High school may be the end of an era, but it’s really the beginning of the journey. When the class of 2010 graduated from St. Mary’s High School four years ago, some had solid plans for the future while others had general ideas and waited for more direction.
The 2010 class of 84 students are now spread across the country and enjoying great successes, highlighted below are updates of the valedictorian, salutatorian, and two Spirit of Mary award recipients from the class. These four are now forging ahead in their chosen areas, but all credit St. Mary’s with giving them the foundation to succeed.
Close friends Cathy Cichon and Katie Raskob finished St. Mary’s numbers one and two in the class, and continued their education together at the University of Notre Dame. Cichon entered Notre Dame with vague plans about her future.
“I knew nothing about what sort of major or career I intended to pursue,” Cichon said. “But I had a good experience in the sciences while at St. Mary’s, so that absolutely influenced my initial plans to pursue some sort of science degree in college.”
Although she was drawn to the sciences, not having concrete future plans allowed Cichon to explore several areas that interested her. That exploration led her to a double major in pre-health and anthropology.
“I started with one foot in the sciences because I had some notion of wanting to pursue medical school at the end of my college career,” Cichon said. “But it was only after going through some of Notre Dame’s core courses that I was able to experience fields I had never before considered—philosophy, psychology, anthropology, and more—and ultimately pursue my second major in anthropology. My plans continued to evolve and change as I got to know several mentors and grew to better know myself.”
Becoming a part of the Notre Dame family—from football to dorm life—had a tremendous impact on her, Cichon said.
“The people I met there are some of the most fascinating and wonderful people I know, and they taught me so much over the course of four years,” she said. But Cichon’s experience at Notre Dame took her further than she’d imagined it would. In fact, it took her to Rwanda.
“I was able to explore the world as part of my anthropology major,” she said. “I traveled to Rwanda to complete research for my senior thesis, and it opened my eyes to the world of global public health, a field I plan to continue pursuing in my career.”
Now Cichon is pursuing a dual degree that includes an MD and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami,
Fla. In four years she’ll graduate with both degrees and start her medical residency,
which she hopes will combine medicine with a focus on public health.
Upon entering Notre Dame, Raskob had decided on a science pre-professional (SCPP) major, which allowed her to focus on science without knowing exactly which area she wanted to pursue. But even she’s surprised at where she’s ended up.
“I graduated with my SCPP degree, but as a freshman, if you told me that I would
be attending medical school in five years, I would have told you you’re crazy,” Raskob said. “The sports medicine program, which initially was a whim the second week of my
college career, became the most impactful experience while I attended Notre Dame.”
Raskob started as a volunteer in the training room and at various sporting events during the second semester of her freshman year. At the end of her freshman year, she was hired as a student athletic trainer and she began working football practices, helping in the training room, assisting with treatments for injured athletes, and working the sidelines during games.
“After being hired, sports medicine would consume my time, my summers, and my relationships,” Raskob said. “My role as a student athletic trainer influenced my
discernment of medical school the most because of the interactions with the various
physicians and medical professionals and practicing my own crude medicine when interacting with injured athletes. I loved every minute of being a student athletic trainer.”
Another unexpected outcome of her time at Notre Dame was finishing college with a double major that included a degree in Spanish. Raskob said continuing to study
Spanish was always part of her plan, but she hadn’t considered majoring or minor in it.
“After reaching the threshold for Spanish classes one could take without being in the department of Romance Languages, I decided to declare a Spanish supplementary major my sophomore year so I could take the higher level classes,”
she said. “I never expected to finish the major, let alone compile enough classes to
fulfill the requirements for the full Spanish major.”
By February of her senior year, she was informed that she had completed the requirements of a full Spanish major and would graduate with degrees in both SCPP and Spanish. “I never planned to be a full Spanish major, but I was happy to accept that honor so late in my college career,” Raskob said.
Her time at Notre Dame definitely shaped her future, but many of those experiences were grounded in her time at St. Mary’s. From science to Spanish to theology to community service to extracurriculars, Raskob credits St. Mary’s with helping her lay the groundwork for success.
“St. Mary’s provided so many opportunities that shaped who I am and prepared me for college and beyond,” Raskob said. “A Catholic education at St. Mary’s, that regards service to be important, influenced me to go to a Catholic university that also finds service to be essential to education and life.”
Having graduated from Notre Dame, Raskob is now spending a year in Denver working with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers. The CVV is a faith community of 20 full-time volunteers who work with the less fortunate in the city. The group also celebrates Mass together every Monday and reflects on how God is working in their individual lives.
“I am now a full-time volunteer, living service every day,” she said. “If I did not
have that basis for service and volunteering from St. Mary’s, spending a year devoted to serving others would have been a much more intimidating decision.”
Raskob works as a teacher to 3- and 4-year-olds at a pre-K program that includes children who have mental, physical and economic disabilities.
“By living a simple life, we strive to be in solidarity with the poor that they serve,” Raskob said. “Since serving at Sewall since August, I have learned to have patience, energy, and compassion in a way that I have never been called to give before. I can only
imagine what I will learn and how I will be changed by July.”
In four years, Raskob said she sees herself as a third-year medical student, doing rotations with different specialties and types of primary care, working to discern where she is called to be a physician.
“Service through medicine of underserved populations is already where I see my future as a physician, but honing that call on a specific form of care will be the challenge in four years,” she said.
The Spirit of Mary Winners
Lauren Cross and Matthew Bucher were given the Spirit of Mary Awards for the class of 2010. The Spirit of Mary Awards are presented to a girl and a boy from the class who exemplify the qualities of Mary, the patron saint of the school.
Cross graduated with plans to attend Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and study biomedical engineering with the idea that maybe one day she would do research. Although she was unsure of how she would like the major, her four years at RPI refined her goals and she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.
