as fuel. I can’t think of anything I missed out on. This year, I’ve been pretty lucky. I’ve gotten to do everything and maybe a little more.” Norman, on the heels of winning his second straight state cross country title last October, continued that momentum into the spring, focused on winning the 1,600- and 3,200-meter races, events he finished second the season before at the state meet in Lakewood. He did that, claiming victory in the 3,200 in a 3A state-meet time of 9 minutes 14.45 seconds, helping the Titans to a runner-up finish in the team standings. He also stood on the podium’s top step after winning gold in the 1,600. Prior to state, on May 5 , Norman set a state all-class record by clocking a time of 9:04.97 in the 3,200 at the Pueblo Twilight at Dutch Clark Stadium. And to think that one year ago, Norman’s best time in the eight-lap race was more than 30 seconds slower. As a freshman, he could barely break the 10-minute plateau. “He got markedly better through high school,” Titans distance and cross country coach Alan Versaw said. “That’s the kind of progression you like to see. Actually, that is staggering when you think about it. Normally, you see that tailing off in improvement. Where does that come from? That underscores how hard he works.” That hard work continues into the summer as he prepares for a college career at Iowa State. But first, he’ll see where he stacks up with the nation’s best at the Brooks PR Invitational, June 17 in suburban Seattle. To put his state-record effort in perspective, his mark in Pueblo was 14 seconds slower than the winning time in the 3,200 in last year’s Brooks event. “To show up to a meet like that, you’re just a face in the crowd,” Norman said. “It can be humbling, but it’s always a good experience to go and do something like that. It’s cool to meet new people.” And he’ll meet plenty of new people in Ames, people who likely could beat him out for a spot on the team this season. But that’s OK with Norman. He knows what happens when his high standards aren’t met. “I have to sit down with the new coach and figure things out,” Norman said. “My goal this year is to get better and stay healthy. I might go in and make the team. If not, that’s fine. I have an extra year to develop, and I can use that to get better.”
Lewis-Palmer's Billy Cook is The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year

Lewis-Palmer's Billy Cook is The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Billy Cook's spikes were just big enough to fill the void at Lewis-Palmer. The Rangers entered the season without Paul Tillotson, who headed to Nebraska after garnering The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year honor in 2016. Cook picked up right where Tillotson left off, batting .545 as a senior with 33 RBIs and six home runs. That was two more than Tillotson hit during his last season at Lewis-Palmer. And like his former teammate, Cook is now the Peak Performer of the Year. Related: Baseball coach of the year deflects credit to his player "I just went out there and knew I had to be a leader for the team," Cook said. "So every at bat, every ground ball, I tried to set an example for the younger guys on what they need to do, what their approach should be, and how they should continue to approach the game even as they get older." Lewis-Palmer coach Brett Lester realized Cook was going to be an outstanding player when he took over the program ahead of the 2016 season. "(Cook) is also a really good basketball player, so he would show up late to baseball during both seasons I coached there with him and the first day he showed up junior year, after state tournament basketball, watching him move and throw, there was a noticeable difference between him and the other kids, who were very talented," Lester said on the first time he watched Cook play baseball. "Just hearing the other kids and coaches react after he would make a play, you knew you had a player in him from Day 1." Lester said Cook is "without question" among the top players in Colorado, noting the pair of triples the 6-foot, 170-pound shortstop/outfielder hit in a playoff loss to Silver Creek. "You could tell teams were having to adjust with the way they pitched to him," Lester said. "A lot of teams don't do that as much in high school ball, but coaches were very aware when he came to the plate." Although Cook shone once out of Tillotson's shadow, it is not like he was a one-hit wonder. He also steadily improved, batting .269 as a freshman, .421 as a sophomore and .603 as a junior. That improvement didn't happen by accident. According to Lester, Cook generally logged a few minutes in the batting cages by the time he teammates showed up for practice. Colleges took note. Places like BYU, Air Force and Colorado Mesa all took interest. Even UCLA contacted him. But those schools couldn't displace Cook's dream university: Pepperdine. "First of all, the beautiful campus played a huge role," Cook said on why he chose to become a Wave. "Then when I went there and met the coaches, they were the greatest coaching staff I have ever talked too, better than my high school coaches or anyone I have been in contact with. Then the players, I met them, and they all said they loved (Pepperdine). Before I have even knew about the baseball program and how good they were, the education there is close to Ivy League, not necessarily the same caliber, but smaller school, great teachers and everything else. So, it just really provides all the opportunities I have been looking for in a college." And heading to Malibu, Calif., the Pepperdine coaching staff doesn't expect Cook to redshirt. "They said they are going to play the best players and if that's a freshman from Colorado, then that's who they are going to put in," Cook said. "That's really it. I don't know where I will be playing. In the infield or anything. They just said, 'Come out here and we will find a spot for you and we look forward to four years.'"
The Gazette Girls' Soccer Peak Performer: Brianna Alger, Lewis-Palmer

