In celebration of its 25th anniversary, Eaglecrest High School is set to debut an Athletic and Activities Hall of Fame to remember its rich history.
The inaugural class, as selected from a pool of nominees by a panel of school administrators, representatives of Cherry Creek School District, the community and the media, is made up of J.J. Billingsley, Damian Brown, Ben Baum, Tara Mendozza (DeCrescentis) and Stacey Jennings.
Broadway actor Andy Kelso is also part of the inaugural induction class, but is unable to attend the ceremony as he is starring in the lead role in the Tony Award-winning production “Kinky Boots.”
Those eligible for the Athletic and Activities Hall of Fame must be graduated from Eaglecrest for at least five years.
Eaglecrest’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Dec. 11 at Blackstone Country Club following a dinner and cocktail hour. The next day, the Hall of Fame inductees will be honored during an assembly for Eaglecrest students at 8:53 a.m.
Tickets for the induction ceremony cost $25 apiece and will be available through the Eaglecrest Athletics Office. Contact Athletic Director Vince Orlando at 720-886-1083 or [email protected] for more details.
A brief bio of each of the inductees in the inaugural class:
J.J. Billingsley (Class of 2002): Billingsley was arguably the finest all-around athlete to pass through Eaglecrest, as he played at an elite level in football and track & field and also lettered twice in basketball. On the football field, Billingsley played defensive back, linebacker and running back for the Raptors under coach Gary Thompson and earned a scholarship to play at the University of Colorado. Billingsley totaled 1,177 total yards as a senior, including 736 rushing with seven touchdowns and 441 yards receiving and five more scores. Billingsley was the driving force behind Eaglecrest’s 2002 5A boys state track championship — the only one in school history — in which he won the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and helped the 4×200-meter relay team to first place and the 4×100 team to fourth place. Billingsley currently works in the Cherry Creek School District.
Damian Brown (Class of 1995): Brown helped lead an Eaglecrest football team coached by Ron Peterson to win the first state championship in school history in 1993 — just three years after the doors opened — with a perfect 14-0 run to the Class 5A state title back when Colorado had six classifications. Brown, a running back, rushed for 262 yards and four touchdowns — including the tying and go-ahead scores in the fourth quarter — as the Raptors rallied past Hinkley 37-29 in an all-Aurora 5A championship game played in front of an estimated 6,000 fans at Stutler Bowl. Brown went on to play at Iowa State between 1995 and 1997 before concluding his career at Northern Colorado. He is currently the athletic director at Adams City High School.
Ben Baum (Class of 1993): Baum, a 7-footer, was the first bonafide basketball star from Eaglecrest. As a senior, he averaged 25.7 points and 17.5 rebounds per game to win Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year honors as the Raptors posted a 17-5 record under coach Stan Adams in 1992-93. Baum — who was also a drum major and first trombone in the marching band and student body president — scored 51 points in a playoff game, which would rank first all-time among big schools and second in all classifications according to Colorado High School Activities Association records, and garnered interest from a variety of Division I men’s basketball programs, eventually signing with Oklahoma State. He was part of the Cowboys team that made it to the NCAA Final Four in 1995 and eventually spent some time in the NBA with the Atlanta Hawks, while going on to play professionally for five seasons in Europe.
Tara Mendozza (DeCrescentis) (Class of 1996): Mendozza still owns the all-Colorado state meet record in the 800-meter run, having clocked a time of 2 minutes, 7.52 seconds, in 1996 to break her own state record. Mendozza — who just missed a 2:05.4 that would have qualified her for the United States Olympic Trials — won the 800- and 1,600-meter runs in both her junior and senior seasons and was part of a relay team that set a national record in the rarely-run mile medley relay. Mendozza, who lettered in cross country and track & field four times at Eaglecrest and was an all-State performer in track in 1995 and 1996, went on to an All-American career at the University of Illinois.
Stacey Jennings (Class of 2002): Jennings is the most decorated softball player in Eaglecrest’s proud tradition in the sport, as she pitched her way to at least the all-state and all-conference teams all four years in high school. The right-handed pitcher — who set the school’s career records for strikeouts at 492, innings pitched (390), wins (45), and ERA (0.50), totals that stood until broken by Raya Johnson — also helped lead Eaglecrest to the Class 5A semifinals in 1999 and 2001, helping giving the program momentum that led to winning the 5A state championship in 2005. Jennings also lettered four times in track & field at Eaglecrest. She went on to play NCAA softball at powerhouse University of Tennessee and Maryland.
Andy Kelso (Class of 1998): Kelso contributed to the drama department during his time at Eaglecrest, both as a spotlight operator and eventually an actor in a variety of productions, then went on to study musical theater and straight drama at the University of Northern Colorado. Kelso earned the chance to perform in several shows in the Denver Metro area, including “Big River,” “Footloose” and “The Drawer Boy” before moving to New York City in 2003. He made his Broadway debut in “Mamma Mia” and held the role of Fiyero in the national tour of the acclaimed “Wicked.” Kelso currently holds the lead role of Charlie Price in the 2013 Tony Award-winning musical “Kinky Boots.”
Courtney Oakes is Sports Editor of the Aurora Sentinel. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Aurora Prep Sentinel