It was a day to honor champions on their own home court.
The gym at Grandview High School was packed to bursting during a special assembly held on March 21, as students, teachers, staff and Cherry Creek School District administrators gathered to recognize an extraordinary year for the Wolves. Two basketball teams and one individual wrestler reported to the hardwood to receive their due praise as state champions.
"What these athletes displayed in the state championships is what we see every day displayed in these halls," Grandview Athletic Director Wes Smock told the crowd, gesturing to the school's boys and girls basketball teams and wrestler Fabian Santillan. "We are all Wolves."
Collectively and individually, these student athletes had earned the praise and adulation. The boys basketball team claimed the 5A trophy a single year after a heartbreaking loss that came down to game's the final seconds. The girls basketball team won their second title in a row, cementing a status as a state powerhouse and establishing a legacy. Fabian Santillan won the class 5A 126-pound final after overcoming injuries that had threatened to derail his bid for a state title.
All of these Grandview athletes had defied odds and claimed the ultimate prize, despite plenty of hurdles and challenges along the way.
"This has been 20 years in the making for this school," said Michael Rogers, boys basketball head coach. "We have worked to make this school a mecca of basketball."
Jaiden Galloway, Grandview senior and captain of the girls basketball team, said the trophy that sat on a table in the middle of the gym for the entire Grandview community to see was a symbol of hard work and perseverance. After some of the most prominent stars of the team graduated last year, many thought the Wolves' chances at a repeat were laughable.
"We knew a lot of good players had left us, and we knew we had to step up. Everyone thought that Michaela (Onyenwere) was the whole team," Galloway said. "We all worked hard to make each other better; to get two titles is amazing."
As players from both basketball teams clipped the nets from the gym's baskets to adorn their respective state trophies and as Santillan fielded congratulations from school and district administrators, the fruits of all of that hard work were impossible to miss. This was a community celebration of champions; this was a show of solidarity from a crowd that included the athletes' peers as well as CCSD Superintendent Dr. Harry Bull.
"This is unbelievable. We've supported each other all season," Galloway said, adding that one of her hopes is that this trio of championships has an impact on the younger athletes who'll continue to play after she graduates in the spring. "I hope this helps them realize what it takes to win a state championship."