The summer of '02 was a busy one for Moffat County High School Activities Director Jim Loughran. He spent a lot of his time trying to fill eight head-coaching vacancies. Looking back on the success of the MCHS new and veteran coaches, Loughran couldn't help but gloat a little.
"I want to say that I'm lucky, but really I had a lot of good candidates to choose from," he said. "I'm elated by the way that the year went. For me it was fun."
In all, the Bulldogs sent 13 of 17 teams to post-season play. Of those teams, the top finishes included a sixth-place finish in boys cross country, second place for girls cross country and the third-consecutive state title in wrestling.
Another measurement of success for Loughran was the increase in home-event ticket sales.
"We had bigger numbers in gates this year," he said. "It shows that the community is coming out more to support the kids and that's a great sign."
In case you missed it, or just want to reminisce, following is a break down of the successes of the '02-'03 MCHS athletic year.
Under the new leadership of MCHS alumnus Dustin Ence, the Bulldog cross country teams didn't miss a step from previous years. Led throughout the season by the senior trio of Danielle Brown, Laurel Mortensen and Sheila McNicol, the girls team won the regional tournament and finished second at the state meet. The girls team has quietly built a dynasty that, until this year, was tied with the wrestling program for the most state titles for MCHS.
Led by senior Bryce Ellgen and junior Anthony Loughran, the boys team raced to its best finish in nearly a decade at the state meet. Ellgen and Tim Bailey will be the only two runners not returning to the veteran team next year that looks to improve on its sixth-place finish.
The volleyball team started the season strong with two wins at its home tournament. It earned four wins in the Western Slope Conference and a win in the district tournament. For their accomplishments, sophomore Brandie Telfer, junior Brittany Hutton and senior Kate Schafer earned honorable mention awards. The Bulldogs will undertake their third-straight season with a different coach next year when they are joined by Washington State University All-American Becky Howlett.
The football team returned to the state playoffs after a two-season absence. The Bulldogs defeated Steamboat Springs in overtime, 14-13, to finish third in the Western Slope Conference before falling 28-11 in the playoffs to Pueblo County. The blue-and-white's defense led the conference in sacks and interceptions as well as gave up one of the lowest point totals per game in the state. They earned five first-team all -conference awards with a 6-5 season.
The boys soccer team took itself out of doormat status in the conference with a win against every team except Palisade during the season. The squad also picked up its first win against Steamboat Springs in the program's history. The Bulldogs were in the hunt for a playoff spot until their last two games, and their five wins were more than the last five seasons combined.
The boys golf team started hot with several early top finishes for individuals and the team. In a strong regional showing, the boys team finished eighth with seniors Cody DeGuelle and Evan Pressley leading the way.
The wrestling team didn't disappoint by nailing down its third consecutive state title. The team's record was spotless this year with an undefeated record in duals and tournaments. Senior Ty Weber earned all-American honors with an undefeated record and his second state title. The Bulldogs had five seniors place in the top three at state, leaving the question -- can they do it again? After flirting with retirement, coach Roman Gutierrez will return to see if he can lead his team to at least one more title.
The girls basketball team breezed through the regular season of the WSC, extending its streak of consecutive regular season wins to 30. The team ended its season with a 63-50 loss to eventual state runner-up Longmont. For the second year, Laurel Mortensen was named the WSC's player of the year and the team finished 18-5.
The boys basketball team was able to break out of its district tournament struggles this year with a third-place finish and its first trip to the playoffs since the state playoffs expanded to 32 teams. The Bulldogs swept Steamboat Springs on the way to a second-place finish in the WSC. MCHS picked up four conference honors and recorded its best regular-season record in more than 10 years.
The girls swim team had 11 swimmers make the trip to state this year. The team was led by numerous upperclassmen, including 12 seniors. Seven of the 11 swimmers at state graduated this year, but the experience that Cara Conci, Danyel Harmon, Sari Maneotis and diver Amanda Vaughn had will be a key for success next year.
While the team isn't affiliated with the high school, the Craig Cougars high school hockey team took home first place in its post-season tournament. The Cougars defeated the Oak Creek Kodiaks in Steamboat, 3-1, for the title.
The girls soccer team followed in the footsteps of the boys team with a vast improvement from previous seasons. Prior to this season, the girls had not won a conference game, but the Bulldogs picked up three this year. With a four-win season, MCHS finished with two all-conference awards with senior Jeni Bamford on the first team and senior Kelly Howle on the second team.
The boys track team set itself up for future dominance with all 11 of its state qualifiers being underclassmen. The team finished third at the regional tournament and has a 400 and 3,200 relay team that will return as two of the top teams in the region next year. Junior Cody Palmer was a part of all but one point for the Bulldogs as the anchor of the 4x100 and a fourth place finisher in both the long and triple jumps.
The girls track team saw its regional meet winning streak broken, but not without having a successful season. The distance crew led the way to state with seven qualifiers, including the 3,200-meter relay team. The 400 and 3,200 relay teams earned points with eighth- and fifth-place finishes respectively at state. Laurel Mortensen took home a gold medal with a title in the 800.
MoCo's boys swim team added five 2003s to the school record board. They took all three relay teams and three individuals to the state swim meet. Three qualifications into the finals at state were the best for MCHS coach Jim Vorhies' in four years. Senior John Shipley took home top honors in the Western Slope Championships for the Bulldogs.
The baseball team finished third in the WSC, earning a spot in the newly expanded state playoffs. The team earned five all conference honors including first team for Jerod Estey and Nick Goodenow. Estey was named the WSC player of the year again and also received All-State honors. The team finished 12-7 and graduates six seniors from its starting line up.
Whatever you do, don't mention Eagle Valley around the MCHS girls golf team. The Devils finished in front of the Bulldogs for the third consecutive year at the regional tournament. It didn't stop junior Brittany Hutton and senior Morgan Cobb from qualifying for the state tournament. Hutton finished near the middle of the pack at state and hopes to make a jump to the front runners
Finally, the team with the longest season of any high school sports, the MCHS rodeo team. With a season spanning August to June, the MoCo ropers and wranglers spend many of their weekends on the road. This year Kelly and Becky White and Tia Brannan are in the top 10 for overall points in the state. With the state rodeo approaching from June17-21 the team has more than 10 qualifiers for the state finale.
As the year is completed and Loughran looked back he couldn't help but talk about next year.
"With most of our teams going to camps this summer we keep improving," he said. "I think we'll keep getting better with increased participation and support."