Some of the most accomplished alums from Eaglecrest High School's 25-year history have received their due recognition.
School officials formally recognized former Eaglecrest students for extraordinary achievements during the inaugural Athletics and Activities Hall of Fame ceremony ceremony held Dec. 11 at Blackstone Country Club in Aurora. The group of inductees is the first in the school's newly established Hall of Fame, an institution created to correspond with the school's anniversary.
"Last year, we started to kick around the idea about having a hall of fame, coinciding with the 25th anniversary of the school. We thought it was a good time to celebrate," said Vince Orlando, athletic director for the school. "We wanted to recognize high-character individuals, people who have the same values we establish and keep going here at Eaglecrest."
The first Hall of Fame class included students whose achievements ranged from the football field to the Broadway stage. Ben Baum, who graduated in 1993, set state records and earned awards during his stint on the Eaglecrest boys' basketball team. Damian Brown, who graduated in 1995, helped to lead the Eaglecrest football team to its first championship in 1993. Tara Mendozza, a 1996 grad, set the all-state record in the 800-meter run and broke her own records along the way. Stacey Jennings, class of 2002, had a distinguished athletic career as a softball superstar, serving as a major factor in the Raptors' championship performance in 2005. J.J. Billingsley, class of 2003, excelled in track and field, basketball and football during his time at the school.
Andy Kelso, who graduated in 1998, is the only artist in the group. Kelso, an active member of the school's theater department, went on to a successful career on Broadway. He starred in the touring production of the hit musical "Wicked," and is currently the lead in the Tony-award winning production of "Kinky Boots."
Since Kelso is currently performing in the musical and couldn't make it to Colorado for the ceremony, his formal induction will be delayed until he can attend.
Orlando said the winners were selected by a panel composed of school administrators, district officials, community members and media representatives including Aurora Sentinel sports editor Courtney Oakes. He also stressed the fact that current students played a big role in the ceremony and the awards themselves. Continuing the legacy of achievement and excellence, after all, is at the heart of the celebration.
"That's part of the bigger picture, to make sure that our kids are connected to some of the past alumni who have achieved so much," Orlando said. "These alums have an idea of what it takes to be successful, and they can teach all of the values that we hold in high regard."