The passion college athletes have for their sports shows in their drive to succeed. While most of us spent our winter break enjoying the time away from classes, UCCS athletes were already training for the upcoming spring season.
In this new season of Mountain Lion athletics, the veteran players and the latest recruiting class are looking to continue the same successes they saw last year.
Track and Field
The UCCS Track and Field team is looking to sweep the RMAC conference championships for a third year in a row, and their performance so far is a testament to their ability. UCCS athletes have already broken personal records and recorded national qualifying performances in three competitions.
Redshirt junior Brian Mosely Jr., voted 2022 RMAC first team for the 4×100 meter relay, already locked in two first-place finishes and one second-place finish at three meets this year in the 60m sprint, breaking his own UCCS school record in the first meet of the season.
Last semester, redshirt senior Brittany Fuchs was a national qualifier in the 100m and 4x100m relay, earning RMAC-First Team honors in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. Even with a solid veteran group, the freshmen have shown they can fill the spots the last senior class left.
At the Potts Invitational on Jan. 14, freshman Andrew Muncy competed against division one athletes and showed he deserved that spot after finishing second against 22 other sprinters in the men’s 400m race.
Athletic Director Nathan Gibson said, “We’ve already seen, even in the early in-door season, that there is progression in every class of students … and even when a really successful class graduates, we’ve shown that we can keep bringing up the next group of [national caliber] athletes.”
Last year’s Mountain Lion softball team made its first playoff appearance since 2019 and came out with the best winning percentage since 2014. Of that successful team, 17 players are returning, including one of last year’s starting pitchers, redshirt senior Braelyn Crenshaw, who earned an All-RMAC honorable mention with her 3.78 ERA and 136 strikeouts last season.
Gibson said the success of a softball team heavily depends on the strength of its pitching. “We’ve got some really good pitching that is going to make a big difference for us,” he said.
Returning alongside Crenshaw will be sophomore Paige White, who made her mark on the team during her freshman season last year, logging a start in each of her 50 appearances.
While White’s offensive skills are undeniable — ending last season with a .357 batting average, 13 home runs and 44 RBIs — her ability to fill multiple roles on defense makes her an indispensable force in the utility spot, and she will be a fun player to watch this season.
After losing some strong seniors, there were questions about who would fill those open roles. “It’s not because we don’t have good options,” Gibson said. “It’s just who’s going to step up and win the job.”
Gibson said he is happy with what the incoming freshmen have shown him so far and, although the graduating class left big shoes to fill, he’s confident in the coaching staff and team.
The team will play their first series of games on Feb. 3-4 at the LCU Softball Classic in Lubbock, Texas. Their first home game will be on Feb. 12 at noon against the Nebraska-Kearney Lopers at Mountain Lion Field.
Last year’s baseball team had one of the best offenses to date, with the most runs, hits and doubles in program history. However, struggles in the bullpen led to a disappointing season, far from the success they saw in their conference champion season in 2021.
“I was very happy with the back half of the baseball season last year,” Gibson said about the team’s performance leading them to the semi-finals of the RMAC championship. However, the offensive success couldn’t cover the defensive struggles, leading to frustrating high-scoring losses.
“We had so many of those games where we had a huge offensive output but couldn’t find a way to win it,” Gibson said.
Some new players hope to fill those defensive gaps, including redshirt sophomore Evan Reynolds, a transfer player from Northeastern Junior College. At NJC, Reynolds averaged 8.8 strikeouts per game in his five appearances, one of them being NJC’s first no-hitter in program history.
Returning to the outfield is redshirt sophomore and All-American Kit Wigington, who had the nation’s fifth-highest hits per-game average last season with 1.73, and a .437 batting average over 44 games.
With the team’s offensive foundation set, it will be up to the defense to see if they can translate the lessons learned last year into a winning season.
The team’s opening game is on Feb. 3, where they will face California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, in a four-game series in Pomona, California. Their first home game against San Francisco State is on Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. at Mountain Lion Field.
After a rough start last season, the Mountain Lions came back and secured not only the number three seed in the conference tournament but also the best competitive season in program history.
Despite losing eight seniors, Gibson said the team’s returning players had set a solid foundation for the “deepest recruiting class we’ve ever had” to build on.
Returning from last year is pre-season All-American and RMAC Co-Goalkeeper of the Year Madison McGriff. The redshirt junior is looking to continue her dominance in the conference and improve her program record of nine wins she set last season.
Also returning to the midfield is junior Julia Patrick, who made RMAC All-Academic Honor Roll and All-RMAC Second Team last season. Patrick ranked fifth in RMAC for goals per game and led the team in free-position goals, making nine out of eleven attempts.
The team will open their season on the road against Franklin Pierce University in Rindge, New Hampshire, on Feb. 23. Their first home game is against Lewis University on March 10 at 3 p.m. at Mountain Lion Stadium.
With UCCS’s high population of commuter students, it’s easy to forget there is more to college than just stressing about class. Gibson said he believes the most engaged students have the best experience and encourages all students to take whatever opportunities they can to get involved on campus.
“Those are the students that are getting the most out of their experience and that will look back and see how valuable it was.” he said.
All athletic events are free to students with a valid UCCS ID, and students can find the schedule of games on Go Mountain Lions or by following @gomountainlions on social media.
Photo by Isaiah J. Downing/gomountainlions.com