AURORA — For Columbine catcher Ally Distler, there was never a doubt how her senior year would end on the softball diamond.
“We knew this was going to happen,” Distler said moments after CHSAA Assistant Commissioner Bert Borgmann handed the Class 5A softball state trophy to the Rebels on Oct. 26 at Aurora Sports Park. “We were just waiting for this moment during the season. We knew everything would lead up to this moment.”
Distler talked a little more than a month prior to the state tournament about the end goal of winning Columbine first softball state championship. During the annual Dave Sanders Memorial Tournament at Aurora Sports Park on Sept. 13, Distler talked about the focus of getting back to Aurora in October and claiming just the third girls team state title for Columbine.
Columbine won a state spirit title in 1993 and claimed the 5A girls soccer state championship in 2014.
“This means a whole lot,” said Distler, who finished her season batting .494 with a dozen home runs, including four home runs in over the four games at the two-day state tournament. “We knew we had to represent Columbine.”
While the 2019 Columbine softball team represented its school and made history, the program has always honored former softball coach Dave Sanders who was killed during the tragic shooting at the school in 1999.
“I think he (Sanders) is shedding a tear like I am right now,” Columbine principal Scott Christy said when ask what he though Dave Sanders would react from the Rebels winning their first softball state title. “These girls represented our school and he would be very proud.”
Columbine coach Jim Santaniello said he used the metaphor of the Rebels climbing a mountain the entire season during their quest to make history. He also believes that Sanders was right at the Rebels’ side.
“I have a feeling he (Sanders) has been with us the whole time,” Santaniello said. “His family has been so gracious and amazing to us through the years. Rick Bath, a close friend and former coach, has really mentored me. Without those guys this would never had happened.”
Christy agreed with Santaniello.
“To win these (state titles) things the stars need to align. The stars aligned for us this year,” Christy said. “I think Dave Sanders is looking down and he helped align those stars this year.”
Columbine has the returning talent and experience now to go after back-to-back state titles. The Rebels graduate just Distler and Callie Stern. The most significant piece of the puzzle back will be Korbe Otis for her senior year.
The University of Louisville softball commit batted nearly .700 this season with 66 hits and 53 runs scored from the leadoff spot. Not to mention her 24-2 pitching record that featured a 0.91 ERA and 315 strikeouts.
“It feels great. We’ve be working toward this the whole year,” Otis said. “My motivation was the team, the team, the team. Our one goal was to win state. I’m so proud that we accomplished it.”
The goal now for Santaniello … keep it rolling.
“Our future is very bright,” Santaniello said. “I think our whole program went about 57-6 this year. There is a special feeling at Columbine. My job is to keep it going. The sky is the limit.”