Several Teams/Players Qualify For State Championship Bids
The winter sports season in Woodland Park has reached a final conclusion, with most local teams and individual players/members taking an impressive, winning stride and one showing a much improved mark from previous years.
In fact, a few teams and players made state playoff appearances, a success level that was unheard of in past years. Here are a few highlights as the 22/23 winter, athletic season in Panther land is finally put to bed, but with the groundwork laid for definite future success.
Even though the boys’ wrestling team lost some all-star grapplers to graduation last year, the team still made some big strides. The wrestlers were young this year leaving it with much potential for the future.
In the end, the boys tried hard on the mats during their last key matches of the season into the regional tournament. However, none of these boys fared well enough at regionals to qualify for the state tournament this year.
The girls’ wrestling team though did have two stars that placed in regionals and did well enough to hit the mats at the state championship tournament. Trinity Diamond took second place and Cheyenne Becker took third in their weight classes at the regional tournament. But unfortunately, none of the WP girl grapplers placed in the top six at the state tournament.
It was announced last week that yet another senior girl wrestler signed to grapple at the college level. Senior sports star and wrestler Giana Roskam recently signed onto the wrestling program at Trinidad State.
When the Lady Panthers ended their regular season of play, it was uncertain what chances they had to stay on the courts during postseason. But last week, it was announced that the girls played well enough during the district playoffs to qualify to play in the state championship tournament, which started last Friday.
The girls made big bounds this year for the program by making the state tournament for the first time in nearly two decades. According to high school social media posts, the Lady Panthers haven’t seen a postseason run since the early 2000s.
The team started their district playoff tournament with a big 86-20 win over Florence on Feb. 20. They then lost their next match on Feb. 22 to St. Mary’s 87-43.
On Feb. 24, the girls lost a close one in the playoffs to Salida 41-37. But then on Feb. 25, the team redeemed themselves with a much needed 61-48 win against Rye.
The girls played their first match in the state tournament against the 11-10 Ignacio Bobcats last Friday. The team played hard and won their first game in the championship tournament by a single point 50-49.
Their next state playoff challenge was a bout against the 17-7 Platte Valley Broncos, which they lost 60-33. This eliminated the Lady Panthers from the state tourney.
Last year, when veteran B-Ball coach Brian Gustafson took over the reins of the Panther boys’ basketball team, they showed some significant improvements. They did not make the state championship last year, but Coach Gustafson, who has relocated to the Ft. Collins area, gave the team what it needed to continue their success into the ’22-’23 season.
After a successful route in the district playoff tournament, the boys, just like the Lady Panthers, also qualified for the state championship tournament. The boys’ b-ball team haven’t had a spot in the state tourney for 15 years. In fact, the last time they saw postseason action was in 2008.
Compared to the girls’ team, the boys had a much more successful run during the district playoffs tournament. But, it did not start out as well when they lost their first playoff match against Colorado Springs Christian School 45-32 on Feb. 21.
However, the boys did win their last two district playoff matches to qualify for state. On Feb. 24 the Panthers beat Florence 57-40 and then on Feb. 25 they overcame Banning Lewis Academy 50-42.
The boys started their state championship tournament last Friday with a match against the 16-6 Roaring Fork Rams. Their playoff stint ended quickly as they lost to the Rams 53-48. But they put themselves on the b-ball map, receiving much coverage last weekend by local television stations.
In its fifth year of being a sport at the Woodland Park High School, the girls’ swimming team has proved that their hard work has paid off.
For the first time in the school’s history, a handful of the WP swimmers earned the right to compete at the state championship tournament including two relay teams.
According to the team’s coach Rusty Bernstein, many of the swimmers on the team this year have experience from swimming in the local club. The team currently has quite a few young stars and it will see more as eighth graders on the club team move up to the high school level next year.
The girls finished their season with eight wins and three losses. Bernstein said the number of meets they won just this season was close to the number of meets they have won in the last four years.
In the 100 yard butterfly event, Hannah Winn took fifth place at state. Winn also took seventh in the 100 yard backstroke competition.
Swimmer Kensley Pekron took 16th place in the 200 yard freestyle event statewide. And then, she placed 17th in the 500 yard freestyle competition.
Both of the team’s relay swimming teams qualified for state, but only one scored at the state level. The 400 yard freestyle relay team consisting of Winn, Pekron, Maci Lundgren, and Ellie Geissler took 14th place in the state tournament.
“Another season highlight was that every team record (both relay and individual) were broken at least once at some point during the season,” Coach Bernstein said. “As a team in girls 3A there were 34 schools that scored points in the state meet, and we finished 18th.”