A new season is here, every sport but boys swimming and diving (that began the past week) will be contested outside and there’s snow on the ground amid Rocky Mountain fickle temperatures.
It can only mean one thing – spring competition is here and the 2022 season begins today (Thursday, March 10).
Mullen will field teams in each of the final season’s sports and has opportunities to excel.
Below are short looks at baseball, girls golf, boys and girls lacrosse, girls soccer, girls tennis, and track and field as the Mustangs join in the stretch run to the 2021-22 school sports year:
Mullen opportunities of the diamond variety should prove precious – a team that came within a game of the past season’s Class 5A Championship Series returns its entire starting infield, a deeper pitching staff, four college signees, a couple of former Rockies players on the coaching staff and a very serious attitude about contending for a Colorado pennant.
“We’re excited,” Mustangs new head coach Phil Stanford said.
For starters, at least four Mustangs will play in college -- Trevor Moore, who has signed with Stanford;
Andrew Brady (Colorado Mines); Owen Marsh (St, Thomas); and Henry Stewart (Santa Clara).
More of the names you’ll hear include Aaron Fuentes, Ben Hawes, Ben Krza, Colin MacKenzie, Henry Shellhorn, and Andres Terrones-Garcia
And here are a couple of others: Jason Hirsch and Cory Sullivan, former Rockies guys who are on the coaching staff.
The pitching and defense should be among the big-school elite and the hitting lineup has pop potential.
Mullen won’t be headed out of state. As of the recent snowstorm, it had intentions of heading to the Western Slope to open 2022, but inclement weather scrapped those plans in a Centennial League-based regular season that returns to 23 games and is even more local.
Fairways and greens for the Mustangs are distinct possibilities – among 25 hopefuls, Mullen returns the Nos. 2 and 7 finishers in 4A, another senior with know-how and talented freshmen.
Sofia Choi, runner-up as a freshman and junior (there was no season in 2020); junior Kaitlin Zingler (seventh); and senior Hannah Giacomin bring experience. Lots of challenging from others is expected.
Head coach Kate Walker is a veteran and realist: “I don’t want to be overconfident and I don’t want the girls to be overconfident. No one’s been able to swing a club unless they were on vacation. There are so many unknowns what the competition will be, especially in 4A.”
Regional and championship rounds will be on the Western Slope, so Walker knows “there will be a lot of driving” at the end of the season.
Girls golf may have the worst weather and conditions of any in-state sport – “We’ll be lucky to hit off mats (early),” Walker said – but on a positive note the Mustangs have a tie to an LPGA Major. Former Mustangs three-time winner, Symetra Tour player and current assistant professional at Baltimore Country Club, Ashley Tait-Wingert, has qualified for KPMG PGA Championship. Tait-Wingert was the head coach two seasons ago and was an assistant in 2021. She’s a volunteer assistant this season.
It could happen for the Mustangs in 2022.
“I think we can be as competitive as almost as any team out there,” head coach Matt Cawley said. “The royalty out there is very, very good, but we’re not scared of anybody.
“We have a mature team that has been through a lot. They played as freshmen, lost sophomore season to (the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic) and as first-time varsity had a great winning season (8-2).”
Christopher Bougie, Noah Wanja, Lance Hart, Connor Warren and Dominic Flores figure to be Mullen’s main men.
The Mustangs will open again Mountain Vista, the defending 5A champion, on March 12, and play three matches in California before heading into 5A League No. 1 in a return to 15 regular-season matches followed by a 24-team postseason outlay.
They embrace a challenging schedule.
Inexperience abounds for the Mustangs, who will open with just seven upperclassmen among 25 varsity members.
“We’re very young,” fifth-year coach Melynda Brown said. “We are going to work off our leadership and compete as hard as we can in each game.”
Haley Vanek, Elsa Heinze, J.J. Johnson, Emma Oliver and keeper Maggie Martinez, who Brown said “is showing improvement every day,” are the front-runners for Mullen as play begins.
To date, the Mustangs have 12 matches scheduled and could add three more. There was a scramble for opponents in the second year of a two-year cycle as they will drop to 4A for 2023.
Good news: There are 46 players in the program. Brown had 26 when she began.
The Mustangs are under new management and it’s familiar – Matt Degitis, who took over the boys in the fall on an interim basis, is doing likewise this season.
“If we’re committed and organized,” Degitis said, “this team has the potential.”
Brooklyn Rich, Katy DeNezza, Izzy Turner, Lizzy Marcoux, Keelee Rakowski, Kate Vezzani and Morgan Stewart should handle a lot of the load.
Of 30 candidates on hand in rebuilding the program numbers, Degitis said “we need the commitment to work hard and work together.”
Coming off their first Colorado championship in 15 years, their third on record, the Mustangs will begin defense with a half-dozen returnees.
“It was awesome,” head coach Jera Sturgell said of the Season D that ran into June. “I think the feeling is still there and it was so exciting. We hope to be a contender this year.”
Alexi Yost and Marin Smith, who were Nos. 2-3 singles the past season, are back.
So are the doubles teams of Madeline Crites-Aubryanne Legers and Ciara Dailey-Renee Hoyt, who won Nos. 3 and 4 doubles, respectively, at the 4A Championships at Pueblo City Park.
“We have a lot to live up to,” Sturgell said. “We have five new kids on varsity, but I feel good about it.”
Track and Field
Darius Reed, a former schoolboy star at George Washington and familiar face assisting the Mustangs program, has assumed command.
In attempting to rebuild program numbers, Reed said “there’s a lot of mystery” in the early going, but is confident he can draw some of the school’s top talent.
One area that has been set is jumps for girls. Senior Agur Dwol is the two-time defending champion in 4A triple jump (there was no season in 2020) and added a long-jump crown the past June. She’s the top female triple-jumper in the country and hopes to make a run at the national record.
Another bonus for the girls side is senior Kilah Freelon, the gifted, athketic basketball player headed to Texas Tech, making a return to the hurdles.
Senior sprinter Kyle Krebs returns for the boys and Reed said key members on both sides of the cross-country team should boost Mullen distance interests.