(Note: To see the complete list of schools and how they are ranked, pick up the March issue of Mile High Sports. High School Rankings is based on performances in the calendar year 2023.)

The countdown continues.

On Monday, we started counting down the top 50 high schools in terms of athletic success in 2023. Spots 50-41 featured teams from the Denver Metro area, Southern Colorado and the Western Slope who captured state championships.

Tuesday’s crop of 40-31, had see some Jeffco powerhouses, a trio of Colorado Springs-area programs and small-school football champions from the Eastern Plains and Four Corners.

Wednesday saw a crop of small schools dominate spots 30-21. Among them were 2023 Class 1A boys basketball champion Denver Jewish Day and 2A boys soccer champion Crested Butte.

As we looked into the 20-11 schools, a notable name came in at No. 13. In fact, it’s safe to say when it comes to high school sports, No. 13 is Championship City, Colorado.

Today we finish the countdown and unveil the No. 1 school in the 2023 High School Rankings. It’s a first-time winner of MHS High School Rankings which might be surprising to a lot of people.

High School Rankings

The Formula

What exactly is “High School Rankings XXI”? Well, it’s the 21st year it’s happened, so, to begin, it’s a tradition.

But beyond that, it’s our own highly patented (a loose term at best) formula that was crafted to fairly evaluate which Colorado schools are the best. We don’t care how big or small the school is, or whether it’s metropolitan or so country that its address could very well be “BFE,” we want to know what school does this whole sports thing best. As such, here’s the magic formula that helps us determine that:

(Number of Team State Qualifiers / Total Sports Participated In) x 25
(Number of Team State Runner-Up Finishes / Total Sports Participated In) x 75
(Number of Team State Champions / Total Sports Participated In) x 200
(Number of Individual State Champs / Total Sports Participated In) x 20
(Number of First-Team All-State Athletes / Total Sports Participated In) x 20

The List


Holy Family Tigers
Class: 4A
Score: 61.43
Last Year: 59 (+49)


Lutheran Lions
Class: 4A
Score: 65.59
Last Year: 12 (+3)


Cherry Creek Bruins
Class: 5A
Score: 65.71
Last Year: 5 (-3)


Cheyenne Mountain Red-Tailed Hawks
Class: 4A
Score: 66.20
Last Year: 4 (-3)


Merino Rams
Class: 2A
Score: 69.50
Last Year: 1 (-5)


Eaton Reds
Class: 3A
Score: 70.36
Last Year: 3 (-2)


Erie Tigers
Class: 4A
Score: 71.11
Last Year: 23 (+19)


Heritage Christian Eagles
Class: 2A
Score: 72.50
Last Year: 1 (-1)


Colorado Academy Mustangs
Class: 3A
Score: 77.06
Last Year: 6 (+4)


Valor Christian Eagles
Class: 5A
Score: 78.46
Last Year: 9 (+8)

Admit it: If you’re at all in tune with high school sports, you – yes, you – have likely griped about Valor Christian High School at some point.

Maybe you don’t like the fact that Valor Christian is private, or that their teams are seemingly always in the mix. Or maybe, you took exception with the fact that the Eagles (loudly) won eight of 10 state football titles from 2009 to 2018, including five in a row from ’09 to ’13.”

Ahh, the loser’s lament.

Well, here’s some more food for thought.

Valor Christian High School just won its first-ever Mile High Sports High School Rankings List.

First? That’s right. Number one, but for the very first time.

With just over 1,200 students – a number more typical of a 4A school and less than half the enrollment of Cherry Creek, Regis, Cherokee Trail or Grandview – the Eagles are finally flying highest as it pertains to our annual rankings. And you thought they won every year, didn’t you.

But still, that darn football team, right?

Just hold your horses. The Eagles didn’t win a state title in 2023; in fact, they didn’t make it to the state quarterfinals for the first time in a long time. They were still good, but the breaks didn’t fall their way this season. Heck, even Valor alum and NFL star Christian McCaffrey – who was exceptional all season long – couldn’t catch a break in Super Bowl LVIII when head coach and Cherry Creek alum Kyle Shanahan, should have possibly, debatably, should have deferred in overtime.

In our rankings, however, the Eagles were great just about everywhere. Forget about football for just one moment. How about state championships in five different sports – girls volleyball, ice hockey, girls golf, baseball and girls track – and runner-up finished in two more – boys lacrosse and boys track? Or what about 17 First-Team All-Staters? If that’s not a well-rounded commitment to excellence, we’re not sure what is.

Girls basketball coach Jessika Caldwell, one of the best coaches in all of Colorado, and a heck of a preps player at Coronado once upon a time, entered the state tournament last winter as the No. 1 seed, but saw her Eagles fall in the state quarterfinals to Arapahoe. Again, it’s a great state with great kids everywhere; Valor can’t win ‘em all. But Caldwell knows that wins and losses aren’t what makes the teams and kids at her school click.

“I believe what makes Valor’s athletic culture so unique is the common drive to pursue sport as an act of worship to the Lord,” she says. “We have amazing coaches who not only are gifted in their craft at coaching and training, but also have a heart for our student-athletes to understand their experiences beyond just the playing surface.”

Whether a kid goes to Valor Christian, Cherry Creek, Genoa-Hugo, Pueblo South or Adams City, isn’t that what it’s all about?

Sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. And this year, the answer to our very favorite question – “Who’s number one?” – is simple.

Valor Christian.

Fly, Eagles, fly.

-Doug Ottewill