COMMERCE CITY – Jefferson Academy had not problem getting its chances, the only issue was converting them.

At least in the first half.

After the Jaguars peppered the Manitou Springs net with eight shots in the first half, Kate Runyon finally broke through in the 48th minute. She added another one for good measure as the Jaguars beat the Mustangs 3-0 to claim the Class 3A girls soccer championship.

“We’ve been working for this for a very long time,” Runyon said. “My freshman year was COVID so we didn’t play, my sophomore year we made it to the Final 4, junior year we made it to the final and [had] a heartbreaking loss and this year with our new coach and how our culture has been, we knew it was going to be something special.”

Runyon, a University of Tennessee commit, used the painful feeling of falling in a state championship game after the Jags were shutout 3-0 by Kent Denver a year ago as fuel for this championship run.

Step one to curing that pain was getting back to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park which she helped the Jags do with a 3-1 win over Colorado Academy in the 3A semifinals.

Step two was capitalizing on the scoring opportunities that Jefferson Academy generated. It took maybe a bit long than they would have liked, but the second Runyon’s first shot got by Manitou keeper Nici Sharon, the Jags felt all the momentum swing in their direction.

“A state championship game is always stressful, especially when you’re playing a team like that,” Jags coach Matt Cassell said. “We felt a little of stress and we new [the goals] would come. We just had to stick to what we knew.”

And once the first one came, they were able to settle into their style of play a little bit more which resulted in the second goal and later the third.

Even if the chances weren’t converting in the first half, the Jags (18-2) knew that if they kept kicking on that door enough times, they could force it open.

“We’re a very high attack-minded team,” Runyon said. “On the field when we keep missing those, we say ‘Guys, we have to keep it together.’ The personnel we have out here is very good and we have very good chemistry.”

This is just the second state championship in program history with the first coming back in 2018. In the last eight seasons, the Jags have played in five state championship games.

The Mustangs’ (19-1) trip to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park is the first appearance in the title game for them and even with the loss it completes the best season in their 24-year history. Coming into the game, forward Madrid Mack led the state – regardless of classification – in total points with 81.

It was a team that Cassell praised up and down the board, leaving no doubt that it was the two best teams in the state competing for a title. And with the stress of his first out of the way, he wouldn’t mind working his way to a few more.

(Dan Mohrmann/