Peak Performers

Widefield's Boris Berian is a former Gazette Peak Performer, now he's in the Olympic finals in 800

Widefield's Boris Berian is a former Gazette Peak Performer, now he's in the Olympic finals in 800

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

EDITOR'S NOTE: Here is a story from five years ago on Widefield graduate Boris Berian.  

Peak Performer: Boris Berian, Widefield track & field (May 23, 2011)

The Widefield senior talked about not only repeating as state champion in the 400 meters and 800, but doing so in record fashion. Then he went out and did it. Berian set two state records over the weekend at Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, and also helped his team claim the 4A boys’ title in the 1,600 relay.

“The pressure (of repeating) didn’t really get to me,” said Berian, a four-time state champion. 

“There was a lot of pressure, but I didn’t focus on that. I focused on training and the mental part, telling myself that I was not going to lose.”

His times of 46.93 and 1:52.18 in the 400 and 800, respectively, are among the fastest in the nation as well as tops in Colorado. Earlier in the season, both times were as many as two seconds slower.

“That’s the result of a combination of doing really quick sprint workouts and lots of endurance workouts,” Berian said. “And my coaches tell me it’s all your head, that 90 percent of running is mental. I’ve believed I could do this, and that’s what drove me.”
Do you know any other people named Boris?
No. I have no idea how my parents came up with that name, because my older sister (Leslie) and two older brothers (Chris and Curtis) have more mainstream names.

What exactly entered your mind when you saw Cheyenne Mountain’s Nolan Mayhew pass you during the 800 on Saturday?
It didn’t surprise me, but I’m used to always getting the lead. Somebody is pushing me, and that’s good. But seeming him in front of me, I knew I had to find an extra gear.

How will you spend your free time this summer?
I want to see a lot of movies, especially the comic book ones. Definitely the “Green Lantern” and “Captain America” for sure.
And what about when you’re not catching up on movies?
I’m looking for a job. I’m really not very picky. The past few summers, I’ve worked with a neighbor of mine and have learned landscaping and being a handyman. I can do some light construction and yardwork.
What was your “breakfast of champions” on Saturday morning?
Cheerios and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Who would you pay money to see in concert?
Probably Usher. I really like a lot of his music and The Dream. I also like a lot of the old-school R&B, too.
Best Boris
( x) Badenov   ( ) Becker    (  ) Yeltsin   ( ) Karloff
Favorite snack
(  ) Chips    (  ) Gummy bears   (x) Peanut Butter Cups  (  ) M&M’s
All-time best
(  ) Hayes    (  ) Jenner     (  ) Lewis     (x) Johnson
Greatest throwback rhythm and blues
(  ) Kool & the Gang   (x) Earth, Wind & Fire   (  ) Commodores    (  ) Isley Brothers

The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer of the Year: Kelsey McKenna, Air Academy

The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer of the Year: Kelsey McKenna, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

When Kelsey McKenna placed third at the Class 4A girls' state golf tournament in Pueblo, it was proof that all of her hard work had paid off.

"It felt amazing," McKenna said in an email to The Gazette that she wrote from a Starbucks in Norway, where she was vacationing with her family.

"It was clear that everything I had worked for was worthwhile. Golf is hard because lots of times you don't see the fruits of your practice, but it was amazing to finally have a good state and end my high school career on such a high note with so much support from friends and family."

The Air Academy golfer finished with her best state appearance in her high school career after qualifying for state all four years. McKenna, The Gazette Girls' Golf Peak Performer of the Year, also exceeded the goal she set for herself at the beginning of the season - finish in the top five at state. A season ago McKenna finished 18th.

After the first round, McKenna sat two strokes behind the leader and was grouped with the two golfers ahead of her for the second day and final round. McKenna said this year her biggest improvement occurred mentally, and she learned to stay positive where she may have gotten down on herself in the past.

For first-year Air Academy coach Jim Cole, her positive attitude is part of what makes her a great golfer and an even better person. It is also what helped her be successful in her final year for the Kadets.

"She's an amazing golfer," Cole said. "Obviously she finished as one of the best in the state and she puts in just countless hours of work inside and outside of practice. I think more importantly she's just a great role model for the younger kids, just a great person, high character. Just a great kid to be around."

