Moffat County sports year in review — Part 2
The latter half of 2022 was just as full of big Moffat County sports moments as the first half of the year. On Wednesday, we took a look at sports through the first six months of 2022. Here are some of the highlights of the last six months of the year.
The kickoff to summer started well for Moffat County cowboys and cowgirls with strong finishes in front of a home crowd for the Colorado State High School Rodeo Association finals.
Craig qualified three of its own to the national level. Myka Grajeda was the state runner-up among junior high girls in breakaway roping and Katie Jo Knez was ranked third in the same event for high-schoolers. Each of them won at least one round in the three-day state event to remain high in the rankings.
Chance Knez also made the cut for state with fourth in junior high boys goat tying, finishing as highly as third during state rounds. Grajeda also made it to nationals in barrel racing, ranked third in total score for the season and also winning the points average during state.
Jolene Rhyne narrowly missed nationals with fifth in high school goats, while Logan Durham finished the year sixth in high school bull riding and Pepper Rhyne was sixth in the high school tie down.
Katie Jo went on to rank 50th in her roping round at nationals while Grajeda took 74th in barrels.
The Moffat County 4-H shooting sports teams saw solid results over the summer at last season’s national event and the state shoot that will qualify them for next year’s nationals.
During June’s national event, Forrest Siminoe took 24th individually on the Colorado small-bore rifle group, which took third in total team standings. Likewise, Brook Wheeler shot for the Colorado compound archery team, placing 67th individually and 12th as a group.
During August’s state event, Siminoe ensured another trip to nationals, this time in air rifle. At 10th in his total score, he won the 4-P round, named for the four positions shooters must complete: prone, standing, sitting, and kneeling.
Wheeler also will go back to the big event after finishing second in archery’s recurve bow category.
For the shotgun team, Stone Balleck, Tate Kerchal, Will McStay, Wyatt Dade and Cody Dade placed second at state in sporting clays and third in both skeet and trap categories. Balleck also earned second among all individuals, with Kerchal fifth and McStay tying for sixth.
Teeing up for success
Steadily sending players to the state championships in recent years, the Moffat County golf program saw Aron Jennings qualify for the second year in a row in October.
He shot a 160 two-day at the tournament at Denver’s Pinehurst Country Club, tying for 37th in the field of 84. It was his second time at state, improving in both score and placement from the previous season, where he scored 168 and tied for 50th.
Jennings’ 83 at September’s Class 3A Region 4 Tournament ranked him 19th to get to state, and he nearly had a teammate accompany him. Lance Brackett barely missed qualifying after he tied for 21st — the final guaranteed slot — with a total of 85 and lost a playoff round to his Gunnison competitor.
The Bulldogs also placed seventh as a group with Jayden Evenson scoring a personal-best 89 and Kolten Vasquez 113. Later in the year, Jennings was also offered the opportunity to compete in the 2023 Scotland Junior Golf Invitational at St Andrews Golf Club next summer.
The tough streak over the past few years for Bulldog boys soccer continued this season, though not without its bright spots. The squad went 1-13-1 with their best games against Caprock Academy, which Moffat beat at home 5-0 and tied 3-3 on the road.
The young team with nary a senior saw its fair share of losses by shutout, yet opposing coaches also recognized the spirit of the program, with an All-Conference Honorable Mention for Zeke Alcantar.
MoCo girls were an integral part of another Northwest Colorado team during the fall, joining Rio Blanco County cohorts for a playoff-bound Meeker softball team. Craig’s Reagan Hafey, Dylan Herndon and Teryn Carter were regular components in the varsity lineup.
The Cowboys took the Western Slope League title last season, and though they took third in the conference this year, they were a postseason contender.
Meeker fell 4-0 to Denver’s Thomas Jefferson in the opening round. Hafey and Meeker’s Brea Garcia each were named All-State honorable mention by CHSAA and competed in the Senior All-State Game for Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports, with Garcia pitching and Hafey at second base.
The two were the primary pitchers this fall for Meeker — Garcia’s ERA was 5.12 with 56 strikeouts and Hafey’s was 5.20 with 36. Hafey also led the team in batting average at .534 with 31 hits and 20 RBIs.
Ever in the running
In somewhat of a rebuilding year for Bulldog cross country, runners still made their mark in the final weeks of the fall.
