19 highlights of Moffat County sports in 2019
From state and national championship honors achieved by Moffat County youth to smaller, personal victories that meant a great deal to those involved, there were plenty of moments of triumph for athletes.
The following is a list of highlights, arranged in chronological order as they occurred in the calendar year.
1. Basketball blowouts
The 2018-19 schedule was a rough one for each of the Moffat County High School basketball teams, as girls saw their six-year district championship streak come to an end and were later knocked out of the state postseason in the opening round, and boys finished with a 6-15 overall record.
Still, a set of January games against Cedaredge was one of the rare occasions when the Bulldogs could celebrate on all fronts as teams were firing on all cylinders with the Bruins.
The 2019-20 schedule for MoCo hoops got off to a great start for MCHS girls as they won the White River Electric Cowboy Shootout, while boys built up their confidence with win of more than 40 points in the season opener with Sargent.
2. Going swimmingly
A solid season all around for MCHS girls swimming culminated in one state qualification after another during the Southwest Conference Championships, which ultimately led to the full roster heading to the final set of races, competing in the 100-yard backstroke, 100 breaststroke, 100 freestyle, 200 free, 200 individual medley, 200 free relay, 200 medley relay, and 400 free relay.
The league event also saw Molly Neton earn the distinction of Swimmer of the Year, while then-coach Meghan Francone was named Coach of the Year.
3. No middling effort
Craig Middle School girls hoops’ streak of success at the district tournament stayed intact in February, as both the seventh- and eighth-grade A-Team took the trophy, defeating Meeker and Rangely, respectively, to win the tourney.
The hoops energy continued into the end of 2019 as well, when the boys teams also took a pair of titles in December, with the eighth-grade A-Team capping off an undefeated year.
4. Grappling with grit
A small roster for the 2018-19 season didn’t amount to small results for MCHS wrestling, with the 3A Region 1 Tournament in Montrose adding to the ongoing Bulldog legacy.
With five placing in the top six of the event, MoCo grapplers sent four to Denver’s state round, including regional champ Daniel Caddy, runner-up Dagan White and third-place finishers Hunter Fredrickson and Anthony Duran moving on to Pepsi Center.
The state level proved tough for all of them, though Caddy fought his way into the final day to place fourth in the 3A 138-pound weight class as a junior.
With a new season underway, the Dogs finished 2019 at the Warrior Classic in December, where Caddy, now a senior, placed third in 152, while freshmen Kaden Hixson (106) and Caden Call (113) took fifth.
5. Sticking with it
A phenomenal season for Moffat County Bulldogs hockey had few opportunities for fans to catch a home game, but the 19-4-1 year included a big 9-3 Senior Night victory at Moffat County Ice Arena over Northern Colorado in February.
After dominating much of the rest of the Colorado Recreational Hockey League, the Dogs’ playoff run eventually came to a halt against eventual champions Littleton in March.
6. Still standing
A 2018 car accident resulted in an amputation of her left leg for Craig teenager Jessica Womble.
However, less than one year after her life changed forever, the dedicated gymnast was back on the mat practicing the sport in which she had spent nearly half her life.
A March competition in Gypsum allowed her to show her resolve to much applause from her teammates and supporters from Rising Star Youth Training Center.
7. Rocking the Rockies
Though an official junior high-level event wasn’t part of the schedule for Craig Middle School’s wrestling program, the Bulldogs and the Bad Dogs Elite Wrestling team hit the Rocky Mountain Nationals championships hard.
The high-intensity tournament handed CMS’s Billy Lawton his only loss of the year after a 19-1 run in both official school tournaments and RMN events, during which he won a district title and an RMN regional mantle before finishing second at state.
Kaden Hixson won a district title for CMS before competing for Bad Dogs at state, placing fourth, while Alex Reno earned sixth at state, district runner-up and RMN regional champ.
RMN’s state event also saw Koy Weber fourth and Kolten Vasquez sixth in the fourth- and fifth-grade division.
8. Diamond in the rough
The spring didn’t start well for MCHS baseball, but it couldn’t have finished much better.
At 2-8 midway through their season, Bulldogs suddenly came alive with a doubleheader sweep of Gunnison in late April. The ball kept rolling for the next seven games, including an 8-5 win over Coal Ridge in their final home event, as well as the first half of a road series in Basalt to put the hot streak at nine games.
