John F. Russell: Making the most of opportunity |

John F. Russell: Making the most of opportunity

Martha Anderson, a 2013 graduate of Steamboat Springs High School and senior at Cornell University, was an invited player at the annual Winkelman Cup at the Skaneateles Polo Club in upstate New York. This event draws regional players as well as international pros. Martha was the only woman on the field.

— Growing up in Steamboat Springs, Martha Anderson made the most of her opportunities on the ski slopes excelling at both Alpine and Nordic skiing as part of the Steamboat Springs High School ski team.

But it wasn't until she got to college that she took advantage of her biggest opportunity.

The funny thing is she didn't find it on the ski slopes, but instead, found it on a polo field.

Martha said she used to ride horses growing up in the shadows of Mount Werner, but she never dreamed that it would lead to polo and a national championship.

Earlier this month Martha was invited to play at the annual Winkelman Cup at the Skaneateles Polo Club in upstate New York. This event draws regional players as well as international professionals. Martha was the only woman on the field and played four out of five chukkers in a match that ended in a tie.

Sure she spent a little time in the riding arena and took part in local dressage events, but it was Martha's desire to pursue opportunity that lead to her collegiate polo career. I doubt that she ever envisioned herself playing the game of polo at this level, but by creating and pursing her opportunities, she discovered a game and success. She is the perfect example of what children in our community should aspire to, and in a town like Steamboat Springs, our children should know that the sky’s the limit.

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After graduation in 2013, Martha headed to Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. During orientation Martha’s student guide mentioned that she was part of the school's polo team, and when she talked about her experiences, Martha couldn't stop thinking about how polo sounded to her.

So a few weeks after getting settled at Cornell, Martha decided to head to a meeting for the polo team and eventually joined.

"It was easy to pick up," Martha said of polo. “The hardest part is the mallet-ball coordination."

Martha said it also took some time to learn how to use her body to steer the horse, and of course, there were rules to figure out. But once she did, she was hooked, and the game just came naturally.

It might be something you would expect from a college freshman surrounded by a world full of opportunity. But as we get older, those opportunities are more limited and stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new can be a challenge.

But Martha never blinked. She joined the team and worked her way up the ranks. Last year, she was part of the Cornell Women's Polo Team, which won its 13th national championship after downing Virginia.

It's a great story about a local girl who picked up a new sport and made the most of what she was given.

It's a great story line about a local girl doing well, but it's also a statement about our town and the values and expectations children take with them as they grow older and spread their wings.

Our town constantly encourages our children not only to seek opportunity but to reach for the stars. I see it in almost every sport and not just the mainstream events. The pages of our newspaper are constantly filled with stories of children who have gone on to success in a number of different sports and activities.

Like so many other children from Steamboat, Martha has made a habit of making the most of her opportunities. She now owns a national title ring and was recently named to the Dean's List at Cornell — not surprising for a young adult who grew up in the shadows of Mount Werner.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966

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