• Category Archives Feature
  • These articles are feature articles. They can have pronouns an contractions in them; they aren’t hard news.

  • Editorial: Something Special

    He was 8 years old when I watched him zip across the pool for the first time.

    John Plutt had just won his first race, a short 25 yard dash, and he touched the wall before other children had reached half.

    Everyone on deck couldn’t help but stare at the small, skinny, kid with arms ten times too long for his body. He hopped clumsily out of the pool, a plucky grin on his face as his mother hurriedly rushed forward to wrap him in a towel. Even in the 90 degree summer heat, John was turning blue and shivering as he walked off to talk to our coach.

    Every swimmer, coach, and dedicated parent who got to witness this historic first dip into competition knew that they had just watched something- someone- special.

    Of course, at the time, none of us knew how special John would be.

    Fast forward a couple years, I’m 12 and John’s 10. We had been swimming together for two years now, and I had been there for every practice the kid had ever had. We were lane buddies, both of us just fast enough to swim with the senior group of our team, but not old enough to be part of the social circle that came with it. Obviously, getting ignored by the oh-so-inspiring high schoolers allowed for plenty of time for John and I to get to know each other. By the time I was in middle school, I had a second little brother, and a training partner for life.

    I remember when he made his first state time, it was at a winter meet, and we were some of the only kids who even swam during the winter for our small developmental club team. It was the 100 fly, I remember he broke 1:10, and I remember screaming so loud my voice was hoarse the rest of the day. He ran from behind the blocks to our coach, who sent him quickly over to his mom and I, who he attacked in the biggest hugs he could manage at the young age of 11.

    That was the moment John became something more, as a swimmer. He got hungry, he wanted to swim more events at state, and his work reflected that. He stopped playing other sports, and he decided he really loved swimming. As far as I know, he’s never looked back.

    That first state meet was the start of a long line of state meets, and lots of races that John won. I learned very quickly that John refused to lose.

    It was that desire, that dream to win, that propelled John to convince his family into letting him switch teams with me during his 6th grade year. We left for a more competitive environment, one where I could train with other girls my age, and John could try his might against some of the older year-round boys.

    So we left, we moved, and it was terrifying. I remember John being worried that the coach would be mean.

    Little did he know that Josh Cortese, our coach, would end up being the best person to prepare him for what was to come.

    Some of the biggest turning-point races in John’s life were at a small, summer-league meets.

    Josh decided to test John by making him swim in “The Open.”

    “The Open” age group, during summer, is for kids over the age of 15, but younger kids can be entered by their coaches. At 13, John happily accepted the challenge, he swam, and still swims, with these much older kids every day. He races them in practice, and he never backs down.

    He didn’t falter in the face of this bigger obstacle. He swam with kids almost five years his senior at that league meet, and for the first time ever John realized he was not limited to being good in his own grouping, He learned that, with hard-work, age really is negotiable. The older boys quickly took him into their ranks, and helped to train him to another level.

    During his eighth grade year, we carpooled to Pueblo County High School every day for swim practice. I got to tell him all about the joys of high school swimming, and I knew then he would make a splash in Pueblo. He was already competitive with the fastest kids in town, and he wasn’t even 15!

    That year, he won a state championship during club season in the 100 fly, and his confidence sky-rocketed. Watching him win that race was like watching him win his first 25. The same grin covered his face when he got out of the water, and the same kid who used to bargain with his parents for suckers in exchange for victories walked over to his mom and immediately said she owed him a whole coconut cream pie for winning. He didn’t focus on the swim, he just wanted some food.

    His first high school meet was characterized by people saying “Who is this kid?” immediately followed by “He’s a freshman!” I couldn’t help but smile every time someone realized what I had always known. There, right there, in this goofy 15 year old boy, was something very rare.

    I am inspired daily, by my swim-brother, who sets goals as soon as he breaks them. Who has never been complacent in victory, only working harder after a big win. A boy who, no matter the attention, always stays humble.

