Routt County Athlete of the year
Female athlete of the year
Steamboat Springs — Jessica Rossi wrapped up her high school career in a fitting way: with two medals at the Class 2A state track meet in Lakewood May 15.
Rossi is the fourth and final sister in her particular line of the Rossi family, which has been the engine of Soroco High School girls athletics for much of the last decade.
After older sisters Sarajane, Ceanna and Josie all left their marks, Jessica came through with an appropriate finale for the era, bringing both an abundance of competitiveness, athleticism and hard work to her career and, in particular, to her strong senior season.
As a stand out in volleyball, basketball and track and field, a strong teammate who often served as a team leader and, at the same time, a serious competitor who managed to learn, in her four years, how to build friendships even with rivals, Rossi stands clear as the 2015 Routt County high school girls athlete of the year.
In her career, Rossi was a throwback kind of three-sport athlete — one who didn’t tepidly go out for each season, but did so vigorously.
It all came together in her senior season as she was a major factor in one of the most successful school years in history for Soroco girls athletics.
The Soroco volleyball team enjoyed its best season since 2010 and, at 11-9, only its second season above 0.500 in Rossi’s tenure. The squad improved on its 2013 record by nine wins, and Rossi was second on the team with 120 kills.
The basketball team had an even more outstanding season, winning its first league title in nearly two decades. Rossi was fundamental there, too, leading the team in both scoring, with 16 points per game, and rebounds, with 9.1 per game.
Finally, she shined in track, competing in four events at the state meet and bringing home two medals — third in pole vault and fourth in discus.
None of that was an accident.
Rossi was born with some of what it takes to stand out as an athlete — both of her parents have succeeded as coaches and athletes in the county — but genetics alone don’t explain those gaudy stats.
“She has a great work ethic,” said David Bruner, who coached Rossi in basketball and track. “That’s true no matter what she’s doing, whether it’s in the classroom or on the court or the track, or out on her family’s ranch where she works.
“That will take her a long ways,” he continued. “It has already taken her a long ways.”
Hayden female athlete of the year
Jewel Vreeman wasn’t always the best player on her teams during her junior season playing for the Tigers. Jordan Temple had more kills on the volleyball team. Kara Cozzens scored more points on the basketball team.
Vreeman was there, however, as a consistent presence for the Tigers no matter the season.
Her biggest break actually came in the spring, when she capped a strong season of track and field with an outstanding finish. She earned a spot at the state championship track meet in the 100-meter dash.
Steamboat female athlete of the year
It was a very strong season for the Steamboat Springs High School girls volleyball team and right in the middle, in every sense of the word, was junior Maddie Labor, Steamboat’s get-to-anything defensive stopper playing at libero.
Labor was one of the team’s hitters last season and would surely have shined there again in that role, but with both her team and a potential college career on her mind, she switched to libero. There, she headed up the team’s defense and proved to be a brutal weapon from the serving line.
There were other stars on that volleyball squad, but Labor proved to be representative of them — talented, hardworking and very skilled.
Labor followed up her volleyball season with a strong season on the tennis team, playing on the No. 1 doubles squad with Hanna Haggarty. The pair was one of Steamboat’s strongest teams through the regular season, then won the regional championship. A tough loss in a wild, hard-fought match sent them home from the first round at the state tournament.
Male athlete of the year
It wasn’t supposed to go down like this for Steamboat Springs High School senior Mitch McCannon.
The three-sport athlete entered his final season in Sailors red with an already long list of accolades, which included first-team all-conference in football and an all-state selection in lacrosse, his favorite sport.
But when McCannon’s right foot came down on another player’s shoe in a Jan. 20 Steamboat basketball game at Battle Mountain, three snapped bones altered what he imagined to be his fitting finale on campus.
“Most people go into their senior year thinking they’ll be the top player of their sports, playing their best,” McCannon said. “For me, it was more of a year to grow and learn from my injuries and use that to become a stronger person.”
Playing on a badly sprained ankle, McCannon still led the Sailors football team for the second year in a row in rushing (335 yards), receiving (550 yards) and touchdowns (11 total). He followed that up nicely in the winter in his sixth-man role for the Steamboat boys basketball team, before breaking the three middle bones in his right foot.
The injury threw big question marks into what looked like another promising Sailors boys lacrosse season. McCannon was set to return as the leading scorer from the 2014 Final Four squad, but what was estimated as a six-week injury was looking more like a six-month linger.
McCannon gutted it out over the Sailors’ final two lacrosse games, scoring a trio of goals as Steamboat was eliminated in the first round of the Class 4A playoffs.
“It meant a lot to me to finish out the lacrosse season,” McCannon said. “The thing that meant the most to me was, throughout the whole injury process, my teammates were there supporting me the entire time.”
It wasn’t the high school ending McCannon could have had or should have had, but there is little dispute that when he hits the field or the court, he’s a lightning bolt of excitement, making him the 2014-15 Routt County Boy Athlete of the Year.
The next step in McCannon’s plan includes swapping red and white for black and gold as a University of Colorado men’s lacrosse player. He’d join fellow former Sailors Ben Wharton and Penn Lukens on the Buffs squad.
