Oscar Ponce, Abraham Lincoln coach charged with sexually assaulting teens, still at large

Update: After Abraham Lincoln High School coach Oscar Ponce was charged with sexually assaulting a teen last month, plenty of folks were shocked at the accusations -- and no wonder, since he was widely viewed as a role model.

But when a second allegation surfaced, he disappeared -- and according to the Denver Police Department, he remains at large.

As outlined in our previous coverage below, Ponce was born in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, and came to America in his early teens. A few years later, he developed into a standout athlete at CU-Boulder. Upon his graduation, he helped resurrect the Lincoln High track program, earning national recognition and plaudits from Denver Public Schools, which featured him on a Spotlight page of its website last year. That item announced that "Mr. Ponce is motivated and encouraging to his students. He is constantly pushing his students and athletes to maximize their potential."

These words contrasted strongly with the first accusation against him -- one count of sex assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. He was released after posting a $50,000 bond, with a court hearing set for December 28. But on December 20, the DPD issued a second warrant for his arrest upon locating what's described as a second victim.

Trouble is, the cops couldn't find Ponce to serve said warrant. He didn't turn up at the court hearing, either, and Denver Police spokesman Sonny Jackson confirms that his whereabouts remain unknown.

Jackson didn't speculate about where he might be, or whether it might include Mexico, the land of his birth. The longer he's gone, the more the rumors will fly. Look below for our earlier coverage.

Update by Melanie Asmar, 3:30 p.m. December 20: Oscar Ponce has been formally charged with two counts: sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust and sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, pattern of abuse. The charges allege that the cross country coach at Abraham Lincoln High School "unlawfully subjected a teenage student at the school to sexual contact on numerous occasions between December 2010 and May 2011."

Ponce is scheduled to appear in court on December 28 to be formally advised of the charges. However, the police still cannot locate him. They've issued another arrest warrant for him in connection with a second case.

Read our previous coverage below.

Update, 6:23 a.m. December 16: Plenty of folks expressed shock when a charge of sex assault on a child by a person in a position of trust was leveled against Oscar Ponce, cross country coach at Abraham Lincoln High School, and a person widely considered a rising star in the Denver Public Schools system. There's more of the same in regard to the latest development in the case: Denver Police have aimed another count against Ponce, whose current whereabouts is unknown.

As before, DPS isn't releasing documentation or additional information about the case owing to the age of the alleged victim. However, the department admits that it has yet to locate Ponce, who was booked after the first accusation but bonded out.

Is he hiding out? On the run? Or is there a perfectly benign explanation for the situation? Tough to say at this point -- but the police have now issued his mug shot, which had previously been withheld pending additional interviews, to aid in the effort to track him down. Anyone who knows where he's at is encouraged to phone the DPD at 720-913-2000 or Crime Stoppers at 720-913-STOP (7867).

Ponce's booking photo is below, followed by our previous coverage.

Original item, 7 a.m. December 14: Unfortunately, reports that a coach has been perving on kids are all too common. Indeed, hockey instructor Zachary Meints was arrested on suspicion of just such a crime last week.

Still, no one would have thought such accusations would smack Abraham Lincoln High track coach and role model Oscar Ponce. Yet they have.

According to the Denver Police Department, Ponce has been arrested on one count of sex assault on a child by a person in a position of trust. Owing to the age of the alleged victim, no additional information is being released at this time -- and neither is a booking photo, because photo lineups are ongoing.

However, images of Ponce aren't exactly tough to find, thanks to the worshipful press coverage he's received over the years. Top of the list is "Coaching the Little Guys," a 2009 profile in Running Times magazine. As noted in the article, Ponce was born into poverty in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, but managed to become an impressive athlete at CU-Boulder. Post-graduation, he landed a job at his high school alma mater, North, but was lured into coaching at Lincoln by the opportunity to revive the moribund cross country program -- something he accomplished with unexpected rapidity.

Among the inspirational quotes from the article: "There is nothing better than motivating people to better themselves. And yes, there are many similarities between training and coaching. You have to have similar discipline. I tend to be very meticulous, and if something is not done how I like it done, it tends to bother me for days. Honestly, I think I get more nervous with coaching than I do for my own racing."

Denver Public Schools recognized Ponce as a rising star, putting him at the center of an In the Spotlight page of its website last year. That item reads:

Oscar Ponce is a DPS school counselor, and in the off-time serves as a cross country and track coach for Lincoln High School. Mr. Ponce is motivated and encouraging to his students. He is constantly pushing his student and athletes to maximize their potential.

Mr. Ponce is continuing to grow the Lincoln Cross Country and Track Program. He is a Denver North alum. Mr. Ponce also ran cross country for the University of Colorado at Boulder where he was a stellar athlete. He is a positive role model for his students and community. Mr. Ponce is constantly asking what is the best for our students and profession.

Thank you, Mr. Ponce for the passion and dedication you bring to your students and athletes.

In a 9News piece on view below, a student and parent express a mixture of shock and disbelief at the most recent turn of events, and that's appropriate. Check out the clip below.

Click here to follow and like the Michael Roberts/Westword Facebook page.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Kyle Kvasnicka, Concordia volleyball coach, busted for Internet child luring in Colorado."