    Imagine every practice together, every tear shed, every sore muscle, and every huge “post-win” grin coming together at one time. Imagine every aspect of your history with a person coming to mind in a second. Imagine every moment of the past rushing in and intermingling with the present as every joking “I’m gonna win as a freshmen” becomes more than a possibility, more than just a dream.

    Saturday, May 19th, I watched my closest teammate, my family, touch the wall after the most important 100 fly of his life at the 4A state swim meet.

    Tears filled my eyes as the one appeared next to his name, and everybody else on deck watched as a lanky kid, turning blue from the cold, with arms still too long for his body received his medal. They were realizing what I’ve always known, “This kid is something special.”





  • Boy’s Unified Swimming: For the Love of the Sport

    For Unified Boy’s Swim Coach, Diane Petkoff, everything is about the smiles. “I do everything I do for those happy faces,” said the Pueblo West High Security Guard in her office, pointing at a picture on the wall of four boys, each of them grinning from ear to ear.

    These four boys were the start to a program that has almost doubled in size since it’s creation, with 2018’s unified team consisting of seven members. “The growth has been the best part,” said Petkoff, “It’s through the support of people like [Pueblo West High School Athletic Director] Jamie Wagoner, and Jennifer Alfonso, who’s the Special Education Director for District 70, that we can even have a program like this.”

    Athletes; Taylor Salisburg, Isaiah Piazza, Nathanial Gonzalez, Eddie Weiger, Rylee Santisteven, Tony Taibi, and Jaeden Wagers, are all students at Pueblo West High School, and in every picture, share the same huge, toothy, grins as the four in the oldest picture hanging on the office wall. Taibi, the most social of the group, was quick in stating, “I love swimming! It’s my favorite time of year.”

    The importance of unified teams like the swim team at Pueblo West is simply that; the love of the sport. “Every year, it amazes me how happy the boys are just to get in and swim. It’s not for glory, it’s not for time. Their goals are small; completing a 50 yard swim without help, or swimming without a floatation belt,” said Petkoff.

    Practices with the team are relatively short, a 45 minute session once a week on Monday’s at the local regional pool, where the team practices alongside instructors from the Cyclone’s varsity girl’s swim team; Keely Fisher, Zoi Langreder, Maddie Derting, Brooke Holdredge, Isabell Osborne, Portia Roybal, Kylee Lamas, and Brooklyn Phillips. The boys work on improving their swimming abilities, gradually moving up to the ultimate goal; swimming a 50 yard freestyle without any help.

    Salisbury, Piazza, and Santisteven all have accomplished this goal, with Salisbury even being able to compete at varsity meets in non-exposition events. Gonzales, Wagers, and Weiger all use a belt but can swim unasisted. Taibi, had, until the meet vs. Cenntenial during the 2018 season, had needed a belt and a second swimmer in the water to assist. However, at this duel, a duel like any other for most swimmers, Taibi kicked a 50 by himself.

    “It felt really good, I’m glad I could do it by myself,” said Taibi after his event, overjoyed with the fact he made it across the pool and all the way back without assistance.

    Petkoff mentioned, “We’re working with Tony to get him into the shape to swim at state completely without Brook’s help.” The Team will be continuing work for the rest of the season, working up to a swim at the CHSAA 4A state championship meet before the finals of the 50 freestyle, as well as the SCL league championships.

    “I’m just glad to be doing this work,” said Petkoff, “The cheers at state, and the smiles whenever they get to practice or out of the pool, it warms my heart.”


  • A Fight Against Bullies

    Bullying has become the new norm, and that is why Mark Koopman, a counselor and advisor at Pueblo West High school, has stepped up and began the process to create an anti-bullying program.

    Karen Cologgi, a mother of a PWHS student, gave and insight of what she thinks the program will bring to the school.

    She said, “I think it just needs to be done because it is not spoken enough at home and kids who are going through it at school or home, or anywhere else for that matter, need to know that someone is there to help and that help is easily accessible.

    To kick off this program, Koopman offered eight students, currently enrolled at the high school, to join several other schools on the 2018 Winter Xgames kid’s day.

