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Night of Champions: Academic and athletic excellence at Niwot High School

The Night of Champions ceremony unfolded with an air of anticipation and excitement as students, teachers, parents, and community members gathered to recognize the exceptional achievements of Niwot High School individuals and teams throughout the school year. From academic brilliance to athletic prowess, the event summarized the student body's spirit of dedication and perseverance.

Eric Rauschkolb, Niwot High School's Principal, opened the June 2 formalities, setting the stage for an evening filled with well-deserved accolades and recognition. Joe Brown, Assistant Principal and Athletic Director, then took the stage to overview the night and highlight the importance of each award.

Academic Awards

Reema Baishya was recognized as the NHS Valedictorian for IB students. Rauschkolb praised Baishya as an "exemplary, hardworking individual with an innate desire to support others and contribute to her community." Baishya's outstanding academic achievements earned her the prestigious Boettcher Scholarship. She will be using it to attend the University of Colorado to study electrical and computer engineering.

Mia Prok was named NHS Traditional Valedictorian. Described by Rauschkolb as "humble, respectful, open-minded, and kind to everyone," Prok has been a key member of eight state championships with the cross-country and track teams in addition to her academic excellence. She will be attending Wake Forest University on a full-ride scholarship, continuing her academic and athletic pursuits.

Teacher of the Year was awarded to Megan Schlagel. Rauschkolb expressed his admiration for Schlagel, who has been at NHS for 11 years. As math department chair and overseer of the freshmen transition program known as Link Crew, Schlagel's impact on her students is profound. "Her students know that she cares about them as a person," said Rauschkolb, adding, "I can truly say that Niwot High School is a better place because Megan Schlagel is a teacher here."

Brown recognized Meleah Perez for serving on the CHSAA Student Leadership Advisory Group and the CHSAA Hall of Fame Committee. Brown thanked her for her service to both Niwot High School and the Colorado High School Activities Association, where she will continue to serve next year.

Athletic Awards

Brown introduced Addison Ritzenhein by showcasing a clip from Sports Center, spotlighting her incredible achievements. Ritzenhein is Niwot's Female Athlete of the Year. As a sophomore, Ritzenhein has already earned more accolades than most will in their lifetime, including Nike Cross National Champion and Gatorade National Cross Country Player of the Year. She's also won state championships in both cross-country and track events and was a member of both the state champion and national runner-up cross-country teams.

Mats Lehan was presented as Niwot's Male Athlete of the Year. Brown highlighted Lehan's story of resilience and determination. After breaking his neck in a snowboarding accident, Lehan worked tirelessly through rehabilitation to return to football, and to also contribute to Niwot High School's State Runner-Up Track team. Brown commended Lehan for his perseverance and dedication to Niwot athletics.

An impressive total of 40 students were recognized in the individual athletic awards part of the evening. Student-athletes who earned an All-State recognition, an individual state championship, or are pursuing athletics in college were honored for their exceptional accomplishments.

Highlights included Ashlee Wood and Sofia Keronen, who are Niwot's first-ever Unified Bowling All-State Athletes, Fernanda Laguna Perez, who is Niwot's First All-State Cheer Athlete, Izzy Fay, who is the first diver in the St. Vrain Valley School District to win a Dive State Championship, Cole Mazurana, Gavin Engtrakul, Quinn Sullivan, and Rocco Culpepper, who are Track State Champions in the 4x800, setting a new state record, Jade West, who successfully defended her shot put state championship and also won the state title in discus, and Paris Lee, who is heading to the U.S. Air Force Academy to play football.

Team awards included the Mead High School girls lacrosse team which was recognized as the state runner-up. Since Niwot does not have its own girls lacrosse program, Niwot students who wish to play participate with Mead High School's regional team. They finished the season 17-2 and were coached by Katie Coleman Bergmann.

The Erie boys lacrosse team was recognized as state champions. Erie, where Niwot boys who want to play lacrosse participate, celebrated the first state championship in school history. They finished the season 15-3 under the guidance of Coach Nick Mandia.

The Silver Creek High School swim and dive team, coached by Debbie Stewart, secured their second state championship in four years, displaying their dominance in the pool. Niwot students who want to swim or dive join the Silver Creek team, as Niwot does not have its own squad.

Coached by Kelly Christensen, the boys cross country team was recognized for its state championship. The team has a bright future ahead of them as no seniors were on the team this year.

The boys track team was recognized as state runner-up. For the past five consecutive seasons, the team, led by Maurice Henriques, has been either state champion or state runner-up, underscoring their consistent performance and dedication.

The girls cross country team, coached by Kelly Christensen, celebrated their sixth consecutive state championship which is a testament to their unparalleled dominance in the sport.

Under the leadership of Maurice Henriques, the girls track team achieved its fifth consecutive state championship, solidifying its status as a powerhouse.

The girls cross country team traveled to the Nike Cross Nationals and left as runner-up. Brown expressed his joy in seeing the team compete on the national stage, "Having the opportunity to attend these national events, it really makes my heart soar with joy when I see Niwot run across the finish line." He added, "To see our girls out there competing on that stage is just incredible."

As the Night of Champions ended and the Hall of Fame ceremony started, the sense of pride in Niwot's auditorium was unmistakable.


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