Meanwhile, McCannon is still rehabbing his right foot to full strength.
“I’ve talked to the CU coaches, and they seem pretty on board,” McCannon said, noting the Buffs usually field a men’s club lacrosse roster of about 60 players. “Right now, I’m actually thinking about putting my walking boot back on.”
McCannon and the rest of the Steamboat Springs High School Class of 2015 won’t walk the graduation stage until Saturday, so the senior admits the idea of never again playing for a Sailors sports team hasn’t quite hit home.
But for the players who played alongside him, the coaches who coached him and the fans who watched him, McCannon won’t be soon forgotten in Sailors athletics.
“It hasn’t really settled in, no,” McCannon said. “There have been a couple days where I thought, ‘Wow, I’m done with sports.’ The fact I hope to play for CU next year is in the back of my head, so that helps, but it’s definitely weird to think about.”
Soroco athlete of the year
In the matter of one year, Soroco High School junior Warren Hayes transformed from a quiet role player into a Rams star.
As a sophomore in 2013-14, Hayes saw meaningful playing time on the football field and basketball floor, honing his varsity skill set in a mostly reserve role.
Fast-forward to the 2014-15 season, and there’s reason to believe Hays could be the next big thing in a long line of big things that have come out of Soroco athletics.
On a football team replacing a longtime coach and several big-name starters lost to graduation, Hayes filled in from day one as the Rams’ quarterback. He threw for 355 yards and seven touchdowns in a run-heavy offense, adding another pair of scores on the ground.
The Hayes-led Rams compiled a 5-3 record with a junior- and sophomore-loaded roster.
But it was what Hayes did on the hardwood that set him apart as the Soroco boys 2014-15 athlete of the year.
Hayes — who averaged just three points and one rebound per contest in 2013-14 — poured in 13 points per game this past season, all while snagging seven rebounds per contest. With his dad coaching the Rams as a rookie leader, Hayes helped lead the team all the way to the Class 2A Region 3 tournament.
Soroco enjoyed its first winning season since the 2009-10 schedule.
Hayden athlete of the year
Hayden High School senior Jack Redmond saved his best for last.
The do-it-all Tiger had a stellar football season, amassing 675 rushing yards with 11 total touchdowns. He also enjoyed an important role on the boys basketball team during a rebuilding year in Hayden.
But it’s what Redmond accomplished on the biggest stage in his favorite sport that made him the obvious choice for Hayden boy athlete of the year.
On his first triple jump at the 2A state championships, the senior threw down his legal all-time best (41-feet-4.75-inches), snagged a silver medal and followed it up with fourth place in the long jump (20-feet-4-inches) a day later.
The state championships, held in Lakewood’s Jeffco Stadium, were just a week after Redmond committed himself to be a collegiate jumper the next four years at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
The now-graduated Tiger’s top performance at state track capped a round-the-clock career on the Hayden campus.
Redmond was a four-year varsity letter winner in football, played three years of varsity hoops and emerged as one of the best Tigers’ track athletes in recent memory.
When he was at his best on the gridiron, he was churning in 155 yards on just five carries in a big win over Justice Sept. 19. In track, Redmond got progressively better, once nailing a 42-plus-foot triple jump at Moffat County — one that was technically illegal due to wind.
Breakout athlete of the year
It wasn’t ex-actly that a successful season from Steamboat Springs High School freshman Tatum Burger came as a surprise.
Burger is from a family of athletes and had long been acknowledged as one of the top young tennis players in the region.
Who could have foreseen this kind of success, though?
Burger was very good in the fall running cross country. She placed 17th at state in that sport. That was just a prelude to the spring’s tennis season, however, and there, she shocked the state.
The young Sailor went undefeated through her regular season, dominated her bracket at regionals, then stormed through the state tournament to win the state championship in the hardest bracket in Class 4A — No. 1 singles. It was Steamboat’s first state title of any kind since 2009.
Her championship match was a fine example of how Burger accomplished such a feat.
She was pitted against one of the very best in the state, Alex Weil, a savvy veteran who was second at state the previous season and third two years ago.
Weil took an early lead and seemed to overpower the freshman in winning the first set, 6-4. Burger changed tactics, however, and the match was never the same again. She won the first five games of the second set, then the last seven of the match, taking 12 of the final 13 to win, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0.
It takes several minutes of thinking to come up with ways Burger could one-up herself in any of her three ensuing high school tennis seasons, and even then, the answers only involve the details.
Make it through state without losing a set? Make it through the season without losing a set?
No matter what comes, it’s hard to imagine anything coming close to the sonic boom with which Burger entered high school. She was, without question, the county’s breakout athlete of the year.
Soroco breakout athlete of the year
Is there anything Ben Kelley can’t do?
The short answer for the Soroco High School freshman is probably, ‘no,’ because Kelley spent his entire inaugural year on the Oak Creek campus setting himself apart as not only the top freshman on campus, but arguably the top athlete in any age class as well.