The Gazette Girls' Soccer Peak Performer: Brianna Alger, Lewis-Palmer

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

For as many times as Lewis-Palmer's Brianna Alger stole the spotlight on the field with her wizardly ball skills and untouched speed, she just as effectively dodged attention off of it. For her senior year, Alger could've easily worn the "C" on her jersey without debate. After posting more goals than the total of the next three best scorers on the team as a junior and having the most assists while leading the Rangers to a state title, she appeared to be a shoo-in. She declined, anyway. "We have positions where you have to try out for captain but I didn't want to do that because I felt like putting myself in the captain role would make me seem in a way superior, even though that's not the captain's role," said Alger, The Gazette Girls' Soccer Peak Performer of the Year. "I just wanted to be on the same level as all my teammates." Related: The Gazette 2017 Girls' Soccer Coach of the Year: Carisa Whitson, Rampart It wasn't that Alger didn't want to lead or that she didn't push her team. She led by example. This spring, she carried the Rangers in the scoring department with 24 goals and 12 assists despite consistently being the focal point of opponent game plans. In the final game of her high school career, and maybe her best yet, she lifted the Rangers out of a 2-0 deficit in the state quarterfinals against Windsor with a dominant second half that included two goals. Although eventually losing 3-2 in overtime, it was a fitting end to Alger's storied career. "She played out of her mind," L-P coach Ryan Parsons said. "Everything in that second half she was doing right. Making the right moves, the right passes, she definitely wanted to win that game." Alger will play soccer at Washington State. On Thursday afternoon, she said she was leaving for Pullman, Wash., to take summer classes in order to lighten up the academic load during the season. She leaves behind an unrivaled legacy at L-P. Alger led the Rangers in goals each of her four seasons in high school, averaging 1.2 goals over her career. In her 73 games, she had 91 goals and 38 assists. "She probably could've scored more goals this year but she was really looking to be that full-team player," Parsons said. "That's the type of girl she is. She's not in it for the accolades, she's not in it for the awards, ultimately she wants to be with the team. It's pretty awesome to see a girl that good with her talent, so humble."
The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Peak Performer: August Johnson, Cheyenne Mountain

The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Peak Performer: August Johnson, Cheyenne Mountain

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Cheyenne Mountain's August Johnson had a strong tendency to go left when attacking the net this season. Defenses knew it and his coaches didn't hide it. There was still no stopping him. Johnson, more often than not, was too strong, fast and determined, and finished his junior season with 48 goals and 36 assists, helping lead Cheyenne Mountain into the state semifinals for the third straight season. Coach Mike Paige's praise of his standout midfielder ranged everywhere from his "great sense of humor," to his relentless drive on the field and in the classroom, to being the "best athlete at the school." Related: The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Coach of the Year: Dan Mullins, Lewis-Palmer "He really makes us great," Paige said of Johnson, The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Peak Performer of the Year. Johnson's continued transformation into one of the top lacrosse prospects in the state starts and ends with his work off the field and out of pads. With the same kind of head-swiveling skills that are marveled over at something like the NFL Combine, Johnson has built an athletic framework like few others. Ambidextrous with a shot clocked at 105 mph, Johnson is also a rare breed of strength and speed. Dead lifting 405 pounds and squatting 375, the junior also said he set the school record in the shuttle run (a 20-yard dash in 2.41 seconds) and the pro agility shuttle, which assesses someone's quickness and ability to change directions. Johnson logged the most minutes on the team last season, per his coach, despite facing a steady barrage of double and triple teams. "It's good to be well-rounded, I guess. It's good to be physically capable," Johnson said. "It's important to have stick skills, obviously, but I think something a lot of kids overlook is the physical aspect. They don't lift as hard as they should and don't run as hard as they should." The wide range of Johnson's game and character were no more evident than during his team's 17-9 loss to Valor Christian in the state semifinals May 17. Early on, Johnson absorbed a big hit that opened a gash on his chin. The cut needed Super Glue to close the wound. But in a fitting brand of lacrosse justice, Johnson punctured his own hole - rifling a shot so hard it tore the twine and busted out the back of the net. After the game, his teammates voted the bruised, cut-up junior as one of three captains for the team next season. "It was a humbling experience and made me feel kind of valued on the team," Johnson said. "We're all there for each other. We see when someone's busting their butt and trying their hardest, things don't go overlooked." Johnson is verbally committed to play lacrosse at Air Force.
The Gazette Girls' Lacrosse Peak Performer: Sam Rippley, Palmer Ridge

