Moffat County sports night hands out big honors with ‘Dude’ Dent trophy, Outstanding Female Athlete
Multi-tasking is the name of the game for the recipients of the top awards for Moffat County High School athletics.
MCHS honored its student-athletes Tuesday night at Quality Inn & Suites, a ceremony that culminated in the Lewis “Dude” Dent Memorial Award and Outstanding Female Athlete.
Taking the distinctions for the Class of 2019 were Cale Scranton and Tiffany Hildebrandt.
The two have each been varsity-level athletes in basketball and track and field for multiple winters and springs, with fall meaning football for him and volleyball for her.
With each of the nominees featuring a coach or other important figure speaking on their behalf, Cale had his father, Lance, introduce him to the crowd.
Though he coached his son in both football and track in the past year, Lance had a lifetime worth of examples to draw from, including an elementary school sports incident that involved some blood, plus his recovery from a middle school ACL injury before starting his freshman season.
“Cale exemplifies what sports and school are supposed to teach each and every one of us about life. Working hard gets results, but not always the results you might have wanted,” Lance said. “It means you don’t quit, no matter how you’re being treated or how the season is going, and remembering that the really important things in life are wrapped up in the memories that you make usually on the bus rides to and from a contest.”
Speaking for Tiffany was assistant basketball coach Joe Padon, who noted her proficiency and competitiveness on the court during game time and practice drills, as well as in his accounting class.
“After coaching her for four years, her work ethic is what stands out the most,” Padon said. “Behind the scenes and away from the spotlight is an athlete who practiced countless hours perfecting hundreds of ordinary tasks, each one a moving part to the other to make a great athlete.”
Upon being announced as the winners, Cale and Tiffany each thanked the crowd for their respective awards.
For Tiffany, she is the third member of her family to take the honor after father Todd won Dude Dent in 1985 and brother Keenan in 2017.
“My brothers played an important role in my student-athlete career,” she said. “They always let me tag along when they were doing anything from throwing a football to wrestling and playing Horse. They left some pretty big shoes to fill — size 13 and 14, to be exact.”
Cale kept his remarks short but ended with a nod to his fellow nominees he’d spent countless time with on the gridiron, basketball court or both.
“This is a special award, and being nominated is a huge accomplishment,” he said.
The two top award winners were also among the list of three-sport athletes with a cumulative grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Also taking the award earlier in the night were Halle Hamilton, Kelsey McDiffett and Connor Etzler.
CHSAA’s Active Scholar Award went to Molly Neton and AJ Barber for their combination of varsity letters and 3.5 GPA throughout high school, while Neton, Jared Baker, Abigail Hall, Kinlie Brennise, Terry Gillett, Bailey Lawton and Carter Severson took the Four-Year Scholar Award for a 3.6 GPA and at least one varsity letter each year at MCHS.
The Dude Dent Award has been distributed for more than 60 years in honor of the Northwest Colorado athlete who was multifaceted physically and intellectually in high school and college before serving his country in World War II.
As part of Tuesday’s program, organizers welcomed the first recipient of the award, Class of 1957’s Pete Pleasant, to speak. Though Pleasant joked he has a tendency to “make a short story long,” he quickly got to the point about seeing past athletes who have been on the short list for Moffat County’s top award succeed later in life.
He noted he expects similar of this year’s nominees.
“You’ve all dedicated yourself for a number of years to athletics and also to education. You’re to be congratulated, and may the best person win,” he said.
With four nominees up for Dude Dent and four for Female Athlete, the acknowledgements were many from the speakers.
Though he did not coach her during her time at MCHS, Eric Hamilton spoke of Kinlie Brennise’s prowess in hoops and rodeo alike, having seen her abilities in each time and again, as well as her more humanistic qualities.
“Her humility has shined through even with all of her success. I know she will continue to strive for excellence in everything she does,” he said. “That’s who Kinlie is.”
Speaking for Bailey Lawton, assistant soccer coach Chelsea Suazo attested to Lawton’s many worthy qualities on the field, spelling out BAILEY in an acronym of positive traits.
She began with B for “Boss” for Lawton’s leadership qualities as Bulldog goalie.
“A boss does not settle,” Suazo said. “She does not follow the norm just because it’s the expected thing to do. She is a person who knows what she wants and doesn’t stop for anything less.”
After getting to know the senior girls during his first season back with MoCo basketball, Jim Loughran said Jaidyn Steele’s capabilities were many, namely that of a hard worker and tenacious defender who did anything and everything asked of her throughout the past season.
“I even told her once, ‘I want you guarding that girl so hard you can tell me the flavor of the bubblegum she’s chewing,'” he said.
He added that Steele was one of his athletes who truly understood the concept of a team player.
“A team player is big for any sport, but to me it means a lot,” he said.
For Colby Beaver, football coach Jamie Nelson attested to his quarterback’s drive to work hard even during the off-season, even when it looked like a summer injury might keep him sidelined.
“Colby has been challenged with ups and downs, but his grit and determination moved him forward,” Nelson said. “Over six months, we never heard a negative word or heard a complaint. We only saw action.”
MCHS trainer Marshall Kraker spoke to Connor Etzler’s level of passion in four sports his senior season, including golf and football in the fall, basketball in winter and a return to track and field this spring.
“You have blessed Moffat County athletics in so many ways, demonstrated your abilities on the football field and your capabilities for remarkable receptions during key moments,” Kraker said. “You’ve proved your fellowship on the basketball court with exceptional control of the ball and selflessness of your passing and assist work.”
Kraker noted that Etzler’s greatest trait has been as an “eager student” of the human body’s workings on his way to study health and exercise sciences.
Speaking for Greg Hixson, wrestling coach Dusty Vaughn said multiple injuries as a senior didn’t put a damper on Hixson’s willingness to help his teammates continue to thrive, a quality Vaughn noted as befitting a future Marine looking to follow in family tradition.
“When I asked him what his goals were for the year, unselfishly, the first thing he said was, “I want to make my dad proud,'” Vaughn said. “The second thing that he said was, “I want to build a team.'”
Vaughn said that while Hixson didn’t get as much of a chance to shine this year as should have, he led by example to help him through his first year of coaching at Moffat County.
“I’m just so grateful that I got to be your coach this year. You made me a better man, a better coach, a better person. Thank you very much,” Vaughn said.
After four years of hard work, members of Moffat County High School’s Class of 2019 are striving to keep going for greatness in the world, and the Bulldogs who took top honors during graduation aren’t just sitting on their laurels.