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For the first time in 25 years, three athletic programs from high schools in Boulder, Louisville and Lafayette have won a state championship in the same calendar year.
When the Boulder High School boys’ soccer team outlasted Broomfield, Saturday, to win the Class 5A state championship, it joined the Monarch boys cross country team and Fairview girls tennis team as teams to win a state title in 2016. The last time three teams from this area won state titles in the same year was 1991, when the girls’ basketball teams from Boulder and Centaurus each claimed the state title, as did the BHS softball team.
Since the year 2000, the two high schools in Boulder, and Centaurus in Lafayette, have seen a shift in sports where they had previously won at least one, if not multiple, state championships.
Between 1960 and 1999, Fairview, Boulder and Centaurus combined to win eight state championships in girls’ basketball, four in football, four in wrestling, four in softball, three in boys’ basketball, two in boys’ track and field and one in girls’ track and field.
During the 21st century, the three schools have not won any additional state titles in those sports. In fact, the Boulder and Centaurus athletic programs have each seen one state championship, in any sport, in the past 17 years.
“At the high school level, state titles are incredibly difficult because you don’t necessarily recruit athletes to your school and, in essence, they come from your general population which is generally tied to where they live,” said USA Basketball Women’s National Team Director Carol Callan, who served as athletic director at Fairview from 1986 to 1995.
Since Fairview opened in 1960, FHS and BHS have combined to win state championships in 15 different sports sanctioned by the Colorado High School Activities Association. Lafayette’s Centaurus High School, which opened in 1971, has won six state championships in its history. Louisville’s Monarch High School opened in 1998 and has garnered seven state titles.
Altogether, since 1960, sports teams from the four major high schools in Boulder, Louisville and Lafayette have combined to win 57 CHSAA sanctioned state championships in 16 different sports.
Cross-country is the sport which has produced the most state titles, by far, for Boulder area schools. The four schools have combined for 14 cross-country state crowns since 1960, with girls’ teams winning nine of those championships.
During the 1960s and 70s, Boulder and Fairview found as much championship success in football and boys’ basketball as they have at any time in their histories. In the late 70s, Boulder collected two basketball state championships, while Fairview won two state football titles. Boulder also claimed the state football crown in 1963.
With two state titles in both football and boys’ golf, between 1969 and 1979, it might have been reasonable for followers of Fairview to expect several more state titles in those sports. FHS has won one, in each sport, since then – Fairview’s next football championship came eight years later, and the school went 24 years between boys’ golf state titles.
The 1980s launched an extended period of success, for each Boulder school, in different girls’ sports. The Lady Panthers, of BHS, won three of their six state girls’ basketball championships and two of their four state softball championships during that decade. Meanwhile, the Fairview girls’ cross-country team collected three state titles between 1980 and 1984.
The Knights’ boys’ basketball team took the state title in 1981, while the FHS football team was the state champion in 1987. Those are the most recent state championships for Fairview in each of those sports.
The BHS softball team, after winning titles in 1987 and 1988, won again in 1990 and 1991. In 1992, the Panther football team garnered its first state crown in nearly thirty years.
High school girls’ basketball followers in Boulder, during the ‘80s, witnessed state titles from BHS in 1984, 1986 and 1989, and from Fairview in 1985. Callan was head coach of Fairview’s 1985 championship team.
“I think Fairview was the kind of school, in a community where excellence was a culture, and that if you’re going to do something you try to do it the very best you can,” she said. “It’s an incredible community that feeds into Fairview, and it’s exhibited by several state championships that were won while I was there as a coach and also as an athletic director.”
The Lady Panther basketball team continued its run of success in the ‘90s with a Class 5A championship in 1990, and Class 6A crowns in 1991 and 1994. The Centaurus Girls’ basketball team won the school its first state championship, in 1991, with a Class 5A title.
In 1990, Fairview celebrated championships in both boys and girls track and field. The FHS girls’ cross country team won its fourth state title in 1999.
The ‘90s marked a particularly successful decade for the CHS wrestling team, as the Warriors claimed team titles in 1992, 1995, 1996, and 1999.
Fairview has four cross country state championships since the year 2000. The boys’ team won the state title in 2000 and 2001, while the girls team claimed the crown in 2001 and 2005. The Centaurus boys were the champs in 2011. The Monarch girls’ cross country team won three states titles in a row, from 2011 to 2013.
Monarch opened its doors in 1998, and produced its first graduating class in 2001. In 2002, the school celebrated its first state championship as the Coyote football team claimed the Class 4A crown. While the Fairview and Boulder football programs, both Class 5A, have not been able to replicate their championship success of the previous century, Monarch has won two in Class 4A — in 2002 and 2012.
The Fairview football team advanced to the 2013 Class 5A title game, but fell to Valor Christian 56-16. FHS has not won a state football title since 1987 when the Knights beat Cherry Creek.
“I think they’ve come close,” said Callan, who hired current FHS coach Tom McCartney in 1993. “I think, number one, it’s really, really hard to win. That’s probably the biggest thing.”
The BHS football program has recently endured a particularly difficult period. Vincent Smith recently completed his first season as the Panthers’ head coach, and is Boulder’s fourth coach in the past ten years. During that time, Boulder’s combined record is 30-69.
Since FHS beat Cherry Creek in 1987, the Bruins have won six state football championships.
In the 24 years since either football program in Boulder has won a state crown, ten schools have combined to win Class 5A titles, including Mullen and Columbine with five apiece, Cherry Creek with four, and relatively new Valor Christian with three in the past four seasons.
“I think a lot of it has to do with enrollment,” said Callan. “You know, there were times when the Boulder city limits limited the number students that came there. That’s why I think Monarch and a lot of those schools were successful … a lot of former Fairview graduates now have families in the Lafayette, Louisville area. So, people love being in that area and it’s just a broader area to draw from now.”
Boulder High School is the oldest of the four area schools, and won its first state football title in 1943, but the school near downtown Boulder has struggled to win championships in most of the CHSAA sanctioned sport during the 21st century. The Panther volleyball program captured the state title in 2000 and, since then, the only other BHS championships have come courtesy of the boys’ soccer team in 2012 and again in 2016.
BHS boasts seven straight state crowns in mountain bike racing, winning every year since 2010. Mountain bike racing is not a CHSAA sanctioned sport, but is sanctioned by the National Interscholastic Cycling Association.
Centaurus has had similar struggles to Boulder, as the Warriors have claimed one state title in the last 17 years. The CHS boys’ cross-country team was state champion in 2011.
“If you tie all your success as a school or as an athletic program into winning a state title, I think you’re losing the point of the true purpose of school based athletic programs,” said Callan. “Having said that, it is important to see reward for the amount of work you put in … and there’s nothing like winning at any level, Olympics all the way down through any level, and the best way to show that you’ve had success is to be a state champion.”