The Gazette Girls' Lacrosse Peak Performer: Sam Rippley, Palmer Ridge

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Sam Rippley could well be the definition of a "multisport athlete" after playing five sports during her time at Palmer Ridge. But it was the last sport she participated in that helped her earn the most recognition. When Palmer Ridge coach Kristy Opresko first laid eyes on Rippley on the lacrosse field, she knew she had a player on her hands. "Wow. This girl is so athletic and she works so hard," Opresko said about her first reaction. According to Opresko, who has since stepped down since the season ended, Rippley had such a drive to be great that a coach couldn't teach. Related: The Gazette Girls' Lacrosse Coach of the Year: Kali Maxwell, Air Academy Rippley, The Gazette Girls' Lacrosse Peak Performer of the Year, led Palmer Ridge in points (69) and goals (47), and had a 54.2 shooting percentage. While the statistics support the reasoning behind Rippley winning the honor, it was the little things the midfielder did that made her one of the best players in Colorado. Rippley, who normally shoots right-handed, learned how to shoot with her left this season. She also incorporated a shot fake that helped her succeed. "She is an all-around player, which I think makes her one of the best in the league and one of the best in the state," Opresko said. "She plays amazing defense. She is aggressive. She has great stick skills. She is great on goals, but her statistics in other categories that don't get much attention such as draw control and just a general ability to put her on a strong attacker as a defender and she can shut them down, those things don't show up in statistics. She is very good at all aspects of the game." Although Opresko considers Rippley to be one of the best in the state, she believes that she has a ways to go in terms of tactical skills. Opresko really credits Rippley's success to her athleticism. Once Rippley sets foot onto Davidson's campus, where Rippley will play lacrosse next season, Opresko believes Rippley will open quite a few eyes. "I think she still has a lot of work to do on the tactical skills and she is going to get there when she plays Division I at Davidson," Opresko said. "You really can't teach athleticism and you can't teach that competitive drive to always want to improve and always wanting to play your best. She keeps improving. I think with some more time and (when she) has a chance to just concentrate on lacrosse, she is probably going to amaze us." While Rippley might turn into one of the best college lacrosse players once she focuses on the sport, it will be awhile until Palmer Ridge replaces her skills. "There is going to be a huge void, especially in Palmer Ridge's midfield when she goes," Opresko said. "But it's going to be very difficult to fill in her shoes. I don't honestly think it's possible. Palmer Ridge is definitely losing someone that they probably won't replace anytime soon."
The Gazette Boys' Swimming Peak Performer: Daniel Carr, Cheyenne Mountain