“I knew I wanted to help others, and while at RPI, I discovered I loved research and wanted to pursue it,” Cross said. “Through research, I have the potential to help a lot of people.”
Cross is now working towards her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Texas A&M University.
“I am working as a Graduate Research Assistant under the Diversity Fellowship, a university, faculty nominated fellowship, which is funding me for three years,” she said. “My research involves bone regeneration using nanomaterials.”
The degree will take five years to finish and during that time Cross must decide if she will continue research in academia, industry or work for a national lab. Cross said that her experience at St. Mary’s led to her interest in math and science, introduced her to RPI, and helped her realize the importance of helping others.
Bucher’s plan upon graduation from St. Mary’s was to enter the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and go on to be a pilot. In the last four years, things have gone according to plan for him. In fact, in May he graduated in the top 10 percent of his class and is now starting pilot training in Texas.
“Really it’s played out as I pictured it,” Bucher said.
And that is thanks in part to the start he got at St. Mary’s. Bucher said his high school career prepared him for the academic challenges and the leadership requirements he would face at the AFA. And his theology classes taught him about prayer, which continues to be a daily part of his life.
“The tough classes at St. Mary’s allowed me to pursue whatever major I wanted and helped me be successful as an aeronautical engineer at the Air Force Academy,” Bucher said. “And playing on sports teams helped build my leadership abilities, which then grew at the Academy.”
With the risk involved in being a pilot, Bucher said the daily habit of prayer that was taught in St. Mary’s theology classes provides a peace in the face of uncertainty.
“Being a pilot comes with risks,” he said. “I continually pray and have faith that God will keep me safe wherever I go.”
Counselor Mike Biondini said one unique facet of working in the education profession is that it can take years for one to realize the fruits of his labor. He said he knows that the St. Mary’s faculty is proud of the accomplishments of the Class of 2010.
“These were truly four shining stars of the class of 2010, and the more wonderful fact is that the 2010 sky was full of so many more stars as well,” Biondini said. “Perhaps the best news is that these stories are repeated in every graduating class from the ‘Best Kept Secret’ in southern Colorado. Year in and year out the community that is St. Mary’s High School lives up to its mission of helping to develop responsible, ethical, decision makers while modeling the life teachings of Jesus Christ.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Note: These are just the stories of four extraordinary St. Mary’s graduates. We’d love to hear from more of graduates. Please send your updates to email@example.com for inclusion in the Class Notes section of the Pirates’ Treasure Magazine and for possible article consideration.
Above, top picture: Cathy Cichon (pictured on the right) participates in Muddy Sunday, an annual spring volleyball tournament at Notre Dame. Second picture: Katie Raskob (pictured on the left) spent many hours working as a student athletic trainer, including working the Pinstrip Bowl over
Christmas 2013. Third picture: Matthew Bucher receives his first salute as an Air Force officer from his sister, who is also a graduate of St. Mary's. Fourth photo: Lauren Cross graduated from Rensselaer
Polytechnic Institute, and is now working toward her doctoral degree in biomedical engineering at Texas A & M University.
For more than a century, the Manitou Incline has been a part of the landscape of the Pikes Peak Region. And since 2010, before the Incline was open for legal hiking, a St. Mary’s High School graduate has been managing the historic site. Sarah Bryarly, St. Mary’s class of 1997, is a landscape architect for Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services and is the project manager for all things related to the Incline.
The Incline reopened earlier this month after being closed for three and a half months while repair work was done. Bryarly said that proper drainage along the Incline no longer existed, meaning that water had become the Incline’s biggest enemy.
“After years of limited maintenance, use, and recent rain events, the Incline was beginning to deteriorate. Ties were beginning to shift and move beyond the point of a simple repair,” she said. “Given the 41 percent average slope and 68 percent slope at the steepest areas, it became only a matter of time before the next storm event came through and created a situation where we would not be able to repair the Incline.”
Discussions on how to manage the Incline have been ongoing since the 1980s, Bryarly said. But given the private property status of the Incline at that time, the project wasn’t a high priority of any of the three property owners. Bryarly said it wasn’t until 2009 that the issue of managing and operating the Incline jumped to the top of the priority list.
“At that time the property owners and local jurisdictions realized, with the increased popularity of the Incline, something had to be done to manage the recreational amenity,” she said.
So in 2010 the cities of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs held a series of public meetings to determine what should be done with the Incline. From those meetings, a development and management plan was developed, outlining the responsibilities for various parts of the project. One of the most important developments from this plan was the recommendation to legalize use of the Incline.
“The legalization of the Incline was truly a great example of the meaning ‘grassroots effort,’” Bryarly said. “It started with private citizens advocating a specific need. It took all the property owners giving up something and receiving something better in return. It required the local governments to step forward and provide assistance in improving an amenity that draws people into our communities. And finally it required an Act of Congress, and subsequently President Obama’s signature, to relinquish the railroad rights on the US Forest Service Property.”
The Incline was legally open to the public in February 2011. Bryarly said once that was done, fundraising for improvements on the property could begin. Fundraising included writing grants and seeking private funding. Finally in the spring of 2014, the funding necessary had been acquired but the improvements would have to wait a few more months.
“Construction could not begin until after the busy tourism season ended,” Bryarly said. “The Incline is a huge tourism draw for both Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs, and with the recent rains and the decrease in tourism dollars for the Town of Manitou Springs, everyone involved felt it was best to delay construction as long as possible to allow for a solid 2014 tourism season.”
Proof of the Incline’s tourism draw was gathered in August 2013 when members of a group called Incline Friends surveyed those embarking on the hike. They asked for zip codes in an effort to gauge the demographic being drawn to the Incline. What they found was that only seven states were not represented in the Incline’s visitors that weekend, and additionally, several countries were represented in those visitors.
