The 2013 calendar year has been another exciting time for athletes, but it's had a few devastating events.
From the CMU men's soccer team winning their first RMAC tournament championship, to the Montrose Indians football team remaining at the top of the rankings the majority of the season and earning their keep at Mile High, even to GJHS wide receiver and starting free safety Jack Parsons tearing his ACL in the first round of the playoffs, 2013 has been filled with ups and downs, and if our list was endless we could include them all.
However, 11 Sports had to narrow it down. To close out the year, we put together the top 11 sports stories of 2013 - from the heartbreaks to the highlights.
11. The players of the Grand Junction Rockies grew on the hearts of many baseball fans in the community, and Raimel Tapia was no exception. The 19-year-old out of the Dominican Republic quickly became a fan favorite, and his talent only helped his case.
On July 31st, Tapia set a new franchise record with a 28-game hitting streak, topping the 27 set by David Dahl during the Rockies inaugural season. Tapia later added one more game to set the bar at 29, just three games away from the Pioneer League record which is set at 32.
10. The well-known Joe Ramunno returned to the helm of the Palisade Bulldogs football program. His history with the team is familiar to many. Under his coaching, the Bulldogs brought home four consecutive state titles from '94-'97. He later spent 14 years with CMU before going back to his old stomping grounds, first as assistant, then as head coach.
Coach Ramunno brought a fresh vision to the team as they went on to take the Western Slope League title for the first time in seven seasons and advance into the quarterfinals of the playoffs.
9. Montrose Indians senior Kala Keltz faced an uphill battle during the second round of the 4A girls golf state championship, but it was nothing that she couldn't handle.
Keltz started the second day of competition in fourth place but quickly erased a two-stroke deficit and ended the round 2-under-par 70 to earn a comeback victory for the Class 4A girls golf state title. The only other champ from this side of Colorado came in 1988, when Fruita Monument's McKenzie Dyslin claimed an All-Class title.
8. The Fruita Monument volleyball team had one of their best seasons in over 30 years. They put out two 7-game win streaks and took the SWL title. The Lady Wildcats also earned the rights to host regionals for the first time in school history.
After coming away with the two wins, they earned a ticket to be one of just 12 teams to enter the state tournament. Even though they couldn't finish on top, they walked away proud of their accomplishments.
7. Right-handed pitcher Jonathan Gray signed with the Colorado Rockies as the third overall draft pick and made his professional debut with the Grand Junction Rockies. Though he had a rough first outing, it wouldn't take long for the former University of Oklahoma pitcher to find his A-game.
In his last start for GJ, Gray went five innings, giving up just one run while hitting upwards of 100 miles per hour. That performance only garnered more attention, and just 22 days after his debut, Gray skipped a level and was promoted to High-A Modesto.
After his fifth game, he was shut down. Now he's on the fast track to the majors as Colorado's #1 prospect.
6. Innovative freestyle snowmobiler Caleb Moore passed away as a result of an injury suffered during a crash at the X-Games, marking the first death in the Winter X Games.
The 25-year-old was attempting a backflip in the freestyle event when the ski tips caught and the snowmobile rolled over him. He went to the hospital for a concussion, but complications involving his brain arose, and he passed away just days later.
Caleb's brother Colten competed in the same competitions, he will continue to ride in the memory of his brother. The next edition of the Winter X Games is coming up in less than a month from January 23rd-January 26th. The snowmobile freestyle event will be back for the games in 2014, just with added safety precautions.
5. Bill Fanning was a Colorado baseball legend, and on February 8th, 2013, at the age of 91, he passed away. He was a father, friend, teacher, and coach, that's how family and friends remembered the legend.
For 35 seasons he served as the head baseball coach at Grand Junction High, including 21 playoff appearances, 3 state, championships, and 467 total wins - becoming the first coach to accrue over 400 wins in the entire state.
Over the years he was inducted into numerous halls of fame, including the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and National High School Sports Hall of Fame.
4. The historic season of the CMU Lady Mavericks basketball team attracted hundreds. Under first-year head coach Taylor Wagner, the ladies had a huge turnaround from the previous year. They went on an 18-game win streak to start off play, hosted and won both the RMAC Tournament Championship and South Central Regional, and made their first ever trip to the NCAA Division II Elite 8.
In the end the Lady Mavericks finished 31-2 with a #8 national ranking and a spot in the school history books.
3. Western Slope wrestling is consistently among the best in the state, and this year was no exception. Twenty-two athletes placed in the top 6 at the state tournament, three finished with a state title.
Paonia's sophomore standout Jesse Reed was a repeat champion in his class, while his team claimed the 2A mat title.
Palisade's junior Dalton Hannigan represented the Bulldogs in the 126's and earned the first individual state title coming from the school in 10 years.
Last but certainly not least, Grand Junction sophomore Jacob Trujillo competed against familiar foe in Fruita's Isaac Rodriguez and came away with the win. He went on to become an All-American and finish with a perfect record on the season.
2. Coming in at number two is a story that shook an entire town. In early September three Cedaredge athletes - Reid Gates, Tyler Cooper, and Aaron Henrie - turned on a generator to watch movies in a camper inside a shed. After time carbon monoxide from the generator filled the camper and turned deadly.
All three suffered carbon monoxide poisoning. Tyler and Aaron later recovered, but Reid passed away just one day after the incident.
The 17-year-old was a gifted athlete. He had just finished his junior year as a state champion in football and high jump. On top of that, he was a straight-A student, planning to enroll at the Air Force Academy after graduation.
He was a young man loved by many. His team, teachers, and friends all talked highly of him, and through the unexpected everyone in that community came together to support his family and to support a Bruins team that had just lost their captain and leader in the midst of a new season.
Today Tyler and Aaron continue their athletic endeavors, playing basketball for the Bruins.
1. The top sports story of 2013 took place in Paonia - a town with less than 2,000 people. For the first time since 1959 the 1A Paonia Eagles football team captured a state title.
Like any accomplishment of this nature, it was not an easy task. These guys came in to the season a bit underestimated because of the talent they were up against in the Western Slope League - reigning state champion Cedaredge and constant threat in the playoffs Hotchkiss.
For 4 consecutive years the Eagles finished third in the conference, but 2013 marked a fresh start. Former assistant Brent McCrae stepped up as the head coach, and he was ready to take the team to the top.
Their only loss came early in the season to Centauri. From that day on Paonia never let up, cruising to 10 straight victories including the best victory of all at the state level - coming in front of their home crowd at Paonia Town Park.
Now for years down the road 2013 will be the year that every sports fan in that community looks back on.
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