Luke Graham: How we selected athletes of the year |

Luke Graham: How we selected athletes of the year

Luke Graham

Sunday’s Steamboat Pilot & Today sports section featured something new – for the first time, the newspaper selected Routt County Athletes of the Year.

The male athlete was Steamboat Springs tennis player Ramsey Bernard, and the female was Hayden multi-sport star and rising senior Holli Salazar.

While it was tough to choose only one great performer for each gender, here’s a look into the decision-making process.

Salazar ultimately was a pretty easy choice. While comparing athletes from smaller schools to those from larger schools can be a tough proposition, Salazar made it easy. She threw the shot put farther than any girl in the state. She also competed in two other sports, earning all-conference nods in each.

The boys selection was much tougher.

It came down to asking whether dominance in one sport outweighed strong performances in multiple sports. It was difficult to not choose Alex Wood, Michael Vandahl, Coy Letlow or Alex Estes. All four were deserving. Wood was an all-league selection in three sports. Vandahl was the most dominate player in basketball, Letlow was about as good as they get in football and wrestling, and Estes played four sports well.

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What stood out about Bernard in his win at No. 1 singles in the Class 4A state tennis championships was the way he did it.

Bernard – who became the first Steamboat player to win at No. 1 singles – was the most dominant tennis player in the state toward the end of the year. He went 10-0 in the regular season and then breezed through the regional and state tournaments without losing a set.

That’s dominance.

It also helped that Bernard is a top student at Steamboat Springs High School. He holds a 4.2 weighted grade point average and has taken Advanced Placement classes in U.S. history, Spanish, English and calculus. Bernard will attend and play tennis at Pomona College in California this fall.

It was a hard selection, but we took Bernard’s one over-powering season instead of the solid multiple sports seasons enjoyed by some of the other athletes.

Don’t agree? Let me know. We’re already talking about next year’s potential winners.

– To reach Luke Graham, call 871-4229 or e-mail

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