Spring Sports Previews APRIL 2012
BY BRUCE WARREN
Coach Craig McBride has several starters returning from last season, but most of them are sophomores, giving the Cougars a very young team again.
Ryan Sypher, the only senior on the squad, returns to play third base and pitch for the Cougars. Three juniors will also start this season, two of whom return from last year. Jake Sarosi is a returning starter who will play left field and pitch. Tanner Morris, who has been battling an injury, also has starting experience. Morris has been the Cougars’ top pitcher in the early going, and also sees action at shortstop. Brian Hawthorne is up from the JV squad, and starts in right field. Jordan Keeler is also up from the JV squad, but a broken hand limits him to base running duties.
Everyone else on the varsity squad is a sophomore. Tanner Kirkpatrick returns for his second season behind the plate, and Alex Kinnison returns at first base. Kinnison can also pitch but has been battling a sore arm. Cameron Kopplinger has some varsity experience and will play second base this season. Brian Meek starts at shortstop and also pitches. Pate Katechis has varsity experience and will play third base and the outfield.
Danny Caruso is up from the JV squad and will play centerfield. Aldair Cintora pitches and is also used as a base runner. Kai Halsey-Mendez is also up from the JV as a pinch runner and reserve.
“We’re hitting well,” McBride said. “Kinnison hitting third, Sarosi hitting fourth, and Kirkpatrick, Caruso and Hawthorne have carried us. Hawthorne has really been coming on. He executed a perfect hit and run the last game.”
The Cougars were 3-3 before heading to Arizona where they won the first game, 10-5. “Morris had a really good game on the bump against Mountain View,” McBride said. “We’ve left a bunch of runners on base.” The Cougars also had problems in the field, committing five errors against Longmont. “We’re hoping to work out some problems in Arizona.”
McBride has several varsity assistant coaches again this season. George Sypher returns and is joined by Adam Strah, a former head coach at Rampart High School who was named Coach of the Year in 2009 by the Denver Post. NHS alum and former professional pitcher Mike Moat returns as pitching coach, with Roger Fisher, former head coach at Boulder High, also working with the pitchers. D.J. Cook, who was a head coach in California, is handling the JV coaching duties.
Bobby Matthews, who is the head coach of the Niwot Softball team, will coach the C team, assisted by Biff Warren.
Silver Creek Boys Swimming
Debbie Stewart returns to coach the combined Niwot and Silver Creek squad, with 32 swimmers, up from 15 last year. Stewart said, “This is the largest team since the 2008 state championship team. I’m really excited about the incoming freshmen.”
Stewart has several state qualifiers returning from last season, led by senior Drew Weibel, who qualified in the 100 Backstroke, 100 Butterfly, Medley Relay and 400 Freestyle Relay. Peter Ziel, another senior, qualified in the 200 Freestyle and the 200 Freestyle Relay last year. Three juniors with state experience also return. Chase Lis qualified in the 200 IM, 100 Butterfly, Medley Relay and 200 Freestyle Relay. Cody Hoyes qualified in the 200 Freestyle, 100 Freestyle and 200 Freestyle Relay. Troy Holton qualified in the 100 Butterfly and 200 Freestyle Relay.
Connor Christofferson, a sophomore, is close to qualifying for state in the breaststroke. Christofferson is a dual athlete in the spring as he also participates in track. “He was close to qualifying last year,” Stewart said, “and he’s just a strong all around swimmer.
Several freshmen have made a contribution early in the season. “Gunnar Van Gent is a year-round swimmer who went to sectionals in the backstroke,” Stewart said. “He’s already a state qualifier. He swims the fly and almost anything else we ask.”
Tyler Lis is another outstanding freshman who swims the backstroke and butterfly. “He’s good at anything I put him in,” Stewart said.
Logan Fauber, also a freshman, is a freestyle swimmer, swimming both the 100 and 200 Freestyle.
“We lost two top-notch state divers last year,” Stewart said. “We have two new divers, Joey Robinson, a freshman who’s the younger brother of C.T. Robinson, and Tommy Heidebrecht, a junior who has been involved with drumline. They’re young and will help us at the conference championships.
“Our goal is a top five finish at state,” Stewart said. Stewart is assisted by Mike Schreiner, who was an assistant for the Longmont girls team, and Amber Sullivan, who swam at Longmont. C.T. Robinson, who now dives at Wyoming, has been helping the divers when he can.
Niwot Girls Tennis
Rachel Bevans takes over the program from long-time coach Miikka Keronen, who is now an assistant coach at Broomfield. The Cougars have only three varsity players returning, and all were doubles players. “No one has ever played their position before,” Bevans said.