“There is more to the Incline then just the local exercise junky who is trying to beat their fastest time,” Bryarly said. “It is an amenity that our region can showcase and use to bring people into our community. On a local level, the Incline can be seen from almost anywhere in Colorado Springs. Because of that, it is always calling, beckoning you to come and experience it. Whether you come once a day, a couple times a month, or it is your first time, the appeal and awe makes it a must do on many bucket lists.”
Being able to give back to the community is something that Bryarly said she loves about her job. And the idea of community service was instilled in her during her years at St. Mary’s.
“St. Mary’s gave me a deep appreciation for community service, which gave me the desire to select a major and ultimately a job that would allow me to give back to the community,” Bryarly said. “At the Parks Department, I have the opportunity to work with and volunteer with so many different groups of people throughout the community; people who also want to make the Colorado Springs community an enjoyable place to work, live, and play.”
Other aspects of her St. Mary’s experience also laid a foundation for Bryarly’s successful career. From being afforded a variety of unique opportunities to working with a faculty that encouraged excellence, Bryarly said St. Mary’s helped prepare her for responsibilities she faces daily in her job.
“By attending St. Mary’s, I was given so many opportunities to excel and be a part of various activities that I probably would not have been involved with in a larger environment,” she said. “The faculty and staff worked tirelessly to challenge us and encourage us to reach our full potential and set goals that were hard to accomplish, but possible to accomplish.”
Then there is the public figure aspect of her job, requiring her to be voice for what is happening with the Incline. The ease with which she accomplishes this responsibility can be traced to back to St. Mary’s as well.
“One of the requirements of working on the Incline is being the public figure and speaking to various groups and the media about the project and what is happening,” Bryarly said. “In a safe environment, St. Mary’s built that foundation of public speaking, primarily through the opportunity to participate is school masses, student ambassadorships, phone-a-thons, and forensics.”
Bryarly also sees her faith as being a part of her daily work life through stewardship of the earth.
“Whether it is working to improve an open space, regional park, neighborhood park, or the Incline, it is important to realize and value the beauty and jewels our Lord has provided us,” she said. “We, through stewardship of the land, need to preserve and protect these resources so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
By Amy G. Partain, Community Associate
St. Mary’s High School
In life, new experiences sometimes lead to opportunities that were never expected. Such is the case for St. Mary’s High School senior Aman Mital, who on Thursday, Dec. 18, will be a presenting author at the 2014 American Geophysical Union’s international conference to be held in San Francisco.
Mital will present on “Using Mobile App Development Tools to Build a GIS Application,” talking about his summer experience in building a mobile application that uses satellite data to track active fires.
According to the AGU web site, the fall meeting is the largest Earth and space science meeting in the world with close to 24,000 attendees. The meeting brings together the entire Earth and space sciences community for discussions of emerging trends and the latest research.
The journey began in the summer of 2014 when Mital worked as an intern at Stinger Ghaffarian Technologies (SGT), an aerospace services company where Mital’s father, Rohit Mital works. Mital thought he and his fellow interns—his brother Kuran and the son of one of Rohit’s colleagues—would be working on web-based applications, likely something practical. So the interns were pleasantly surprised when they were instructed to begin working on a mobile app.
Initially the three worked on a Redbox-type app, but ran into problems when they couldn’t get Redbox to respond to their calls. Then a new direction came from someone at NASA.
“NASA asked SGT to work on a mobile app that used satellite data so they handed us that idea, thinking that since it was requested by NASA they might as well let us give it a try,” Mital said.
The idea was to create an app that would use satellite data to map every active fire burning on Earth. Once started, the interns found the project was filled with trial and error. They went through six different mapping programs, working to find the right one.
“Some of the programs worked but were less functional than others,” Mital said. “It was a matter of finding the option that worked best.”
Once the app was built, it was placed in the iTunes Stores. While computer programming isn’t a course offered at St. Mary’s, Mital said other science courses he’s taken, including physics and chemistry, helped with the project.
“I think chemistry in particular was helpful in getting me noticed by my dad,” Mital said. “That course is what made him think I would be able to handle the internship and project.”
Rohit Mital said it was his older son, Kuran, who initially got him thinking about a computer programming internship.
“When Kuran came home after his first semester at Notre Dame, he said that so many of the courses expected students to have done some basic programming and that he wished he’d had some programming in high school,” Rohit said.
Then a colleague approached him saying her son was interested in doing some basic programming. That was when Rohit decided to put together a team of three interns for the summer of 2014. This was the first time he’s done this kind of project with high school students, but he’s hoping to build on it in the future.
When Rohit saw the AGU’s call for proposals for their fall meeting, he decided the team should submit a proposal, which was accepted. Mital is the only member of the intern team who is able to attend the conference so the presenting fell to him.
“Aman will talk about a lot of the lessons learned doing the project,” Rohit said. “He’ll talk about how they went about building the app, the challenges and issues they faced, and the different technologies they tried, what worked and what didn’t work.”
While presenting at an international science conference isn’t an everyday activity for a high school senior, Mital said he’s not nervous about the task.
“I’ve done speech and debate so speaking doesn’t bother me,” he said. “My forensic experience really helped me feel prepared to do this presentation.”
ANOTHER UNIQUE SUMMER EXPERIENCE
While his brother and the other intern continued working on building the app, Mital had to take a break from the process to attend a Leadership Seminar at Notre Dame. Only about 100 students are accepted into the program each summer, each receiving an all-expense paid trip. The seminars center around discussions on global topics, and at the completion of the program, students are eligible to receive one college credit.
Mital said he didn’t realize how selective the program was until he arrived on Notre Dame’s campus in July.
“I applied in January or February thinking I had nothing better to do in the summer and was accepted,” he said. “Once I got there I realized that the selection process for the program is as strict as the entrance process for the university.”
