2018 Routt County Athletes of the Year: The best of the best from a year to remember
Surely the best high school sports teams don’t just happen.
It’s more than luck, more than the coming together of the right athletes with complementary skills — a tall one, a couple of fast ones, a few strong ones. It’s more than the right Powerball ping-pong balls falling into their slots.
But it’s some of that. And, to some extent, it’s the product of the effort and skill of those athletes, perhaps the support of their parents and families and surely their teachers and coaches.
But where are the lines? How much of, say, a successful football team is having the right athletes at the right ages and how much of it stems from the imagination of a coach?
Those and other similar questions dominate the discussion about the 2017-18 high school sports season in Routt County, and while perhaps there are no completely right answers, our best attempts at answers led us to the decisions in our annual “Routt County High School Sports Athlete of the Year” categories.
Consider the conversation about who should be “coach of the year” in the county.
A few good options bubble right to the surface.
Dick Dudas coached the Soroco football team to its best season in school history. The Rams were just good in the regular season but turned great in the playoffs, reaching the semifinals.
Yeah, Dudas started with some studs on his team, none more outstanding than junior tailback and linebacker Jace Logan. A lot of teams would be good with Jace Logan in the backfield. But, everyone in the state knew Logan was coming, and the Rams coaching staff still found ways to have Logan dominate games in the playoffs. Awesome.
Is it Dudas, or maybe it’s the most successful coach at Steamboat Springs High School this season, Lisa Renee Tumminello?
Tumminello has helped Steamboat’s cross country and track teams reach new heights, and she does it with the most difficult of formulas.
One part is an overwhelming positive, welcoming attitude that has spread into her team and beyond, bringing new athletes into the fold each season to the point that her programs are the school’s largest.
At the same time, she can be stern enough when necessary to drive her athletes to efficient and productive workouts in practice and to inspired performances in competitions. A great many coaches can be either one or the other there, with average results, but Tumminello has been both to great effect.
Then again, Tumminello is guiding some extremely gifted runners, especially on the girls side, where athletes like Maggi Congdon and Winter Boese would be racking up medals no matter their coach.
Where’s the line of Tumminello’s influence?
Maybe the coach of the year is Soroco’s David Bruner.
Bruner seems to be in the process of pulling off a rare feat with the Soroco girls basketball team — making it at least somewhat impervious to graduations. The squad lost seemingly irreplaceable pieces in the last five years, and Bruner found ways to keep the team near the top of the league.
He may have been even better coaching track this season, where the Rams won four individual state championships, and the girls team had a program-best, third-place overall finish.
Again, how much of that did he help with? He didn’t make high jumper Grant Redmond, now a two-time state champ, 6-feet, 8-inches tall. Ben Kelley, who won six state track championships in his time at Soroco, is a student of his sport like few other high schoolers ever try to be. It doesn’t take a genius to coach Ben Kelley.
And maybe having a trio of Mattie Rossi, Charlee Veilleux and Chloe Veilleux, who made up the backbone of the basketball and track teams, in school at the same time is just good luck.
Except Bruner did make some of that happen. Redmond, who just finished as a junior, didn’t go out for track as a freshman and didn’t high jump until midway through his sophomore season. Schuyler Carlson had never gone out for track until his senior season, when Bruner finally sold him on the idea. Carlson went on to earn points at state in shot put.
It was the same story on the girls side with senior Bailee Boles, who in her only season on the track team ended up being a critical member of a points-scoring Rams relay squad.
And they did it all while doing much of their training in the Soroco gymnasium, where pole vault and high jump pits, starting blocks and hurdles all shared space.
Where’s the line?
There are probably multiple right answers but watch him work out track state champions in the gymnasium, and Bruner, the 2018 Routt County high school coach of the year, certainly isn’t a wrong one.
Some decisions this year weren’t difficult.
