Weir praises swimmers in final interview

Fruita Monument’s Tamera Newland is one of Class 5A’s top divers, with a high-point mark of 358.75 points.



After a double-dual at Durango on Jan. 4, Central/Palisade girls swimming coach Steve Weir, despite his failing health, called The Daily Sentinel to report results for his team. It turned out to be his final interview with the Sentinel.

Weir, who died the following Friday, Jan. 11, of lung cancer, made it a point to praise senior Mercedees Benavidez and junior Karolina Latek for their leadership of the young team.

“They are my captains and have taken over leading our team,” he said.

That was exemplified, Weir said, during the 10-day holiday break when Benavidez and Latek were instrumental in getting team members to practice on their own because coaches aren’t allowed to have contact with the athletes during the break.

Weir called his entire team of 20 swimmers, 10 from Central and 10 from Palisade, including 13 who are sophomores or freshmen, a great group of self-starters.

Their initiative during the break, he said, “shows me the dedication these young kids have.”

Weir also took the time the next day, Jan. 6, to email the Sentinel, writing: “thank you for the article in the paper on Sat — was nicely done.”

DYNAMITE DIVING

With the District 51 Swimming Championships looming Wednesday at Colorado Mesa University, the area’s divers are dominating the Class 5A leader board.

Fruita Monument’s Tamera Newland leads 5A with a state-qualifying meet score of 358.75 points.

Grand Junction’s duo of Grayson Young (305.35) and Sofie Black (252.80) are in second and third, respectively.

Finally, a game

For the first time in a month, the Grand Junction girls basketball team, which missed out on an opportunity last week to play at No. 6-ranked Chaparral when the game was canceled, will finally play a basketball game.

And for the first time in more than a month, the Tigers (10-1) will have their top varsity lineup healthy when Southwestern League play begins at 5:30 p.m. today at Montrose (7-2).

Shafer Rubalcaba is returning from a sprained right ankle, and guard Bri Baldwin is 100 percent after injuring her left wrist.

But Montrose (7-2) has weapons inside and out. Ranked No. 9 in Class 4A, the Indians are led by sharp-shooting Kala Keltz, who is averaging 11.1 points per game. Granted, Keltz has not begun the season on fire from behind the 3-point arc, hitting 21 of 77. But that doesn’t make Tigers coach Sam Provenza feel any better.

“She can light it up,” Provenza said. “They’ve got three good shooters out there, and they’ve got some inside kids, too. We can’t play from behind against those guys, because they can hold the ball for a long time because they’re disciplined and because of their offensive structure.”

Rubalcaba, meanwhile, took some mental notes during her absence.

“When I go back out I know different people can shoot outside, where the spots are and where they like to shoot,” Rubalcaba said.

Sophomore Sydni Brandon leads the Tigers, averaging 11.2 points, 3.3 assists and 3.1 steals per game. The Tigers average 12.2 steals per game. Elisha Jahnke averages 2.6 steals.

GJ BOYS ON THE ROAD AGAIN

The Tigers boys basketball team has played 10 of its 11 games on the road, many of which came on the Front Range, and on Tuesday grabbed a 59-28 win over Uintah in Vernal, Utah.

Even the Tigers’ postponed game against Mountain Vista has been rescheduled to 4 p.m. Jan. 30, again at Mountain Vista.

So, a one-hour drive to Montrose today to kick off Southwestern League play isn’t so bad.

The Tigers (8-3) will play at Montrose (2-7) at 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a tough place to play. The town comes out to watch, and it’s always a packed gym,” Tigers coach Dutch Johnson said. “It’s just always a weird game. That has an effect on the road team. History shows they’ve beaten some good teams down there.”

The Tigers will not have their first back-to-back home games until Jan. 25 and 26 against Durango and Montezuma-Cortez.

Palisade, Delta boys lead league

With defensive-minded road wins last week over Class 4A Western Slope League members Steamboat Springs (41-36) and Rifle (42-38), Palisade is tied with Delta for the league lead.

Palisade is 7-3 overall and 5-0 in the league.

Delta, which has won five straight after an 0-3 start, is 5-3 and 3-0 in the league. The Panthers are the returning league champions and are led by Chris Black’s 11.2 points per game.

Jesus Aguirre leads Palisade in scoring with 7.9 points per game.

The Bulldogs average 11.7 steals per game.

And they perhaps have an advantage with the early road wins.

“Anybody can beat anybody in this league, I think,” Palisade coach Brain Tafel said. “The difference between winning the conference and being in the middle of the conference is teams that can win on the road.”

Palisade hosts Glenwood Springs at 7:30 p.m. today and will head to Delta on Tuesday.

Delta is at Rifle 7:30 p.m. today.

Daily Sentinel sports and recreation editor Tim Harty contributed to this report.


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