Three different tracks were offered and Mital chose the global issues track discussing how to make peace in areas that involve gang violence and terrorism. That decision surprised many who know him, Mital said, but he felt it fit right in with the speech and debate topics that he goes over as part of forensics.
Although Mital went into the trip not really knowing what to expect, he said the visit proved to be one of his best summer experiences ever. He hadn’t really expected to make lasting friendships during an 11-day trip, but even six months later, he said he still talks to several of the students he met there.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said. “There were so many different types of high schoolers there, really smart kids. It was very humbling, but amazing to be with others who were so passionate about what they were learning.”
After the Leadership Seminar, Mital said he’s more excited about college than ever, but that now every college he looks at is compared to Notre Dame.
“There’s a lot I like about Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s strong academically. I like that religion is not a taboo subject there. And I like that it’s not in a large university city.”
Not that he’s made any definite decisions yet.
“I went into the seminar undecided about my future and I’m still undecided,” he said. “One thing it did teach me is to try out new and different things before I decide what I’ll do with the rest of my life.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
During the holiday season, thoughts turn to faith and family. Grandparents Mass at St. Mary’s celebrates both of these cores values of the only Catholic high school in Southern Colorado.
Annually in December, the school invites all grandparents to a special Mass and reception. John Kraus, President of St. Mary’s, said the day means a lot.
“Our students have great love for their grandparents and were so proud to have them on campus,"" he said. "And of course the grandparents rejoiced at celebrating Mass with the students. Beyond this camaraderie, the day also is an example that we are all in this together—it is all of our responsibility to educate God’s children in the faith, it is not just up to parents, priests, or Religion teachers.”
Some of the grandparents have attended multiple times with grandchildren through the years, for others their first grandchild is just now attending St. Mary’s. Grandparents Isaias and Nellie Pomales were attending their first Grandparents Mass at St. Mary’s. Their granddaughter Elyseéss Pomales is a sophomore at SMHS.
“It’s so nice to be here with her,” Nellie said. “She’s hard to see with working, school, and dance; it’s hard to make an appointment with her.”
While celebrating Mass is a regular occurrence at St. Mary’s, Elyseéss said having the grandparents in the audience made this one extra special.
The all-school Mass also celebrated the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Father Brian Roeseler, Chaplain of St. Mary’s, celebrated the Mass with Deacon Dave Bull, parent of senior Adam, assisting.
Roeseler said that when Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel, she was likely around 13 years old. How terrified she must have been, he said, being told that at 13 she would have a child. And even at 13, she had a choice.
“Today we celebrate that immaculate conception,” Roeseler said. “Although chosen by God, Mary still had free will. She could choose to follow God or not to follow God. And all through her life, Mary said yes to God.”
Roeseler said that throughout time the question to be answered is “how are we going to respond to God?” From the first couple, Adam and Eve, who allowed their pride to separate them from God, to the Virgin Mary, who said yes to God’s calling, to us today, we each have to decide how we will respond when God calls.
“We too are asked to follow God,” he said, “in the mundane things and in big things like our vocation. God has a will for each one of us. But we much choose to follow that will.”
When we are younger, our families—including grandparents—often help us make those choices. And a legacy of faith is what the grandparents of St. Mary’s students who gathered at this Mass represent. In honoring the grandparents, Roeseler said they are “living treasures of strong religious traditions.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Above, sophomore Elyseéss Pomales enjoys a reception after Grandparents Mass with her grandparents, Isaias and Nellie Pomales.
Proclaiming to be a Catholic school comes with a lot of responsibility, and it must be done only with the blessing of the Church. That’s why the president and board of directors of St. Mary’s High School asked Bishop Michael Sheridan to issue a decree recognizing St. Mary’s officially as a Catholic school.
“St. Mary’s is the only Catholic high school south of Denver and there are certain obligations that come with that to be strong and faithful so that southern Colorado sees we are what we claim to be,” said John Kraus, president of St. Mary’s.
In October, Bishop Sheridan presented St. Mary’s with a decree stating that the school is considered a Catholic school in accordance with the Code of Canon Law. The decree says that the church has considered that “St. Mary’s provides instruction and education grounded in the principles of the Catholic doctrine” and that the “Catholic Identity Community, monitored by the superintendent of Catholic schools, find that St. Mary’s satisfies the requirements to be a Catholic school.”
Since St. Mary’s is the only independent Catholic school in the diocese, Kraus said he and the board felt the official recognition from the Church was needed.
“Some people do wonder how an independent school can be an authentically Catholic school,” Kraus said. “This shows that the bishop of the diocese has canon authority over the theology that we teach, as it does in every diocese in the world. We can call ourselves a Catholic school only with the blessing of the Bishop.”
Just as every five years St. Mary’s academic accreditation is reviewed and renewed, leaders at St. Mary’s have asked that the school’s Catholic status be reviewed and renewed on the same schedule.
“It’s important to say it publicly that way if there’s any question about our status it’s been addressed,” Kraus said. “This decree means that the bishop has confidence in what we’re doing as a Catholic school.”
St. Mary’s has been an independent Catholic school since the 1987-1988 school year. In early 1987, the diocese decided that the high school should close. Instead, a group of St. Mary’s parents banded together to save the school.
In remarks at the decree presentation, Bishop Sheridan noted that it was in 1998 that Bishop Richard Hanifen first signed and promulgated a decree officially allowing St. Mary’s to call itself Catholic. He said Bishop Hanifan’s decree has been displayed in the school entrance since 1998.
“He recognized that the school, though not owned anymore by the diocese, was certainly a faith-filled, faithful school,” Sheridan said. “Be proud of the good work you do every day for your students and for the Church; all of us in the diocese thank you for your good and faithful work.”
