Steamboat Pilot & Today’s top 10 sports stories of 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — It’s hard to condense the best of the 2018 Winter Olympics, high school sports and endurance racing into a list of 10 top stories.
The year kicked off with Steamboat Springs sending 15 athletes to the Winter Olympics for a handful of historic performances. Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecká, who trained in Steamboat Springs, swept the Alpine competitions, winning gold in the super-G in Alpine skiing and parallel giant slalom in snowboarding.
Steamboat Springs native Arielle Gold claimed bronze in the snowboard halfpipe, and Steamboat snowboard cross athlete Mick Dierdorff took fifth, missing a medal finish.
Over the summer, Steamboat Springs attracted runners and cyclists from all over the country and even sent out some of its best to compete in unique events like burro racing, extreme triathlons and 500-mile bike rides.
Routt County athletes experienced some of the highest highs and lowest lows. Steamboat Olympians Bryan and Taylor Fletcher lost their father Tim Fletcher to ALS, and Hayden High School lost its wrestling coach, Chad Jones, who died unexpectedly from tracheitis.
Steamboat Springs High School came off a successful spring season when Eric Casey won the men’s pole vault at state as the Sailors’ first individual winner in over a decade and the women claimed third-place in the 3,200-meter relay. The Sailors then capped off a strong fall sports season, including trips to state for the golf, tennis and cross country teams.
Both Soroco and Steamboat Springs competed in the state cross country meet, and while Soroco took third overall as a team, the Sailors’ hopes of top 10 finishes were shattered in a more competitive field. Steamboat Springs volleyball also made a run for the Western Slope title, finishing second and advancing to a regional playoff only to fall to Ponderosa High School.
Steamboat hosted the first-ever women’s international Nordic combined competition on American soil in December — the Continental Cup, and local stars Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone were there to represent the U.S.
Here’s the list of Steamboat Pilot & Today’s top 10 stories of 2018.
Steamboat Springs’ Arielle Gold lands the perfect performance to come from behind in fourth place to take the bronze in the women’s snowboard halfpipe at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It was a long-awaited performance after a devastating crash in the 2014 Winter Olympics prevented her from continuing competition.
Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecká was one of the main highlights of the 2018 Olympics, winning the women’s snowboard parallel giant slalom and women’s Alpine skiing Super-G, becoming the first woman to win individual golds in different sports. Ledecká and her coach Justin Reiter both have ties to the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club’s Alpine snowboarding program.
Mick Dierdorff took his dream of an Olympic gold medal from the base of Howelsen Hill, where he began learning to ski and snowboard before he was 2 years old, to the snowboard cross World Cup where he endured years of tough results and seemingly stagnant progress. Even in the hard years, there were moments where it all seemed possible and this winter he rode a wave of momentum to a spot on the 2018 Olympic team. He carried that dream as far as he possibly could, advancing to the Olympic gold-medal final before he finally fell short, finishing fifth, two spots away of the podium at the Phoenix Snow Park in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Steamboat Springs grabs its first individual championship in over a decade behind junior Eric Casey’s performance in the pole vault. The girls’ distance program also soared to third place in the women’s 3,200-meter relay, breaking the school record by 17 seconds. It all happened in a span of 16 minutes at the state championship.
Soroco grappler Sky Carlson went 4-0 during the tournament, reaching that ultimate goal of a state title. For Carlson, it was the last stop on a flawless season — his record for his senior year was a staggering 39-0. As the top-ranked athlete in the 2A 220-pound bracket — and one of only nine this year to have no losses going into the tourney — Carlson’s three pins in the earlier rounds only had him warmed up for more when he met Paonia’s Jaden Miller.
In only her second attempt at calf riding, Grace George won the contest at the Routt County Fair as the only female to enter. As a young female in the sport, George aspires to move up to bronc riding and maybe bull riding someday. But women in bull riding are few and far between, and that trend isn’t changing. George’s mother doesn’t find bull riding any more or less dangerous than sports like ski jumping in Steamboat Springs and believes women can do anything men can.
Run Rabbit Run, one of the premier ultra-marathons and a Hard Rock 100 qualifier, is an event that takes a group volunteer effort for more than 30 hours. Wildfires forced a course change minutes before the race meeting the night before, and volunteers worked tirelessly throughout the day and night of the race to make sure athletes stayed on course safely. As both local and professional athletes crossed the finish line, they recount the hardships they endured to get there — on and off the course. A veteran remembers his time in Iraq and the support he received from his family as he crosses the finish, then Michele Yates crosses the finish in first after three failed attempts at completing Run Rabbit Run.
Cindy Meade is one of three of the state’s female high school football officials. She’s not on the fields to make history but to fulfill a childhood dream and honor her late father. The Colorado Football Officials Association was quick to embrace Meade as one of their own, and during a nationwide shortage of officials, they’re encouraging more women to get involved.
Hayden’s wrestling season is business-as-usual on the mat, but off the mat, the athletes have been mourning the death of their long-time head coach Chad Jones, who passed away in September. Jones was a pillar of the wrestling community in Routt County and even athletes in Oak Creek feel his loss. Since Hayden does not host a wrestling meet, Soroco thought it was only fitting to hand out an award in his honor.
Women in Nordic combined are fighting for legitimacy hoping to establish the sport as an Olympic sport, but first, they must prove they have an international presence. The Continental Cup is the highest form of international competition the women have to compete in, and it was only fitting that Steamboat Springs was the first American host for a women’s international competition. Steamboat Springs athletes Annika Malacinski and Tess Arnone finished in the top 10.
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