Cole and McKenna talked a little bit throughout the state tournament about the course, the weather and McKenna's journey to her best state showing. Mostly, though, Cole left it up to McKenna to play her game.

"She's a very experienced golfer, so I try not to do too much," Cole said. "We'll talk if she's in a little bit of trouble or something, (and) we'll kind of talk through what to do or if she didn't hit the best shot to just stay focused for the next one. Other than that, she's experienced."

McKenna will attend Colorado-Boulder for school in the fall, and while she may be done golfing for the Kadets, the impact she had on the team will almost certainly be felt next season.

"She's a role model to those younger kids," Cole said. "They see her in practice just hitting great shots and (think) 'Hey I want to do that and work toward that.' I think with that young team it will be fun. They will be motivated to put in a lot of work."

The Gazette 2016 Girls' Golf All-Area teams

The Gazette 2016 Girls' Golf All-Area teams

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

The Gazette Girls' Golf All-Area teams

First team

Regina Dillon, Cheyenne Mountain, sr.-Second in 4A PPAC, won regional tourney, tied 10th at state.

Sarah Hwang, St. Mary's, jr.-Won three of seven tournaments, tied for 18th at 4A state tourney.

Arielle Keating, Rampart, so.-Won 5A CSML and tied 13th at state tournament.

Kelsey McKenna, Air Academy, sr.-Won 4A PPAC, while third-place finish at state tourney was tops among area golfers.

Second team

Kellsey Sample, Palmer Ridge, jr.

Ashlee Sample, Palmer Ridge, fr.

Elly Carlson, Pine Creek, jr.

Maxine Choi, Cheyenne Mountain, so.

Honorable mention

Cheyenne Mountain-Ellie Broker; Casey Fetters

The Classical Academy-Ann Connell; Kenzie Fontana

Coronado-Madi Eurich; Allie Garcia

Discovery Canyon-Shannon Bocquet

Florence-Meaghan Ireland

Fountain-Fort Carson-Hayley Smith

Liberty-Sarah MacDonald

Manitou Springs-Dani Ortonword; McKenzie Petricko

Mesa Ridge-MaKenzie Andert; Haley Fox; Kelsey Rodrigue

Palmer-Charlotte Cliatt

Pine Creek-Halley McDonald; Elizabeth Pendleton

Rampart-Abby Neddo

Vista Ridge-Vanessa Johnson

The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Peak Performer of the Year: Jake Thornally, Air Academy

The Gazette Boys' Lacrosse Peak Performer of the Year: Jake Thornally, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

As the undisputed leading scorer on the boys' lacrosse team at Air Academy, Jake Thornally had gotten used to being singled out. He could duck, weave and spin out of just about any double-team his opposition threw at him during the recently completed season.

He wasn't quite as prepared to be singled out once the final whistle sounded to end his high school career.

Chosen as his school's Male Athlete of the Year after a season in which he scored 63 goals and added 49 assists - second and fifth in the state, respectively - Thornally said he felt a bit uncomfortable being front and center.

"I was a little surprised," Thornally said. "There were so many great athletes nominated. On the girls' side, (cross country and track athlete) Katie Rainsberger was the top female. She's unreal. Being in the same category as her is pretty surreal."

But to those who know Jake the best, those comments simply reflect the kind of person he is.

"He's the complete package, and he's a very humble person," Kadets first-year coach John Mandico said. "He's a phenomenal athlete, too, but he'd much rather get an assist than a goal. He's just a very selfless person, is very coachable and doesn't have an ego."

In large part behind Thornally's actions on the field, the Kadets survived a 2-4 start and made a run all the way to the 4A state semifinal game, where they fell just short, 15-13 to eventual champ Valor Christian.

But it wasn't for lack of effort.

Thornally recorded a career-high eight goals in that contest, added two assists, and nearly carried his team into the state championship game.

"I never thought I'd go out that way, in a state semifinal like that," Thornally said. "I know every loss is tough, but looking back, we can't be too mad about the way we played. That's what sticks out the most about my senior year. All I know is I definitely didn't have much in the tank at the end."

Next, Thornally will take his talents while hoping to further elevate his game at the Air Force Academy, a lacrosse team that made plenty headlines during the 2016 season in which the Falcons won 15 games in a row and qualified for the NCAA championships for the second time in three years.