In cross country — the first year Soroco has fielded a team — Kelley qualified for the 2A state championships, where he placed 21st overall.
In the winter, Kelley found his place on the Rams’ varsity basketball roster, molding himself into a valuable role player down the stretch of the team’s regional tournament run.
Kelley capped off his phenomenal opening year on campus with a huge season on the track. He qualified for the 2A state championships in three different events — the 800, the mile and the two-mile.
He improved his times as the season wore on, leading the Rams in the 400 (53:12), the 800 (2:02.31), the mile (4:38.00) and the two-mile (10:14.25). Kelley’s top 800, mile and two-mile times were all set at the state championships.
The three-sport athlete is sure to hold plenty of Soroco records in years to come.
Hayden breakout athlete of the year
Hayden High School football coach Shawn Baumgartner chuckled when he said his new do-it-all athlete on the gridiron was a lineman just a year prior in the Front Range Pop Warner ranks.
At 6-foot-3 and not much over 130 pounds, Tigers freshman Keyen Camilletti isn’t a lineman, so Baumgartner used him where he fit best. Camilletti saw time all over the field, including at quarterback, numerous times throughout the season.
He threw three touchdowns, ran for another and recorded 18 tackles in his debut on campus, showing some promise for the future as Hayden football works to return its program to dominance.
On the hardwood, Camilletti helped plug some much-needed holes on the Tigers’ young varsity basketball team.
He averaged four points per game this past winter, including 12 in a win against North Park on Feb. 6.
Comeback athlete of the year
Soroco High School junior Briana Peterson’s promise on the basketball court has only been hampered in previous seasons by her right knee.
Freshman and sophomore seasons on the hardwood saw Peterson averaging double-digits in scoring. They also saw her solid seasons cut short because of back-to-back torn anterior cruciate ligaments in the same knee.
Peterson’s junior season for the Rams followed suit in the scoring category, not the surgery one.
For the first time in her Rams career, Peterson played a full season in the sport she loves, and she thrived.
Averaging 15 points and seven rebounds per game, Peterson helped create a one-two front-court punch alongside senior Jessica Rossi, which led Soroco all the way to the regional title game in March.
Peterson spent the offseason following last winter’s knee surgery rehabbing at Vail’s Steadman Clinic. Her dad, Greg Peterson, joked that maybe Briana would have to break an arm in the offseason, crediting the Steadman Clinic’s ability to strengthen her legs not only back to health but also into pristine condition.
The junior started every one of the Rams’ 23 games this winter. She scored in double figures in all but five of those contests, all while recording seven double-doubles.
With another offseason to strengthen up, Peterson has a chance to make even more noise on the hardwood, as only a few players from the Rams’ regular-season starting lineup graduate.
Hayden most improved athlete of the year
Hayden High School senior Thomas Rauch was a walking example of how valuable varsity experience can be.
Rauch got his minutes on the Tigers’ boys basketball team as a junior, mostly because the thin roster needed him badly to fill the void. He was also a consistent, but not exceptional, track and field athlete.
A year later, Rauch blossomed into a senior leader on the hardwood, averaging nine points per game. He scored in double figures in half of Hayden’s games this winter, including a 19-point outing in a 48-41 win against North Park on Feb. 6.
On the track, Rauch took home two state medals in the high jump and 110-meter hurdles. He had a season-best leap in the high jump of 6-feet-0.5-inches and ran a career-best 16.60 in the 110 hurdles. He also had a long jump of 18-feet-8.5 inches.
Soroco most improved athlete of the year
On a team loaded with talent and proven varsity stars, Soroco High School senior girls basketball player Kellen Garrity played her reserve role in the 2014-15 season very well.
That was until Rams coach David Bruner turned to Garrity for a spark late in the season, starting her as the squad was surging toward a league divisional title and looking to make more noise in the district and regional playoffs.
Garrity, an unlikely talent among the likes of Jessica Rossi, Briana Peterson and DaKota Bruner, was just what her coach knew she could be down the stretch.
The senior got her first start Feb. 28 in the 2A District 5 third-place game, where she delivered with 11 points.
She wasn’t done.
A week later, in the regional playoffs with a regional championship game berth on the line, Garrity came through again, this time with a career-high 15 points on 46 percent shooting. She also snagged eight rebounds and coughed up just one turnover in the Rams’ dominant 74-60 win.
In two games, Garrity scored 26 points. She scored just 27 points her entire junior year, 10 coming in a blowout win against North Park.
Steamboat most improved athlete of the year
A year ago, Steamboat Springs High School junior Robi Powers was a wide-eyed swingman on the Sailors’ boys basketball team.
He averaged five points per game then and showed flashes of brilliance in his high-flying ability.
What a difference a year makes.
Powers honed his skills overseas, training with members of the Universidad de Costa Rica team in the offseason, and came back as one of the best players on the Western Slope.
Powers’ junior campaign included a 16 points-per-game average and a spot on the 4A Western Slope League first-team. He also grabbed six rebounds per contest and dished out a pair of assists on average.
Powers was just a few votes shy of being named conference player of the year, behind Glenwood Springs’ Cameron Horning.
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