The Gazette Boys' Swimming Peak Performer: Daniel Carr, Cheyenne Mountain

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Daniel Carr has won before. At the 2015 4A state meet, he set event records in the 200-yard individual medley and the 100 freestyle, while helping set a state record with Cheyenne Mountain's 400 free relay team. Carr's performance aided the Indians in earning their first state championship since 2002, and Carr qualified for the U.S. Olympic swim trials. Related: The Gazette 2017 Boys' Swimming and Diving All-Area teams In 2016, Carr opted not to swim with Cheyenne Mountain to focus on those trials. Things didn't go as planned, though. Carr came down with the flu three days before the trials, and failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. With that behind him, Carr's 2017 season was a bit different. He felt like he had something to prove. He certainly did and is The Gazette's boys' swimming Peak Performer of the Year. "This whole year, (the Olympic trials) has been in the back of my mind," Carr said. "It's been a real motivator in practice, and in meets, to prove to everybody that I am the swimmer that qualified for trials, and I didn't go there because it was chance. I just wanted to prove that I can swim at that level." Carr proved his worth and then some. In his final season with the Indians, he finished first at the 4A state finals in four events: the 50 free, 500 free, 200 free relay and 400 free relay. Cheyenne Mountain reigned supreme again, earning its third straight state championship. It's no coincidence that the Indians' dominance coincides with Carr's tenure. "Swimming has been a part of his genes since he was little," said Cheyenne Mountain coach Kate Doane, who called him the team MVP. "He's got an amazing work ethic about himself. He trains club year-round. It's one small aspect of his swimming career, is high school. He's going to go off to do amazing stuff in college and be a part of the World Junior Championship team. I mean, he's a phenomenal swimmer, and it's been awesome watching him grow as an athlete and as a person over the years." Doane also credited Cheyenne Mountain's success to its competitiveness in practice, something Carr said came natural to the team. "The guys on our team, we've been swimming together since we were 8 years old," Carr said. "We've always, kind of, raced each other in practice and in meets. So I think that was already set up. It wasn't our year, it wasn't anybody else's on that team. It's just a lot of competitive guys that don't like to lose. That kind of environment, you love it. That's what makes us Cheyenne." Carr will leave Cheyenne Mountain to swim at California. Perhaps what has made his time with the Indians so memorable to others is the success he's had in the pool - he leaves as one of the most prolific swimmers in school history. To him, though the state championships are memorable, the team atmosphere and the relationships he's built are what will stay with him. "The relationships I've made with the coach and other teammates, I've never really had that before. That's what I'm most proud of," Carr said. "There were nights where we win the Indian Invite, and then we go out and play a two-hour game of Ultimate Frisbee. It's times like those that are just so fun that I will never forget."
The Gazette Girls' Tennis Peak Performer: Morgan Hall, Cheyenne Mountain

The Gazette Girls' Tennis Peak Performer: Morgan Hall, Cheyenne Mountain

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Few players on the state's high school tennis circuit can hammer the ball like Cheyenne Mountain sophomore Morgan Hall can, and maybe even fewer are as hard on themselves. At least on one account, she's lightening up. The Indians' No. 1 singles player made a philosophical change to her game midway through the season, straying away from an all-winners, all-the-time approach, to a more strategic and paced effort. Related: The Gazette Girls' Tennis Coach of the Year: Dave Adams, Cheyenne Mountain The dramatic flip came after a loss to Valor Christian's Emily Untermeyer in mid-April. It stuck. Suddenly, the masher was also hitting for more accuracy and extending points. With her new style of play, she won the 4A Region 6 title and made it to her second straight state semifinal. "That takes a lot of patience to want to do that," Cheyenne Mountain coach Dave Adams said. "You're a young player and you have all these weapons that you want to use all the time. I think she's realizing when is the right time to pull the trigger and also learn how to set a point up." Hall, The Gazette Girls' Tennis Peak Performer of the Year, was eventually ousted by Kent Denver's Josie Schaffer, who won her second straight No. 1 singles title. Hall, meanwhile, finished fourth for the Indians, who won six of the seven individual titles en route to their ninth straight team title. While the sophomore, her own worst critic, called her finish to the season "not ideal," Adams was quick to point out how valuable he deemed his No. 1 player. "She leads by being such a strong player for us, by how she competes and by how much it means to her," Adams said. "She really takes losses pretty hard. And in a way, to see that competitiveness and that it means that much to her, I think it shows the other girls a good role model for them." Hall has two more years of high school and said she is committed to sticking with her matured brand of play. This summer, her plan is to improve her endurance after she admitted the added strokes and movement from her adjustment, at times, made her tired during the season. Part of that plan, she said, is to run the Manitou Incline "three to four times a week." "You have to be in really, really good shape to be able to sustain keeping the ball in 30 times if you have to," Hall said. "I'm going to get in incredible shape and I think it's going to reflect in my tennis game."
The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer of year: Arielle Keating, Rampart

