Moffat County athletes rested, ready for more competition as winter teams return |

Moffat County athletes rested, ready for more competition as winter teams return

From left, Moffat County High School's Landen Najera tips off against Rifle. Alexa Neton swims a freestyle relay. Pepper Rhyne works against a Basalt competitor. Bree Meats pushes into the Rifle defense.
Andy Bockelman

After a sizable break, Moffat County High School winter athletes jump right back into the fray this week.

Bulldog basketball, wrestling and girls swimming start up their respective schedules in the next few days, taking advantage of the winter respite to come back more competitive than ever.

Moffat County High School’s Pepper Rhyne checks with coaches as he holds a lead against Basalt’s Brady Samuelson.
Andy Bockelman

Back on the mat

MCHS wrestlers ended 2019 with the high-level contest offered by Central High School’s Warrior Classic, and yet another big gathering of grapplers awaits them this weekend.

Bulldog varsity and junior varsity athletes will attend the Tournament of Champions Friday and Saturday in Vernal, Utah.

The tourney brings in multiple schools from Utah and Wyoming, as well as plenty of representation from the Western Slope, with Moffat County, Meeker, Rangely, Rifle, Soroco, Hayden and more.

A Thursday night dual at home with Rifle will serve as a warmup for the Dogs as they enter the next stage of the season.

The Warrior Classic saw the group place ninth among teams, as well as earning spots on the podium for three individuals, with Daniel Caddy third in the 152-pound weight class and Kaden Hixson and Caden Call both fifth at 106 and 113, respectively.

Caddy ended the early season 13-1, while Hixson finished the first half of the season 18-2, each facing their first losses at the Warrior, while Call was 15-6.

Among the winning records for the varsity lineup entering the new calendar year were Anthony Duran at 12-6, Ryan Duzik 13-5, Dagan White 11-5, and Pepper Rhyne 15-4, though all the members of the program will be looking to come back strong in 2020.

Following TOC, Bulldogs will face Grand Valley and Meeker in home duals, between which will be a Jan. 25 tournament in Berthoud, as well as traveling to Wyoming for the Rumble in Rawlins, all of which leads up to the 3A Region 1 Tournament in Montrose in February.

Moffat County High School swimmer Alexa Neton competes in the 200-yard freestyle race at the Southwestern Conference League Championships.
Andy Bockelman

Diving in all over again

The Montrose Meet served as the final event of MoCo girls swimmers’ early season, but another round in the same waters is in store for Bulldogs this weekend, with the two-day Montrose Invitational Friday and Saturday.

The return to the pool will give twice as many opportunities to athletes to improve upon all the more upon their performances a few weeks earlier.

At the Montrose Meet, Kelsey McDiffett, Alexa Neton, Jeni Kincher and Ellina Jones placed fifth in the 200-yard freestyle race with a time of 1:57.3.

The 3A state time of 1:56 will be their standard to beat this go, the same foursome also seeking state qualification in the 200 medley.

Individually, McDiffett is the closest to state, needing only .15 seconds trimmed from her best this season to make state’s 1:20.5 in the 100 breaststroke.

Heading into the second half of the schedule, Jones has the team’s fastest time in the 50 free (30.34), Kincher the best in the 100 free (1:06.68), Anna Cooper fastest in 100 butterfly (1:19.4), and Neton quickest in 100 backstroke and 200 free (1:19.25, 2:27.66).

The squad will have more meets in store than planned earlier in the year.

Races in Glenwood Springs and Delta that were already on the schedule have since been complemented by a Jan. 24 meet in Gunnison, as well as a Feb. 1 invite in Fruita before the conference finals the following week.

Moffat County High School’s Bree Meats pushes into the Rifle defense.
Andy Bockelman

On the rebound

Moffat County basketball teams will have another week to get in store for the 3A Western Slope League slate, but before conference play begins, MoCo girls will tip off at home Saturday against Grand Junction’s Central High School.

The match-up against the 5A Warriors (6-4) promises a challenge for the Lady Bulldogs, who finished 2019 at 6-2, ranking second in win percentage in the WSL behind 5-1 Cedaredge, the Bruins’ sole loss so far to 9-0 Centuari.

The early season was not the most taxing for MoCo girls, according to the CHSAA RPI standings. While Cedaredge stands at eighth, Grand Valley 13th and Delta No. 15, the Bulldogs are 20th, with their status impacted by the opponents’ win percentage, the lowest among the top 20 teams.

Even so, MCHS players more than make up the difference in statistics, with Cayden King and Halle Hamilton among the conference’s top 10 scorers, King already putting up 100 points and Hamilton 75 so far.

As one of the WSL’s top rebounders as well, King has already earned three double-doubles across the team’s first eight games, while Hamilton is in good company among the top five in the league for three-pointers, steals and assists.

Following girls’ bout with Central, MCHS will host a double dose of weekend games with Jan. 17 and 18 featuring the Bulldogs against Gunnison and Olathe.

While the two schools are currently ranked 10th and eighth in the conference, respectively, for WSL girls, MoCo boys are likely to see more competition for the league opener.

Moffat County High School’s Landen Najera tips off against Rifle.
Andy Bockelman

Gunnison boys basketball has proved to be the team to beat in the early season, leading the pack as they prepare to face 1-9 Roaring Fork this weekend.

However, even at 2-6, Bulldog boys are on even footing with most of the conference, with only the 7-1 Cowboys, 5-3 Coal Ridge, and 4-3 Grand Valley staying above .500 in December games.

In total win percentage, Moffat County guys are sixth among the 10 Western Slope schools, and despite their struggles, the fifth-highest WSL team in RPI details, coming in at 45th among all 3A teams.

Contrary to girls, a high count in opponents’ wins keeps the boys in the middle of the pack compared to most of the conference.

And, though they’ve claimed only a pair of W’s, the Bulldogs’ 40-point margin of victory over Sargent at Centauri’s Mountain Top Classic shows the team knows how to score, joining Coal Ridge and Gunnison as the only teams to surpass 400 total points in early games, the Dogs currently at 418-499 in combined scores.

Following the games with Gunnison and Olathe, both hoops teams will travel to Grand Valley and Cedaredge the following weekend, with boys rounding out the month hosting a Jan. 30 non-conference game against Summit before both squads head to Basalt Feb. 1.

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