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Spring 2012: Coaches of the Year
Pikes Peak Region coaches of the year from 2012 spring sports season.
Brett Brown, Coronado
Coronado didn’t even have a coach until a week before the season, but Brett Brown more than filled the void.
Stepping in late, Brown helped the Cougars to a 14-7 record, a sixth-place finish in the 16-team 4A Metro and to within two runs of a berth at state.
In district action, No. 27 Coronado upset No. 6 Northridge 3-2 before narrowly bowing out to No. 11 Longmont in a 3-2 loss.
Brown said the whirlwind timing of the season left him scrambling on administrative details, but that he found players ready to compete.
“My first priority was to mitigate any distractions caused by the circumstances and get the players in the correct mindset,” Brown said. “They responded beyond anyone’s expectations. We quickly formed a small, but talented team of players with a tremendous amount of heart.”
Brown’s club was led by David Feuerbach (.528 avg., 27 RBIs) and Drew MacMilan (5-2, 2.71 ERA) and lost by more than four runs just twice.
“We walked away from the season with our heads up knowing that sometimes, simply believing in yourselves is the only thing you need on your side,” Brown said.
Nate Strycker, Lewis-Palmer
A product of the Pikes Peak Junior Golf program himself, Nate Strycker knew that was the place to turn to develop a high school program.
“The biggest key to developing our program has been getting our girls to enjoy the game before high school, and later getting them to continue playing outside of the spring golf season,” Strycker said.
That interest in the game helped Lewis-Palmer smash its team records for lowest score in a tournament, lowest 18-hole score (Megan McCutcheon) and lowest season tournament average (McCutcheon).
Strycker didn’t just turn his team loose on the course to find results. They spent hours chipping and putting, developing a feel around the greens.
But more than anything, it was his infectious enthusiasm that helped the Rangers forge the feeling of a team. The players held team dinners, decorated lockers before tournaments and met after practice to make T-shirts.
“This honor is especially meaningful because I taught many of our players all three years while they were in middle school, and have gotten to know them well,” said Strycker, a technology teacher in District 38. “They are an amazing group of young ladies.”
Drew Frank, St. Mary’s
With state adding a new classification and more and more teams being formed, breaking up the giant all-district co-ops with their massive pools of talent, Drew Frank knows there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
But he won’t have to wait until some far-off day to bring a winning record to St. Mary’s.
He took care of that already.
Directing the state’s smallest school to field an independent lacrosse program, Frank helped the Pirates to an 8-6 record after averaging fewer than two wins per season since 2008.
St. Mary’s won its final three games, including a 9-7 victory over Evergreen (11-4) that clinched nothing worse than the 6-year-old program’s first .500 season.
Such seasons could be the norm as the state moves away from a one-classification system and more teams spread the wealth of talent.
“Now with 4A and 5A, it’s an excellent step in the right direction,” Frank said. “I think with the addition of 4A, it’s more of an incentive to start a program, to feel better about joining. Hopefully, this encourages smaller schools to say ‘Hey, let’s try this.’”
Sean Harmon, Air Academy
It’s quite entertaining to watch Air Academy lacrosse star Miranda Beal stumble through words, trying to find exactly what she was saying.
In recapping her team’s season, Beal tried in vain to explain how the team had started young and inexperienced but ended wise and cohesive.
She finally gave up and simplified her answer.
“Sean did a hell of a job coaching us,” Beal said.
It would be hard to dispute that. A season after taking the Kadets to the championship game (where they lost to Cherry Creek), Harmon again both tested and molded his team with a difficult nonleague schedule that included games against top-ranked teams from Utah and California. It also included a 17-11 loss to state power Cherry Creek.
But Harmon, the area’s most experienced and successful high school lacrosse coach, kept at his team, and by the end had the title in hand in lopsided fashion with a 14-8 victory over the vaunted Bruins — who had won four state titles in the previous five seasons.
This was the second title for Harmon and the Kadets, who also won the championship in 2009.
Nancy Sibley, Air Academy
Three one-goal losses to elite teams could have had such a negative impact on Air Academy.
The Kadets could have lost confidence, had dissension in the ranks and the team’s five college signees could have turned the focus to the future.
But that’s not what Nancy Sibley allowed to happen.
“We are a no-excuses team,” Sibley said after her team rebounded from those three losses (to Valor Christian, Palmer Ridge and Cheyenne Mountain) to capture its first state title since she was on the team in 1993. “Our motto is: No excuses, just results.”
