Olympic feats, retirements and record trout headline the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s top sports stories of 2022

Tom Skulski and Shelby Reardon
Steamboat Pilot & Today
Taylor Gold is one of eight snowboarders with ties to Steamboat Springs competing at the 2022 Olympics.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

This year brought out the best in Steamboat Springs athletes and adventurers.

More than a dozen skiers and snowboarders traveled to China to compete in the Winter Olympics. Routt County residents pushed themselves to complete wild feats like walking the Appalachian Trail and competing in extreme triathlons.

Youth across the county recorded impressive finishes in their respective sports, with one state champion emerging and the 4-H shooting team once again saw success at nationals. Here’s a recap of some of the top sports stories of 2022.

1. The Olympics

In February, 13 athletes with ties to Steamboat Springs competed in the Beijing Olympic Games, and the 2022 Winter Olympics saw Steamboat skiers and snowboarders earn big finishes. 

With a late nod to the U.S. men’s ski jumping team, Steamboat-raised Decker Dean became the 100th Olympian to come from Ski Town, U.S.A, a town that has a long history of churning out high-level athletes. 

Jaelin Kauf, who used to train at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, won silver in women’s moguls. It was just the second U.S. medal of the Beijing Games and the first U.S. moguls medal since 2014. 

Former SSWSC rider Ester Ledecká earned her second straight gold in parallel giant slalom, and Taylor Gold smashed a run he’s been dreaming of for years to finish fifth in men’s snowboard halfpipe

Taylor Fletcher was the world’s fastest man on skis in the men’s Nordic combined large hill event, capping off his fourth Olympics with a bang. He announced his retirement shortly after the Olympics concluded.

Sarah Floyd, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club executive director announced she’d be stepping down in April.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

2. Sarah Floyd steps down from SSWSC

After 35 years with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and four spent as its executive director, Sarah Floyd announced she would be stepping down in April.

Floyd held several positions with SSWSC including coach, athletic director, associate executive director and executive director. She is a local legend.

Taking Floyd’s place will be Brian Krill, who is currently the head of Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy in Truckee, California. Krill will make the transition on July 1.

3. Extreme accomplishments

Routt County residents take pride in the amount of time they spend in the great outdoors and what they can do on a bike, in the water or with their own two feet. 

One local man pedaled 1,000 miles on the Iditarod trail in Alaska. Others cycled closer to home, including a 72-year-old competing in the Leadville 100 and taking second in his age division.

Several locals dominated three sports, including extreme triathlete Veronika Merchant and Ironman athlete Joy Rasmussen-Otterman.

Others stayed on their feet, such as two women who ran the Wasatch 100 race in Utah and took first and third overall among female athletes. Michelle Petix put one foot in front of the other for 165 days, hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.

Teagan Herold and Leah Halder celebrate at the award ceremony of the 2022 4-H National Championship in Grand Island, Nebraska.
Amanda Laman/Courtesy photo

4. 4-H Champions

Two Routt County teenagers competed in the 4-H National Championships in Nebraska in late June. 

Teagan Herold had several strong finishes including a fifth-place nod in the 3D competition. Leah Halder also collected top results including a top-10 finish in the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a competition Halder had never competed in prior to the National Championships. 

Hayden senior Alison Rajzer won her third straight triple jump title during the final day of the Colorado High School Activities Association Track and Field Championships on Sunday, May 22, at Jeffco Stadium.
Shelby Reardon/Steamboat Pilot & Today

5. Routt County prep sports earn impressive accolades

In 2022, Routt County high school athletes jumped, ran, kicked and scored their way to playoff runs and championships. 

Leading a large group of Routt county track and field athletes, Hayden senior Alison Rajzer won her third straight triple jump crown at the state championship meet in May.

Early in the year, the Steamboat Springs High School ski team was fifth overall at state, thanks to a handful of top-15 finishes.

Hayden wrestler Dylan Zimmerman finished second at state in late February, as did Soroco’s Larhae Whaley, making her the most successful Routt County female wrestler.

