With packed trophy cases at both Paonia and Hotchkiss high schools, one important question is being asked.
What will happen to those when the schools combine?
Kurt Clay, who played a major role in bringing the 1992 state basketball title trophy back to Hotchkiss, is now the assistant superintendent of the Delta County School District.
He said the school district and the two high schools are taking substantive steps to ensure that the sports legacies at Paonia and Hotchkiss will live on at the new high school.
A committee is addressing the creation of a digital platform to display historic memorabilia from the two schools, including graduation photographs and all-state honors.
Clay said plans call for a large kiosk with a digital display, similar to the sports kiosks at Brownson Arena at Colorado Mesa University. They document the history of CMU sports.
As part of the consolidation process, Clay said the school board will consider a new school name, mascot and colors at the April board meeting. The new “school” will be located in the existing Hotchkiss High School.
Paonia High School will be converted to a K-8 facility.
A committee of students, alumni, staff and community members are working on the new school projects, Clay said.
As of mid-March, there had been 355 different school names suggested.
Clay also said coaches from both schools will work together as much as possible as the consolidation takes place. That should help the transition for the athletes, he said.
“All state championship trophies in any sport and activity will be on display in the new school,” Clay said.
That will include all the Paonia and Hotchkiss state trophies and banners, including the 14 state championship trophies won by Paonia High School since 2010.
That’s five in girls track, two in football, two in girls basketball, two in baseball and three in wrestling — all since 2010.
Hotchkiss’ recent state title trophies include back-to-back cross country championships for the girls team in 2012 and 2013.
Historically, Hotchkiss also celebrated a state football title in 1949, a state baseball title in 1964, three state wrestling championships along with the 1992 boys basketball crown. Clay and his twin brother, Kenny, both played on the Hotchkiss state championship team, which was coached by their father, Harold.
“These kids all know one another,” longtime Hotchkiss cross country and track coach Kelly Cowan said. “Hopefully, with the merger, we can keep the legacy (of sports) going. This is a great opportunity.”
Andy Pipher, who coached Paonia to state wrestling championships, said the consolidation might be difficult but it represents a huge opportunity.
“It’s a great time to get a fresh start for the school,” said Pipher, who won a high school state wrestling title with Hotchkiss. “Now, we need to support these kids with the best — the best teachers and the best coaches.”
Kaiya Firor was record-setting Hotchkiss runner and now competes for Western Colorado University.
Her school track and field records will now be part of Hotchkiss history forever.
“They’ve been talking about it (consolidation) since I was in elementary school,” she said. “So it’s not really new. But it’s definitely bittersweet … I’ve got all these Hotchkiss hoodies and letter jackets … what am I going to do with them?”
They’re destined to be collector’s items, just like scores of Paonia hoodies and letter jackets.