Sibley tweaked her formation a bit heading into state, dropping Sarah Schweiss back in an effort to spread the defense, and the results were staggering. The Kadets won the first three playoff games by a combined 19-0. Then came a semifinal rematch with Valor Christian, which had knocked out Cheyenne Mountain. The Kadets earned double revenge in a 1-0 win. They then took out Green Mountain (which had defeated Palmer Ridge) in the title game.
Sibley’s efforts earned her not only the area’s top coaching honors, but also the award in 4A and for small schools (all smaller than 5A).
Scott Newell, Air Academy
The first big title of the year caught Scott Newell somewhat off guard. By the time the second rolled around it was pure euphoria.
“I was surprised,” Newell said after the Kadets won the Cheyenne Mountain Invite in early April. “Pleasantly surprised.”
You can imagine the emotions a month later when Newell led the Kadets to their first state championship since 1999.
“We knew we could be this good, but the guys had to prove themselves,” Newell said after the state title. “This is what we wanted, the picture you’d draw in what it takes. In high school sports, there are waves of talent, and for us, it was just timing with that talent. Now, we’ll roll off this energy. We want to be back here again.”
Depth is always the mark of a good program, and good programs can only be built behind stellar coaches. And Air Academy had depth.
Devon Davis and Justin Deardon both won individual titles, but the Kadets only clinched the title after taking third-, fifth- and eighth-place finishes in the 100-yard breaststroke, the second-to-last event at state.
The manner in which the title was sealed brought elation, but it could not have still been a surprise.
Cheri Rogers, Doherty
Building Doherty into a tennis juggernaut has been a 19-year journey for Cheri Rogers.
The Spartans can’t match the economic advantages, year-round court access and personal coaches available to some area programs, but Rogers has found success by creating a feeder program that includes a C-team and junior varsity, and routinely brings more than 50 girls out for the sport — most of whom have no previous experience.
It’s a process that depends on help from others. It means that C-squad must wait until 4:45 p.m. to practice (“Not a lot of people want to do that,” Rogers said), coaches willing and able to teach fundamentals to so many and an athletic director willing to facilitate it all (“I can’t say enough about Chris Noll,” Rogers said. “I feel like the head football coach. He gives me the same amount of respect.”).
The formula is working. In what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Spartans actually had to take a former No. 1 singles player and play her in No. 1 doubles because the availability of talent had grown so deep. The Spartans then rolled to a league title, beating Pine Creek 4-3 in the key match.
Several have worked to make this unlikely place into what it is, but none more than Rogers.
Bobby Tillman, Sand Creek
Bobby Tillman brushed off credit for Sand Creek’s rapid ascension to the top of the 4A Metro, but it’s hard to look anywhere but the top after his team rocketed from 13th in the 16-team league in 2011 to a title this year.
“I just had some really good kids,” said Tillman, who saw the size of his team more than double from 21 to 48 in his second year. “We had four really good leaders that helped bring that tradition of winning. And I had a really good coaching staff. We also had a real good freshman class.”
The Scorpions, paced by senior Jessi Macedo (league champion in high jump, runner-up in 100-meter hurdles and triple jump) and sophomore Mariah Walker (league champ in shot put, runner up in discus), finished in the league’s top five in 13 events. Illustrative of the overnight depth Tillman helped cultivate, the Scorpions won the 400, 800 and 1,600 relays.
“We were not lucky this year,” Tillman said. “Our athletes worked harder than they ever have.
“Our success this year is because I have been blessed to be given the chance to work with some amazing athletes and some amazing coaches.”
Jay Peltier, Vista Ridge
In his first year at the helm, Peltier wisely put a heavy emphasis on speed training. In the process, he made a fast team even faster.
Peltier was something of a mad scientist of sprinting, piecing together techniques he’d gathered in years as an assistant through the Midwest and at Falcon. He emphasized quick-tempo weight workouts and intervals run at a breakneck pace to challenge his athletes mentally and physically.
“We’ve got some burners already,” Peltier said in early April. “You’re like, ‘Wow, is it working this well already?’”
The results continued through state, where Josh Lewis ran the area’s best time in the 100-meter dash, Brandon Cartagena ran the area’s fastest 200 and the Wolves won titles in the 400 and 800 relays. The team finished third in 4A.
No race was more indicative of Peltier’s influence than the 100, where Lewis finished as the state runner-up in 10.71 seconds and two of his teammates (Cartagena and Demetrius Warren) joined him in the top five. The year before Peltier arrived, the Wolves had no one among the event’s first five finishers.