February 6, 2013 Updated: July 3, 2013 at 9:26 am
Cross country and track and field athletes from the Pikes Peak region are headed off to the power conferences of big-time college athletics.
Pine Creek’s Heather Bates is among several seniors who signed national letters of intent with a Division I college or university on Wednesday, doing so with the University of Colorado. Bates wasn't surprised at the offers being afforded to deserving athletes.
“I think it’s been pretty clear that Colorado is one of the top states for track and field and cross country,” said Bates, the 2012 5A state cross country champion and two-time 4A state champion in the 3,200 meters. “We have a lot of kids signing with D-I programs. It’s pretty awesome that we have top competition going to some of the top schools in the country.”
Liberty middle-distance runner Gina Hauptman signed her letter with Arkansas, while Palmer’s Ben Goodman (Missouri), Megan Brunette (Wyoming) of The Classical Academy, Vista Ridge’s DJ Green (Colorado) and Fountain-Fort Carson’s Dakota Leazer (Columbia) highlighted a group of athletes headed to the highest level of intercollegiate athletics.
Hauptman, the 5A runner-up in the 1,600 meters at the 2011 state meet, gave credit to a longstanding legacy of distance running that put her northern Colorado Springs school on the map.
“This program has done so much for me,” Hauptman said. “I’ve had so many people support me, and I owe a lot to this school. Now, I’m going to the epitome of excellent running and excellent standards. Plus, I wanted an on-campus feeling, and it has that.”
Green, a high jumper who only last year took his first steps in the competitive ring, rose quickly. He cleared 6 feet, 4 inches at the Coronado Invitational and recently set a personal best at 6-8, which tied the highest mark recorded in a high school meet in 2012.
And good news travels fast.
“The past three weeks have been crazy because I jumped a ridiculous height at the beginning of January and that’s when I started getting all of these phone calls from different colleges,” Green said. “When I went to CU I just knew this was it. I just clicked with the team, the coaches and just loved the campus.”
Brunette, who placed in the top 10 the past two years at the state cross country meet, didn’t have Wyoming on her list of possible destinations. Now, she’ll spend the next stage of her life in Laramie.
“Actually, I hadn’t even thought about going to Wyoming,” Brunette said. “They kind of came out of the blue.”