Local athletes basked in the glow of the sports spotlight in 2012, as our little corner of southwest Colorado established once again that it yields big athletic talent.
Youth athletics programs continued to reach higher pinnacles, while individual athletes – from marathon and cross-country runners to freestyle skiers and alumni basketball players – made waves on the national stage.
Here’s a smattering of some of the biggest names and stories to grace the regional sports playbill in 2012.
Tride-Norwood Track Uncatchable; Tride-Norwood Girls Volleyball Dominates
The blended Telluride-Norwood high school track program has been on the fast-track to success in recent years, with steadily more formidable results with each passing season. That trend continued with the Telluride Norwood Team’s most compelling performance yet, at last spring’s State Track Meet.
All told, TNT athletes harvesting a whopping 31 medals, with six team members claiming state champion titles and both girls and boys teams earning second-place overall trophies.
It was the team’s finest showing on the statewide stage, coach Keith Hampton said following the three-day event, which saw the best athletes from Colorado high schools converge upon the immense Jefferson County Coliseum in Denver.
The competition’s 3200 and 1600 races saw defending state champ Ty Williams claim victory once again, while on the girls’ side, Lindsey Stindt claimed a double victory, with wins in two hurdles events. Jo Bush came out strong in both the 400- and 200-meter dash events, where she set a new school record in the 400 and earned herself a silver and a gold.
The State Meet accolades lead to later praises for some members of the touted TNT team: NHS’ Ty Williams was named the 2011-12 Gatorade Colorado Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year. He now runs for the University of Kansas.
Meanwhile, NHS’ Stindt’s all-around athletic prowess was confirmed when she, along with Telluride’s Emily Langley, became the first local students to be invited to play collegiate volleyball in many years. They now play for Adams State College.
Both girls were standout players on their respective volleyball teams during their high school careers, competing against one another in the San Juan Basin League and leading both teams to the Colorado State Championships last fall where the Norwood Lady Mavericks made it to the second round, while the Lady Miners fell in the first round. With their commanding 18-6 and 16-3 records, respectively, the Telluride Miners and Norwood Mavericks once again offered strong Western Slope representation at the State Volleyball Tournament in Denver in November.
NHS Basketball Soldiers Through State
The Norwood Lady Mavericks basketball team was virtually unstoppable in 2012, embarking upon a winning streak last winter that took this tiny high school to the top of the state rankings list, despite a season marred by the death of NHS student Garrett Carothers.
Both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams were still in the midst of mourning classmate Carothers, who was killed by an avalanche in the La Sals on March 1, when they stepped onto the State Tournament court in Denver less than a week later. Both teams posted State Tournament wins, with the Lady Mavericks climbing all the way to the finals where they ultimately succumbed 28-23 to Pawnee.
The Norwood girls ended their season the third ranked 1A basketball team in Colorado. The girls are currently enjoying a six-game winning streak in the new season.
In other regional girls’ basketball news, the Ridgway Lady Demons earned the 2A District Champ title in 2012, with their commanding 18-5 season record.
Montrose Athletes Bring Home State Wrestling and Wwimming Titles; Baseball and Football Teams Have Winning Seasons
Montrose High School senior Geordon Hudson defeated two-time state champion Nick Swanson of Wheat Ridge at the 4A State Wrestling Meet in February, giving the student athlete his first state champion trophy and catapulting his team to fifth place overall.
"I feel pretty good in my high school career with first place at state and with fulfilling one of my lifelong dreams," Hudson said following his triumph in the 145-pound division, which saw the underdog wrestler beating the the third-, second- and first-ranked wrestlers in his weight division.
Hudson is a four-time state qualifier and took third place as a sophomore and sixth place as a junior.
Five other Montrose grapplers also wrestled hard at state, including Jason Cooper (113), Jeremiah Banuelos (120), Kordell Bradshaw (138), Marcus Velasquez (152) and Cole Panter (195). Banuelos placed second, Panter took third and Bradshaw and Velasquez placed fourth.
Meanwhile, the Indians’ water bound athletes also made a splash in February, as the MHS swim team took the Southwest League Championship title. The Montrose High School girls swim team headed to state on Feb. 11 to compete against 30 other teams for the Class 4A title. With just more than a handful of girls competing, the team outdid a majority of their competition to bring home 12 medals, including a state title, Class 4A record and seventh place overall.
At the top of the medal winners was junior Logan Morris, who won her second state title in the 100-yard breaststroke with a Class 4A record time of 1:04.03.
The spring of 2012 saw the rise of the Montrose Indians’ baseball team, which started the season with a solid 6-0 record after it emerged victorious from its home-hosted Lloyd McMillan Baseball Tournament on March 16-17. The team ultimately posted a 16-5 record for the season.
Come autumn, it was time for MHS’ football team to steal the spotlight. Propelled by the father-son, coach-quarterback combo of Todd and Drew Casebier, Indians football enjoyed a winning 7-4 season that stretched into the 4A playoffs.
“It’s been great. Football...in general, has obviously been a big part of my life, and to coach through and share it with him is about as special as it gets,” Todd Casebier said of coaching his son, who graduates this spring, and the MHS football team.
Local ladies Complete Feats of Endurance
In January of 2011, Ouray Marathoner Elysa Barron set out to run 51 marathons in 52 weeks, a lofty ambition she termed Project 51 in 52, also known as Race the States. When she crossed the finish line at the Running from an Angel Marathon in Boulder City, Nevada on January 7 of this year, she had – amazingly – accomplished that goal. In the meanwhile, she had raised almost $20,000 for First Descents, a Colorado-based non-profit organization committed to curing young (18 to 39 year old) adults of the emotional effects of cancer through kayaking, rock climbing and other outdoor adventure sports.