Mandico, a former instructor and coach at Air Force, sees Thornally as a model cadet, athlete and future lieutenant.

"He's really a good fit for his leadership skills, to go with his drive and motivation," Mandico said. "Now he's headed to the big stage. Lacrosse is such a team-dependent game, one where you can't have one superstar that does everything, even though he does a lot. He engages his teammates and sets them up for success."

For Thornally, the leadership component comes naturally.

"I think it's being in the moment," Thornally said. "Lacrosse is something I'm so passionate about. I want to be the best I can be and make the team that best it can be, too."

The Gazette Boys' Swimming and Diving Peak Performer of the Year: Caleb Hicks, Air Academy

The Gazette Boys' Swimming and Diving Peak Performer of the Year: Caleb Hicks, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

By March, doubt was creeping into the mind of Caleb Hicks.

In his senior year swimming for Air Academy, Hicks was struggling to make sense of a frustrating season. He couldn't win races in his primary events and was unable to clock his normal times.

"I had won races at dual meets but I hadn't won a single race at any invite," Hicks said. "I didn't know if my training was off or something was wrong."

He took two weeks off in the spring, stopped swimming and focused on rest.

Just over a month later, Hicks won the Class 4A 100-yard butterfly title, breaking his state record and earning All-American honors with a time of 49.19 seconds.

In the 100-yard breaststroke, he finished just .17 seconds behind the state champion and took home second.

"I think his state meet was one of the best (he's ever had)," Air Academy coach Scott Newell said. "He had some nerves about him in prelims, but going to defend his own state record and re-breaking it was a huge statement because his competition had beaten him a couple times that year."

Hicks said his midseason performances have always been underwhelming, which isn't uncommon for swimmers who mainly compete in sprint events.

"I never get good times in midseason training," Hicks said. "I know I won't get good times during the season. It's not a personal decision I make. I need to be rested to do well."

Hicks grew up in a military family and moved from California to Virginia before settling in Colorado Springs. Home-schooled since a young age, the swimmer made the decision to pursue swimming year-round because there was no set season for the sport and he could maintain his friendships in the pool.

Growing up, Hicks also played baseball, but the aquatic sport was ideal for him to compete in. He was naturally explosive in the water, and, most importantly, he was wildly successful.

"I like winning," Hicks said. "Losing, it can feel bad sometimes, but then again, it keeps you humble. It gives you more goals to reach."

There's little arrogance in the way Hicks competes and talks about his success in the pool. His coach credited Hicks' leadership and the swimmer's strength in leading vocally and by example.

"Even though he's someone who holds the bar high for himself - and succeeds - he's not above talking to people at all levels of ability," Newell said. "He demonstrates and explains how to do things better. There's no ego whatsoever with this kid."

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

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

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

After coaching soccer for 30 years, Lewis-Palmer girls' soccer coach Joe Martin can't begin to count all the players he's coached. What he can count - on one hand in fact - is the number of players who are what he calls "the complete player and person."

Among the select few is Brianna Alger, a junior who has played for Martin the past three seasons.

As a player, Alger's numbers this season speak for themselves: 29 goals (1.2 per game), 12 assists (0.6) and an assist on Lewis-Palmer's lone goal in its 1-0 victory over Valor Christian in the 4A state championship game.

As a person, Alger's character shines in the way she treats her teammates.

"The neatest thing about Bri is, no matter where people are, whether it's JV or varsity, they are all treated the same," Martin said. "She doesn't put herself above anyone."

Martin said Alger was the key to Lewis-Palmer's success this season and described her as being quiet, humble and hardworking - the kind of player people want to see succeed, and one who doesn't need the limelight.

A single play can sum up what Alger has meant to the Rangers this season: Lewis-Palmer was locked in a 0-0 tie with Valor Christian in the state championship when a swarm of Eagles surrounded Alger. Immediately, she looked up and found Annica Fletemeyer, who was able to connect for the winning goal.

"Her vision and ability to find the open player is amazing," Martin said. "And she is always willing to pass the ball off to a teammate."

Last year the Rangers lost a heartbreaker in the state championship to Cheyenne Mountain on penalty kicks, something that motivated Alger throughout the season.

"We didn't want to be in that situation again," Alger said. "We didn't want to be two-time state losers. It's a great opportunity to be there but an even better one to win."