Taking fourth in the 3A Western Slope League, the team claimed its first winning season since 2015.
9. Teeing off
Wet weather didn’t treat Bulldog girls golf kindly during the spring, but slow and steady improvement throughout the season paid off by the regional tournament in Gunnison.
A showdown following the regular round of competition between teammates Caitlen Krause and Ellina Jones resulted in Krause winning the tiebreaker to claim alternate status for the 3A state tourney.
Though she didn’t ultimately get the call to move on the final event, Krause was the first MoCo girls golfer since 2014 to qualify for state in any capacity.
10. Back and forth
With only four athletes representing MCHS boys swimming, there was no doubt it would be a trying spring season for the Bulldogs.
Though the full group nearly made the cut for state in relays, Cody Evaristo was the lone member of the team to qualify for the state event, swimming the 100-yard backstroke for the second straight year.
11. Finishing strong
No one was more surprised than Bulldog runners themselves when the MCHS girls 4×200-meter relay team captured Moffat County track and field’s first state title since 2016.
Stephenie Swindler, Halle Hamilton, Emma Jones and Emaleigh Papierski were ecstatic at the May event at Jeffco Stadium as they upset competitors Montezuma Cortez and Grand Valley to gain the gold in the half-mile relay.
The same group also outdid themselves to end the state event, setting a new school record in the 4×400 relay.
12. Riding high
It was a memorable Memorial Day weekend for the Moffat County rodeo crowd, as Kinlie Brennise, Katie Jo Knez and Logan Durham finished in first place for the season with Colorado State High School Rodeo Association, the finals of which took place at Moffat County Fairgrounds.
Brennise gained a state title in the high school girls breakaway roping, while junior high athletes Knez and Durham took home the buckle in girls goat tying and bull riding, respectively, with all of them moving on to the national level during the summer.
While Brennise finished fourth in the nation in barrel racing, fellow Northwest Colorado athletes Keenan Hayes and Jace Logan took titles in bareback riding and steer wrestling, respectively.
13. Straight shooters
Moffat County’s Angela Hill, Gabrielle Ellis and Joey Gates were on the mark in the past summer at the 4-H Shooting Sports National Championships in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The three of them, combined with Routt County’s Taylor Kirby, made up an all-girl team that won the civilian marksmanship program event.
Archery competitors Kimber Wheeler and Ty Blackwell also made it to the national event on behalf of MoCo, with Wheeler placing second in the traditional bow field event.
14. This is Sparta
After several seasons of struggle, the Colorado Northwestern Community College soccer program earned its first competitive win ever during an August game against Western Wyoming.
With a mix of MoCo graduates and recruits from across the nation filling out the Spartan roster, CNCC soccer continued to fight throughout the season.
15. Solid footing
A return to the 2A state playoffs after three years’ absence kept spirits high for MCHS football, but the energy was at its peak in the early season.
A 4-0 start for the Bulldogs included one-sided wins against 3A teams Summit and Steamboat Springs, yet it was a double overtime finish against Battle Mountain in the home opener that delighted fans, with Dario Alexander sneaking into the end zone on a trick play and Kevin Hernandez running in the two-point conversion before the Dog defense shut down the Huskies for the 36-34 win.
16. Double the pleasure
MCHS boys golf has seen several athletes move on to the state round in recent years, but this fall the solo curse was broken.
17. Gridiron greatness
MCHS football will have some solid competitors moving up through the ranks in the coming years.
The CMS pigskin program’s eighth-grade team finished the year undefeated with seven straight wins.
18. Going the distance
A regional race in El Jebel held solid results for MCHS cross country, which again qualified full teams for the state finals, as Wyatt Mortenson placed third overall among the region’s boys, and Kelsey McDiffett led girls in seventh, with both groups placing third.
19. Netting some wins
A pink game in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month was the site of one of MCHS volleyball’s many comebacks this fall, as the Lady Bulldogs took a 3-2 win over the Roaring Fork Rams, splitting a doubleheader day that also included Senior Night against Grand Valley.
Though players were striving to earn 10 wins for the year, a 9-14 record proved to be the program’s best finish in a decade.