Athletics Top 10 (Out of So Many!)

With the hope that I won’t upset too many alumni or parents, who I’m sure cherish their own memories of Colorado Academy athletics, I’ve created, with the help of our coaches and a few alums, the most memorable highlights of State Tournament achievements by CA athletes and teams since I started at CA back in the fall of 2011.

Certainly there are many outstanding athletic accomplishments that have taken place over the years, many of which occurred before my tenure. There are far too many memorable moments to legitimately condense them to only 10, but I have given it a shot. It has been fun to reminisce about these contests and championships, and I’m grateful to have been a spectator at all of them. These highlights are only a portion of the journey that these teams and individuals have traveled. Our coaches are much like our teachers: not so much focused on outcomes as concerned with the process and practice in the current moment. The trophies and postseason recognition are the rewarding byproduct of the daily practice and work that is hyper-intentional and uber-competitive. We love the victories, lessons, and memories, and I am grateful to all of our coaches and athletes. So, here goes, and let the debate begin!

10. Community spirit – Per Mike Davis, State Tournament games are always memorable because they are such great community events, and we inevitably “out-fan” most opponents. Alums, parents, family, and friends—they all come to support the Mustangs, and we are always amazed at the number of fans CA generates and the spirit that is present.

9. Boys Basketball – 2016 State Tournament vs. Faith Christian at Colorado School of Mines. FC was leading the Mustangs by seven with 10.2 seconds to go, and had the ball on the free-throw line, shooting 1-1. They missed the free throw, and Mustang Justin Bassey ’16 snagged the rebound, was fouled and sent to the line, shooting two. Bassey made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, then gained possession and scored two. Down by just three, the Mustangs intentionally fouled Faith, sending them to the line, shooting 1-1. Again, they missed the first free throw, and the Mustangs gathered the rebound, went down the court, were fouled, made the first free throw, intentionally missed the second, gained possession, and made the ensuing two points to send the game to overtime. The Mustangs won in overtime! Bassey went on to a stellar career at Harvard.

8. Boys Tennis – Winning the 2018 State Championship with Senior Richter Jordaan ’19 leading the way. The team was coached by Brian Singer, who had been at the helm for many years. The boys won six out of seven positions at the tournament in dominating fashion, and they recorded the most points by any school in tournament recent history. Jordaan went on to MIT and is currently playing tennis for the Engineers.

7. Volleyball – 2011 State Championship game at the Denver Coliseum. In an electric atmosphere, where all divisions have culminating competition on a single weekend, the Mustangs fought through a challenging bracket, even defeating the defending State Champion, Valley High School, in the Semifinals. Led by Seniors Maggie (Sherrill) Nicklas ’12 and Maddie Goral ’12, who is now a coach for the Mustangs, the team fought valiantly in the final game, finishing the season 28-2. Goral went on to play at Puget Sound, and Sherrill starred at the United States Air Force Academy.

6. Boys Soccer – 2017 State Semifinals. The most thrilling victory of that year saw the Mustangs triumph over Kent Denver after double overtime and a 5-4 edge in penalty kicks. That Semifinal win over the Sun Devils will go down as one of the best games in school history because of the effort by both teams and the fashion in which the Mustangs won. The Mustangs’ bend-but-not-break attitude was evident, after the boys hit posts in regulation and overtime, and then saw the team fall behind 0-1 in the concluding shootout. Needing a one-on-one stop by the CA goalkeeper to even the tally in penalty kicks, a Kent Denver sophomore delivered on the fourth shot, and then CA Seniors Eric Bear ’18 and Wyatt Westfall ’18 converted their shots after Kent Denver missed the goal on their fifth attempt. Boys Soccer has won four State titles in the past 11 years.

5. Girls Soccer – 2019 State Championship. The Mustangs won the title that year, led by Mari Annest ’19 and Catie Groves ’19. Additionally, the team established itself as a power in the state and region by going 19-1, and they beat the eventual 5A State Champion, Grandview. The team finished No. 7 in the country, and Annest was named the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of Colorado; Groves was named the 3A Player of the Year. Annest went on to star at Northwestern, graduated in three years, and is currently at Alabama, where she is studying for her MA. She played for the Crimson Tide in the Division I Final Four this past season. Groves played four years for the University of Richmond. Girls Soccer has won three State titles in the past nine years.

