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Athletes find rewards off the court

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Chaparral senior Rachel Nelson has been on a mission. Make that a couple missions.

Besides pursuing 3-point field goal records at Chaparral, Nelson and her twin sister/basketball teammate Erin went to Turkana, Kenya, on a mission last summer with older sister Bri. The three plan to go back again this summer on another trip with the Front Range Christian Church of Castle Rock to hopefully make a difference.

Instead of heading or dreaming to travel to a beach somewhere in the summer like many other teenagers, the Nelsons opted to head to the semi-arid climate with Nilotic people who raise camels and weave baskets. They dribbled basketballs, kicked and played with soccer and volleyballs, dabbled in construction, helped with student instruction and did hut-to-hut evangelism.

“I just see how much we have here and just being in that village, they had nothing,” said Erin. “For those kids that never had anything we could see the joy on their face. It was something simple that could make their entire life. Not only playing basketball with them but also sharing the world of God with them that they had never heard before.”

Back home, Rachel broke a 10-year-old school record for most 3-point baskets in a game when she made eight in a career-high 28-point performance Jan. 5 against the Far Northeast Warriors. Erin assisted on Rachel’s record-setting 3-point effort against the Warriors, which added to the 49 treys she made last year to set a Chap season record.

“Definitely hitting a 3-pointer is amazing, but being over there changes your life,” said Rachel. “It’s something that is so much more rewarding than hitting a 3-pointer.”

Arvada West senior standing tall

Arvada West senior center Dallas Walton is standing out again this year.

Sure, he’s 7 feet and 225 pounds, but he’s also averaging 16.1 points and 11 rebounds a game through the first nine games after transferring from Ralston Valley. He had two knee surgeries and didn’t play basketball the past two seasons after playing for Ralston Valley as a freshman.

Walton is tied for third among Class 5A rebounders. Stop for a moment to consider Ralston Valley’s front line if he would of remained a Mustang. The leading 5A rebounder in the state is 6-11 Ralston Valley senior Antonio Capley, who is pulling down 11.7 rebounds a game.

MaxPreps selects Valor quarterback

Valor Christian quarterback Dylan McCaffrey, the Colorado Community Media South Metro Offensive Player of the Year, was named to the MaxPreps Junior All-American first-team football squad. His position on the team is listed as “athlete.”

McCaffrey, a junior and brother of Stanford Heisman runner-up Christian, passed for 2,800 yards in leading the Eagles to the Class 5A championship and accounted for 3,475 all-purpose yards.

Ex-Highlands Ranch player signs with Broncos

Wide receiver Jace Davis, a former Highlands Ranch High School football player who also attended Denver East, has signed a reserve future contract with the Denver Broncos.

Davis played football and basketball at Highlands Ranch and has the boys team basketball season scoring record of 500 points set in 2008 with the Falcons.

He was an outstanding athlete at Highlands Ranch and played football at Northern Colorado. Davis was in the Houston training camp last summer and was on the Baltimore Ravens practice squad for 16 days during the 2014 season.

Valor lands girls lacrosse coach

Kara Cannizzaro, North Carolina’s women’s lacrosse captain during the 2013 NCAA national championship year and the MVP of the NCAA tournament, is the new head girls lacrosse coach at Valor Christian.

She has served as an assistant coach at the University of Denver and as a head coach at a Florida prep school.

“I am extremely blessed for the opportunity to coach at and up-and-coming program such as Valor,” Cannizzaro said in a statement.

CTA Collegiate Player of Year

Hayden Sabatka, the former two-time Colorado state high school No. 1 singles tennis champion who played at Highlands Ranch, was named the 2015 Colorado Tennis Association’s collegiate Male Player of the Year.

Sabatka, a junior at New Mexico, plays both singles and doubles. He and doubles partner Bart Van Leijsen were eighth in the first Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s national rankings of the year.

300th career coaching victory

Valor Christian boys basketball coach Troy Pachner notched his 300th career win as a coach on Jan. 6 against Wheat Ridge. This is Pachner’s first season at Valor after 17 campaigns at D’Evelyn. The Eagles are off to an 8-1 start this season and Pachner’s overall coaching record is 300-130.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

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