    This year’s 2018 Xgames has campaigned a “Shred Hate” program as well. What really stood out from this campaign was the young girl who proudly walked the stage to share her story.

    As many may be able to relate, this young girl told the crowd how she had been bullied for being athletic and sporty, but with help she was able to move past this common occurring situation.

    Koopman wants students to feel like they aren’t alone just as this young girl was not, and he plans to do so with his upcoming anti-bullying program.

    As a counselor, Koopman explained his personal opinion on bullying as, “My personal perspective on bullying is that bullying comes out of fear, people who don’t know who they are yet, or understand that other people are maybe in a different place in their life or in a different place of their and throughout that , sometimes they come up as, either scared, or unknowing, and in order to balance the playing field a little bit, to make themselves feel a little bit better who they are,  or where they are, they tend to try to bring others to their level, and usually that ends with what we would call bullying”

    This is only one reason of several to why Koopman has decided to create the anti- bullying program

    This program will start with the class of 2022. Koopman plans to start with the freshmen class, that way they hear it first hand, on the first day, that PWHS is a safe place to be, as well as a good school, and a bullying free zone.

    From there, he plans to continue to engrave this idea throughout the entire school.

    He explained that this program will come with built in training, which will include an all staff preparation to help them to not only be able to spot bullying, but to also teach them how to talk someone who may be involved in bullying through the situation.

    Koopman explained that bullying isn’t as rare at Pueblo West High School as he, as well as the rest of the staff, would like it to be.

    On average, bullying is reported two to three times a week at PWHS alone. To help in Koopman’s fight against bullying, remember, PWHS is where respect is a way of life.

  • Pueblo West High drama department presents: Dracula

    Through weeks of planning and rehearsing, the Pueblo West High School drama department is presenting Dracula.

    Opening night was Wednesday, October 25, but not to worry, there will be showings at 7:00 on Thursday and Friday as well. There is no admission but donations are always welcome.

    Dracula was a great decision, based on the fact that Halloween is only one week away. Last year the department performed Frankenstein. Drama teacher, Mr. McNeilly, explains a possibility for next year, “I might be doing a continuation of Dracula. I really like the characters that are in this one so might try to do a Dracula Part 2.”

  • Seniors of the Dance Team

    Meet Alex Duran, Ali Campos, Amber Wharton, and Jayden Lamas.

    Duran and Lamas have been on the Pueblo West High School Dance Team for all four years of their high school career. Wharton has been on the team for three years, and this is Campos’ second year.

    The annual pigskin game has just passed, and since these four girls are seniors, it was a pretty emotional time.

    Duran said, “My first pigskin was something I did not expect. We were busy for months learning two dances! I remember the stress of learning a dance the day of.But I can just remember the memories we had during that time. It was something I will cherish for a lifetime.I got close with the team during that time.

    Duran then explained how her senior experience was different, “This year’s pigskin was something I will carry on for a lifetime. It was an honor to choreograph the pigskin assembly dance and dancing with my team. I was so thrilled when I was going to be able to host the team at my house to get ready and well, of course, eat. I hope to remember the memories I made 10 years after graduation. I will always be so honored to have been able to dance 4 years at each pigskin which all have very different meanings and memories that will forever be apart of my heart!”

    Since Campos has only been dancing for two years, she was not on the dance team her freshman year, so her experience was a little different.

    She reported, “My first pigskin was so much fun! I wasn’t on the dance team so I was in the stands with the rest of the student body. I had such a fun time doing the cheers and being involved in the crowd.

    She followed by mentioning,”My last pigskin compared to my first pigskin was pretty great as well. I absolutely love being on the dance team and performing for half time and being on the sidelines. Having that spirit to share with the student section is such a good feeling. If I had to choose which one was my favorite, I would have to say my senior year.”

    Wharton was also not on the dance team her freshman year, but her first pigskin on the dance team was definitely an experience.

    Quoting Wharton, “Oh goodness let me see if I can remember that long ago. My first pigskin, I didn’t know what to expect at all. During our first performance for the whole school was, of course, the assembly, and I was beyond nervous.”

