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Gunning for the top

Steamboat Springs boys lacrosse senior Willy Gunn is pursuing huge goals this spring

— Steamboat Springs High School senior Willy Gunn is as confident as he is precise.

The Sailors boys lacrosse player has road mapped his spring with meticulous detail, and his personal and team goals are so lofty that it might make an outsider to the program do a double take with a “Wait, really?” response.

As if he’s plotted it out for months, Gunn lays out his season goals: lead the entire state in assists and goals all while guiding Steamboat to an elusive state championship.



Wait, really?

On a team loaded with the 4A player of the year and all-state senior talent across the board last spring, Gunn was a bit of an anomaly. He was a junior next to 12th-grade stars like Ben Wharton, Peter White, Kaleb VanArsdale and Michael Wong, but he was also a key cog in an offensive arsenal that averaged 14 goals per game.



This year, he’s even more of an anomaly as one of the few holdovers from that roster that marched all the way to a second consecutive Class 4A Final Four appearance.

Can they get there — and maybe beyond — again? Gunn certainly thinks so. And he’s using the heartbreaking Final Four exit versus Ponderosa last May as fuel to his fire.

“I’ve probably watched the Ponderosa film three times just looking over it and memorizing what we did wrong,” Gunn said. “As a program, we’ve been so close. I think myself as well as the others have the drive to get over the top.”

Taking his game to the next level

Willy Gunn lives and breathes lacrosse, but it hasn’t always been this way.

He’s tried his hand in other sports. He played football and tennis, has dabbled in basketball and still enjoys playing golf in the summers, but he made a decision before he became a high schooler that he’d narrow his focus to his favorite sport.

“Between eighth grade and my freshman year, I was watching a Division I lacrosse game, and I said I really wanted to pursue this and see where it will take me,” Gunn said. “As of right now, I’ve devoted a huge amount of my life to lacrosse.”

Devoted might be an understatement. Gunn said his parents Mary Ann and Billy Gunn are fully on board with his dedication to the sport, so much so that they’ve shelved out the dollars and time to enroll him on elite traveling clubs in Colorado. They also supported an impulse decision on Willy’s behalf that most parents would have scoffed at.

Two years ago, just before his sophomore year at Steamboat Springs High School, Gunn uprooted his life and moved to Newport Beach, California, for only one school semester. The objective was to live with his aunt for a few months, enroll at Corona del Mar High School and get exposed to one of the elite prep programs on the West Coast.

“I just talked to my parents and said I really wanted to pursue lacrosse, and the only way I was going to take it to the next level was to take it to their elite team,” Gunn said.

A year after the venture, he returned to Steamboat and poured in 32 goals with a team-high 48 assists for the 15-3 Sailors. He became a second-team all-state terror for Mountain Conference defenses that got caught focusing on the likes of Wharton and White.

Now, Gunn’s hoping to ramp it up this spring.

“I have to take it up a notch,” Gunn said. “Player of the year would be great.”

In comes Valor Christian — again

Just like his list of season aspirations, Willy Gunn has another in progress: the list of schools he could potentially play for next year in college.

He’s already been accepted at the University of Colorado and the University of Tampa. He also has applications out to Dartmouth, Princeton, Villanova, Penn and Lehigh.

It’s easy to look ahead toward the next step, but the current season is presenting big enough challenges for Gunn to tackle.

Coming into Gardner Field Tuesday is Valor Christian, the No. 3-ranked team in the CHSAA Now preseason rankings (Steamboat is No. 4).

The Sailors easily handled Eagle Valley last Friday in their season opener, but Valor will be a huge test for the largely unproven Sailors to pass. It could also be Gunn’s early season showcase in his pursuit of those lofty goals.

“I love this game because games like this are when I play my best,” Gunn said. “There is probably nothing more (important) than playing Valor.”

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll


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