AURORA – In two swings, Columbine was feeling that championship high. Home runs from Eva Martinez and Nina Vargas in the first inning gave the Rebels a fast lead and Araya Ogden cruised from there.

The 7-3 win over Douglas County gave the Rebels the Class 5A state softball championship, the second title in school history and first since 2019.

“It felt really good,” Vargas said. “The whole team was hyped (when we went up 4-0).”

Little did they know it was that home run that truly pushed the game out of reach.

The championship win completes a dominant season that featured a lot of parity across the 5A field. Columbine finishes the season with a 28-1 record, the one loss coming at the hands of the Douglas County team it beat to capture the state crown.

It’s been a heartbreaking three years since the last state championship win. During the shortened COVID season in 2020, they didn’t even make the postseason. Last year, they got back to the state championship game but lost to Legend 8-0.

That loss gave them a clear goal heading into this season: championship or bust.

“(The team) knew how much this meant to me,” Ogden said. “They put all their heart into it and it meant so much.”

(Dan Mohrmann/

In the state tournament, they rolled to an 11-1 over Lakewood then held off tough challenges from Ponderosa (4-1) and Erie (3-2) to get another crack at the title. Taking the early lead was crucial in helping them believe that their goal was within reach.

Ogden allowed just six base runners through the first six innings of the game. In the bottom of the fifth, Mari Shearn, Livi Keiter and Addie Branch struck together doubles, with Branch scoring later to push the lead to 7-0.

With the way Ogden has been dealing this year, a seven-run lead was about as insurmountable as they get.

“It helps a lot,” she said. “If it was 0-0 it would be a much different story but having a lead really helps. It gives me a lot of juice because my team rallied behind me so now I have to rally behind them.”

It wasn’t so much rallying behind each other as it was working toward a common goal. Since the 2019 season, a state championship has felt more like an expectation for the program. And those expectations won’t change considering there are just three seniors on the roster.

Even a player like Vargas, who was in eighth grade when Legend beat Columbine a year ago, understands the importance of overcoming that defeat and setting the standard for now and for the future.

“It was a hard loss,” Vargas said. “We felt like as a team we needed to come together and do the job that we needed to get done.”

The second they got their hands on the championship trophy, the Rebels knew it was a job well done.