The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer of year: Arielle Keating, Rampart

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Arielle Keating needed to make up her mind. A weekend at Augusta National helped steer the then-sophomore at Rampart toward the game of golf as a single pursuit. "I wasn't completely devoted to golf, or any one sport, for a long time," Keating said earlier this week while vacationing with her family in Branson, Mo. "I participated in the Drive, Chip and Putt at the Masters last year. That was a lot of fun and I placed sixth in my age group. I thought to myself, 'Hey, I should continue with this golf thing.'" So Keating stopped kicking the soccer ball and put away her volleyball gear to pour all her time and talent into one sport. Related: The Gazette Girls' Golf Coach of the Year: Shane Brown, Pine Creek Had she continued soccer and club volleyball, Keating might not have shot under par in four consecutive tournaments during the recently completed regular season and won a third straight 5A Colorado Springs Metro League individual crown. And she likely wouldn't have made the leap from 13th to sixth overall at the 5A state tournament and earned honors as The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer. "She practiced over the winter for the first time, and she took her game to a different level," said Brad Keating, her father, coach and PGA professional. "In the past, she would play her three months and be off to other sports. It became a battle of which sport was winning out. I think she made a good choice." Arielle thinks so too. In addition to her experience at Augusta, her father played a major influence in her choice to pick golf over soccer and volleyball. "With my dad being a club pro, he'd coach me when we were at the range," Arielle said. "It didn't feel like practice. It was just fun to go out with your parents. Because of my dad, I stuck with it. I think a lot of it depends on what you're parents do, and I'm really happy I chose golf." She's so happy - and talented - that she verbally committed to Florida Atlantic University as a junior. The family is packing their bags for Boca Raton a year ahead of time to get a head start, so Arielle can enter college as an in-state student and play year round in sunny Florida. She'll play for Kathy Baker-Guadagnino, a former NCAA national champion who later spent 20 years on the LPGA Tour, highlighted by a U.S. Women's Open victory in 1985. For Keating, it's all about the big picture now that she's made up her mind. "She's a strong coach, something my dad and I were looking for," Arielle said. "My dad has been coaching me since I was little. I love my dad, but it'll be nice to have a different voice. She has that experience of winning on tour, someone who can prep me for that. That's what I'm hoping to strive for."
Gazette Peak Performer of the Week: Maria Mettler, Air Academy track

Gazette Peak Performer of the Week: Maria Mettler, Air Academy track

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

In her future years as a cadet at the Air Force Academy, Maria Mettler inevitably will find herself faced with adversity and have her will tested in times of great duress. She's already well on her way to success in those scenarios, and she's barely out of high school. Mettler, who walked across the stage to receive her diploma from Air Academy on Thursday, battled through an oncoming cold through the compressed, two-day state meet in Lakewood over the weekend. She still managed to win two races, finish runner-up in another and help Air Academy to the program's first track and field state title. Related: Pikes Peak area claims four team titles at state track and field meet "It was more mental, because no one likes to run when they're sick," Mettler said. "I just had to do the best I could do and race for my team. This year, my mind has gotten stronger. Running at state not feeling 100 percent taught me not to look at the negatives. You can't control the weather or sickness. You just control what you can control and do your best and whatever happens, happens." The meet, normally held over three days, was pushed back two days because of snowy weather in the Denver area and held over a two-day span by eliminating preliminaries. On Saturday, Mettler gave the Kadets 10 points by winning the 3,200 meters and later helped the 3,200 relay to a fourth-place finish. The next day, she claimed the title in the 800 before taking her turn in the 1,600 late with Air Academy trying to hold off Niwot for the team crown. "At the end, I told her that we needed six points for the win," Kadets coach Chuck Schwartz said. "Six points would put us up by 11, so mathematically, there was no way Niwot could beat us. Well, Maria finished second and got us eight points, which is kind of what she's all about. She always gives us more than what's required of her. She sucked it up for the team and ran four races not feeling anywhere close to 100 percent." Before moving to Colorado prior to her junior year, Mettler spent the majority of her time playing soccer. Track was a distant second, and cross country wasn't on her radar. Early that year, Mettler found herself craving cross country, having joined the team at Air Academy after her father lost his job in Reno, Nev., but found a new opportunity as general manager of a fitness center in Colorado Springs. She helped the Kadets, behind leadership of Katie Rainsberger and Kayla Wiitala, to the program's first cross country title in 2016. Now in that leadership role as a senior, Mettler took charge by crossing the finish line first at the 4A state cross country meet last fall. She kept it going in track season and created memories for a lifetime by celebrating on the top step of the podium Sunday. And because of the two-day weather delay, she also got to participate in graduation, something she would have missed had the weather cooperated. "I was going to not walk and run at state," Mettler said. "I'm glad I was able to do both."
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Claire Dibble, Cheyenne Mountain tennis