St. Mary’s High School is accredited academically by the National Catholic Education Association and the Colorado Department of Education, and has been accredited by an outside agency called Advanced Ed for 76 years.
The Advanced Ed team visited the St. Mary’s last school year to review the school’s academics and procedures. After the visit, the school’s accreditation was renewed for another five years.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Above, Bishop Michael Sheridan reads his decree officially recognizing St. Mary’s as a Catholic school during a mass held at the school in October. (photo: Diane Torrence)
During the induction ceremony to the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame, St. Mary’s High School basketball coach Mark Beranek received the Colonel F. Don Miller Award.
The Colonel F. Don Miller Award is presented to a person who best reflects the commitment to providing a lasting contribution to the Colorado Springs sports community, a commitment exemplified by Colonel Miller.
Beranek said he is honored to be recognized. “I am extremely honored to receive this award from the Colorado Springs Sports Corp,” he said. “To be nominated and selected by this prestigious organization is very special.”
The Colorado Springs Sports Corp. said Beranek has had one of the most successful basketball coaching careers in Colorado high school history. During his time as head coach at Sierra High School, Beranek’s teams took the state Class 4A titles in both 1997 and 2000. He was honored to be selected as the coach for the West team in the 1997 McDonald's High School All-American Game that included future college and NBA stars, some still playing.
“I have been blessed to have been part of a lot of wins and exciting games,” he said. “I have definitely enjoyed the entire journey over the years.”
For the last three years, Beranek has been head coach at St. Mary’s. Greg Kraus said Beranek has been a great asset to St. Mary’s.
“He can look at raw talent and see the potential,” Kraus said. “He expects the team to show up and do their best at everything. It’s great to see how they’ve blossomed from year to year.”
Last year the St. Mary’s team went 19-5, won the league title, and made the Sweet Sixteen in the Colorado Class 3A playoffs. But Beranek isn’t stopping there; his goal is to take the team even further.
“I would like to have a St. Mary’s High School team qualify for the Colorado State 3A Basketball Tournament,” he said.
While Beranek has been a part of some big games and has won some prestigious awards, those aren’t necessarily what he considers his greatest coaching memories.
“The greatest moment has been all the firsts along the way; from the first win at Sierra High School in 1984 to the Tri-Peaks League Championship last year have been very memorable,” he said.
Beranek grew up in Lafayette and attended Centaurus High School before moving on to Adams State College in Alamosa where he played basketball. In addition to coaching at St. Mary’s and Sierra, Beranek held positions at Harrison and Mitchell High Schools. Beranek has also served as Assistant Athletic Director for District 11 in Colorado Springs from 2007-2010.
In 1994, he received the Tom Sutak Award from the Colorado High School Coaches Association, which was especially meaningful since the award is named after Beranek’s high school coach at Centaurus. Beranek was also named the Colorado High School Coach of the Year in 1997-1998 in recognition of his amazing success at Sierra and was inducted into the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2009.
Beranek said he enjoys athletics and competition and always knew he wanted to coach.
“Having the opportunity to teach fundamentals and skills in a team atmosphere is what I enjoy doing,” he said. “I have treasured the relationships that I have had with my players during this journey. I am pleased to see that so many young people that I have had an opportunity to work with are doing so many great things as leaders in their families and community.”
The Colorado Springs Sports Corp. said that the presentation of this award to someone locally who is dedicated to the importance of sports in building young lives is a fitting tribute to Colonel Miller and the thousands of young men and women who benefited from his unparalleled service on behalf of our nation's youth.
After completing a 26-year career in the United States Army, Colonel Miller devoted the remainder of his life to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and America's athletes. He served in a variety of positions for the USOC, including Executive Director from 1973-85. He was President of the U.S. Olympic Foundation from 1985 until his passing in 1996. He was instrumental in the relocation of the United States Olympic Committee headquarters to Colorado Springs in 1978 and remained a steadfast supporter of the value of amateur sports throughout his life.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
St. Mary’s High School is known for its Catholic Passion and Academic Rigor. Its college preparatory curriculum challenges its students and helps them achieve their goals. But at a smaller school, students are also encouraged to compete in co-curricular activities, which 92 percent of the St. Mary’s student body does. And this fall, the St. Mary’s teams are enjoying unprecedented success.
The football team finished the regular season with a 7-2 record, and played Montezuma Cortez in the first round of the state playoffs. At half time of that game, Montezuma Cortez was leading 33-7 over St. Mary’s. In the second half the Pirates came back with 30 unanswered points and took the lead 37-33 with two minutes left in the game. Although the Pirates couldn’t hold on, losing the game by the final score Montezuma Cortez 40, St. Mary’s 37, the game provided an exciting ending to an exciting season. Athletic Director Dennis Vigil attributed the success to an experienced squad.
“We’ve got a senior laden team and their skills are leading to success,” Vigil said. “Last year they had a lot of injuries, but we’ve been very fortunate this year to have few injuries, allowing for quality play.”
Vigil said he felt the Oct. 10 game against Trinidad was a turning point for the football team. The two weeks before the Trinidad game St. Mary’s had played Lamar and La Junta and suffered its two losses. At that point, Vigil said that the players were a little nervous.
“They went down to Trinidad and beat them decisively and then they followed that with beating Florence, whom we hadn’t beaten in two decades,” Vigil said. “Football is having an incredible season. Our football team has rarely enjoyed the success it is having this year.”
Going into the final weekend of the season, the volleyball team was sitting third in the league behind Colorado Springs Christian School and Manitou, who Vigil described as two schools with very good volleyball programs. St. Mary’s finished the regular season beating Mitchell and Pueblo Centennial in a local tournament. In the Class 3A Region 2 tournament the team beat Colorado Academy 3-0 but lost to Valley from Gilcrest, Colo.
“They are young team, so they haven’t enjoyed quite the success that the football team has, but they are building each game,” Vigil said.
