The annual Winter Sports Media Day at Ball Arena from the Colorado High School Activities Association means fan favorites like basketball, wrestling, hockey, swimming and diving and skiing are right around the corner.
Student athletes, coaches and teams from every region of Colorado Community Media were in the building on Nov. 13, and all were more than ready to get their respective seasons underway.
Here is a breakdown of the events at Media Day by sport.
Of the nearly dozen girls basketball teams to address the media, three were in (or on the fringes of) Colorado Community Media’s coverage area.
Holy Family Tigers
The reigning 4A state champions from just north of CCM’s dominant coverage area were back in Denver to begin their quest for back-to-back state titles.
The Tigers finished 25-3 last year, defeating runner-up D’Evelyn in the state championship 49-44 to claim their first title since 2014. It is the seventh state title victory in the Broomfield school’s girls basketball history.
“When you come to practice you have to be excellent. When you come to games you have to be excellent,” Head coach Ron Rossi said on their mindset going into this season. “We’re going to take it one at a time knowing that everyone is going to bring their A-game to us. So we have to bring our A-plus game.”
The 4A state runner-ups had to wait their turn behind the champions to speak to the media, but the Jaguars are more focused than ever on getting back to the state title game and getting the job done.
After a 27-1 dominant season in 2022, the near Lakewood-based Jaguars ran the 5A/4A Jeffco League last season with a perfect 11-0 record. Head Coach Chris Olson returns his two leading scorers: Peyton Marvel and Macy Scheer. Marvel averaged a double-double last year with 19.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game. She has averaged a double-double each of her first three seasons at D’Evelyn.
“I think there is more pressure,” Scheer said of the upcoming season. “You know it’s going to be harder. We lost some good seniors and we know we’re going to have to work just as hard, if not harder. But we’ve been working in the offseason and I think we’re ready to compete. We’re excited.”
On the cusp of Centennial and Aurora is Grandview High School. The Wolves, back-to-back Class 6A champions, rode a bumpy season to the state title last year.
Grandview finished 19-9 and 4-3 in the 6A Centennial League behind Cherry Creek (7-0), Arapahoe (5-2) and Cherokee Trail (5-2). Head Coach Josh Ulitzky said he’s been fortunate to have extremely talented players in recent years and hopes to ride the Wolves’ championship and momentum again.
“It helps when you have the Gatorade Player of the Year (in Sienna Betts) on your team, who is arguably the best player in the state,” he said. “It took some time, but the kids really took on their roles. Everybody did their job (last season) so that made it a lot of fun.”
Betts, a junior, recently committed to play for UCLA following her high school career. But fortunately for Grandview, they have her for two more seasons.
Three private-school basketball powerhouses in the CCM coverage area made an appearance on Media Day also.
Holy Family Tigers
Similar to their girls team counterparts, the Holy Family Tigers won the boys 4A state championship last season, winning for the first time since both the boys and girls teams won in 2014 in a rare double-championship year for one school.
But in a 17-11 year, many wouldn’t have picked Holy Family to win last year. The No. 17-seeded Tigers knocked off No. 2-seeded Resurrection Christian in the final to become the first-ever No. 17 seed to win the state championship in Colorado.
The Tigers lost five core seniors, but Head Coach Peter Vellico said he’s confident in his group’s ability to beat anybody.
Belleview Christian Bruins
In Westminster lies a small school with a big basketball reputation. The Belleview Christian Bruins were the No. 1 seed headed into last year’s Class 1A state championship. Ultimately, the Bruins couldn’t repeat and finished as runner-ups, losing to No. 2 Denver Jewish Day in the final game 55-42.
Belleview Christian finished 24-2 and 7-0 in the 1A 5280 League last season. After losing some key seniors, Assistant Coach Billy Rush said the identity doesn’t change at all.
“Our identity doesn’t change. We still go out and take pride in playing defense and getting stops,” Rush said. “That’s what’s gotten us to where we were in 2021 when we won a championship and then even last year. We have a lot of new faces, but we have the same mindset.”
Forge Christian Fury (formerly Faith Christian)
Forge Christian Academy (more commonly known as Faith Christian until a recent name and ownership change) had a nearly picture-perfect season last year. The Fury captured the school’s seventh state championship and first since 2012, beating Salida High School 54-47 at the University of Denver.
The Arvada-based team went nearly undefeated, posting a 25-1 overall record. The Fury’s sole loss came to 4A/3A Metro League rival Eagle Ridge Academy, but they still won their league at 8-1. Abram Ziemer was a Faith Christian grad before becoming the team’s head coach, and though he wasn’t able to win a title as a player, he was thrilled to finish the job as a coach.
He spoke on how difficult it will be to replace some championship seniors.
“Replacing a senior is obviously never easy,” he said. “While at the same time, the culture of our program that’s been established even before my time still remains. Any coach will tell you when you have a returning starting point guard, it’s a huge piece for us in Peyton Miller. The guys sitting here are excited about the opportunity.”
Swimming and diving
Two different student athletes from opposite sides of the region in swimming and diving spoke to the media on Nov. 13.
Charlotte Wilson – Cherry Creek Bruins
Cherry Creek clinched its third straight 5A state championship in swimming and diving last season after posting an overall score of 448. That’s now 29 state championships for the school in Greenwood Village, which is the most in the state by any school.
