The strength of Colorado girls’ high school lacrosse must be making waves from coast to coast. That’s because Cheyenne Mountain is sending two of its best to each side of the country.
Sydney Pinello signed her National Letter of Intent with Saint Mary’s (Calif.) College, while best friend Morgan Burch is headed east to Davidson (N.C.) College.
“Colorado is making a name for itself, which is great,” Pinello said. “The level of play out here is so much different than other parts of the country, so it was tougher to get noticed out here.”
Burch joins former Indians tennis player Frances Adams in North Carolina.
“The past couple of years, we’ve gotten a lot of representation in Division I,” Burch said. “It’s amazing how much lacrosse has grown the last 10 years in Colorado. It’s really helping the next group of players who now see the opportunities that are available.”
Warner returns to alma mater to support friend
Wearing his Wichita State hat and signing his National Letter of Intent for the legendary baseball program, Pine Creek senior Reagan Biechler might have felt like the biggest person in the Eagles library on Wednesday.
But much easier to spot was the tallest person on hand, none other than 2012 Pine Creek graduate and Colorado Rockies farmhand Ryan Warner, all 6-foot-7 of him.
“This brings back memories,” said Warner, who signed his NLI a year ago with N.C. State but went professional after the Rockies drafted him in the third round of last June’s amateur draft. “Coming back to see these guys is awesome.
Last year, the best friends mowed down 5A competition to win a third straight Metro League title and advanced to the state tournament.
Discovery Canyon swimmer overcomes tough times
Three years ago, Discovery Canyon was barely a blip on the varsity sports landscape. The new school had no history but plenty of potential. Perhaps no one personified that more than freshman Kelsey Oettinger, who notched the school’s first state-qualifying berth that spring in the 500-yard freestyle.
At the same time, she also was grieving after the sudden loss of her mother, Judi, who passed away Sept. 20, 2009, at the age of 52.
On Wednesday, a bubbly Oettinger signed her National Letter of Intent with Western State College, a second-year program, boldly looking ahead while fondly remembering the memories that admittedly have made her a stronger swimmer and person.
“I’m where I am because of Mom and stronger because of her,” Oettinger said. “Going through that definitely made me stronger and made me appreciate everything I have in life. I could have sat out and wallowed, but she would want me to be the best I could be. I miss her, but sometimes it’s about being strong enough to accept things.”
Black and orange forever
Not only will Justin Smith get to play Division I basketball, he also won’t have to change his wardrobe.
That’s because his future collegiate team, the Idaho State Bengals, wear the same black and orange as his high school, Lewis-Palmer. Obviously, though, the colors played no part in his decision.
“In the end, Idaho State felt right. I liked the coaches a lot and the players,” Smith said. “I felt like I had a good connection and it was the right place for me.”
The 6-foot-5 Smith averaged 12.2 points as a junior while shooting 54 percent. Those numbers will likely rise this year since Colorado Player of the Year Josh Scott has graduated and headed to the University of Colorado.
Lewis-Palmer coach Russ McKinstry pointed out that each year 500,000 athletes play high school basketball and only 5,000 play at the NCAA Division I level, putting Smith in the top 1 percent of high school players.
Mind made up
A late addition to the signing day ceremonies at Lewis-Palmer was football player Keenan Oby, who just decided Saturday to commit to Trinity International, an NAIA school in Deerfield, Ill.
“I’ve been there twice and I fell in love with the coaches and the environment they’ve got there,” Oby said. “I fell in love with the school as a whole.”
Oby is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound offensive lineman who Lewis-Palmer coach Tony Ramunno described as “a great pass blocker.”