Alger is a two-time first-team all-state selection (the 2016 team is yet to be announced), recent winner of the state title which eluded her Rangers last season, and a Washington State soccer commit. Heading into her senior year the forward has accomplished more than most high school athletes, but she has one goal left to reach.

As a freshman Alger set her sights on being Lewis-Palmer's all-time leader in goals. The record is held by Kourtney Guetlein, who just finished her senior season at Washington State, Alger's future school.

"Her career goals are so high that I don't know if that is even possible," Alger said.

But the record may not be as far off as she thinks.

Guetlein had 96 goals in a Rangers uniform and Alger is at 67. She needs to score 29 goals next season to match the record, the same number she had this season.

"I think it's possible," Martin said. "I think it's a very doable goal for her."

The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year: Katie Rainsberger, Air Academy

The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year: Katie Rainsberger, Air Academy

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Katie Rainsberger is off to college, but she leaves behind a trophy case bursting at the seams.

The list of accolades includes 10 state championships between cross country and track and field, and numerous athlete-of-the-year awards.

She can add one last accomplishment before heading to the University of Oregon: The Gazette Girls' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year.

"To be in the company of the other Peak Performers means a lot," Rainsberger said. "There have been a lot of them from Air Academy recently, and it's a tremendous honor to be among them. I appreciate everything that I've accomplished along the journey. But I'm not done yet."

The Air Academy star grabbed Class 4A state titles in three individual events - the 800, 1,600, and 3,200-meter runs - and anchored the 3,200-meter relay. It was the second straight year she's captured four state titles, which go along with her pair of cross country championships.

Out of the 64.5 points the Kadets scored at the state track meet, 61 came from the distance runners, with Rainsberger leading the way with 40.

"Most people in her position wouldn't be running in high school and would be focusing on Olympic trials, but not Katie," Air Academy coach Phil Roiko said. "She wanted to be there to run with her teammates."

Rainsberger might compete mostly as an individual, but she's a team player. Sharing her successes with her teammates was one of her favorite parts of her last state meet.

"To have them there with me was the best feeling," Rainsberger said. "People don't think track is a team sport, but it really is. I grew up playing soccer, and my parents raised me to be a team player. They used to pay me three dollars for an assist and one for a goal. That's where I learned to be a good teammate."

Roiko points out that just because Rainsberger will be taking her talents to Eugene, Ore., this fall, it doesn't mean her impact on the program will stop.

"Katie has been a mentor to the other distance kids and taught them what they need to know," Roiko said. "She's showed them how to mentally prepare and put in the hard work. She's passed that on to Maria Mettler, Lily Hamilton and all the younger girls. That mark will be with us for years to come."

Roiko said Rainsberger is the best female distance runner in Colorado high school history in his opinion, and that he wouldn't count her out when it comes to qualifying for the Olympics someday. Rainsberger adds that battling another great runner in state history - Niwot's Elise Cranny - her first two years of high school made her push herself to be a better competitor.

When her high school career came to an end, the stats were staggering, but all Rainsberger cared about was leaving the program in great shape.

"It's all part of a legacy and the inspiration I hope to leave behind," she said. "I aspired to be like the great runners before me, and I hope I left my mark on those younger girls who are coming into the sport."

The Gazette Boys' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year: Christian Lyon, Fountain-Fort Carson

The Gazette Boys' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year: Christian Lyon, Fountain-Fort Carson

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Maybe after all this running stuff, Christian Lyon will write a novel. It would be about struggle and perseverance, the sprinter said - and, of course, his Christian faith.

If he needs a chapter for it, he could probably look to this spring track season. 

With his charisma, the Fountain-Fort Carson senior was a catalyst for his teammates off the track - a motivating force that led the Trojans in 2016. The Gazette Boys' Track and Field Peak Performer of the Year went on to win four state titles.

"He had total confidence in himself and total confidence in his teammates," longtime Fountain-Fort Carson coach Ben Montoya said.

"He wanted to prove to everybody he was one of the best sprinters we've ever had. And to be honest with you, he is the best overall sprinter we've ever had because he ran anything from the 100 to the 400."

Of his state wins, Lyon made good in the 100 meters (10.80 seconds) and 200 (21.67), a year after finishing second and 12th, respectively.