As previously reported by CHSAA, Cherry Creek’s 200 freestyle relay team – Alexis Greenhawt, Lawson Ficken, Ana Loveridge and Charlotte Wilson – swam a time of 1 minute, 30.81 seconds. That time broke the Colorado state record that was previously set at 1:33.00 by Cherry Creek in 2022. That time was just 11 hundredth of a second slower than the national record.
Wilson is back with the team this season and said she’s excited about seeing some underclassmen step up this season.
“I really think that freshman year is such a year where people come out from under the radar and you don’t even know them yet,” Wilson said. “But I think both freshmen Jenna and Sydney Ferstrom can do very well this year.”
Finley Anderson – Evergreen Cougars
Perhaps the strongest living dynasty in high school sports in Colorado stays active in Evergreen swimming and diving. The Cougars have won five straight 3A state championships and don’t plan on slowing down soon.
Evergreen finished with 443 points, which is 21 more than the team posted last year. As previously reported by CHSAA, “Finley Anderson won the butterfly in a time of 55.35 seconds. Anderson then repeated in the backstroke by breaking the 3A state record that she had set the previous day during preliminaries. Her time of 54.10 seconds is now just a little more than a second off the all-Colorado state record of legend Missy Franklin.”
Anderson is committed to the University of California, Berkeley, but spoke on some remaining high school goals.
“I would love to get another state championship,” Anderson said. “Overall I just want to, of course, get school records, but I want to grow our team and culture. I’m pretty confident. We have a lot of new freshmen coming in, and altogether I think our team has really come together.”
Just one girls wrestler from the CCM area was in attendance, and a star at that.
Persaeus Gomez – Pomona Panthers
Persaeus Gomez dominated the 120 weight class. At state, Gomez (20-0) placed first and scored 29.0 team points. Here are her individual results in that class from CHSAA’s results webpage.
- Round 1: Gomez won by fall over Mathilde Abercrombie (Denver South, 15-14) (Fall 0:40)
- Quarterfinal: Gomez won by fall over Katherine Seals (Fountain-Fort Carson, 19-8) (Fall 2:15)
- Semifinal: Gomez won by fall over Kate Doughty (Canon City, 31-6) (Fall 1:10)
- Final: 1st Place Match – Gomez won by major decision over Lexie Lopez (Loveland, 32-1) (Decision 14-2)
“I think this year we have a really good chance, like every other year,” Gomez said.
Two talented and decorated boys wrestlers spoke to the media on Nov. 13; one from the north and one from the southwest Denver area.
D’mitri Garza-Alcaron – Fort Lupton
This senior from Fort Lupton High School doesn’t know how to lose and continually dominates the 138 weight class in Class 3A. D’mitri Garza-Alcaron is just the third three-time state champion in the school’s history. Entering his final season on the mat, he said he’s still determined to prove something. He made his mom a promise to succeed, and he’s sticking to it.
“Fulfilling what I told my mom I was going to do as a child makes me happy. It makes it worth it,” Garza-Alcaron said. “Being the first generation in our family to go to college, it’s pretty amazing.”
He’s still undecided about his specific college plans but plans to wrestle at the next level.
Dale O’Blia – Mullen Mustangs
O’Blia set a program record for the Mustangs after he won his third straight state championship last season.
The now-senior finished first at the Class 3A 113-pound weight class last season after winning his first two championships at 106. He was 40-3 last season and is 101-3 overall without a loss in Colorado.
“Pressure is the same every match. I treat it like the state finals,” O’Blia said. “There’s no real pressure just now that I go for four, it’ll be the same as it has been my whole high school career.”
Last but not least, it wouldn’t be Colorado winter sports without good old-fashioned hockey on ice. Two rivals arrived to speak with the media, and both programs are eager for another strong push for another title.
Ralston Valley Mustangs
Second-year coach Nick Spinder knows expectations come with Ralston Valley, especially after he took the Mustangs all the way back to the Class 5A state championship in his first year. As a 2012 grad from the Arvada school, he understands the importance of hockey in the area and treats rivalries with the respect they deserve. The Mustangs won back-to-back state titles in 2013 and 2014.
One of the Mustangs’ main rivals, Valor Christian, earned bragging rights again after beating Ralston Valley 7-3 in the state championship last season. The Mustangs finished 14-5-2 after handing Valor its one loss last season.
“We are a storied program,” Spinder said. “We’re trying to repeat that success and go get it this year. I feel like as a coach, your end goal is always the top of the mountain.”
Valor Christian Eagles
Valor Christian will likely always be right at the top of the Class 5A state ice hockey rankings. The Eagles finished 20-1 last season, riding a 20-game winning streak to the state title where they avenged their sole loss of the season by beating Ralston Valley for the championship.
It was the fifth time Valor went to the championship in the past six seasons. Head Coach George Gwozdecky said he knows it will be a challenge to replace some core pieces that were lost to graduation if the Eagles want to ward off Ralston Valley again.
“To be able to play at the level that last year played at, it will be tough,” Gwozdecky said. “Certainly we’re very fortunate to have certain guys coming back who are going to fill very important roles starting with our goaltenders. (Protecting the goal) is probably our number-one strength as a team at least coming into the CHSAA season.”
Countless other CCM-area schools didn’t appear at CHSAA’s Media Day. But for all news, schedules and more information about the winter sports season, visit www.CHSAANow.com to find your school.