Telluride high school student Rachel Hampton has been leading the pack in both cross-country running and Nordic skiing for years. In 2012, she led the blended Telluride-Norwood cross-country team to a third-place finish in the girls division (the boys placed second) at the State Cross-Country Championship in Colorado Springs in October, where she took the gold medal and Telluride’s first-ever girls’ Cross Country individual state championship trophy.
Hampton also claimed top honors at the Junior National Cross Country Ski Championships at Soldier Hollow in March, where she took 14th in the Classic Sprint, 10th in the 10km Freestyle, 7th in the 5km Classic, and was on the Gold Medal RMN Freestyle Relay Team along with Mary O’Connell and Emily Hannah of Steamboat Springs. Hampton hasn’t seemed to miss a beat this winter;she skated to the front of the pack to take first place at the first-ever Grand Mesa-hosted Classic 5k Nordic meet earlier this month.
Underdog Squirts Stay Cool Under Pressure to Claim State Banner
Telluride blazed to a 4-2 victory over Arapahoe in the illustrious Pepsi Center in Denver last March, winning the town’s first boys State Championship trophy while garnering a new legacy for Telluride Lizard Head hockey in the process.
Telluride had just posted an upset victory in the prior day’s semi-final, beating favored Littleton on that team’s home turf, 3-0. Telluride walked onto the Littleton rink considered the underdogs, despite the fact that the team had the same record as its adversaries: 18-1-1. The rankings seeded them fourth going into the State Tournament, where they’d have to meet, and beat, number-one ranked Littleton in the semi-finals before they could get their shot at a State Championship title.
Beneath a heavily decorated ceiling dripping with Littleton’s previous years’ Championship banners, Telluride fans cheered their team onto victory.
“Littleton was very surprised,” said assistant coach Gary Richard. “We came in with a huge crowd and beat them, and they couldn’t believe it. I don’t think they’ve ever seen that kind of pressure,” he noted.
The win over Arapahoe provided the icing on the cake for this team of 9-year-olds, who have since returned to the ice this winter where they hope to repeat their previous winter’s successes.
Telluride Freestylers Shine
Telluride Ski Area-bred freeskier Gus Kenworthy started 2012 as one of the world’s top 16 competitors, competing in January at the Aspen-hosted X-Games ski slopestyle, big air, and superpipe events. He just missed the exalted X-Games podium, his best result in the three events coming in at fourth in the ski slopestyle contest. But Kenworthy didn’t stop there, as he went on to take the gold at the fourth annual Dumont Cup at Sunday River, Maine, in March – and just recently garnered another lofty win in the Dew Tour’s Big Air event a few weeks again where he placed second.
Kenworthy’s childhood ski buddy Kolby Ward also climbed the ranks in 2012, sailing to the podium at the North Face Park and Pipe Open last March. He claimed the gold and a $2,000 cash purse in slopestyle, then went on to garner judges’ attention in the Big Air event, ultimately taking third.
March also saw female freestyler Keaton McCargo reach her competitive apex, as this Telluride-born teenager won the bronze in dual moguls at the U.S. Nationals at the end of the month. McCargo, schooled under the Telluride Ski and Snowboard Club, was later named the Colorado Ski Country USA Spencer Nelson All-Star Athlete of the Year. “It is a huge honor,” said McCargo after she won the award in June. “I can’t believe I won with all the talent and athletes in the ski industry here in Colorado. I am very psyched,” said McCargo, who has just been named to the U.S. World Cup Team.
Olympic Weightlifter Holley Mangold Pays a Pre-Olympics Visit to Ouray
Just before the London Summer Olympic Games got underway, weightlifting celebrity and Olympic athlete Holley Mangold paid a visit to Ouray’s Hypoxia Gym, offering some pointers to local CrossFit athletes.
The 22-year-old, 5-foot-8, 340-pound athlete from Dayton, Ohio gave local CrossFit athletes some weight-lifting tips before she headed to the London OlyMpic Games, where she took 10th place.
Ridgway Basketball Star Tracy Hill Inducted Into H.S. Hall of Fame
Record-setting Ridgway basketball star Tracy Hill was inducted July into the National High School Hall of Fame in July, as the most prolific scorer in Colorado girls’ basketball history.
The 5’ 11” Hill, who played for the Demons under her father, Coach Steve Hill, from 1980 to 1983, set 21 scoring records during her career, 17 of which remain unsurpassed 30 years later. These are Colorado records for any size school, from the smallest 1A (which was Ridgway’s classification then) to the biggest 5A schools.
Hill’s Ridgway team took the state title in 1982, when Tracy was a junior. She went on to play at three colleges, the University of Missouri, Central Wyoming State and Montana State, before playing professionally in Australia. In 1998 she returned home to coach the Nucla Lady Mustangs to the state 1A championship.
Now 47, Hill lives in Nucla with her husband, Kelly Arnold, who is the athletic director for Nucla High School and also coaches football, girls basketball and baseball. She has a 7-year-old son, Steele, and is working on her PhD in education.
THS Boys soccer Climbs Ranks
The undefeated Telluride Miners boys’ soccer team rose to the top of divisional rankings this fall, claiming an undefeated regular season record before entering the 3A State tournament ranked the highest 2A team in Colorado.
The boys managed to upend Denver-based Arrupe Jesuit in the State Soccer Tournament’s first round, but fell short in their next tournament game against Coal Ridge.