    Wharton Mentioned how she recalled the events of her day before the game bagan, “I do remember the game being home and getting ready at one of the dancer’s house. I thought it was fun and exciting.”

    Wharton explained the stresses of pep-weeks for the Dance Team, “Pigskin week in general is just overwhelming for dance team. I do also remember learning a dance in a day before pigskin game.”

    She noted, however, that her senior pigskin was much better than her first, “I believe this pigskin was the best out of all three years I’ve been on. Mostly because we got the trophy back of course, but I feel like this year we have a lot of potential to show as a team and I’m happy the way my last pigskin ended.”

    Lamas has been on the dance team alongside Duran for all four years, so her first pigskin was different from Campos’ and Wharton’s.

    Lamas said, “My first pigskin had my heart racing with excitement being a freshman and everyone watching me on the field. Getting ready with the team felt like a family and I was learning so much from the older girls.”

    Lamas noted the difference in emotions when comparing the two games, “My last pigskin was just as amazing, but I was heartbroken that it was my last pigskin. I wasn’t going to be able to feel the excitement as I did ever after this one. It was also an amazing feeling because I am a role model for all of the incoming girls and it makes me happy and I just never want it to go away.”

    All of the girls felt that their last pigskin was successful for different reasons.

    Duran said, “I feel that it was, we worked very hard and it’s such a rewarding feeling when people give compliments about how well the team did.”

    Campos believed that her last pigskin was successful for the school and for her experience because West brought the trophy back home, and the team performed well and brought a lot of cyclone spirit with them.

    Wharton reported that this game had the biggest student section she has seen from West. Also, the dance team have been practicing for the big game since the middle of the summer, and the hard work payed off.

    Wharton also mentioned that the football team never backed down even when West was ahead by a few touchdowns.

    She believes that everyone’s excitement is what made it best.

    Both Duran and Campos said that their favorite part is the adrenaline rush, nerves, and excitement of waiting to perform before each halftime and assembly.

    Wharton said her favorite part was performing and being on the sidelines and, of course, seeing everyone “getting hyped throughout the game.”

    Lamas loves being together with the team and the excitement of dancing.

    Since these four girls are seniors, and sadly, this is their last year at the school and on the dance team, they explored the things they would miss the most about the team after they graduated.

    AlexDuran said, “Coming in and always sharing laughs and crazy stories about what happened at school. And of course Jenna Kristan when she gives me back tickles because I force her too.”

    Campos told us, “Probably performing. Like I said, I love that rush of excitement. I’ll miss performing with my girls and knowing we worked so hard to get that routine and the feeling of all the hard work paying off.”

    Wharton announced, “When I first joined, it was only because I wanted to get involved in high school. I actually liked it and continued for my last three years. I’ll miss everyone I have met and just being there in general. I definitely will not miss running.”

    Lamas’ response was a little more emotional.

    She said, “I will miss having people to go to when I need them the most and feeling like I have a family.”

    The girls explored what parts of their experience they considered to be the best and worst.

    Duran mentioned, “My best year would be this year, every dance we do I learn to cherish it because I know it’s a last. And my worst would be my freshman year being up in front and forgetting the dance for pigskin. It was embarrassing and I am truly scared from the embarrassment.”

    Campos stated, “My best experience on dance team so far would probably have to be my Halloween dance my sophomore year. That dance was so much fun to perform and as a team, we all did things together and we all clicked really well together. My worst experience would have to be trying out my sophomore and senior year. I have really bad hips so they don’t allow me to do certain movements so that has been the most difficult part about dance for me overall as well.”

    Wharton expressed that her best experience would have to be when she made the team, and any other time performing because dancing is something she likes to do. She said she doesn’t have a bad experience.

    Lamas voiced that her best experience would probably be being a senior on the team and the worst would be the state fair parades every year because she gets dehydrated and it’s hot.

    These four girls are dedicated to the dance team and will sure be missed by the team when they graduate, but for now, the team plans to enjoy the rest of the year and football and basketball seasons!

    Make sure to watch out for these fierce girls at the dance team’s next performance!