Memorable moments: Past decade has featured many exciting times in Grand Valley
Y2K was pretty much a bust as far as computer glitches were concerned, but it signaled the start of 10 memorable years of sports in the Grand Valley.
The decade started out with state wrestling champions galore in 2000 and included Mesa State’s first NCAA Division II football playoff victory in school history. Every year has brought championships and highlights in high school, college and community sports.
The Daily Sentinel sports staff started compiling a list of what we thought were memorable games, and that list just kept growing and growing and growing.
Our thought was to highlight a series of the top 10 memorable games of the decade, but soon realized if we did that, we wouldn’t be able to do justice to the decade that’s soon coming to a close.
We’ll compile your memories and publish another list on Jan. 1.
February: Grand Junction’s Marques Harris signs to play football at the University of Colorado and soon after wins the 189-pound state wrestling title, pinning Curtis Ridenour in the championship match.
November: Mesa State’s football team wraps up the RMAC title and travels to Tahlequah, Okla., beating Northeastern (Okla.) State 40-21, not only the first NCAA Division II playoff win in school history, but the first for an RMAC team.
May: Natalie Hughes wraps up her incredible high school career with 13 state championships in cross country and track for Palisade. The Florida State-bound runner won three cross country titles and also won championships in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters during track season.
March: The Mesa State women’s basketball team won the RMAC championship and became the first RMAC team to host the North Central Regional tournament. A women’s school-record crowd of 1,879 packed Brownson Arena, but poor free-throw shooting cost the Mavericks in a 76-63 loss to South Dakota State, which eventually reached the national tournament.
May: Central High School’s baseball team needed 17 innings, but the Warriors claimed a 5-4 win over Mullen in the semifinals of the state tournament, their third straight year in the semis. The next day, Ryan Carroll threw a five-inning shutout as Central claimed a 10-0 victory over Cherry Creek for the title.
September: The first Anna Banana Invitational cross country meet is run at Connected Lakes State Park, in memory of Fruita Monument runner Anna Janowitz, who was killed in a car accident the year before while on her way to practice.
September: Mesa State had been trounced by North Dakota the year before, but led by linebacker Demeco Moore, the Mavericks caused a fumble on the first play of the game, returning it for a touchdown on their way to a 31-24 overtime victory.
November: Palisade High School overcomes snow, frigid temperatures and a sloppy Ray Patterson Field to beat previously undefeated Mountain View 24-21 in the semifinals of the state playoffs, then avenged the 2002 title game loss the next week by routing Florence 24-6 in what was Todd Casebier’s final game as head coach. Casebier took the head coaching position at Montrose, with defensive coordinator John Arledge promoted to head coach.
March: Mesa’s men’s basketball team reached the NCAA playoffs for the first time since 1999, but ran into RMAC power Metro State in the first round, losing 102-72.
May: Like Central three years earlier, Grand Junction beat Cherry Creek for the state baseball title, but the Tigers needed plenty of drama to beat the Bruins. Grand Junction trailed 3-2 in the seventh inning, but tied the game and then put it out of reach when Mark Novotny hit a grand slam. The Tigers held on for a 7-6 victory and finish the season 24-2.
June: New Mexico Junior College, in its first trip to the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series, goes 5-0 and wins the national championship.
November: The Tigers’ football team rattled through the regular season and into the state championship game with a perfect record. In the first high school championship game played at Invesco Field at Mile High, the Tigers ran into a ThunderRidge team that was too much to overcome.
March: The Grand Junction girls basketball team goes 20-3, led by Hannah Walsh and Raysha Ritter, losing to Thunder Ridge in the Great Eight of the state tournament.
May: Richard Medina went from a kid who hated to run in middle school to a 3,200-meter state champion, the start of an incredible 12 months for the Grand Junction distance specialist.
October: Medina was faster than any other runner in the state, winning the state cross country championship in 15 minutes, 39 seconds. The CU-bound runner doubled up that spring, winning the state championship in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
November: Tucker Lane of Nucla wins an unprecedented fourth Warrior Classic wrestling championship. It was early in another championship season for Lane, who is now wrestling at the University of Nebraska.
May: With Medina putting the Southwestern League on the map in the distance races, Fruita Monument’s Steve Kasica had the race of the state meet. After running a leg in the Wildcats’ 3,200-meter relay race, Kasica set his shoes down and turned away for a few moments. When he went to retrieve his shoes, they were gone, and his specialty, the 800 meters, was the next day. In brand-new shoes purchased the day of the race, Kasica trailed the field with 200 meters to go, but found his kick to win the championship.
May: When the school year started, Katie Aust and Alyssa Behrens didn’t know each other. By mid-May, they had formed a doubles team that went 25-0 and beat Cherry Creek’s Corinne Hill and Caitlyn Shafner for the No. 3 doubles title.
August: There was something special about the Grand Mesa Little League Junior girls softball team. The girls had played together since they were 9 years old, and were about to enter their freshman year of high school. Grand Mesa won the regional title, the first softball team from Colorado to reach the Little League World Series. Grand Mesa finished sixth, returned from Washington and immediately started playing high school softball.
November: Mesa State wins the RMAC football title and reaches the NCAA playoffs, losing to Abilene Christian (Texas) in the first round.
February: Grand Junction’s Robert Tucker caps his prep wrestling career with his second straight championship.
November: Olathe’s David Rhodes and Glenwood Springs’ Dakota Stonehouse lead their football teams to undefeated seasons, with the Pirates winning their first Class 2A state title and Glenwood Springs claiming the 3A crown.
May: Mesa State’s baseball team wins a regional title to qualify for the NCAA Division II World Series for the first time in school history. The Mavericks, who were ranked as high as second in the nation, defeated Wayne State (Neb.) College 8-2 in the regional final with the help of Craig Lanzarotta’s catch over the right-center field wall.
May: Howard (Texas) College goes 63-1 and wins the JUCO World Series.
November: The Rim Rock Run grows into the Rim Rock Marathon, the first marathon in Grand Junction since the late 1970s and early 1980s. The event drew 230 runners. Bill Fanselow, 43, took first overall in 2 hours, 43 minutes and 6 seconds. Keri Nelson, 28, of Gunnison was the first woman to cross the finish line in 3:10:52.
And finally, this one spans the entire year: The girls athletic programs at Central High School reached the final four in softball, the great eight in basketball and the sweet 16 in volleyball.