Sophomores Erin Mulshine and Meagan Londa are playing No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Mulshine played No. 1 doubles as a freshman, while Londa played No. 3 doubles. “Erin and Meagan are really stepping up and taking the lead,” Bevans said.
Senior Tara Buck is one of only two seniors on the varsity squad. Buck played No. 2 doubles last year, but has moved up to No. 3 singles this year.
The doubles lineup has Kaitlyn Skinner, a junior, and Jennie Poole, a senior, at the top position. Freshman Jami Albert and junior Gillian Hyde man the No. 2 doubles slot. “I’m really happy with Jami Albert,” Bevans said. “She’s really using her head.” Sophomores Alexandra Frank and Lauren Richards play No. 3 doubles. Two freshmen, Isabelle Stafford and Maura Derr, are playing No. 4 doubles.
“We’re 3-3 so far,” Bevans said. “We had three pretty good matches that gave us some confidence. We lost the last three, to Fairview, 1-6, Holy Family 3-4 and Thompson Valley, 2-5. Some of the girls lost their confidence, but we played a third set in four of the seven matches against Thompson Valley. That shows they’re coming back and developing some mental toughness.”
Bevans isn’t discouraged. “We’ve had some injuries, and illness over the past week.”Anette Jarvinen, another freshman, has filled in well at both No. 1 doubles and No. 2 doubles, helping the Cougars to a win.
Bevans has found that with 52 girls on the JV squad, it’s hard to get playing time for everyone on the courts.
Bevans is in her first year teaching math at Niwot, moving up from the Dallas, Texas area, where she was the head coach of both the boys and girls programs in an inner city school for three years. “My first day teaching they asked me which sport I wanted to coach.” Bevans played varsity tennis in high school as a freshman before concentrating on band and academics, so she picked tennis.
Bevans is enjoying her time at Niwot. “The kids are so respectful,” she said, noting the contrast with her Texas experience.
Amy Irwin, who teaches PE at Niwot, is the JV head coach. Keri Graham, another PE teacher and former Volleyball coach, is assisting.
Niwot Girls Soccer
Head Coach Jeremy Drake is pleased with the Cougars’ early season performance. The squad is 2-0-1 heading into spring break, with victories over Horizon and Peak to Peak, and a tie against 5A Boulder. “I’m happy with their efforts, both in training sessions and in games,” Drake said. “We’ve beaten two teams who beat us last year.”
The Cougars come back from the break to play three games a week for four consecutive weeks. “It will be a test of our character, our will, when we come back,” Drake said.
Drake has a strong corps of returning players, some of whom are still very young, including Hannah Driscoll, a sophomore defender, Maria Fayeulle, a sophomore forward, and Lauren FitzGibbons, a sophomore midfielder. Fayeulle has scored several goals, including a bicycle kick against Horizon. Sophomore midfielder Kelly Sheeran is described as a “quiet warrior” by Drake. Sophomore Callie Hensen provides more depth at forward.
Niwot also has a strong senior nucleus, including midfielder Samantha Shaner, midfielder Mickey Cramer, defender Sian Wynter, forward Lauren Tatusko and goalkeeper Kim Schoep.
Senior defender Kimi Bourland moved up from JV a year ago. Junior defender Taylor Leffeler, who played midfielder last year, junior midfielder Kylie Fischer, and junior midfielder Cindy Yie also return with considerable varsity experience. Junior defender Keeli Mallory played some varsity last year and is now full time on the varsity.
Freshmen Madison Studebaker and Shannon Fischer have played well at forward. The Cougar squad is bolstered by Erie student Whitney Hopperstad, a junior defender who has also played midfielder and forward. She is joined this year by Erie student Hanne Jorge, a senior exchange student from Norway, who has played midfield.
Brett Buttrick returns to coach the JV squad, while Nicole Spaeth will coach the C team. Boys soccer coach Rob Johnson also helps when he can. Brooke Strah is a volunteer assistant coaches. A total of 58 players are on the Cougar roster.
Skyline Girls Golf
Meredith Baker takes over the head coaching duties this spring for the combined St. Vrain Valley District team based out of Skyline. Baker served as an assistant coach last year under Valerie Brown, who traded places and will be an assistant coach this year.
Bender is a realtor with Metro Brokers by day, while Brown teaches science classes at Mead High School. Bender is originally from Aurora, Ill., and attended Coe College in Iowa.
The Skyline squad has 14 girls out for golf this spring. “We’re doing very well,” Brown said. “We lost our two biggest guns, but the girls are stepping it up like you wouldn’t believe.”
