History in Focus: Something’s missing
Events that become part of our history and culture are oftentimes tied to a physical reminder such as a building, a battlefield, a book, or a collection of artifacts in a museum. In the case of Moffat County High School, the memory of great achievements are tied to simple banners in a gymnasium, trophies in a display case, or dusty plaques on a wall.
While paging through the newspaper archives in the bowels of the Museum of Northwest Colorado, I stumbled across articles revealing Moffat County High School has won five state championships that are NOT memorialized by a banner in the rafters of the gymnasium.
After twenty-three years of teaching at MCHS, I was dumbfounded I didn’t know about these championships. Furthermore, many of my friends and life-long residents had no recollection of these titles. Without something tangible to remind a constantly shifting and changing community, these accomplishments have become almost completely forgotten. Now is the time to revive these memories!
In 1962, the Moffat County cross-country team won the school’s very first athletic crown in Boulder. In a 1.5 mile race with only the top four finishers counting toward the team score, Terry Constable finished fifth, Orlie Duran, 7th; Franklin Moore, 9th; and Mike Chivington took 17th while Paul Brunsvold took 42nd. MCHS barely edged out Del Norte by one point, 38 to 39 (Craig Empire-Courier, 11/8/62).
The team was young and simply reloaded for 1963. Sophomore Orlie Duran beat 75 other runners to claim the first of his two state championships. Craig finished with a total of 30 points with Bernie Kendall, Constable, Moore, and Chivington following Duran in 6th, 8th, 16th, and 21st (11/7/63). The 1964 yearbook displays a picture of the championship trophy, which has mysteriously disappeared from the MCHS trophy case.
The cross-country championship was a precursor to the 1964 spring track season. In a dominating performance, the team scored 32 ½ points to distant runner-up Akron, with just 17. The team scored points in high hurdles, the mile run, discus, 880 relay, 440 dash, broad jump, shot put, 220 dash, and the mile relay. Orlie Duran and Dwight Cook were champions in the mile and 440 dash, respectively.
The 1964 track championship was the crowning achievement of arguably the greatest group of student athletes to ever pass through the halls of MCHS. Besides the championships in cross-country and track, the football and basketball teams won their conference titles, the wrestlers took sixth at state, with Kelly Trujillo winning a championship at 127 pounds, and the track team garnered five first-place trophies (Empire-Courier, 5/21/64 and 1964 Yearbook).
Editor of the Empire-Courier, C.A. Stoddard, justifiably opined: “Moffat County has had, probably, its finest year. Superlatives are justified. They have compiled a great record in athletics, in music, in dramatics, in citizenship, and in scholastics. This community appreciates their fine contribution by teachers and students. The biggest business in this community is paying dividends” (Empire-Courier, 5/21/64).
1972-73 saw another double championship in cross-country and track. In the league meet, the cross-country team nearly earned the perfect score with Sam Trevenen, Allen Jenkins, Dave Grimm, Greg Smith, and Dave Browning finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th. The team followed that commanding performance by edging out Fountain 34 to 36 to win the Division II state title. (Empire-Courier, 11/1 and 11/15/72)
In the spring of 1973, the community witnessed the most dominating individual performance in the history of MCHS athletics. Doug Francil single-handedly brought home a state championship by winning the low hurdles, the 100 yard dash, and setting a state record in the 220 dash at 22.0 seconds thus earning 18 of MCHS’s 21 points. Gary Todeschi chipped in 3 points by taking third place in the long jump.
The next week, Francil returned to Denver and triumphed over forty-six competitors to win the state Pentathlon (120 high hurdles, 100 yard dash, long jump, discus, and the mile run). Oh yes, he was named Outstanding Boy by the staff of MCHS and received a football scholarship at Western State! (Empire-Courier, 5/23 and 5/30/73)
Unfortunately, these glorious achievements have been fading away into the not-so distant past. MCHS proudly displays ten other state championships, and those blue and white banners help foster pride, tradition, and a connection to those who went before them.
These five championships should not be forgotten! Why banners were never raised to the rafters is now irrelevant. I call upon our district leaders to honor the efforts of our alumni and help students and our town regain the memory of these important and jubilant moments in the history of MCHS.
James Neton teaches history at MCHS and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks to the Museum of Northwest Colorado for access to the newspaper archives. History in Focus is published the first Friday of each month.
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