Maggi Congdon had a stupendous sophomore season running for the Steamboat cross country and track teams, and she elevated her performance from solid contender to true blue champion in the spring when she won both the 800- and 1,600-meter races at state in 3A.
She’d have had a great chance of winning both races in Class 4A and been competitive in 5A. She also won the regional championship in cross country and placed fourth at state.
She’s the Routt County High School girls athlete of the year, and she has two full seasons left to build.
Other decisions were very difficult.
On the boys side, there were plenty of standouts. All could have shined at any school in the county and at most schools in the state.
Murphy Bohlmann was phenomenal for the Steamboat soccer team, and Davis Petersen was great for the lacrosse team. Eric Casey won a state championship for the Sailors in pole vault, a tremendous performance.
Three of the best all went to Soroco.
That’ll happen sometimes, and it has to happen sometimes for those truly exceptional seasons to occur. The Rams certainly had that this year, with school-best seasons in both football and track, and exceptional campaigns in girls basketball, wrestling and cross country.
Logan, Carlson and Kelley all bring incredible moments to the conversation.
Logan was jaw-dropping on the football field. Every 5.7 times he touched the ball, he scored a touchdown. He’s the kind of athlete who makes a photographer stand in the end zone and wait for that breakthrough every time the Rams have the ball.
Carlson’s achievements, meanwhile, are hard to wrap the head around. He was a force on the football field and a leader on and off the field. He went from newbie on the wrestling mat to undefeated state champion in 15 months. Then, on a whim, he decided to start throwing shot put and placed at state in that, too.
That level of natural ability is hard to comprehend, and he was the school’s co-valedictorian on top of everything else.
But we can’t ignore Ben Kelley.
He established himself not as one of the best runners in the county or in Class 2A, but in any class in any school in the state. His favorite event is the 800, where he’s a three-time state champ. He ran the fastest 800 in any class in the state this spring, and now, he’s headed to Columbia University to compete in the Ivy League.
Even in an exceptional year in Oak Creek, that stands out. Even in a great year in Routt County, that stands alone, and Ben Kelley is the boys Routt County Athlete of the Year.
Athlete of the year boy
Ben Kelley, Soroco, senior: cross country, track
Ben Kelley proved throughout his career at Soroco that being from a small school was no limitation. He helped get a cross country team started in Oak Creek as a freshman, then went on to strong state finishes in that sport every year before winning the state title as a senior.
He was quicker to the podium in track, winning a state title as a sophomore, then three as a junior. He added two more this spring. A tricky schedule at the state meet and an appreciation for the big picture of his running career kept him from the tantalizing prospect of going for more.
He didn’t settle for good enough or even a top finish when he knew he could have done better, and that drive led to a spectacular senior season, which culminated with him being named 2A Boys Athlete of the Year in cross country and track.
Schuyler Carlson, Soroco, senior: football, wrestling, track. Leader on Soroco’s semifinal state football team, an undefeated wrestling state champ and track state medalist.
Jace Logan, Soroco, junior: football, wrestling, rodeo. State’s leading rusher and touchdown scorer in football and a runner-up in state wrestling for the third time.
Murphy Bohlmann, Steamboat, senior: soccer. Set school record in goals scored.
Eric Casey, Steamboat, junior: track and field. State champion in pole vault.
Athlete of the year girl
Maggi Congdon, Steamboat, sophomore: cross country, track
Congdon exploded to excellence in her sophomore season. She entered the year as one of the best runners on the school’s red hot cross country and track teams. She left the year as a two-time state champ and a leader on a cross country squad that achieved a once-a-generation result at state.
Congdon placed fourth at the state cross country meet, the top finisher for a Sailors team that finished second, the team’s best finish in more than 20 years.
She was better in track, winning both the Class 3A 800- and 1,600-meter runs at state with gritty duels and strong finishes. She crossed the finish line in those races with looks of sweet relief, and indeed, it was a very sweet season for Congdon.
