3 — Paonia racks up state titles
Paonia High School has become an athletic power.
The Eagles rolled to their second consecutive Class 2A state wrestling title in February, then added state titles in football and girls track and field in 2013.
“The whole community feeds off the wrestling program,” Paonia Athletic Director Paul Shean said. “That’s one of the reasons they believed in themselves in football. People always say, ‘You have a heck of a wrestling program, you must be good in football, too.’ “
A large majority of the 147 high school students in the small mining community participate in sports. If not, they are involved in something.
“The expectations are to play something,” Shean said. “I’d say 85 percent play something, but 100 percent are involved in something.”
As part of Paonia’s wrestling team winning its second consecutive state championship in February, Jesse Reed capped his sophomore season with his second individual state title. Reed’s championship keeps him on pace to become a four-time state champ.
The girls track and field team followed with its own state title, spurred by the 1,600-meter relay team winning a state title in the spring.
This past fall, the football team, under first-year coach Brent McRae, won its first state title since 1959 with a 32-24 triumph over Centauri in the Class 1A state championship game at Paonia Town Park Field. The victory avenged the Eagles’ only loss of the season as they finished 12-1.
“It was very exciting,” Shean said of the football title. “The kids bought into a solid program and coach.”
The Eagles are experiencing great success in other sports, too, such as the volleyball program. Paonia’s volleyball team this past fall went undefeated until the state tournament, which it reached for the second straight season.