Dude Dent award ceremony a meaningful night for Moffat County sports
Alex Samuelson, Matt Hamilton honored as top senior athletes
The Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award Selection Dinner honored many of Moffat County High School’s sports superstars Thursday night, capping off a year that has seen a great deal of athletic achievement.
The major awards of the evening at the Clarion Inn & Suites, the Dude Dent and Female Athlete of the Year — adjusted from Outstanding Female Athlete — went to MCHS seniors Matt Hamilton and Alex Samuelson.
Between the two of them, they have achieved 22 total varsity letters — 11 each — during four years of high school, as well as taking on more sports than anyone, Matt a pentathlete and Alex a quadrathlete.
What’s more, they each added new activities in their senior year, baseball and golf for him and track and field for her.
“I think this is the first year we’ve been teammates,” Matt noted afterward, the pair both among the Bulldogs’ competitors in field happenings at track events.
Volleyball coach Starla Jensen spoke on behalf of Alex during the ceremony, mentioning her player’s good character and dedication on and off the court.
“Eleven varsity letters, all I can say is ‘wow,’ I have no doubt you will go far,” Jensen said, mentioning the strengths of Alex — or “Sam” as she was named during volleyball matches — as a young woman about to take on the world as a caring and confident individual.
Alex thanked her several teams — which also included swimming and soccer — for the good times and memorable moments over the past several years, including her siblings and teammates, Lauren and Emma.
“They made it not a team sport but a family sport,” she said.
Family played heavily in Matt’s introduction, as well, his father and basketball coach of four years, Eric, speaking for him.
Eric brought up the pride of seeing his boy excel as Moffat County’s starting quarterback — named as the top back of the Western Slope League — compete and place at the State Track and Field Championships and glimpsing a new talent as a pitcher on the baseball diamond, as well as many games of hoops shared between them.
Sportsmanship was the name of the game for the younger Hamilton this year, Eric said.
“Whether it was picking up a linebacker that had just knocked him down and made a great tackle or high-fiving that triple jumper that had just beat him out of the gold medal, Matt always put everybody ahead of him,” Eric said.
As much as Eric got choked up speaking, the young man of the hour did more so, thanking his coaches, parents, siblings, teammates, fellow nominees and many more who helped him on the way to high school and beyond, headed to compete on the gridiron of Colorado Mesa University.
“You guys have supported me my whole life,” he said emotionally.
The awards featured six nominees, with Joe Camilletti and Chris Kling also up for Dude Dent.
Keith Gille, head football coach, provided many kind words about Camilletti’s contributions to the program, which included the Bulldogs making it to the state playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.
“Out of all the kids I’ve coached, all the professional athletes I’ve coached, I’ve never coached a harder working person than Joe Camilletti,” he said.
Swim coach Jeff Wert spoke of Kling being an asset in his first year heading the team, as well as his capability in qualifying for state all four years, a feat among many traits that make him comparable to Dude Dent, upon whom he did some research.
“Dent’s teammates looked up to him for confidence, advice and focus,” Wert said. “I believe Chris has all these qualities that Dude Dent had.”
Katelyn Peroulis was among the three Female Athlete honorees, opting for Marshall Kraker, trainer for MCHS athletics through The Memorial Hospital, to speak for her after working with him for many weeks of work after an ACL injury to get back on the basketball court, where she helped the team get as far as the state quarterfinals.
Athletics and Activities Director Mike Mitchell, the evening’s emcee, read the speech prepared by Kraker, who was unable to attend.
“Katelyn has a strength and endurance that cannot be obtained from exercise at the gym, it can only be obtained through hardship and understanding and a demonstration of will and courage,” Kraker wrote.
The final nominee was Alex’s twin sister, Lauren, acknowledged by coach Todd Trapp for her skill in both cross country and track, a recipient of two state championships as part of relay teams in the latter.
“Lauren displays an amazing team-first mentality,” Trapp said. “She is willing to sacrifice self-glory for team success. It’s hard to find that quality in high school athletes.”
Alex said she and her sister had agreed to be happy for each other regardless of the night’s result.
“I’m very proud of her for all her accomplishments and Katelyn, too,” Alex said of her fellow nominees. “I didn’t think it was going to be me, so I wasn’t really prepared, but it was a great way to end my high school career.”
The ceremony also featured moments for other athletes.
Kling and fellow senior Hannah Beckett were given the Active Scholar Award, provided through Colorado High School Activities Association for athletes with a 3.0 grade point average who have played sports within the past two years. The two of them will be able to attend a Colorado Rockies game in June with other winners across the state for the chance to win a $1,000 college scholarship.
Kling, Camilletti, Peroulis and Lauren Samuelson were also honored as four-year scholars, keeping a cumulative 3.6 GPA and earning at least one varsity letter per year, each well past the minimum.
Additionally, the Three-Sport Athlete Award was handed out to 10 Bulldogs across all grade levels, winners playing on three different varsity teams while still keeping a 3.5 GPA throughout the year: Allie Dilldine, Mattie Jo Duzik, Charli Earle, Matt Hamilton, Hugo Hernandez, Keenan Hildebrandt, Chris Kling, Morgan Lawton, Lauren Samuelson and Eddie Smercina.
At other moments of the evening, James Neton gave the crowd a rundown of who Dude Dent was, a hugely skilled sportsman and scholar, but also someone who befriended the first African-American player on his college football team and gave his life in World War II, his death coinciding with the date of the liberation of France from the Nazis.
A keynote address by Sam McLeod, coach of the MCHS girls varsity basketball program, also captured the spirit of the night in how athletics can develop a young person into someone of integrity, in some cases giving their all and then some physically yet still a better person through this transformative property.
“Even if we can’t walk anymore, even if our hands are no longer capable of the miracles they once were and our strength has left them, there’s something to fight for,” he said to the crowd. “Find something to stand for, and give yourself to it with abandon and with passion and with everything you have and no little bit held back.”