4. Field Hockey – 2015 State Championship. That year there was much buzz about the team being undefeated in the three previous seasons and carrying an unblemished streak into the State Championship. The team needed a spark during that game, and Junior Nellie Turnage ’17 asked Coach Scott what she could do. Scott replied with something to the effect of, “Go steal that ball and score us a goal.” Turnage obeyed the directive, stole the ball in her defensive end, dribbled the length of the field, and passed to a teammate who eventually scored the game winner. It was electric. Turnage went on to star at Davidson College. Field Hockey has won six State titles in the past 11 years.

3. Ice Hockey – 2022 State Championship. The team, reborn in 2018 after 10 years of being mothballed, reached the pinnacle of the State Tournament in year five. Led by a strong Senior class, the team battled in Ball Arena, home of the Avalanche, in front of so many passionate Mustang fans. It was a thrill to see them on the big stage playing for the ultimate trophy. The Seniors were completing a special journey: from winless their Ninth Grade year to playing for it all in their final year at CA. Incredible.

2. Girls Lacrosse – Take your pick of moments. The girls have won the last seven straight Colorado State Championships. I remember the 2016 Championship in DU’s Barton Stadium, where Sloane Murphy ’19 was asked to kill the clock with three minutes to go and the Mustangs up by two; or the obliteration of Valor Christian in the 2021 Championship, in which the Mustangs won 14-3. Each of those State title matches has been incredible. Murphy went on to play lacrosse at USC and is a captain there this spring.

1. Boys Golf – 2020 State tournament. This was perhaps the event that got me through the pandemic. The boys entered the State Tournament in Gunnison with an outside chance to win the whole thing, based on their performance during the regular season and in the regional tournament. Entering day two, the team was down by three strokes. Bo Turnage ’22, Jack Paschel ’22, J.T. Timmers ’23, and TJ Giordano ’23 played steady, consistent golf on the final day and were able to grind out the Mustang win. It was a true team victory.

Honorable Mention:

Boys Tennis – 2014 Regional Tournament, hosted by CA at home. Fletcher Kerr ’22, playing No. 1 singles for the Mustangs, recorded a “golden match,” in which his opponent didn’t score a single point. Kerr won 6-0, 6-0, and every game was 40-love. That’s quite the rarity.

Girls Golf – 2016-2019 seasons. The Mustangs dominated the State Tournament four years in a row and won the Championship each year. Caroline Jordaan ’19 was also the individual State Champion in 2019 and currently plays at TCU.

Baseball – 2017 State Tournament Finalist. Evan Reiter ’17, Graham Osman ’19, Sam Richards ’18, Ari Fierer ’19, and Emmett Ela ’19 led the team, as the Mustangs battled valiantly against traditional powerhouses and showed well. Osman plays at Long Beach State, Richards plays at Kenyon, and Fierer plays at Denison.

Girls Tennis – Jessa Mozia ’12 and Anna Jordaan ’23. Mozia won the 2012 Singles State Championship and was 24-0 that season; she came in Second and Third in State in her Junior and Sophomore years. Jordaan, a Senior at CA this spring, is undefeated in her high school tennis career and won the State Championship in her Sophomore year (the previous year was canceled). She did not compete in her Junior year due to injury. Jordaan looks to return to the court this spring and dominate the competition again as she finishes her Mustang career. Jordaan will attend the United States Naval Academy. Mozia played tennis at University of Minnesota.

There’s no doubt I could dig back through the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s and find similar stories of teams’ achievements and athletes performing at the highest level. For example, I would love to speak with the 1974 and 1976 Boys Lacrosse teams that won back-to-back State titles, or the Football teams from the late ’60s.

I am humbled by the history of our programs and all of those that came before us. There have been so many great CA athletes who went on to make their mark at the collegiate and professional levels. Our coaches, teachers, fans, and community members have all helped make each and every one of our athletic competitions meaningful and memorable. Check the CA website for upcoming contests. Go Mustangs!