He rallied the 800 relay to gold - a team that included his younger brother Jalen, whose arms he jumped into immediately after their winning mark of 1:25.96.

And in the final event of the meet, less than an hour after the Trojans learned their quest for a third consecutive 5A title would come up just short, Lyon roared back to take first in the 1,600 relay (3:17.91), too. The senior said that one might have been his favorite since it summed up his team and its will to win through adversity.

"Just for that 4x4 to come together as a team and work for a gold medal," Lyon said. "That'll probably stay in my mind forever."

Turning the page, Lyon will head to Barton (Kan.) Community College with the hope of transferring in two years. At that point, Lyon said he hopes to run for a Division I program - like his "dream school" Oregon.

In the meantime, though, he hopes his four-title performance won't soon be forgotten at Fountain-Fort Carson. Just as he followed former teammate Tevin Donnell's 2015 state performance, Lyon hopes the Trojans' young returning core will follow his lead next season.

"I feel great about them," Lyon said. "If they can continue to work hard, and stay motivated, and keep their grades up, there's nothing in the way of stopping them at winning state. Maybe even a state title, be state champions again. .

"They just got to believe in themselves."

The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year: Paul Tillotson, Lewis-Palmer

The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year: Paul Tillotson, Lewis-Palmer

Sat, Jan 1, 2000 - 12:00 AM

Lewis-Palmer baseball has taken a giant step forward the past four years, and a lot of that is thanks to Paul Tillotson.

As an imposing figure on the mound and in the batter's box, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Tillotson was the catalyst for regular-season titles and deep playoff runs for the Rangers. He is The Gazette Baseball Peak Performer of the Year.

During his senior season, Tillotson batted .562, knocked in 40 RBIs and totaled 20 extra-base hits. His pitching stats were just as impressive, going 8-1 with a 1.02 ERA and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than 5-to-1.

"This season was a lot of fun," Tillotson said. "My teammates are great guys, and we went out and played the right way. During your senior year it's sentimental every time you play on someone else's field cause it's the last time. I have a lot of great memories."

Tillotson emerged as a power during his sophomore season. In the three seasons before he became a fixture in the batting order and pitching rotation, Lewis-Palmer went a combined 20-37. During the past three years, the Rangers went 54-14, which included a 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference mark of 39-3.

It wasn't a coincidence.

"Paul definitely has the tools and is mentally strong enough to be successful in college and in the pros," Lewis-Palmer coach Brett Lester said. "He's put himself in a good position. There's not much you can do to get in his head, which also benefits us as a program. Our team saw that he respects the game and isn't bigger than the game. It's huge, because he listened to whatever we told him, and was coachable in all aspects."

One thing is for sure: teams in the area, and around the state, will be happy to see Tillotson move on from the prep ranks and onto college.

There were many times over the past four years that Tillotson pitched a complete game, while also providing himself with enough run support to get the victory.

"You get satisfaction from both," he said of hitting and pitching. "You get more of an instant gratification from hitting a home run, and pitching you have to perform over six or seven innings. But they're both fun."

Tillotson wasn't selected in the Major League Baseball draft, which means he'll be heading to Lincoln, Neb., to play for the Cornhuskers in the Big Ten Conference next season.

"I'm extremely excited to get out to Nebraska and further my education and improve my baseball ability. I want to be able to start as a freshman and get in there and be competitive and see what I can add to the team.

"There's some disappointment in not getting drafted, but I have a great opportunity at Nebraska. A lot of it had to do with medical reasons after I had surgery in January, so teams saw me as a high risk. It's unfortunate, but I'm hopeful I'll have the same opportunity in three years to be drafted."

While he'll most likely be focusing on his pitching at Nebraska, Tillotson is hoping to get a chance to show what he can do with a bat as well.

"I'm hoping to get an opportunity to hit there, and I'd like to give it a shot to see what happens," he said. "The coaches know I like to swing it, and I think I can have some success."

Lester says Tillotson will be missed, but the time he spent with the Lewis-Palmer program will pay off, even after he's gone.

"Paul's been the catalyst for this program, and was an extension of the coaching staff," Lester said. "We have some activities where the JV mixes in with the varsity, so it was good for everyone in the program to get to be around him. When Paul was on the mound, there was always an added level of confidence."