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Claire Dibble, Cheyenne Mountain tennis

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Claire Dibble had accomplished just about everything as a tennis player at Cheyenne Mountain. She crossed the last accolade off her list during the final match of her high school career. Dibble, a senior, leaves the program with four team state titles, two 4A No. 2 doubles championships and now a 4A No. 3 singles crown. "It was the best possible conclusion to my senior year and my high school career," she said. "It was especially cool because I finished third last year and was able to come back and win it this time. It made me feel like I accomplished a lot as a tennis player." Gallery: Nine straight titles for Cheyenne Mountain Dibble found herself in a familiar position in her semifinals match against Kent Denver's Maeve Kearney. Last year, Dibble lost to a Kent Denver player in the same round, on the same court. This time, she dispatched Kearney 6-4, 6-2 to reach the finals. Dibble, who was playing through a painful injury caused by torn cartilage in her ribs, had cruised through the first three matches at state, and looked across the net at Valor Christian's Isabella Pacheco in the state final. For the first time at state, Dibble found herself against the ropes after dropping the first set 6-4. However, she responded like a champion, taking the final two sets 6-3, 6-0. "I realized that this was my last high school tennis match ever, so I left everything I had out on the court in the second and third sets," Dibble said. Cheyenne Mountain coach Dave Adams has watched Dibble grow from a girl who won No. 2 doubles state titles as a freshman and sophomore to a champion in singles. "Claire was a really nice doubles player, but you still have to learn the strategy of singles play," Adams said. "She was great at the state tournament, and she was tough when she got pushed in the finals. A lot of doubles players don't have the skills to transfer to singles, but Claire embraced it." Dibble was one of three seniors on this year's squad, along with Ally Arenson and Casey Ahrendsen - who won the No. 1 doubles state title together all four years. The Indians won their ninth straight 4A team championship, taking six of the seven finals titles. The streak is something Dibble and her fellow seniors took great pride in continuing. "The streak is a good overall motivator," Dibble said. "It was in the back of our minds, especially the seniors, and we wanted to go out champions and make memories. To know we all contributed to the streak is a very special feeling." Adams was happy to see his seniors go out on top. "Those three accumulated 11 individual state titles, so that tells you that it's a strong group of kids," he said. "We're going to miss all three of them very much." Dibble is off to Wheaton College, just west of Chicago, where she'll study elementary education to become a teacher. She won't be playing competitive tennis anymore, but will be checking up on the Indians. "I would love to come back next year and see them win another trophy," she said. "If they are working hard and putting in time in the offseason like we have in the past, then I can see it happening."
Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Tanner Norman, The Classical Academy track

Gazette Preps Peak Performer of the Week: Tanner Norman, The Classical Academy track

