MONUMENT — Tessa Rothwell turned her time at the girls' state tournament this past weekend into something straight out of a Hollywood underdog movie.

For starters, she didn't think she belonged on this stage.

Two of her eventual opponents had beaten her before. And unlike other competitors, she advanced to the Class 4A state championships only after losing in a regional title match a week earlier. In other words, she wasn't exactly favored to win.

Through it all, she prevailed. And she did it in dramatic, historic fashion.

Rothwell, a Palmer Ridge sophomore, ultimately captured the state's No. 3 singles title on Saturday — a run that helped her land this week's The Gazette Preps Peak Performer honor. It was the Bears' first tennis state champion since the school's inception of the sport in 2008 for both boys and girls.

"I knew she was determined to do well and go deep into the tournament," Bears coach Skip Wells said.

Rothwell's first dramatic moment happened in the quarterfinals, when she faced Cheyenne Mountain's Ariana Arenson, a 2018 state finalist and a favorite to win it all. Rothwell was sure she was going to lose, particularly knowing that her opponent had beaten her during a regular season match.

At one point, she said, "I almost gave up there when I played the Cheyenne Mountain girl because we went into three sets. It was just a lot. But I kept going."

Rothwell eventually won, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4.

Her underdog story didn't end there. In the semifinals, she faced Air Academy's Mackie Tate Tygart, the junior who beat Rothwell in the Region 1 championship match a week earlier. Rothwell triumphed, 6-4, 6-1.

She advanced to the finals, only to face an opponent who had lost only once all season in Golden's Anastasia Outekine. But Rothwell quickly and quietly dismantled her opponent, 6-0, 6-0.

She became the first local state champion on a day that Cheyenne Mountain reclaimed the state's top spot and won its 10th title in 11 years. Not long after the finals match, Rothwell appeared stunned and expressed disbelief that she made it this far.

She entered the state tournament with a 9-3 record and didn't exactly have a state title on her mind.

"I just wanted to have fun," Rothwell said.

And because of that approach, she produced a Hollywood-style performance.

Just the Facts

Tessa Rothwell, Palmer Ridge

Sport: Girls' tennis

Year: Sophomore

Position: No. 3 singles

Highlights: Despite losing in the Region 1 title match, Rothwell produced a stunning performance in the Class 4A state championships this past weekend. She triumphed over two opponents who had beaten her before en route to Palmer Ridge's first state champion in the sport. In the finals, she quickly dismantled her opponent, 6-0, 6-0.

Favorite team: University of Kansas

Favorite TV show: "Game of Thrones"

Favorite school subject: Chemistry

Favorite musician: AJR

Hobbies: Playing the piano

Other Top Performers


Bryce McKee, Coronado

The senior went 6-for-9 with six RBIs, three runs scored, three doubles and one triple in two wins over Palmer last week. He is batting .614 this season and leads the state in Class 4A in stolen bases with 31.

Girls' soccer

Sydney Lasater, Sand Creek

The sophomore forward recorded seven goals in the No. 7 Scorpions' two playoff victories last week. Lasaster scored twice to lead Sand Creek to a 3-2 win over No. 23 Glenwood Springs last Saturday in the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs. Against Canon City a few days earlier, she had half of her team's goals in a 10-0 triumph.

Jordan Garrett, Rampart

The junior nailed the game-winner in a 2-1 overtime thriller over No. 13 Windsor in the Class 5A state tournament, extending the No. 2 Rams' perfect record to 17-0 and postseason into the quarterfinals. This season, Garrett has recorded 10 goals and 34 assists.

Boys' swimming and diving

Braden Whitmarsh and Quintin McCarty, Discovery Canyon

The swimmers each won two events last week to help the Thunder to the team title at the Pikes Peak Athletics Conference championships. Whitmarsh, a senior, won the 500-yard freestyle (4 minutes, 49.76 seconds) and the 200 individual medley (1:56.58) in 5A qualifying marks. McCarty, a freshman, captured titles in the 100 backstroke (51.11) and 50 freestyle (21.48).

Joshua-Ryan Lujan, Pine Creek

The senior swimmer finished first in both the 200 IM and 100 breaststroke to help carry the Eagles to the team title at last week's Colorado Springs Metro League championships. Pine Creek won with 490 points, thanks to three individual and two relay wins.

Track and field

Tyrese VanHorne, Harrison

The junior won the boys' 200-meter dash, his signature event, to go along with titles in the 100 and 400 races at the Class 4A/5A CSML championships last Saturday. He was the only athlete to claim three individual titles. VanHorne is also the defending 4A state champion in the 200.


Chhun Sun is a sports reporter with an emphasis in preps. He joined The Gazette in April 2015 and covered public safety for three years before joining @gazettepreps staff. The Thailand-born Cambodian-American has been in journalism for nearly two decades.