With its successful year, the volleyball team will advance to post-season play.
Vigil said this fall was the first time in a long time that all of the St. Mary’s teams started with victories in their first contests.
“Softball only won one game last year and this year in the first game they won,” he said. “And our athletes in the individual sports of golf and cross country did very well in their initial contests as well. Soccer has grown at lot as well.”
Vigil said the soccer team started with only 12 players, but gained a couple more through the season. He said their defining moment of the season was beating Fountain Valley School. The team ended its season with a 3-1 loss in its state playoff game.
The boys cross country team qualified for the state meet. Robert Delfield finished highest of the team, placing 22nd. Two members of the girls cross country team qualified. Out of 145 runners at the 3A state meet, freshman Hannah McReavy finished 11th and sophomore Ana Muehlbauer finished in 25th place.
The boys’ golf season began in mid-August and concluded in October. St. Mary’s team took second in the league, with senior Jacob Bucher recognized as the player of the year for the league. Jacob and fellow senior Jimmy Velton represented the school in the state tournament.
Vigil, who is in his first year as athletic director, said he feels the atmosphere at St. Mary’s had led to the athletic success.
“The culture at St. Mary’s is very close knit,” Vigil said. “It creates a family atmosphere where the athletics want to do better for each other. To me, there is an aura of excellence here and as a newcomer, I see that as a huge factor in creating success.”
Fans can receive the latest updates on St. Mary’s athletic successes on Twitter by following St. Mary’s Athletics @dfvigil or by following the school’s feed @SMHSColorado.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Above, St. Mary’s football team finished the regular season with a win over cross town rivals, Manitou Springs. The final score was 28-18. (Photo: Diane Torrence)
Awards ceremonies can sometimes be predictable; lots of thank you's go out to those who have helped the honored person achieve success. But sometimes the unexpected happens too. Such was the case at the 2014 St. Mary’s High School Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony. One of those unexpected moments was poignant; others were amusing. But all of the moments that made up the ceremony pointed to the fact that St. Mary’s is a community that cares.
The Class of 2014 inductees are: Timothy Myers, class of 1971; Michael Ellison, class of 1977; Philip Gray, class of 1977; Lauren Howe, class of 1977; Joseph Moroski, basketball coach; Kelsey Burkett Vance, class of 2003; Ethan Martinez, class of 2008; Samantha Cardenas, class of 2008; and Edward Murphy, basketball coach.
Vance, both a basketball and volleyball player during her years at St. Mary’s, was inducted for her basketball contributions and provided the poignant and inspirational moments of the ceremony. During her senior season, Vance led the Lady Pirates to a 24-4 record, winning the league, district, and regional titles. The team reached the Elite 8 at the state playoffs and ended the season sixth in the state.
She ended her St. Mary’s basketball career holding seven school records, all of which still stand. Vance said she has many fond memories of her playing days at St. Mary’s, many involving her dad who never missed a high school basketball game during her career.
“Well, he didn’t really have a choice because he was my coach,” she said. “Highlights for me would be that before a game I would leave the locker room last so I could high five my dad and he would tell me to ‘Go get ‘em, kid.’ And a lowlight would be me backtalking him causing the whole team to have to run suicides.”
But through all of the fun, excitement and challenges, Vance said her dad and the sports she played helped her to find an inner confidence and strength that she didn’t know she had. She doesn’t remember the statistics from her playing days, Vance said, but she does remember the lessons learned and the friendships made at St. Mary’s.
“One lesson I learned playing here was that win or lose, life moves on with or without you,” she said. “You can either be bitter, complain when things don’t go your way, or you can work hard and no matter how long it takes, eventually you’ll get something good out of it.”
Vance said that’s a lesson she continues to draw on today. Now a kindergarten teacher at Divine Redeemer, Vance is married and has a daughter named, Reagan, who has cystic fibrosis. Vance said facing the challenges this disease brings to her family requires her to draw on the same inner strength she found during her basketball days.
“Everything you guys are doing at St. Mary’s is preparing you for how you will handle what life has ahead; some of it good and some bad,” she said. “I honestly believe that sports gave me the inner strength and determination to not let this disease beat our family, our faith in God, or having fun in life. So basically what I want you to remember from all of this is that whatever you do here at St. Mary’s—sports, drama, math, cheerleading, band, whatever—cherish and be kind to the people here. You never know what they are going through or what they will go through. With God, persistence and hard work, you will be able to overcome any hardship.”
Joseph Moroski, who served at St. Mary’s as a basketball coach from 1976-1981 and again in 1983-1984, provided the ceremony with many of its lighthearted moments. In introducing Moroski, Athletic Director Dennis Vigil said that when Moroski arrived at St. Mary’s as a business teacher and boys basketball coach, the school had not had a girls basketball team in more than 40 years.
“When the girls basketball coaching position was available, Joe saw a chance to take over the program,” Vigil said. “Take over he did, winning league championships from 1976 to 1981. He was named the 1977 Gazette-Telegraph coach of the year.”
In 1979 the Lady Pirates went to their first state tournament after finishing the regular season with a 20-2 record. But Moroski said in the beginning things were rocky.
“I knew my Xs and Os. I knew what core values I wanted to teach, like integrity and perseverance. And I thought I knew girls,” Moroski said.
Moroski said he learned how little he really understood the opposite gender when the whole team walked out of practice one day, deciding to quit. After a talk with his wife about what was happening, he said things got better and better.
“My wife said, ‘You’ve got to let them be girls,’” he said. “Let them cry and they’re going to giggle when they make mistakes because their embarrassed and they’re going to be sassy. But the girls came to me and said they wanted to win and they wanted me to teach them how to win.”
Several of Moroski’s former players were in the audience laughing, nodding, and cheering his remarks.
