It’s officially the first week of summer for the Gazette Preps staff.
And now that 2017-18 is officially wrapped, it’s only fitting to look back on some of my favorite moments covering high school sports in Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region:
That time Cory McLellan saved my life
I like to say I live on the edge while covering prep events. I’ve been tackled by football players, hit with a line drive, bonked in the nose with a basketball (thanks, Tre Pierre) and a volleyball … But thankfully my first football game in Colorado did not feature any embarrassing injuries - thanks mostly to Cory McLellan.
In Palmer Ridge’s explosive second quarter against Sand Creek in its 2017 opener, Ty Evans - the Pikes Peak region’s QB phenom - threw a bullet to the corner of the end zone - where I was taking video.
Thankfully McLellan and his 6-foot-3 frame leaped up to make the catch in front of me for one of the coolest football videos I’ve taken - despite scaring me half to death.
My first-ever state championship coverage was one to remember in the fall of 2017, as Lewis-Palmer girls’ volleyball battled in one of the longest sets I’ve ever seen for the 4A state championship.
With a final score of 35-33 in the third set to sweep Valor Christian, the Rangers put forth some of the best effort I’ve seen at any level.
My first football Snow Bowl
I got my first taste of the unpredictable weather in Colorado Springs as the fall season was coming to a close.
In the second round of the Class 5A football playoffs, two local teams went head to head in what turned into my first Snow Bowl. The weather changed drastically at halftime of the quarterfinal game between Pine Creek and Rampart, dumping an inch or two of snow on the ground in the second half.
Thankfully I was as prepared as I could be for the strange weather - but my sidekick and videographer, Hugh Johnson, was not so lucky.
Hugh - who is hard to miss on the sideline already - was wearing only a sweatshirt in the second-half blizzard. (In his defense, it was 55 and sunny just 40 minutes before kickoff.)
To say 2018 started off well for me is an understatement. On February 4 I transformed from a disgruntled Philly sports fan to quite literally the happiest person in Colorado - The Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl Champions.
But one of the best parts about Super Bowl week was running around with Hugh Johnson taking bets on who would win. (Shoutout to all of the athletes who chose to Fly with the Eagles.)
And shoutout to Hugh for making good on his bet and wearing my pink Eagles gear for Big & Smalls while I was celebrating in Philly.
A few weeks later I went to cover one of the coolest prep events I’ve ever been to - state wrestling.
Back at my job in Pennsylvania my former editor loved wrestling so much that it was rare for me get the opportunity to cover it, so heading to the Pepsi Center for the state championships felt like Christmas morning.
A 13-hour day and five state champions later, I was exhausted but totally exhilarated.
Ragsdale's buzzer beater
This year’s basketball postseason was full of exciting finishes and buzzer beaters - but I’m not sure any of them come close to Lewis-Palmer’s finish in the boys’ 4A quarterfinal.
First Widefield put up an impressive comeback in the waning minutes, looking to force overtime. In a tie game with just a few seconds left on the clock, it looked like we were going into OT.
But here comes Matthew Ragsdale.
His three-point shot at the buzzer lifted Lewis-Palmer to the 4A semifinals and inspired one of the best court-rush celebrations I’ve seen.
Oh, and did I mention it was Ragsdale’s birthday?
A long weekend at state track & field
Three straight 13-hour days at state track & field might go down in history as one of the most overwhelming weekends of my life, but man, did we have some good stories to tell.
- Jalen Lyon overcoming a 15-meter deficit in the 4x200 to win Fountain-Fort Carson’s first gold of the weekend: “Us FFC guys, we just don’t give up.”
- Colorado Springs Christian’s Hannah Skrastins competing in the 100 and 200 Paralympic/ Unified Athlete events with her sister Abby cheering her on.
- The Classical Academy’s Ryan Moen running to gold in the 3,200 and 1,600.
- Pine Creek’s Wyatt Wieland leaning to a tie in the 300m hurdles.
Swimming and diving dominates
In the pool we saw the Discovery Canyon boys’ swim team dominate through the regular season, with their true potential shining through at the Cheyenne Mountain Invitational. There I saw Lewis-Palmer’s Aric Althouse break a 14-year old diving record as he battled with DCC’s Brendan Byrnes, who later went on to win a 4A state diving championship.
Cheyenne Mountain wins with underdog status
Although I wasn’t able to cover it, Cheyenne Mountain boys’ lacrosse had a stellar postseason using its underdog mentality to lock in the 4A state championship. First, beating Valor Christian in double overtime early in the regular season, redeeming their semifinal loss to the Eagles a year ago.
Then the Indians found redemption against Thompson Valley in the 4A quarterfinals before defeating the No. 1 seed Dawson School in a come-from-behind victory, 8-6.
Cheyenne Mountain clinches weird playoff win
While the Cheyenne Mountain boys’ lacrosse team was celebrating, the baseball team was waiting for its turn in the state tournament after a series of rainouts pushed the 4A tournament back almost a week. But once they got back onto the field, the Indians played one of the weirdest baseball games I’ve had the pleasure of covering.
Cheyenne Mountain overcame a 6-0 deficit thanks in part to seven walks in one inning.
A little bit of luck and strategy went into the win to punch the Indians’ ticket to the play-in game for the 4A state championship.
Cheyenne Mountain ultimately fell 15-5 to Valor Christian in the play in game.
THATS GAME! Jack Denker with the play in right for the final out - @CMTNAthletics hangs on to defeat @cyclonespwhs 7-6. Indians will move on to play Valor Christian tomorrow in the championship play-in tomorrow at 10 a.m. #copreps pic.twitter.com/GK9hYTJh0K— Lindsey Smith (@LindseySquints) May 29, 2018