2014 Year in Review: Top 10 sports stories

Ben Ingersoll
From top, clockwise: One of the first big stories of the year was the success of Steamboat Springs snowboarding siblings Taylor and Arielle Gold; USA Pro Challenge CEO Shawn Hunter and Steamboat Ski Area Vice President Jim Schneider show off a race jacket after it was announced that Steamboat Springs would be the host for the first and second stages of the cycling stage race; the Steamboat Springs High School and other area schools saw lots of new coaches, including Jay Lattimore for the boys lacrosse team; and Todd Lodwick walks away from the competition venue after his final event of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Courtesy Photo

Arielle and Taylor Gold find success in 2014

One of the first big stories of the year was the success of Steamboat’s Taylor and Arielle Gold, the snowboarding siblings who earned spots on the Olympic snowboard half-pipe team.

Things didn’t go well in Russia for the Olympics. Taylor struggled in the sloppy conditions, failing to advance from the semifinal. Arielle didn’t even get to compete after those sloppy conditions again factored into a training crash that sidelined her.

The slump didn’t last. Taylor roared back and won the last two big events of the season, including the U.S. Open. He stormed into this season and won two more contests, including the elite Dew Tour.

Arielle has been sharp, as well, earning podiums both of this winter’s events.

Athletes struggle during 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia

Maybe the 2010 Winter Olympics spoiled us.

Steamboat Springs-connected athletes brought home four medals in 2010, but the 2014 Winter Olympics didn’t prove nearly so fruitful. Eliza Outtrim and Pat Deneen fell just short in the women’s and men’s moguls competitions. The Nordic combined team, stocked full of Steamboaters, was hamstrung by poor jumping and its athletes never contended for medals. Taylor Gold stumbled in the men’s snowboard half-pipe semifinals and Arielle Gold was injured before she could even compete in the women’s half-pipe.

The last local with a chance, Justin Reiter, didn’t make finals in his first Alpine snowboarding event and was disqualified from his second.

Still, it was another proud Olympics for Steamboat as it saw its local heroes compete on the world’s biggest stage, and for those athletes, many were first-time Olympians and no matter their results, that still counts.

Nordic combined funding cut

The U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team hasn’t called Steamboat Springs home for more than a decade, but the team’s ties to the city run deep, with all the athletes on it or contending for it having been born in or spent significant training time in Steamboat.

So, when the U.S. Ski Team announced in the spring that it was largely cutting funding for Nordic combined, the impact reverberated in Steamboat, too.

The U.S. team has backed off its original statement to some degree, helping with coaches salaries and fundraising, but the decision still marks a major change for a sport central to the heart of Ski Town USA.

Todd Lodwick ends career in Nordic combined

After six Olympics Games, hundreds of World Cup starts, two World Championship gold medals, one Olympic silver medal and one World Championship bronze, the career of one of Steamboat Springs’ most storied Olympic athletes came to an end in February.

Todd Lodwick went out with a bang, too. He won the U.S. Olympic trials event before the Olympics. A shoulder injury several weeks before the games called into question whether or not he’d be able to compete, but he did, in the team relay event, to become the first American to compete in six Olympics. He also carried the flag for the U.S. contingent in the opening ceremonies.

All that comes with a caveat: Lodwick hasn’t officially announced retirement.

Former Steamboat club racer Vic Wild strikes gold

One of the most interesting stories from the Olympics proved a bit of an embarrassment for the United States, but a point of pride for Steamboat Springs. Alpine snowboarder Vic Wild, who trained for years with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, opted several years ago to leave the United States and join the Russian snowboard team. Dealing with a lack of funding from the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association, he said he options at the time were go Russian or quit the sport.

His choice was vindicated at the 2014 Winter Olympics, where he won both the men’s Alpine snowboard events, a gold medal sweep celebrated both in Russia, and in Steamboat Springs, where Wild still has many friends and former teammates.

Pro Challenge rides back to Steamboat Springs

The USA Pro Challenge is 4 years old and it seems somewhat settled that Steamboat Springs will be included every other year in the cycling race’s route. So, it was no surprise that the city was included when the 2015 route was announced in December.

What was a surprise was that Steamboat will host the first two stages of the race, a change that will put the city in the spotlight even more than it has been when it’s hosted in previous years.

Organizers are planning to build a weekend of activities leading into the race’s start, and they hope the benefits will extend beyond that to include activities and events in the week before the race begins. The Pro Challenge descending upon Steamboat Springs certainly will be one of the big stories to look forward to in 2015.

Steamboat boys basketball takes 2OT state playoff thriller

The Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball team saved its most thrilling performance for its last showing in the Sailors’ home gymnasium Feb. 26.

Two times the visiting Sierra Stallions elected to milk the game clock in the state playoff game, and twice the strategy failed. The first came in the waning minutes of regulation. The second bled out the first overtime clock.

But in the second overtime period, it all unraveled on Sierra when the Sailors’ Garrett Bye used a put-back layup with 4 seconds remaining to steal the heart-stopping 40-38 win to advance in the 4A state playoffs.

Steamboat Triathlon marred by thumbtack sabotage attempt

A Steamboat Springs summer triathlon favorite was marred by someone’s attempt to sabotage the race Aug. 17.

Hundreds of thumbtacks were strewn throughout a section of Colorado Highway 131 during the annual Steamboat Triathlon, causing 28 flattened tires and plenty of frustrated athletes and race producers.

The Routt County Sheriff’s Office investigated the incident, which yielded no suspects. Race officials said that despite the incident, they’ll continue to put on the triathlon in coming years.

Area high schools see 12 coaching changes

A dozen coaching changes happened in Routt County high school sports between the start of last school year and this winter, none more than Steamboat Springs High School saw.

The Sailors broke in or are currently breaking in seven new head coaches to Sailors athletics. Longtime wrestling coach Shane Yeager and reigning 4A Western Slope golf coach of the year Steve Dodson stepped away from their coaching hats, and new Steamboat lacrosse coach Jay Lattimore had a huge inaugural season replacing legend Bob Hiester.

Both Hayden and Soroco have new boys head coaches this year. Former Rams football coach David Bruner stepped down from that role to spend more time with his family, and the Tigers saw a change at leader on their volleyball squad.

Sailors boys lacrosse finishes 1 game shy of state championship bid

Despite enduring a huge coaching change, the Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse team didn’t miss a beat in 2014.

The Sailors — led by 4A player of the year Ben Wharton — marched to the Final Four and were halted one game short of playing for the state championship at Mile High Stadium.

Steamboat won its first 12 games and grabbed a share of the Mountain League title but lost by four goals to eventual state champion Ponderosa on May 14.

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