The Roaring Fork Rams ended the 2018-19 athletic school year with upbeat spring seasons in multiple sports.
According to Coach Martin Madsen, baseball started slowly, but his Rams were on the rise by the end, winning five of their last seven games, finishing 9 and 14 overall, and 5 and 4 in the 3A Western Slope League, to grab third place.
“We definitely ended up where I wanted to, other than finishing first. Delta and Cedaredge were two very quality clubs,” he said. Madsen said he was also happy the Rams got a league win, 8-7, at Moffat County in Craig, his first victory there in eight years.
The Rams’ 11-10 comeback road win at Olathe highlighted the season. “We were down 8-1, and we just scratched back, scoring a few here and there, then we were only down 3 in the top of the 7th. We scored five in that inning, Dawson Kuhl hitting a grand slam to take the lead. That was wild,” he said.
Senior pitcher and infielder Kuhl will be difficult to replace, Madsen said. “He was ‘our guy’ this year, and had a great senior season. He really walked the walk, showing younger players how to handle themselves, trying to get better at something each day. That was pretty special.”
Also graduating are center fielder Layne Crisp, right fielder Kelvin Requeno and designated hitter Kyle Baird. But Madsen said his returners show lots of promise.
They’ll be led by two of this year’s juniors – first team all-league selection Frankie Harrington and Eli Nickamin. Madsen said he’s “super excited” for 2020, hearing positive buzz around Carbondale about the future of Rams baseball.
Soccer goals achieved
The girls’ soccer season seemed short to Rams Coach Nick Forbes, with bad weather early. But his club extended it, finishing with a record of nine wins and eight losses and five wins and two losses in the league.
Fork got swept by Aspen and Basalt, but pummeled Moffat County by nine goals to win its regular finale 2-1 in extra time over Delta, to make the postseason.
The Rams drew DSST: Stapleton in the first round and statistics suggested a tight match. According to the coach, however, “We were pretty dominant. We stayed disciplined, dictated the game and scored the first couple goals easily.” DSST scored in the second, but Roaring Fork iced it with a late goal, winning 3-1.
The Rams' next trip to the Front Range matched them with defending state champ Jefferson Academy. According to Forbes: “We just played our game, figuring ways to adapt our style to beat them.”
It almost worked as Fork gave Jefferson all it could handle. The Rams scored twice and took the game to extra time before losing, 3-2.
“It was so much fun to watch the girls excel, and look really good at it,” Forbes said.
The Rams were the only club to score on the Jags in their four games leading to the championship. The next time Jefferson was scored upon, on May 21, Colorado Academy won the state title, 3-0.
Forbes said next season looks bright, despite losing senior Lux Andrade, who is “huge from a leadership perspective, and just a great girl.”
Goalkeeper Odalis Corcucra graduates this weekend too, as do Solana Teitler and Angie Morales, whose senior seasons were cut short by injuries.
Logan Erickson also contributed, despite just picking up the sport as a senior. The coach said, “I think next year we’re only going to be more entertaining to watch. We’re trying to go at least one game farther in the playoffs. That’s our goal.”
Debut of girls’ lacrosse
Roaring Fork’s newest varsity sport, girls’ lacrosse, made a splashy debut this spring. These Lady Rams, including students from Fork, Basalt and Glenwood, went 10 and 4 after last year’s JV campaign.
Coach Jason Rusby saw it coming, losing to the Aspen and Battle Mountain varsities by only a goal each a year ago.
“This year going into it, I knew we were going to be strong,” Rusby said. Strong, indeed. The Rams were in the top 10 most of the season, making the state tournament, and ending on a 20-9 loss to Conifer on May 7.
Rusby describes the fast-growing sport as “hockey without skates.” He’s fired up about it, and about his team doing so well out of the box: “We do have some solid, passionate players. I’m losing five or six seniors but still have the core group. Four girls that won All-League awards return next year.”
Standing out among the Ram standouts are a pair of young Basalt women, Riley Dolan and Lecsi Glenn, coming back as a junior and a senior. Rusby says the all-league selections are “both in the top three scorers on the team, top three for ground balls, all the stats, and they just played in the All-State game in Denver.”
Part of the early success, Rusby believes, is how he teaches the game.
“My philosophy is I’m gonna coach the girls like a boys’ team, we’re gonna play like a boys’ team, shoot like a boys’ team. I want to break the mold, versus the traditional way the girls do it.”
Traditional or not, folks like it. Rusby says the startup program is still self-funded, but there’s been good support so far, from parents and the Roaring Fork Lacrosse Club.
A building season
Rams track and field, some 30 boys and girls combined, was last to finish its season, under Coach Ryan Erickson.
Erickson, the former Ram athlete, had a building year in 2019. Erickson says overall it was successful, despite the team’s youth. “It was just really about getting kids experience and trying to develop them into better future athletes,” he said.
Erickson said he would welcome more athletes in 2020, but is still pleased. “We had probably the most diverse, and overall best, sprint group I’ve ever had. I had enough people for one, maybe two relays each meet. That’s unusual.”
With the Rams returning at least three members of their girls’ 4 x 100 relay, he added, “we’re hoping next year to sneak that one into state.”
This year’s 3A state meet, May 16-18, featured two Ram standouts. Senior Ronald Clemente wrapped up his Fork career in a crowded 800-meter boys’ field, a distance Erickson says is always hotly contested. The 16th-seeded Clemente ran a strong 14th, in a time of 2:03.61.
“Just making it in is an accomplishment, but then to finish higher than you’re ranked… You can’t really ask for much better,” Erickson said.
Roaring Fork’s big boost this spring has been sophomore volleyball and basketball player Lily Nieslanik. Erickson says she instantly competed at a high level, and calls her “our newcomer of the year.”
Nieslanik represented the Rams in the girls’ 100 and 200-meters, where she ran 13.4 seconds for 18th and 27.04 for 15th, respectively. In the long jump, leaping 14’ 7 ½” was good for 19th in the state.
Top 20 in 3A in three events despite never having run track before? Erickson said he’s not shocked as Lily is, after all, a Nieslanik. “We’ve watched her grow up since she was a young girl, and you see the athleticism. It’s not like it was a big surprise. It was just nice to see her come out.”