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Tanner Norman and his coaches hatched a plan several months ago to capture a state record. This wasn't necessarily an "Ocean's Eleven" type heist. The plan was relatively simple - The Classical Academy senior would try to break the Colorado state high school record for any classification in the 3,200-meter run. The place chosen was the Pueblo Twilight meet at Dutch Clark Stadium, and the date was May 5. It was far from easy, but Norman emerged with a time of 9 minutes, 4.97 seconds, which was 0.92 seconds faster than the previous record, held by Brent Vaughn of 5A Smoky Hill, from 2003. "It was over the winter, like February," Norman said of when the planning began. "Before the season started we laid out what the plan was, and we decided that this would be the best meet to go for it because it was late in the season and I'd be more fit than I was in March. The race was at night, so the conditions are almost always perfect in Pueblo." Norman, an Iowa State commit, said he wasn't overly nervous in the months and weeks leading up to May 5, but on that day, he began to feel those nerves. "I thought it was something that I could get after, and it was cool to do it," he said. "The half-hour following the race was really special. The entire field from the race went out and cooled off together and they were all congratulating me. It was special to get to share that moment with my competitors and my teammates who were in the race." Norman was completely spent after crossing the finish line, and acknowledged that it was harder to accomplish than he could've imagined. His track and field coach, Tim Daggett, and his cross country coach, Alan Versaw, were both holding their breath during the final few meters. "At first, I didn't think he had done it, and then Alan came running over and said that he thought Tanner did it," Daggett said. "The distance community had an idea that there was a chance he set the record, but this wasn't something that we publicized too much." With a state record in his back pocket, along with two cross country state titles and a Colorado Gatorade Runner of the Year award, there's only one thing left for Norman to cross off his high school list. He finished second at the 4A state track meet in both the 1,600 and 3,200 runs in 2016. TCA was moved down to 3A for 2017. "It would be icing on the cake to win two state titles, and to go out on top would be cool," Norman said. "Plus, the team is in the hunt for a title this year, so to score some points for the team would be really important. I'm hoping to go out with wins, and also get my teammates up on the podium with me." Daggett wants to see his record-setter collect two state titles. "It would be a nice finish for him," Daggett said. "As much individual praise as he's earned, he's still an extremely unselfish kid, and he'll be rooting for his teammates as much as he will for himself. He's a serious and focused, but humble kid."
Gazette Preps Peak Performers of the Week: Madeleine Bourgois and Brittney White, Pine Creek girls' lacrosse

Gazette Preps Peak Performers of the Week: Madeleine Bourgois and Brittney White, Pine Creek girls' lacrosse

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

The Pine Creek girls' lacrosse team may be young, but don't be mistaken - it's dangerous. The Eagles are 10-4 entering the final game of the regular season this week, and feature a roster predominantly of sophomores and juniors. Among those are sophomore scoring machines Brittney White and Madeleine Bourgois. White has tallied 50 goals and 19 assists this season, while Bourgois has 38 and seven. "We work together really well, and we've grown a lot together," White said. "Madeleine and I used to play together on a club team, and we grew our relationship then." Related: RPI rankings for boys' and girls' lacrosse In three games last week, the duo combined for 23 goals and seven assists. The Eagles have won four in a row, and are one of the hottest teams in the state as the playoffs approach. Pine Creek made the playoffs last season after a 13-2 campaign, and lost an 11-10 heartbreaker in the first round. This year's team hopes to be the first in program history to win a postseason game. "We are very excited and are looking forward to going to the playoffs and winning a game this year," Bourgois said. "It would be an honor if we were the first team in program history to win a playoff game, and it would mean all the work we've been doing paid off." White is the catalyst for the Pine Creek offense, taking the draws and gaining possession. Bourgois is the hard-shooting attacker who causes havoc behind the opposing net. Add in the Hatchell twins, juniors Kate and Riley, who have a combined 61 goals and 17 assists, and this is one dangerous squad. "We've tried to get the girls to understand that if we're patient and run our offense, they can all score," coach Roger Wallace said. "We have a cast of characters on this team and it's really a team effort. The coaching staff has some high aspirations for where we want this season to go." With only three seniors on the roster, this team is just beginning to scratch the surface of its potential, and will be a handful for years to come. "I knew we'd be good, but wasn't sure if we'd be as strong as we were last year," Bourgois said. "Our seniors really have helped us a lot because most of them play defense, and they're the ones who get us the ball so we can do what we do on the attack side." White doesn't have to look far during practices or games to find her biggest fan, and sometimes, toughest critic. Her father, Nate, is the assistant coach. "It's really crazy, and a lot of fun, to play for my dad," she said. "We've grown our relationship stronger the past two years, and I can take the coaching easier now." With two more seasons left after the current one, White and Bourgois plan on frustrating opponents together for years to come. "I think it's difficult for other teams to defend us, because we can always score quickly, and I've heard other teams say they have trouble stopping us," White said. "It really does feel like we're unstoppable once we get on a roll," Bourgois added. "If I'm blocked off from the net, I always look for Brittney to get an assist to her, and she's always looking for me behind the goal."