The Steamboat boys hockey team had an incredible season as well, earning a spot in the 4A state semifinal game in March. The No. 4 Sailors fell to eventual winners Cheyenne Mountain, but were still proud of their performance. 

The Soroco girls basketball team had a historic season, going 11-0 in league, winning districts and hosting a regional tournament where the team fell just short of a trip to state. 

The Steamboat boys basketball team’s season ended in early March too, as the Sailors lost in the Sweet 16 round of the 4A playoffs. 

The Sailors girls tennis team’s No. 1 doubles pairing of Liesel Wilkinson and Amanda Dietrich went to state in May and finished fourth. 

Steamboat’s girls soccer team also fought through the playoffs in May, using two dramatic home wins to propel the Sailors to the quarterfinals where they lost to Durango on the road.

Just a couple weeks later, Steamboat golfer Kaitlyn Grommeck recorded the best finish ever by a Sailor golfer, taking 16th at state. 

In the fall, two Sailors boys golfers traveled to state where they tied for 33rd in early October. A few weeks later, the No. 1 doubles pairing of JP Carter and Wiley Cotter on the Steamboat boys tennis team traveled to state and finished fourth

Meanwhile, 23 Steamboat high school mountain bikers had a strong showing at state

In late October, the Steamboat girls cross country team and Soroco’s Alan Mayer traveled to the state meet. Mayer finished 61st and the Sailors squad earned 18th

Finally, in its first year competing, the Steamboat Springs dance team won at the Western Colorado Regional Spirit Championships in late November. 

SSWSC U20 athlete Alexa Brabec hustles to the finish line to win the winter start Nordic combined event for the U20 female division on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022.
Tom Skulski/Steamboat Pilot & Today

6. Women’s Nordic combined

As their friends and acquaintances and relatives were all being named to Olympic teams in late January, three Steamboat women making up the Nordic combined National Team could do nothing but watch as women’s Nordic combined was the only sport in both Winter and Summer Olympics in which women do not compete.

They were holding out hope for a June meeting of the International Olympic Committee, at which the committee would determine whether the sport was included in the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano-Cortina, Italy. To the dismay of the three Steamboat women and more women across the world, the sport was not included in the Olympic program.

Phase one would include all outdoor amenities and upgrades, such as new tennis and pickleball courts, a parking area and green space.
Court Sports for Life/Courtesy image

7. Tennis and Pickleball Center expansion 

Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center underwent the first phase of a two-part facelift in 2022. 

The first round of improvements included new tennis courts, pickleball courts, parking and green space. Eventually, the second phase will erect a building over 12 pickleball courts, which could be complete by next winter. 

The expansion project is a symbol of the speed at which the sport is growing, and how committed the citizens of Steamboat are to providing space for it. 

Patti Worsley, head coach of the Steamboat Springs Swim Team, will officially be retiring on July 31, 2022.
Patti Worsley/Courtesy photo

8. Longtime swim coach retires

Following 23 years coaching the Steamboat Swim Team, local legend Patti Worsley announced her retirement in July.

Taking over in 1999, Worsley was a staple in the local swimming community and produced top talent in the pool and great human beings out of it. Her son, Blake, even competed in the 2012 London Olympics for Team Canada. 

Charlie Coates was appointed the new coach in September. 

Brady Wettlaufer celebrates his potential record-breaking Rainbow Trout at Steamboat Lake on Monday, August 8, 2022.
Brady Wettlaufer/Courtesy photo

9. Record trout in North Routt

Following a long day guiding on Steamboat Lake, Brady Wettlaufer reeled in a potential record-breaking rainbow trout in August

The record verification has been submitted to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Wettlaufer’s catch was reported to be 26.5 inches and 12.5 pounds. 

Students at Strawberry Park Elementary School had an opporutnity to get up close and personal with the Stanley Cup Thursday, Oct. 27, 2022. Curtis McElhinney, who earned the cup twice while playing with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021, brought the cup to Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

10. Stanley Cup comes to town

Residents got the opportunity to celebrate with two-time Stanley Cup champion Curtis McElhinney when he brought the historic trophy to Steamboat.

McElhinney won both trophies with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021 but his day with the Cup was delayed due to COVID-19.

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