Setting the tone: Moffat County winter sports ready to succeed in early season

Allison Jacobson practices her technique in the Moffat County High School. MCHS girls swimming will host the first home event for any of the winter sports teams with a meet against Summit and Glenwood Springs. MCHS wrestling will attend team duals in Grand Junction, boys basketball a tournament in Leadville and girls basketball a tourney in Meeker to begin their seasons this weekend.
Andy Bockelman

Just as Moffat County High School winter sports teams make their return from the Thanksgiving break, they’ll have another vacation coming up, but the weeks leading up to Christmas will be full of hard work and endurance as the Bulldogs strive to set the tone for the season ahead of them.

It will be a December to remember with the multitude of early schedule events for MCHS teams, including wrestling, girls swimming and boys and girls basketball. We spoke with each of the winter coaches about what they expect from their athletes as competition gets underway.

Girls swimming

Upcoming events: Friday, MCHS Invitational; Dec. 8 at Glenwood Springs; Dec. 9 at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction; Dec. 15 and 16 at Montrose

Seniors: 3; Sammi Beaver, Carson Flint, Jaycee Holman

Last season: 10th place team finish at Southwest Conference League Championships, Marisa Hulstine named Swimmer of the Year for SCL; Annika Fahrner 12th in two state races

The 2016-17 saw changes for MCHS aquatics with the introduction of a 3A division and the reintroduction of former coach Meghan Francone, who returns again to helm the team and continue swimmers on course to bigger things.

That starts this Friday as Moffat County girls host the first competitive home meet any of them have had while at MCHS. The Friday event, which begins at 4 p.m. and is open to spectators — will be a triangular format between the Bulldogs and visiting Summit and Glenwood Springs.

“One advantage we have is that we have a meter pool, and our kids are used to it when other schools are used to swimming in yards,” Francone said. “We’re just happy to finally have a home match.”

With solid relays and individual races alike, everyone from freshmen to seniors already show signs of a great season ahead, Francone said.

“Some have been in the water just a couple, others are seasoned and ready to make state times, they’re all doing great,” she said. “Stellar athletes in every event.”


Upcoming events: Saturday, varsity at Colorado Mesa University Duals, JV at Olathe Tournament; Dec. 5, triangular vs. Coal Ridge and Steamboat Springs in New Castle; Dec. 8, duals at Hotchkiss; Dec. 9, varsity at Tiger Duals in Grand Junction, JV at Rifle Invite; Dec. 12, duals at Basalt; Dec. 15 and 16, varsity at Warrior Classic in Grand Junction, JV at Fruita Monument Tournament; Dec. 21, duals vs. Hayden at MCHS

Seniors: 7; Karson Cox, Toryn Hume, Miki Klimper, Chris Moschetti, Elias Peroulis, Ethan Powers, Drake Zimmerman

Last season: Regional team championship, Miki Klimper regional champion; eight state qualifiers, Klimper placed 2nd, Elias Peroulis placed 4th

A banner season for Bulldog grapplers last year is one first-year coach Dennis Fredrickson seeks to repeat and possibly outdo.

Athletes are lean and mean going into the first weekend of the schedule, which will require endurance at the varsity level as Saturday duals at Colorado Mesa University have Bulldogs working hard all day long.

“I think that works a lot better for us because our best kids and our worst kids will all get the same amount of matches,” Fredrickson said. “With a tournament, you might get a bye or you might lose two and be done, but they’ll have a lot going on.”

Wrestlers will be in Grand Junction again and again this month with the Tiger Duals and Warrior Classic also filling their weekends, while smaller dual and triangular meets will keep them sharp in between, including a home bout with Hayden before Christmas.

The preparation has been arduous, yet wrestlers have continued to meet their coach’s expectations.

“They’ve all been putting the work in, cutting weight, and I’m not surprised, knowing them and their families,” Fredrickson said.

Boys basketball

Upcoming events: Friday and Saturday, varsity at Lake County Tournament in Leadville, JV at Fruita Monument Tournament; Dec. 5, C-Team at Grand Junction; Dec. 7 to 9, varsity at Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, JV and C-Team at White River Electric Cowboy Shootout in Meeker; Dec. 12, C-Team vs. Steamboat Springs at MCHS; Dec. 15, varsity, JV and C-Team at Steamboat Springs

Seniors: 5; Kasen Brennise, Brent Cook, Chase Cross, Kaden Hafey, Tristen Walls

Last season: 4-16 overall record, 2-7 3A Western Slope League

The prior season was a struggle for Bulldog boys hoops, taking only a handful of wins and a string of defeats that ranging in margin from as narrow as one point to as wide as 55.

Coach Eric Hamilton plans to turn it around this winter with a roster full of talent, both returning and new.

It all starts this weekend in Leadville, where the varsity Dogs will rematch the same teams they met at the beginning of last year’s schedule — Eagle Valley, Crested Butte and host Lake County.

Moffat County blew out the Panthers on their home court 83-20 last season at the tournament, while Eagle Valley had a turnaround year starting with their 67-49 defeat of the Bulldogs.

Hamilton expects good competition again from the Devils more than any.

“Eagle Valley will press the heck out of us, so we’ve got to make the stops on defense and take care of the ball,” he said.

The 53-44 loss to Crested Butte is one that still gets to him and one he especially wants to set right now that the opportunity is available.

“That loss never should have happened,” he said.

Players will be in tourney mode again the following week in Steamboat Springs, though Hamilton is focusing his attention on the immediate future.

“We’ll have some big-time, tough teams, but we’ve got to get going this weekend, that’s all I’m thinking of,” he said.

Girls basketball

Upcoming events: Thursday, Friday and Saturday, varsity and JV at White River Electric Cowboy Shootout in Meeker; Dec. 5, C-Team at Grand Junction; Dec. 7 to 9, varsity at Steamboat Springs Shoot-Out, JV and C-Team at White River Electric Cowboy Shootout in Meeker; Dec. 12, C-Team vs. Steamboat Springs at MCHS; Dec. 15, varsity, JV and C-Team at Steamboat Springs; Dec. 16, JV at Soroco Tournament in Oak Creek

Seniors: 4; Jana Camilletti, Brooke Gumber, Jaci McDiffett, Josie Timmer

Last season: 19-5 overall record, 7-2 3A Western Slope League; district champions

A 3-0 run at 2016’s White River Cowboy Electric Shootout kicked off another grand season for the Lady Bulldogs, their first being guided by Kenley Nebeker.

The schedule ended all too soon in the Sweet 16 round of the postseason against Pagosa Springs, but the varsity team clinched their fifth straight district title with an upset of Western Slope League champs Grand Valley to keep the show going in front of their fans in Craig.

Now, Nebeker and his squad are back at the beginning and ready to show they mean business. The time in Meeker will set the tone for the months ahead of them, with the Steamboat Shoot-Out following.

“The girls really want to get going,” he said. “We just want to keep doing what we’ve preached and that’s being a solid defensive team and just being smart offensively.”

His second season heading the program is what Nebeker has looked forward to since his fisrt season ended.

“There’s nothing better than playing basketball any time of year, it’s what we live for,” he said.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Craig and Moffat County make the Craig Press’ work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.