As the 2017-2018 school year comes to a close, we want to acknowledge the achievements of all our area seniors in both academics and athletics. We pass on our congratulations and best wishes to all graduating seniors who – whether they are college-bound, taking on a trade or looking forward to a gap year – are stepping into the future with diploma in hand.
But we would be remiss not to mention the rare achievement of four Bayfield High School senior boys who were key players on three Colorado High School Activities Association state championship teams in a single year.
Ryan Phelps, Dax Snooks and brothers Carl and Dawson Heide were part of Wolverine teams that won the state 2A football title (with a convincing 34-7 victory over La Junta in November), the 3A state basketball title (by beating Lutheran 68-57 in March), and the 3A track championship meet in Lakewood one week ago.
To pull off a “triple crown” in high school athletics is almost unheard of; the football, basketball and track trifecta has happened just a handful of times in state history, in all classifications.
And we’ll abide no talk of the feat being somehow less impressive because it occurred below the top tiers of Colorado athletic classifications. Schools at the 2A and 3A level are certainly not the largest in the state, but there is no classification for competitiveness, dedication and heart, and no separate grades of achievement. Bayfield’s competition, composed of many small-town schools with a level of community support that is the envy of 5A schools statewide, and the cream of the state’s private Christian high schools with their traditions of athletic success, is daunting each and every year.
Of course, to focus on Bayfield’s “Formidable Four” is somewhat unfair. These are team sport titles, and every member of all three teams deserves mention for his contributions, something acknowledged repeatedly through the school year by the seniors and their coaching staffs.
State titles do not come without great coaching, and Bayfield’s Gary Heide, head football and co-coach (with Josh Walton) of track and field, obviously, has a gift for teaching and motivating students. It bodes well for future teams in Bayfield that he will continue to coach.
Basketball coach Jeff Lehnus, who experienced every bit of the highs and lows of school sports in his 34 years of coaching, deserves as much credit for his perseverance as he does for his mentoring skills and basketball knowledge. Like the four seniors, Lehnus is going out on top; he retired from coaching following the state victory. While he will continue to teach history at BHS, he will be missed on the court.
In our coverage of the major team sports at area high schools, we are at times criticized for not mentioning the efforts and achievements of other students competing in less-publicized events like dance competitions, debates or sports where athletes compete alone. We don’t praise the Bayfield titles to emphasize that discrepancy.
We write to celebrate how this year’s BHS athletes, led by their seniors and coaches, discovered what they could accomplish with hard work and practice and a belief in themselves and in teammates.
On the field and on the court, the “small school” Wolverines achieved great things, and that should inspire us all.