Eagles retire Caliga's jersey, pound Pomona for encore

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By Justin Trujillo

Dakota Ridge challenges students with the same goals — to live, to love, to learn and to leave a legacy.

For former Dakota Ridge student-athlete Rachel Caliga, now assistant women’s basketball coach and newly-appointed women’s golf coach, all those goals have been met or surpassed.

When the Dakota Ridge girls (17-3, 6-1 in Jeffco) hosted Pomona Panthers (10-9, 2-4 in Jeffco) on Feb. 14 the team honored Caliga. In a pre-game celebration, Eagles coach Tracy Nemechek read a speech about the awards, recognitions, and honors Caliga has received. And in a grand tribute to Caliga, in front of her parents and spectators, Dakota Ridge retired her number 45 forever, significantly the first number ever retired in the Dakota Ridge gym.

During her time at Dakota Ridge, Caliga was to the Eagles as John Elway was to the Broncos — irreplaceable. When the women’s program values integrity first, service before self and excellence in all aspects of life, Caliga also has surpassed this by joining to coach the team and to continue to support her former squad.

“She is an excellent teacher, and a valuable member of the coaching staff. She just finished her student teaching and hopefully can get hired here soon,” Nemechek said.

After spending her freshmen year at Chatfield before transferring, she was able to receive many awards and accomplishments. She was a member of the Eagles’ Class 4A state championship team and was MVP of the finals. She has been honored as First Team All-State, All-State Tournament player, Ms. Colorado Player of the Year and a Steinmark Award finalist.

She was also first team all-conference (twice), MVP and Female Athlete of the Year for all sports. She still holds 10 school records, down from 22 when she graduated.

“Caliga has been a huge inspiration to all of us and has helped each of us players to grow as people and as basketball players,” Eagles starting guard Jenelle Branting said. “She is someone everyone looks up to and I can speak for all the seniors by saying she will definitely be missed.”

So just like Caliga had done all her years as a player, the Eagles dominated Pomona for a 71-17 victory. The Eagles held the Panthers to a season low of 17 points.

As the season winds down, the Caliga jersey banner will be hung from the rafters with the other state championship banners as a reminder of accomplishments and continued excellence Caliga the Dakota Ridge has produced.