Leilani Caamal poses with her jerseys for the Vista PEAK varsity football team and Mile High Blaze women’s semipro football team jersey. Caamal, who also made the girls state wrestling tournament, has become a shining example of a continually growing world of opportunity for females in athletics and other realms as 2022 marked the 50th anniversary of Title IX legislation.  (Photo by Courtney Oakes/Sentinel Colorado)

Here’s a look back at some of the important happenings in Aurora prep sports in 2022:

Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports

Affected greatly by the coronavirus pandemic for nearly two years, high school sports got back to normal in 2022.

It was a welcome return to how it used to be for Aurora programs, which got back to pre-pandemic levels of success in a variety of sports, which brought a great deal of team and individual hardware back to the city from the track, basketball court, field hockey field, swimming pool and elsewhere.

Female sports in particular in Aurora earned their share of time in the spotlight.

Here’s a look back at some of the top stories of 2022 in Aurora prep sports:

Vista PEAK’s Leilani Caamal shows off best part of Title IX’s 50-year anniversary

In a year in which the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of the passing of Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in publicly-funded education (which includes athletics), Leilani Caamal has become a beacon in Aurora.

The Vista PEAK senior has taken full advantage of the ever-widening path made possible by the legislation, and she has accepted a role in the vanguard of continuing to move the bar of possibility for female athletes.

Caamal has spent several seasons on the Vista PEAK boys football team, and she is also a member of the Mile High Blaze of the Women’s Football Alliance. She helped the Blaze win the WFA’s Division 2 championship with a 21-20 victory over the Derby City Dynamite July 9 in a game played at Tom Benson Stadium in Canton, Ohio. Caamal also participated in girls wrestling for Vista PEAK and earned a chance to compete in the state tournament at Ball Arena.

Lauren Betts’ best year helps Grandview girls basketball team get back on top

Things couldn’t have gone better over the course of the year for Lauren Betts of Grandview, who completed one of the finest seasons ever for a girls basketball player in Aurora or the state.

The 6-foot-7 Betts — who is now at NCAA powerhouse Stanford — then put the finishing
touches on her senior season with a Class 5A state championship, Colorado Gatorade Player of the Year honors as well as selection to the prestigious McDonald’s All-American Game. Betts helped the Wolves navigate a rollercoaster season, during which they were 5-9 after two games in Minnesota televised nationally by ESPN, and ended it with a state championship with 52-40 win over top-seeded Valor Christian March 12 at Denver Coliseum.

Betts and fellow Division I signee Marya Hudgins (Santa Clara) did much of the damage for Grandview, while Amaya Charles, Betts’ younger sister Sienna, Isa Dillehay and Gabriella Cunningham all had key contributions in the title win.

With the game decided, Betts got to share a special moment on the bench with her sister, who was a huge contributor to the title run, as they embraced with tears in their eyes as they won a title in the only varsity season they got to play together.

Lauren Betts finished the season with an average of 17.2 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.6 blocked shots and 3.5 assists per game as she was picked as Colorado’s top player by Gatorade for the second straight season and also was the program’s second selection to the McDonald’s All-American game. She scored two points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots for Team West in a 95-75 loss to Team East at Wintrust Arena in Chicago.

Aurora athletes finish fantastic season in style at state track meet

The Grandview boys track & field team navigated the challenges of the weather and some spirited efforts by some other teams on its way to a second consecutive Class 5A state championship, as coach John Reyes’ team fulfilled its promise with a slew of returning athletes.

Besides scoring two runners in both the 100 and 200 meters, Grandview got state championships in the 4×200 and 4×100 meter relay events from the same group of seniors Charlie Dick and Evan Johnson and juniors David Maldonado and Luke Trinrud. The 4×100 team set the Colorado all-classification record.

In a dominant performance at the top level of the meet, the Cherokee Trail boys finished second to give Aurora a sweep of the 5A boys podium, while the Cherokee Trail girls finished second behind Cherry Creek in 5A. The Cherokee Trail boys had state champions in the two longest relay events, as the team of Reuben Holness, Beck Gutjahr, Evan Armstrong and Logan McGowan claimed the 4×800 meter crown on the first event of the meet and the group of Holness, Ciaran Hyslop, Kahari Wilbon and Peyton Sommers closed it with the 4×400 title.

The Cherokee Trail girls managed the runner-up finish with just one state champion and that was sprinter Symone Adams, who completed her recovery from injury to win the 5A girls 100 meter dash. The Eaglecrest girls had an absolutely remarkable season that saw a state championship in the 4×200 meter relay as well as an individual title in the 200 meter dash for Haley Esser, a multi-sport athlete who was new to track this season. Esser, Favour Akpokiere, Bianca Gleim and Jaylynn Wilson combined to bring home the 4×200 title and nearly added the 4×100 crown as well.

Regis Jesuit’s Fabiola Belibi swept the 5A state hurdles titles as well.

Cayko dominates as girls wrestling triumphs in second sanctioned season

Slowed in growth only briefly by COVID-19 in 2021, during its first season as a sport sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association, girls wrestling exploded in 2022.

A full-sized state tournament (unlike the small one held the previous season in Pueblo due to the pandemic), joined the boys tournaments at Ball Arena and one of the sport’s emerging stars called the Aurora area home in Eaglecrest’s Blythe Cayko.