MCHS boys earned a state berth with third place as a group at October’s Region 1 Meet in Delta.
Besides Owen Gifford finishing as the individual runner-up at the event with a personal record 17:10 for the 5K race, Ian Trevenen took eighth and Boden Reidhead 14th to help along the placement.
The full team — including Carson Laehr, Garrett Mercer, Karson Fedinec, and Travis LeFevre — went on to the state meet in Colorado Springs, with the group 16th among 20 teams, led by Gifford taking 75th, Reidhead 77th and Trevenen 93rd.
Bulldog girls runners placed seventh during the regional race — led by Josefina Kuberry in 30th — yet they will lose only one senior and will field a stronger team next fall.
It was a season rife with injuries for MoCo football, yet gridiron grit showed throughout the entire schedule.
The 7-3 record was full of monster wins — 60-14 over Aspen, 48-6 versus Coal Ridge, 41-0 Grand Valley — with a determined defense and opportunistic offense. Yet, some of the greatest excitement came in games that were close as could be.
Maybe it was the Homecoming energy or the anticipation of the Class 2A West League opener, but no game felt as exciting as the 29-26 victory over Rifle, as seniors had countless shining moments over the Bears.
While the Dogs’ conference championship hopes were dashed by Basalt in a 34-22 defeat and their playoff run ended sooner than they’d hoped with a 38-21 loss to The Classical Academy, the numbers spoke for themselves.
Johnny Lopez led the league in interceptions with six, Michael Voloshin tied for the league’s top spot in sacks with five. Also, quarterback Evan Beaver came in midseason to rank second in the league in passing yards at 880, replacing Cort Murphy, who ranked fourth in the league in tackles with 82.
As the highest scorer in the league with 23 touchdowns in his final season among other points, Evan Atkin was second in the 2A West in rushing yardage (1,102) this season, one of many accomplishments that got him All-State Second Team. His fellow seniors Catcher Jackson and Isaac Vallem also earned All-State honorable mention for their blocking as the center and right guard, respectively, on the offensive line.
Netting big wins
With a playoff drought of more than a decade, the Moffat County volleyball program had its first winning season since 2007. The Bulldogs were on point throughout the season, finishing fifth in the Western Slope League and were 11-10 overall.
A seven-game win streak early in the fall helped them build up a good reputation. However, it was clutch moments throughout the year that got the Dogs that extra step to the regional round of playoffs. Ruby Short led the team in kills at 133, and Alexis Jones was ranked fourth in the league in assists (354), while Lizzy LeWarne was second in the league in blocks (91).
Much more to come
While winter sports are just getting started once again, there have been a few bright spots for Bulldog athletes in the final weeks of 2022.
- A new girls wrestling program is thriving under coach Ashleigh Seely. The team not only won December’s Soroco Tournament, the Bulldogs have also placed grapplers at every meet so far.
- Boys wrestling is also off to a strong start. Besides going 4-1 at the Maverick Duals and winning two additional duals, the Bulldogs saw Kaden Hixson and Michael Voloshin take titles at Delta’s Pantherfest, with Voloshin, Hixson, Billy Lawton, and Zach Hedman all placing at the Warrior Classic to round out the year.
- Both Bulldog basketball teams were bumped up to Class 4A this season, and while the reconfigured Western Slope League has yet to be seen, the squads have been tested early in the season. The 2-5 boys took encouraging wins over Palisade and Aspen, with Bryant Carlson the team’s top scorer, ranked third in the league with 77 points so far. At 3-4, the girls have picked up victories over Eagle Valley, Palisade and Rifle. Though Cayden King has the better average of 12.5 points per game, LeWarne has 53 points total and leads the league in rebounds (73), also hitting a double-double twice.
- After narrowly missing state qualification last season, MoCo girls swimming has already hit the state standard in several events. Steamboat Springs’ Zoe Anfang picked up two qualifying times during Gunnison’s Cowboy Invite, in the 100-yard butterfly (1:07.34) and 200 individual medley (2:27.38), winning the former. Steamboat’s Evie Gruben also won the 500 freestyle at the same meet, though a week later at the Summit December Invite, Anfang gained another state time in the 500 (5:48.23) as she placed second and Gruben third.
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