May 18, 2012

Denver pitcher gets first ever memorial award

Pictured left to right are: Vance Clifton, Ryan Reno, Karen Clifton and Samantha Clifton.

Jake’s family was on hand to present the scholarship to Reno during the awards night at NJC. Pictured left to right are: Vance Clifton, Ryan Reno, Karen Clifton and Samantha Clifton. (Courtesy Photo)

During its year-end athletic awards night, Northeastern Junior College recognized a number of athletes for their exceptional performance this past year in men’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, women’s softball and men’s baseball. Among the awards presented was the Jake Clifton Scholarship Award.

Jake Clifton was a left handed pitcher who was a stand-out at Pueblo County High School. He had signed and planned to play baseball at Northeastern beginning the fall of 2011.  However, just weeks before he was to begin his college playing career, he tragically drowned.  Not only was this a huge loss to his family, but it was equally devastating for NJC.  Jake had significant potential to make his mark in the National Junior College Athletic Association’s Division I, Region IX. In addition to being a talented pitcher, he was a student of high character, knew how to work hard and showed a  toughness both on and off the field.  In his honor, members of the NJC team wore his initials on their caps and dedicated their season to him. It was a pretty good season, ending one loss away from a trip to the national tournament.

In Jake’s  memory, his family established a scholarship at the college in his name. It will be awarded annually to a returning sophomore player that exhibits Jake’s  same characteristics.  The recipient of this inaugural memorial scholarship is Ryan Reno, a left-handed pitcher from Denver, CO.   Reno is studying firefighting at Northeastern.

Another significant scholarship in Jake’s name is being awarded each year in Pueblo through an Evolution Baseball program which operates in that part of the state for players ages 8-18. Bob Norris of T-Cross Ranch of Colorado Springs,  a friend of the family, established The Jake Clifton T Cross Memorial Scholarship shortly after the player’s death. Jake Clifton had attended Mesa Ridge High School in Colorado Springs for two years before his family moved to Pueblo. He had been a very accomplished athlete in Colorado Springs  and had played baseball, basketball and football for Pueblo County High School as a junior and senior.