Cayko opened her junior season by winning the Reno Tournament of Champions to achieve All-American status, then won her first 31 matches to reach the 185-pound state title match against Calhan’s Taylor Knox, who had defeated her in the previous season’s state tournament. Cayko trailed Knox by a point in the third period, but hooked her arm and finished off her 32nd pin in as many matches to claim the state championship.

Cayko jumped into the arms of coach Sparky Adair and celebrated with him and assistant Melissa Myers. A quick elevator trip up to the suite level provided the second surreal experience as she was mobbed by Eaglecrest teammates, coaches and supporters.

It was a strong showing for Aurora girls on the big state, as Katelyn Czerpak of Overland (which had a full team for the first time), Eaglecrest’s Savannah Smith and Vista PEAK’s Samiah Andrews all earned places on the podium with top-six places.

Aurora boys also had a good state tournament with 10 placers, including finalists Dorian Ervin of Eaglecrest (106 pounds) and Derek Glenn Jr. (113 pounds) and Matthew Buck (160) of Cherokee Trail. Glenn Jr.’s season ended in the state championship match for the third straight time, but he was unable to add a second title, while Ervin and Buck also went down to defeat in their first title matches.

Regis Jesuit boys swim team claims 23rd all-time state title

It had been a few years since the Regis Jesuit boys swim team (one of Colorado’s all-time most successful programs) had brought home the Class 5A state championship, but coach Nick Frasersmith’s Raiders did so again in 2022. Luke Dinges, Gio Aguirre, Ronan Krauss and Hawkins Wendt ended the meet in style for Regis Jesuit with a victory in the 400 yard relay as the venerable program collected its first state title since 2018 and its 23rd all-time.

Particularly motivated to win the meet were the team’s seniors, as they would have been the first senior class in school history to finish without a state title. The Raiders finished as runners-up to Cherry Creek in 2019 and 2021, while they lost the 2020 season due to the pandemic. Aguirre, Dugan and Dinges all finished fourth or better in two individual events, Carter Anderson, Charlie Klein and Truman Inglis scored in a pair events and Wendt had a sixth-place finish in the 50 and swam on all three relays, which all had top-three results.

Naomi Clark leads Grandview girls soccer team to sixth all-time crown

Naomi Clark provided a spectacular performance in the postseason and virtually put the Grandview girls soccer team on her back on its way to a sixth all-time Class 5A state championship.

The junior forward finished the season with 20 goals and eight of them came in four postseason victories, including game-winners against Legacy in the quarterfinals, Valor Christian in the semifinals (as the Wolves knocked out the top seed) and Broomfield in the title game at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

Clark’s most spectacular effort came in the state championship game, when she recorded a second-half hat trick to send coach Brian Wood’s Grandview team to a 3-1 win. Clark scored less than five minutes into the second half to erase a 1-0 deficit, added another a minute later and a third in the closing minutes and goalie Jordan Nytes and a veteran defense made it stand up.

Regis Jesuit field hockey team fall short in three-peat quest

The Regis Jesuit field hockey team made the state championship game for a fifth straight season, but its three-peat hopes ended with a 2-0 loss to Colorado Academy at Stutler Bowl. Colorado Academy snapped the Raiders’ 32-game unbeaten streak with a 2-1 win early in the season, won the second regular season contest and dealt Regis Jesuit its third loss in the state title game.

Eduard Tsaturyan gives Grandview boys tennis team ace it never had

The Grandview boys tennis team had never had a state champion or a victory over Cherry Creek in its history. The Wolves got both of those checked off with the addition of Eduard Tsaturyan, who arrived from Russia and took over the No. 1 singles position. His addition helped transform Grandview into a team that earned a spot in the new state team tournament and nearly all also made the individual state as well.

Tsaturyan won the program’s first state championship with his second win of the season over Cherry Creek’s Aram Izmirian, the 2021 5A state champion.

Multi-sport star Dallas Macias receives Freddie Steinmark award

Regis Jesuit’s Dallas Macias was the male winner of the prestigious Fred Steinmark Award, which was established in 1972 to commemorate the all-around excellence in athletics and character of the late Fred Steinmark, who starred in multiple sports in his prep days at Wheat Ridge High School in the 1960s.

Macias was Colorado’s Gatorade Player of the Year in baseball and led the Raiders to the Class 5A Championship Series and he starred in multiple roles with the football team in the fall. He was Aurora’s first male Steinmark Award winner since Aurora Central’s Pat Manson in 1986.

Former Regis Jesuit star, CHSAA official Tom Robinson dies

Longtime Colorado High School Activities Association associate commissioner Tom Robinson died April 4 at the age of 76. The organization said Robinson died after a “short battle with multiple diagnoses,” which included cancer.

Robinson — a former multiple-sport star athlete in his prep days and 1964 graduate of Regis Jesuit High School (before it moved to Aurora) and then a longtime teacher and coach there — was the second African-American administrator in the history of the CHSAA, the state’s governing body for athletics and activities.

Former APS AD Mike Krueger takes over as CHSAA Commissioner

Mike Krueger — who served a stint as the Aurora Public Schools’ Athletic Director from 2014-18 — was approved by CHSAA’s Board of Directors to become the governing body’s 10th commissioner. He takes over for Rhonda Blanford-Green, who retired at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

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