“Danielle Mercure is our number one player right now,” Brown said. Mercure, a senior, attends Erie High School. Adara Pauluhn, a Niwot freshman, has quickly become another top player.
Janti Klimecki, a junior from Skyline, was running number five on the varsity, but posted a career-best 91 to tie Pauluhn for the top team score at the Skyline Invitational. Mercure came in at 95, up several strokes from an early-season 82 she posted.
Haiden De Jane from Mead High School and Meg Thornbury from Niwot High School, both seniors, are also playing with the varsity. De Jane carded a 98 at the Skyline Invitational while Thornbury posted a 107.
Head Coach Maurice Henriques starts his second year in charge of the Cougar track program after a full year of encouraging off-season training, and the hard work is paying off.
“We have almost everybody back from state on the girls side, except pole vaulter Lauren DeGroot,” Henriques said. “We think we can finish somewhere in the top five this year.” Returning state qualifiers include sophomore Elise Cranny in the 800M (8th), 1600M (6th), 4 X 400M Relay (3rd) and 4 X 800M Relay (3rd); senior Kelsey Traxinger in the 400M (4th), 800M (3rd), 4 X 400M Relay (3rd), 4 X 800M Relay (3rd), High Jump and Long Jump; sophomore Dana Maydew in the 4 X 400M Relay (3rd), 4 X 800M Relay (3rd), Medley Relay (10th), and Long Jump, junior Deyja Enriquez in the 400M, 800M 4 X 400M Relay (3rd) and 4 X 800M Relay (3rd); senior Maddy Jalbert in the 4 X 800M Relay; and senior Sara Bishop in the Long Jump, Triple Jump and hurdles.
Henriques has been busy recruiting athletes from other sports to come out for track. “We have a nice addition in Nicole Blue, the softball player. Her dad was a thrower. Now she’s fifth in state in the discus, and she’s enjoying it. We worked it out with softball. Yesterday she made it to the finals and had one throw before she had to go pitch. She finished fourth.”
Other promising newcomers include Kira Burleson, a sophomore who runs hurdles, and Christa Boettiger, a freshman who has been a dancer most of her life. “She never ran before,” Henriques said, “but she wanted to come out and she’s sixth in the two-mile.”
Henriques is also excited about the Sharpe twins, Lauren and Rachel. “They are pretty athletic,” Henriques said, noting that the freshmen can compete in the High Jump, sprints, distance and hurdles.
Julia Vaiser, a junior who played volleyball for the Cougars, is jumping and sprinting for the track squad. Louise Vandenberghe, another freshman, is running distance events.
Haley Dennerline, a senior middle distance runner, Amber Liu, a sprinter, Zoie Jordan, a junior sprinter, Haylie Johns, a sophomore pole vaulter, Ariel Mosier, a senior pole vaulter, and Megan Tatusko, a sophomore distance runner, are also expected to score for the Cougars.
On the boys side, the Cougars also return several state qualifiers, including Dillon Manzanares, who took second in pole vault last year. Manzanares will also run sprints and compete in the Long Jump.
Other returning athletes include Nick Harris in the distance events, Lorne Jenkins in the sprints, Long Jump and Triple Jump, Tommy Dyer in the sprints and Triple Jump, William Zimmerman in the distance events, Austin Ebbers in the hurdles and Pole Vault, Ryan Faulkner in the distance events, Cahill Kelleghan in the 400M, Cullen Litt in the hurdles and long sprints, Elijah Noterman in the sprints, Long Jump and Triple Jump, and Connor Mulshine in the sprints.
“Track is a great secondary sport,” Henriques said. He’s had great success in recruiting athletes from other sports who want to stay in shape, or work on strength and conditioning. “I hired two football coaches, Scott Thomas and J.B. Hall, as assistants to help get the kids out for track.” Henriques himself played football in college at CU in addition to competing in track.
The Cougars have a wealth of assistant coaches, with Steve Burns and NHS grad Clay Burns working with the jumpers, and Sam Catterson returning to work with the pole vaulters. “We added Kathy Delindes who high jumped 6’2” and was the Pac 10 champion,” Henriques said. Maurice Mitchell, a 2-time All-American at CU who was once fourth in the world in the 400 Hurdles, is also helping.
The Cougars have 96 students out for track. “The kids are working hard,” Henriques said. “We had a good group working in the offseason. We created a culture and the kids have bought into it. There are two things I tell kids; ‘Be a great teammate, and have a great work ethic.’ Everybody’s capable of that.”