Editorial: Kudos to Moffat County sports for keeping competition heated during cold months
Spring has almost sprung — at least according to the calendar — and part of the change in seasons is a return to the great outdoors for the sporting pursuits that can only be fully enjoyed in the fresh air.
Events like baseball and soccer games, golf tournaments and track and field meets will soon be back in the mix for young athletes and their parents, and we wish the best of luck to the competitors at Moffat County High School who are just starting these seasons anew.
However, if we can look back a bit, we’d like to acknowledge the solid winter season that’s just taken place for sports such as basketball, wrestling and swimming.
Most recently, MCHS girls varsity hoops returned from the state tournament, a weekend that was only the latest stop in a schedule that included a postseason trifecta — Western Slope League champions, WSL district champs and winners of the Region 8 Tournament.
After earning the same honor in 2016, the Lady Bulldogs just missed it the following year, only to come roaring back as the best in the conference and among the top 3A schools in Colorado.
What’s more, they took it a step further than the 2016 team, whose playoff run ended in the quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
For the first time since 2006, Moffat County girls went as far as the Final 4 semifinals, a feat that included knocking out the top-ranked team in the division, Englewood’s Kent Denver, in the Great 8. The team ultimately placed fourth after two tough losses in the tourney, but a 20-7 season remains a great accomplishment for these young women.
Just a few weeks before the Lady Bulldogs’ trip to the Front Range, another bunch of athletes donning blue and white were in Denver doing the Moffat County name proud.
Northwest Colorado has a long history of producing powerhouse wrestling teams, and this season’s roster was among the best the Bulldogs have ever had.
Several grapplers struggled with injuries in December, but January and February were rife with Moffat County victories near and far.
The team had a lot to live up to from the previous year, hoping to retain a regional title, and though it wound up placing second as a group, the silver lining was more overall wrestlers headed to state.
The eight state-bound wrestlers of 2017 increased to 11 this year, including individual regional champs Miki Klimper and Elias Peroulis, who went on to place second and fourth, respectively, at the state championships at Denver’s Pepsi Center, joined by Dagan White, Isiaih Herod, Chris Moschetti, Daniel Caddy, Ethan Powers, Drake Zimmerman, Greg Hixson, Jefferson Piatt and Toryn Hume.
Though it wound up being oddly similar to the previous season — the team 1oth overall among 3A schools and Klimper and Peroulis retaining the same finishes, despite stronger records of 40-4 and 39-7 in their senior year — it was nonetheless an exciting ride for fans, who will no doubt see more to come from the younger athletes working their way through the program.
Speaking of which, a great winter season came from Craig Middle School hoops and wrestling teams, but for more on that, read Friday’s sports section.
The beginning of February was a time of exhilaration for the members of the MCHS girls swim team, whose steady build-up to the Southwestern Conference League Championships culminated in members qualifying for multiple state races — the 200-yard freestyle relay, 200 individual medley, 100 backstroke and 100 breaststroke.
Molly Neton, Alexa Neton, Kelsey McDiffett, Katelynn Turner and alternates Alyssa Chavez and Meeker’s Jeni Kincher were ready to represent their school at their biggest competition yet, but the meet took on a whole new importance within a few days, as athletes and coaches learned of Moffat County School District’s plans to shut down the MCHS pool.
Though emotions may have been high, their times were not — girls hit some of their lowest times yet as they showed their grit and determination in the water of Thornton’s Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center, placing 20th in the preliminary round for the 200 relay.
Time will tell what comes of the ongoing effort to maintain a pool for the Bulldog swimming program — the spring boys team also showed its intensity with state times in its first meet this weekend — but there’s no denying MCHS students won’t let adversity get in their way for long.
For that matter, even when losses outnumbered wins, Bulldog athletes were able to shine.
Moffat County boys basketball vastly improved its 2017 season of 4-16 to a 10-11 tally.
The final numbers are hardly the whole story, however. The Dog Pack hit multiple heights during the past few months, ranging from a 40-point scoring spree for senior Brent Cook to two thrilling overtime victories to twice defeating Eagle Valley with point totals that nearly reached triple digits.
Cook was second in the league for points per game as well as in the top 10 in the entire 3A division.
In that same vein, the Moffat County Bulldog hockey team, part of Craig Youth Hockey Association, recorded noteworthy achievements in a 6-15-1 year, including Wyatt Boatright and AJ Barber finishing the regular season second and sixth in total goals among players in the Colorado Recreational Hockey League’s 18 and under group.
This may seem like a long-winded brag about local pride, and frankly, it is, because there are a lot of reasons to be proud of the kind of spirit and strength Moffat County athletes show regularly.
Craig Press will run a larger list of awards winter sports teams received, but we felt a recap of the past few months was worth noting, because you don’t have to be a parent, grandparent, teacher or former athlete to recognize the potential of these kids in sports venues and beyond.
Simply put — good game, all around.