After leading Valor Christian to back-to-back state 5A football titles, Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey is our High School Athlete of the Year. Read the full story here.
But 2016 was a banner year in Colorado sports for other reasons. These finalists for our High School Athlete of the Year award helped make it so.
Legacy High School – Soccer
Oh, Canada! The 17-year-old senior switched to 5A Legacy (Broomfield) after moving from Toronto and immediately attracted attention for all-around play and athletic ability. He scored the Lightning’s first two goals of the 2016 season and finished with 21 goals, which topped big schools, and had hat tricks against Columbine and Loveland. Buchanan and Legacy finished fifth in the vaunted Front Range League (7-4-1 league, 11-5-1 overall) that included 5A finalists Boulder and Broomfield and went out in the second round. Buchanan was named the 5A Player of the Year.
Overland High School – Basketball
The four-year starter at Overland in Aurora was Colorado’s finest pivot in years. The 6-foot-10 star, who was offered a scholarship to Indiana before he even enrolled with the Trailblazers, led his team to an 83-25 mark, three semifinals appearances and two Class 5A state titles. He scored 1,527 points for a career average of 14.4 and shot 77 percent from the free-throw line. His 441 blocks rank first since the statistic was kept in 1982. He added 1,028 rebounds, which stand seventh since that stat was instituted in 1972. He’s now at Indiana.
Windsor High School – Swimming
One of the nation’s top high school swimmers, Friesen participated in the Olympic Trials in Omaha, Neb. at the age of 16 and then again this past summer before the start of her senior year at 4A Windsor. She finished 66th in the preliminaries of the 100-meter breaststroke (1:11.48) and 69th in the 200 breaststroke (2:34.65), but called the experience “awesome.” As a Wizard, Friesen won her first 200-yard medley championship (2:03.78) as well as her third consecutive 100 breaststroke crown in 1:02.15 the past February. She is signed to swim at Louisville.
Grandview High School – Track and Field | Cross Country
The Grandview (Aurora) senior, a former soccer player turned distance runner, was ranked as the top female cross country runner in the U.S. for 2016. As cool as the shades of the same name, Oakley ran a scorching 17:07 at the Class 5A state meet in ending the three-year run of Fort Collins’ Lauren Gregory. She set a Liberty Bell Meet mark (16:44); ran the fastest 3-mile in the U.S. (15:54); won the 5A 3,200 in track and set a 1,600 mark (10:33.14) that surpassed a 26-year-old mark held by legendary Melody Fairchild; and won the Nike Cross Nationals.
Air Academy High School – Track and Field | Cross Country
Arguably Colorado’s best-ever girls distance runner, the former Air Academy Kadet dominated cross country and track. A runner-up as a freshman and sophomore, she went on to win two Class 4A titles in cross country. She twice swept the distances in track, winning the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 meters, as well as helping the Kadets take the 3,200 relay. Rainsberger set two all-time bests for a Coloradan – 4:36 in the mile, and 4:44.31 in the 1,600. Also the nation’s top female cross country runner in fall 2015, she’s now at Oregon.
Meeker High School – Wrestling | Football | Track and Field
A Meeker Cowboy, Shelton was a rare breed – he starred in three sports and became a four-time weight-class champion in wrestling, just Colorado’s 19th over 81 seasons. As a freshman, Shelton won at 160 pounds, then won three consecutively at 170. He was 35-1 as a senior, 139-11 in his career. In football, Shelton rushed for 1,728 yards and 25 touchdowns, and doubled as a safety in leading Meeker to the 1A quarterfinals. In track, he won multiple sprint titles before tearing a hamstring as a junior. Shelton now wrestles at Colorado School of Mines.
Featured Images Credit: CHSAANow.com (Kai Casey, Ryan Casey, Matt Mathewes, Katie Pickrell)