“I’m a victim of Title 9. They said we have to put girls basketball in and taking it on was the best decision I ever made,” he said. “I thank God for the gift. I love the Pirates. Once you’re a Pirate, you’re always a Pirate.”
The other inductees expressed love for the school. Seth Myers accepted the award for his father, Tim Myers. In a letter read by Seth, Myers, who was inducted for his football career between 1968 and 1971, said he was deeply honored to be inducted.
“It’s marvelous to be admitted and it’s marvelous to be a member with my uncle, Father Rawley, who loved Pirate athletics,” Myers said. “I have to thank my fellow Pirates on those teams so long ago. Really I was just running through open spaces they created through pure grit and determination.”
Ellison, inducted for his baseball career spanning 1974 to 1977, said there were many people who helped him achieve success, including his dad, brother, coaches, teammates and his wife, Pam.
“I have to thank all of the players on those teams, but especially my catcher, Greg Ernster,” Ellison said. “We’ve been friends since third grade and we just knew each other so well that we knew what the other was thinking both on and off the field.”
Gray, inducted for wrestling and football, had outstanding careers in both sports. But his 1976 championship season almost didn’t happen when three weeks after the season started he learned he had mononucleosis. The illness caused him to miss the first part of his junior season and not return to the team until after Christmas.
“When practices started I knew I was really tired and I would go home after practice and go to sleep before dinner,” Gray said. “Once I was feeling better, I thought about quitting the team because I’d already missed so much of the season. My dad said he understood. Instead, he said, I could help him with ditches that needed work. I was back with the team the next day.”
Gray returned to the team in fine form. He finished the season with a 17-0 record, winning 13 matches by pins. And he became St. Mary’s first CHSAA wrestling champion in the heavyweight division.
At 220 pounds, Gray lettered with the football team all four years. He played offensive and defensive backs his first three seasons, but switched to running back for his senior season. And in the fall of 1976, Gray had a breakout football season. He attributes his football successes to training under a great coach.
“Our team all had talent and we knew we could do a lot with the right coach,” Gray said. “And we got that in Bill Rosing. We were the smallest school out there, but we routinely beat schools bigger than us.”
Gray did not wrestle during his senior year because he graduated early to play football at the University of Arkansas under Coach Lou Holtz.
Lauren Howe was inducted for her golf career from 1974 to 1976. Since the school didn’t have a girls golf team, Howe played on the boys team and at times her parents and the school had to fight for her to play in district and state meets.
“I can’t tell you how cool it is to be here,” she said “In my household we believed in two things: God and golf. I have to thank St. Mary’s and my parents for fighting for us to play. We love St. Mary’s.”
Howe turned pro at age 18 and was named the 1978 Female Athlete of the Year. She played on the LPGA tour for 13 years and had numerous top ten finishes. But she said her success came down to two things she learned growing up.
“My dad has this rule that you had to make your bed, and he would check it and if it wasn’t done right, you’d have to do it again,” she said. “What that did was teach us that even in the mundane things you have to do your very best. If you always do your very best, life is simpler.”
The second important lesson Howe said she learned from a player on a pro-am, who said the most important word in your vocabulary should be everything.
“What that meant was that whatever you do, you should try to do things better than you did yesterday,” she said.
Martinez was inducted for wrestling between 2005 and 2008. Vigil described Martinez’s senior season as “truly a dream one.” That year he won his second state title and finished the season with a perfect record of 36-0. He was the first wrestler in St. Mary’s history to have his singlet retired, and he now coaches wrestling at St. Mary’s.
“For my family wrestling was a tradition,” Martinez said. “My dad wrestled at Harrison and my grandfather wrestled in Trinidad. When I was seven, my dad asked if my brother and I wanted to box or wrestle and that’s how it started.”
Cardenas was inducted for her soccer career between 2005 and 2008. During her St. Mary’s career, the soccer team advanced to the state playoffs four times, and she was selected as the coaches and Denver Post 3A Player of the Year. Cardenas now serves as an assistant coach for the Lady Pirates soccer team.
“I have to thank the St. Mary’s community and the support of several people, including my mom, dad and teammates,” she said, “and all of the coaches. They pushed me and some times frustrated me, but I know I’m better for it.”
The last inductee, Edward Murphy, served as basketball coach from 1960 to 1963. Vigil said he’s been called “the most prolific coach in St. Mary’s history.”
“His teams of the early 1960s were the powerhouses of the parochial league and state,” Vigil said. “In his second year as head coach, Murphy brought a state championship to St. Mary’s and was named 1961 Gazette-Telegraph/KRDO Colorado Springs Prep Coach of the Year.”
But Murphy’s life was cut short, with the Parochial League losing what the Gazette called “one of its biggest assets” with his death.
“St. Mary’s had been a colossal flop when it came to basketball prior to Ed Murphy’s arrival in 1960,” the Gazette article said. “Coach Murphy dug deep into the grass roots to establish a sound program.”
Murphy’s son, Dave, accepted the award on behalf of his father.
“I can’t put into words how happy I am that my father has been included,” Dave Murphy said. “What I thought about as I thought about my father was this: small beginnings into great endings. He started small in Iowa. His players described him as tough minded, inspiring, and looking after them both on and off the court.”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Above, the St. Mary's Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2014 inductees, or their representatives, pose with their plaques after the induction ceremony. (Photo: Diane Torrence)
Newton’s third law of motion states that for every action there is an opposite reaction. That statement could be used to sum up the reactions of Jack and Bernadette Johnston, who are the 2014 St. Mary’s High School Marian Award winners.
The Marian Award is presented by the St. Mary’s High School Board of Directors in recognition of unselfish service to others and outstanding contributions to the community. The award has been presented annually since 2001.