Matti Rossi, Soroco, senior: cross country, basketball, track. State cross country qualifier, leader on the Rams basketball team and 100-meter hurdles state champ in track.
Chloe Veilleux, Soroco, junior: cross country, basketball, track. Sixth at state cross country, leading scorer on the girls basketball team and four times a medalist at state track.
Mae Thorp, Steamboat, sophomore: track. No. 1 singles regional tennis champ, runner-up at state for second consecutive year.
Lucy Shimek, Steamboat, junior: cross country, lacrosse. Led the lacrosse team in points, scoring 53 goals and notching 27 assists.
Soroco girl athlete of the year
Senior: cross country, basketball, track and field
Rossi managed to shine in more than three sports in her time at Soroco. She made it four sports this season when she switched from volleyball to cross country in the fall, where she qualified for the state meet.
She led the basketball team in rebounding and was second in scoring, then was at her best in track, winning a state title in the 100 hurdles, placing third in the 300 and helping a relay team place third in the sprint medley.
Steamboat boy athlete of the year
Murphy Bohlmann, senior: soccer, track and field
It’s one thing to score big against one of the lesser teams in the league, but heading into the last regular season game of the year, Murphy Bohlmann was tasked with doing it against the best team in the area, long-time rival Battle Mountain.
He did it, too, scoring two goals to help the squad to a 4-1 win that snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Huskies. In doing so, Bohlmann locked up the school’s single-season scoring record in boys soccer with 24 goals.
Hayden girl athlete of the year
Hannah Wilkie, sophomore: volleyball, basketball, track and field
Hannah Wilkie was an all-seasons leader for the Hayden girls teams. She led the volleyball team in kills and tied with classmate Joey Deckler for the lead in blocks. She led the basketball team in scoring and rebounding, and she was a leader on the track team, where she again had a great result at the state meet. She wasn’t able to defend her title in the 800-meter run but finished second and competed with her teammates on several relays, as well, including a medal-winning performance in the 4×400 relay.
Hayden boy athlete of the year
Chris Carrouth, junior: cross country, track and field
After several years of strong distance running results, Carrouth broke onto the podium at the state track and field meet this spring. He medaled in two events. His best finish came in the 800, where he placed sixth, the top result of his career. His best race may have been the 1,600, where he came down the home stretch in a dead sprint, working his way from off the podium to on it, passing four other runners to place eighth.
He also ran cross country in the fall for Moffat County High School, earning a place at the state meet.
Coach of the year
David Bruner, Soroco girls basketball, track and field
Bruner’s not new to this position but what he was able to help his teams accomplish this season, especially in track, made him the choice again. In both girls basketball and track, he’s built programs that rise above average and chase greatness. His girls basketball team again finished high in the league and made the regional tournament. In track, the Rams won four state championships, and the girls team placed third overall — the best season the team has ever had.
Team of the year
Soroco High School football
It was an average season turned great once the playoffs started for the Soroco High School football team.
Soroco, the No. 14 seed, traveled to play on the road against No. 3 Merino. It was a 42-32 win for the Rams, but Soroco controlled the action the whole way.
Next up was No. 11 Mancos, and the Rams throttled them, a 40-0 shutout as Jace Logan went for 430 yards rushing and six touchdowns while getting 16 tackles defensively.
Plenty was going right for Soroco. Schuyler Carlson missed several key regular season games with injury, but he was back in full force for the playoffs. Logan was nursing a few injuries late in the regular season, as well, but was in stride in the playoffs.
It wasn’t just those standouts, though. The Rams got contributions from up and down the roster late in the season, and it all paid off. Jesse Amrein, Truman Anarella, Sam Shaffer, Jonah Jonas and Kendall Hood all came up big.
The run finally ended with a 38-28 semifinal loss to West Grand, but Soroco led in that one into the fourth quarter.
There have been a lot of tough years of football in Oak Creek through the decades, which all made this year’s playoff run extra special. It was a great year to be a Ram.
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