MISSOULA — Friday marks the third day of the KPAX Sports Awards, and we'll start by introducing the first of the three Class AA high schools here in Missoula with the two finalists from Big Sky High School in Grace Denman and Colter Janacaro.
Denman is a three-sport athlete for the Eagles in soccer, basketball and track and field, including two years as a goalkeeper for the Eagles.
But her future is on the track, and Denman will stay right here in Missoula and compete at UM once her time at Big Sky comes to a close.
"Sports have just taught me resilience mainly," Denman said. "I’ve had many injuries in the past and sports and my teammates have really helped me just push through those and to be my best and it helps me throughout my entire life."
Janacaro's successes came on the gridiron for Big Sky.
After an injury-shortened junior season, Janacaro came back and earned all-state honors on offense and defense as he played quarterback and linebacker for Big Sky.
He's also in the middle of his final track and field season with the Eagles, but football is where his future will be as Colter will join his older brother Levi and suit up for the Grizzly football team come fall.
"As far as sports go, I’ve played sports my whole life so it’s a huge part of me," Janacaro said. "Taught me to compete, it’s taught me what hard work is and I’ve made a lot of friendships from it. (Signing with UM is) awesome, it’s fulfilling a childhood dream, not only playing at the next level but being able to play with my brother it’s pretty special."
That's three schools now but two to go for the KPAX sports award finalists. Next Monday we'll introduce the finalists from Hellgate High School.
Read below to see the essays submitted by Denman and Janacaro below.
I have been involved in athletics my entire life. Sports have affected my life greatly from the very beginning. Competing in sports has taught me to always try new things because how will you ever know how good you are at something until you try it. They have also taught me that you are stronger as a team than by yourself. Whenever times are tough, whether that is physically or emotionally, my teammates are always there to comfort me and lift my spirits. The hard work of my teammates always push me to work just as hard. Also, athletics have taught me that I need to pull my own weight and that I cannot rely on my team to carry me through to the end. I am the only one who can do my job and if I am not able to perform up to those standards then the team as a whole will have to endure the consequences.
These past two years have been very interesting for school and athletics due to COVID-19, but it has also given me the opportunity to have athletics affect my life in a different way. I have been a three-sport athlete pretty much since sixth grade and it has always been a smooth transition from one season to the next, but junior year was different. Once all of the COVID information started to come out, there started to be anticipation within the school and the athletic programs about if everything was going to get canceled or not, and sure enough, one week into track season, schools were closed and seasons were finished. No more in-person classes and no more sports. Having it be my junior year, this was very unfortunate for future athletic standings with colleges. The lack of a season was very hard for me because I used my athletics as a de-stressor. I had to come up with other ways during the lockdown to keep myself active and in shape, physically and mentally. I lifted weights in my friend’s garage and went on hikes frequently. Not having a season taught me that I need self-discipline for myself when I am not able to train. It also taught me the importance of team. The lockdown was lonely and keeping in contact with people from the track team helped me stay sane in that time of chaos.
Having our seasons back makes me appreciate everything I took for granted before. Even with the modified competitions, it was so nice to finally be able to get back on the field, court, and track. I am so lucky to be able to compete during my senior season and to fortunately be able to continue my track career in college. College athletics will be able to teach me new things and affect my life differently than high school athletics have. I am very excited to soon be on that journey. I am grateful to every one of my coaches because they have molded me into the athlete that I am today.
I have participated and competed in high school sports throughout the duration of my high school career. I was involved in three sports throughout my high school career up until my senior year where I decided to forgo my basketball season in order to prepare myself for college. I’ve been involved in football, basketball, and track throughout these past four years. I’ve learned dozens of life long lessons from being involved in high school athletics that apply to so many areas outside of sports. Other than the countless number of lessons I’ve gotten from sports, I’ve made just as many friendships and memories along the way that have opened up so many doors for me in the future. Being involved in high school athletics also gives you the opportunity to bring pride to your community, as well as being a role model to the kids within your community.
Through sports I’ve learned a great deal of lifelong lessons and skills that will help me succeed in the world outside of sports. It has taught me how to put in hard work and time to reach an end goal for not only myself, but also as a team. Additionally, it has prepared me for working with other people in order to achieve a common goal shared by everyone. This is such a valuable skill to have acquired for the future because sometimes things are so much bigger than ME, and you can get so much more accomplished through WE. Although you may put in countless hours of work and dedication in order to reach your goals, you may not get in return what you were anticipating for. Through adversity, you’ll test your limits and see just how much time, sweat, and blood you’re willing to sacrifice. Being comfortable with adversity is critical because if you are comfortable with being uncomfortable, then you can be prepared for whatever obstacle is thrown your way.
High school sports has provided me with the chance of making both my school and community proud. High school sports allow people within communities of all sorts of backgrounds and ethnicities to gather and rally around their team. With everything that’s been going on in our country over the past year, it’s good to escape reality periodically and sports provides that. As COVID-19 cases start to decline and sporting events with spectators start to come back. I think everyone can mutually agree that sports are an essential part of our society. Along with bringing pride to your community, you’re also given the responsibility of being an impactful leader to your community. As an athlete you’re seen as a leader of your school and many people outside of the school base their opinions of the rest of the student body based off of your actions. Being a positive role model to the younger children in your community is so important because many of those kids look up to the athletes in their community and base their morals off their actions. At the end of the day, I’m content with the valuable lessons I’ve been taught by sports and can say that I haven’t once regretted going out and competing in any athletic activity. High school sports are where hard work and dedication is taught, friends and memories are made, and how you can bring pride and unite a community. Go Eagles!