The Johnston’s, the first married couple to receive the award, were instrumental in helping to keep St. Mary’s High School open in the late 1980s when the diocese had decided the school should close, and they have been active in the Right to Life movement for years. Their involvement in both of these movements came about as opposite reactions to decisions that had been made.
“We taught a class on marriage to the seniors at SMHS shortly before the announcement was made about the closing of the school,” Bernadette said. “Jack became very connected to the school after teaching the class. After the announcement came during Catholic Education Week about closing the school, our reaction was ‘NO, SMHS will not be closed!’”
By 1987, the Johnston’s had already seen two of their four children graduate from St. Mary’s with the third set to graduate in 1988. Their daughter Julie graduated with the class of 1981, son Robert graduated in 1983, Russell was part of the class of 1988, and Jeanice would be part of the class of 1991.
“It is the only Catholic high school in our town, and religious education is a key part of educating the next generation,” Jack said. “St Mary’s has high educational standards but also high moral standards.”
He joined with five other men to work to keep the school open. Jack quit his job and he and Bernadette went to work as volunteers recruiting students and raising money for St. Mary’s. Then Jack volunteered to be a religion teacher for the senior class during the last semester of that school year.
“The Holy Spirit definitely guided the St Mary's family during this time of duress,” Jack said.
Andrew Tait, president of the St. Mary’s Board of Directors, said it is thanks to the Johnston’s and the other dedicated supporters of the school that St. Mary’s was able to keep its doors open.
“They helped shepherd in a new chapter of St. Mary’s history,” Tait said. “We are here today because of their good word, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for the sacrifice they made for the school.”
All in the diocese are invited to join the St. Mary’s community and Bishop Sheridan in celebrating the Marian Award Mass, Wednesday, October 22, 9:30am in St. Mary’s Gym, 2501 E. Yampa St. 80909.
Another decision, to legalize abortion in the U.S., spurred the Johnston’s to join the Right to Life movement.
Similarly, the decision to legalize abortion in the U.S. spurred the Johnston’s to join the Right to Life movement.
“We were shocked by the US Supreme Court decision in 1973 legalizing abortion,” Jack said. “Bernadette's mother was very pro-life and had a huge impact on our thinking. In 1990, we joined the pro-life board here in town.”
Since becoming active in the Right to Life movement, the Johnstons have served in officer positions with the board, worked in recruiting and fundraising, and done sanctity of life presentations for area youth groups. They feel their work in supporting Right to Life is some of the most important volunteer work they’ve done.
“Life trumps everything! Without life, nothing else really matters. It is God's most precious gift,” Bernadette said.
Tait said in the past year, Jack has raised more than $100,000 toward the purchase of a new pregnancy center building to support expectant mothers.
“Their selfless dedication to the pro-life movement should make us all pause and consider what we can do to promote life in our community,” Tait said. “Saint Mary said ‘Yes’ to God and gave her life to serving him. Similarly, the Johnston’s have given much of their life to save the unborn and to the school that educated their four children.”
In addition to helping St. Mary’s and working with Right to Life, the Johnston’s have helped with other ministries including the suicide hotline, prison ministry, and Social Concerns ministry. They have also helped with the SMHS booster club, served as volleyball and basketball coach for the St. Paul’s grade school, and Bernadette has been a Girl Scout leader.
The Johnston’s said they are “humbled and overwhelmed” to be the recipients of the Marian Award, which is more special to them knowing that 27 years ago the school almost ceased to exist.
“We give thanks and praise to Mary, our Blessed Mother for whom the school is named,” Jack said. “SMHS is a gem in our Colorado Springs community--a bright beacon of hope now and for future generations!”
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School
Above, Jack and Bernadette Johnston were surrounded by all but one of their grandchildren at a family gathering in the summer of 2014. (Photo: Julie Johnston Harrington)
Two St. Mary’s High School seniors learned this month that they are being recognized by the National Merit Scholarship Program.
Michael Klophenstein learned earlier this month that he’d been named a National Merit Semifinalist. And Aman Mital was named as one of the National Merit Scholarship Program’s Commended Students.
Reaching the Semifinalist level meant a lot to him, Klophenstein said.
“It’s tangible evidence of what I can do,” he said. “It’s nice to see that I’ve reached this level of success.”
About 1.5 million high school juniors entered the 2015 National Merit Scholarship Program by taking the 2013 Preliminary SAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. The Semifinalists, which include students from each state with the highest scores on the test, represent less than 1 percent of U.S. high school seniors
.While the process of applying to the National Merit Scholarship Program was similar to other scholarship processes, Klophenstein said he worried at times that he wasn’t doing everything he needed to do.
“It was kind of stressful,” he said, “because I wanted to make sure that I did everything to the letter and as perfectly as I could.”
As a Semifinalist Klophenstein must now fulfill several requirements to advance to the finalist level of the competition. Those requirements include maintaining an outstanding academic record, receiving an endorsement from the school principal, submitting a second set of SAT scores to confirm earlier test performance, writing an essay, and providing information about how the student participates in leadership both at school and in the community.
Students who advance to the finalist category in the National Merit Scholarship Program have the hope of being awarded one of the 8,000 National Merit Scholarships totaling more than $35 million. It’s estimated that about 90 percent of the Semifinalists will reach the Finalist level, and more than half of the Finalists will be awarded a National Merit Scholarship and earn the Merit Scholar title.
National Merit Scholarship Program Finalists will be announced in February. Scholarship winner announcements will begin in April and continue through July.
As a Commended Student, Mital placed among the top 5 percent of the more than 1.5 million students who entered the 2015 competition. He received a Letter of Commendation and could still qualify for scholarship money.
Although Commended Students do not continue in the competition for National Merit Scholarships, some of the Commended Students do become candidates for Special Scholarships sponsored by corporations and businesses.
By Amy G. Partain, Communications Associate
St. Mary’s High School