Steamboat Springs girls bring home national karate titles |

Steamboat Springs girls bring home national karate titles

Steamboat Springs karate students Jordan Ward, left, and Delaney Parker, right, returned home from the USKA National Championships, which were held last week in Denver, with national titles in their divisions.

— It wasn't the idea of titles that drove nine karate students from the Rocky Mountain Karate Academy in Steamboat Springs to compete at the United States Karate Alliance National Championships in Denver last weekend. But it was pride in a job well done that fueled the smiles on the athletes' faces as they made their way back home Sunday afternoon.

"I'm truly proud of all my students," sensei Michael David Bauk said Monday.

Two of Bauk's students finished first in their divisions and earned national titles. Brown belt Jordan Ward, 11, took first place in forms (or kata), second in weaponry and fourth in sparring (kumite) at the event. Her fellow Steamboat competitor Delaney Parker, an orange belt who is also 11, earned first place in forms (kata) as well.

"When they said I got first place, I didn't know what to think," Parker said. "It was a huge surprise."

Delaney's father Scott was also surprised, but he admits he had a good feeling after his daughter finished her kata at the championships.

"She also does ballet," Scott Parker said. "So that makes her kata really graceful. I wasn't sure, but I thought she had a chance."

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The news of the national championships was also thrilling for Ward as she waited to have her name called last at the awards ceremony for kata.

"When they called my name, I started crying," Ward said, who won a state title in 2014. "I couldn't stop smiling because I was so filled with joy … I was so proud, and I just wanted to hug everybody.

Ward said she got into karate a few years ago, after a good friend encouraged her to take it up. She said her parents wanted her to be able to protect herself, so they signed her up and she started training at the Rocky Mountain Karate Academy.

Other top performers in the national competition included Thomas Miller, a 10-year-old green belt, who earned second place in sparring, and Audrey Sumner, a 13-year-old brown belt, who took third in sparring. Other Steamboat competitors included green belts Matthias Wolf, 8, and Connor Elliott, 9; brown belts Casey Wolf, 10, and Sawyer Ryan, 13; and black belt Sydney Ryan, 16.

Bauk was quick to point out that he was not just proud of the four athletes who earned medals at the event, but all nine who traveled to the the 2016 national USKA championships, which were held Thursday through Saturday at the Denver Colorado Marriott Tech Center Hotel.

"The improvement I've seen in these athletes has been crazy," Bauk said. "The competitors they saw at these championships compete in five to 12 events each year. This was the first time we've gone to the national championships."

Bauk said his dojo focuses on training, body fitness and mental preparedness. But earlier this year, he invited nine of his 50 students who train with him on a regular basis to take advantage of the opportunity in Denver. The biggest reason he decided to go this year is because the championships were taking place just a few hours away in Denver.

"Normally, these championships are in places that are an airplane ride away," Bauk said. "All we had to do this year was jump in the car and travel to Denver."

The students Bauk invited to compete at the national championships were asked to make compromises and to be committed to representing the dojo in Denver. Those competitors trained three days per week for more than a month before the competition.

Bauk said both Ward and Parker have earned invitations to next year's National Championships and to the World Championships, which will take place this July in Arizona.

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