CENTENNIAL — On Tuesday, Colorado became the 11th state to have girls flag football as a sanctioned high school sport.

The Denver Broncos and the Colorado High School Activities Association held a joint press conference on Wednesday morning at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse to celebrate.

“Most of all I want to recognize all the incredible young women, the student-athletes. You have made this a reality,” said Carrie Walton Penner, Denver Broncos ownership group member. “Ultimately because of them Colorado joins 10 other states to sanction girls flag football as an official varsity sport.”

Photo by Dennis Pleuss/Jeffco Public Schools

Jeffco Public Schools, Denver Public School and Cherry Creek School District starting worked with the Broncos in 2021 to begin a pair of girls flag football pilot seasons in Fall 2022 and Fall 2023 with the hope girls flag football would become a CHSAA sanctioned sport.

The dream became a reality with the CHSAA Legislative Council voting 57-9 to sanction girls flag football starting for the 2024-25 school year.

“What an exciting time for female athletes,” said Tracy Dorland, Jeffco Public Schools superintendent, who attended the celebration Wednesday. “To be on the cutting edge of something new and exciting for our Jeffco students. To see that attention that our female athletes at both he collegiate and high school level is getting is really special. It is what should be happening.”

What almost didn’t happen was Arvada West High School having its star quarterback over the past two seasons.

“I was thinking about how would I balance (flag football) with basketball because of all the preseason work. I was so focused on basketball,” A-West junior Saylor Swanson admitted. “I actually missed the first day of tryouts for flag football.”

Teammate Sara Walker convinced Swanson to go to the second day of tryouts during their sophomore year. The rest of history. A-West only lost one game to Jeffco rival Chatfield during the 2022 season. Chatfield went on to win the state title.

A-West rolled to the state championship in 2023 with Swanson being named the 2023 girls flag football MVP.

“It was just so fun,” Swanson said of the last two seasons. “All those practices. We worked so hard. I just love doing it with all my friends.”

Basketball has been the primary sport for Swanson and Walker. However, with the sudden grown of flag football the doors have opened to more opportunities for not only two of the best returning flag football players in the state, but female athletes across Colorado.

“I just love sports,” Walker said. “I love that it’s flag football growing and more girls can play. It means a lot to me. In 7th grade when I finished playing flag football I thought that was it. Now it’s a sport that is going to the collegiate level.”

Swanson will also have the future decision on how far to take her flag football career.

“I kind of go back-and-forth,” Swanson said of thinking what she might do at the college level. “Flag football is so much fun and fresh. I’ve been playing basketball my whole life.”

Swanson added that her focus for the near future will be winning the first CHSAA-sanctioned girls flag football state title next season.

“There are great players all across Colorado,” Swanson said. “I think it will only continue to get more competitive as it is sanctioned. It will continue to keep growing.”

Allie Engelken, Broncos VP of Community Impact and Executive Director of the Denver Broncos Foundation, said that the Broncos are committed to continuing to support and help grow girls flag football in the future.

“With girls flag football in Colorado, more young women will be able to participate in a game that they love,” Walton Penner said. “More young women will join teams and create relationships that last a lifetime.”