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December 30, 2012
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2012: A year in Summit County sports

Rugby may be a gentlemen's game, but Summit High's ladies were far from lady-like on the field at the Nov. 3 state championship bout with Castle Rock.But, that's what it takes to take a fifth straight state title home from Glendale's Infinity Park to Summit County - and fourth straight win over Castle Rock in the finals.The Tigers won, 30-5, but not before enduring being slammed onto the field in a hard-fought game.Summit was expecting a physical game, and the team dealt one right back to the Rockets, who wanted the upset - badly. After losing to Summit in two shutouts in the regular season, and points against totaling 91, they didn't want the Tigers to score, much less win - yet win the Tigers did. In the pregame awards session, Summit had 14 players named all-state, Peoples was awarded Student Athlete of the Year by the Colorado Rugby Board and Hunt-Snyder was voted Player of the Year by the league's coaches. The junior varsity team earned the sportsmanship award, and a handful of players received all-state status. The team has gone unbeaten by high school teams since 2008.

Ridge Strickler made it his agenda to repeatedly break school records in the spring - and that set the stage for the senior to head to state for the first time in recent memory. The track and field captain laid claim to a 23.57-second record in the 200-meter dash, which was set on top of Strickler's 400-meter record, a 52.29-second run. "I think he is certainly our best 400 and 200 runner in the history of Summit High School, for sure," said head coach Kristy McClain. "I think it's definitely (hard work and natural talent). Certainly, (Strickler) has the talent. He looks like a sprinter. But on the other hand, you can have all the talent in the world, but if you don't work at it, it's probably not going to amount to much."Strickler beat the 200-meter record by a mere hundredth of second, toppling Will Bartels' mark from 2006. His other record this season (in the 200) had stood since the 1990s.None of the coaches could remember the last time Summit sent a sprinter to state. In fact, they were skeptical it had happened before - although the team did send a high jumper and a relay team in recent memory. Then, on Oct. 17, junior Liam Meirow ran his fastest cross-country time, shattered a Summit High School record by more than 30 seconds and landed himself a spot in the cross-country state championships for the second time in his high school career. The regional champion finished the 5k race in 15 minutes, 52 seconds, finishing ahead of his closest competition, Durango's Joe Maloney, by 10 seconds."It was really exciting," head coach Heather Quarantillo said. "We knew they had a very fast runner. ... Liam played his cards very well. He started slowly with a 5:14 in the first mile. He chased down Durango between miles one and two ... He ran a sub 5-minute mile as his last mile, which is incredible for cross-country."Meirow held the former school record, 16:23 on the same course, set in the 2011 season.

In 2011, Olympian Shaun White's double-cork McTwist 1260 dominated Breckenridge, which was one stop on a three-stop Dew Tour. This year, when Breck became the only winter stop on the city-surf-snow tour, White pulled out the untouchable 'Tomahawk' trick again and came away with the Dew Cup with a score of 95.25. The oldest competitor in the contest wants to three-peat his Olympic gold at Sochi in 2014 as well as obtain gold in the new slopestyle. "For me, it's double or nothing," said White, who had been on his snowboard a mere six days following an off-season knee injury. Louie Vito of Ohio took second, not pulling out the tricks that earned him last year's Dew Cup title. He stumbled in his second run, which included a double-cork 1260, ending his campaign to unseat White from the top of the podium. "I have a few tricks I didn't end up doing that I've got in my bag," Vito told The Denver Post. "So this was a good start to the year, and I guess I'll start warming those up. I haven't done a lot those tricks since March. I'm not really stressing it. I've got tricks still to do."Taku Hiraoka took third with consistent double-cork spins. Scotty Lago, who was the top qualifier going into finals, washed out on his first trick in both runs in snowy, low-light conditions.

Under the shadow of both chilly clouds hanging low in the mountains and the news of Lance Armstrong losing his cycling legacy, cyclists took to the road for the USA Pro Challenge's Stage 5 start in Breckenridge on Aug. 24. It was the second year Colorado - and Breckenridge in particular - has enjoyed being the focal point in an international sport. A crowd had gathered on Hoosier Pass to watch the riders climb their way out of Breckenridge on their way to Colorado Springs after looping the town twice that Friday morning. The experience differed from the 2011 Breckenridge finish, which took place on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with athletes climbing Swan Mountain Road in the stage's final King of the Mountain stage before cruising into Breck by way of Highway 9. In 2013, the third year of the race, Breckenridge will host both the Stage 2 finish and Stage 3 start of the seven-day August event, as requested in its bid package. The 2013 route starts in Aspen before touring cyclists through Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Beaver Creek, Vail and Loveland-Fort Collins before heading to Denver for the Stage 7 finish. The race has earned a reputation for being one of the most challenging, sending teams up to two miles in elevation as it crosses the Colorado Rockies.

Before Copper Mountain's speed center, there was no bridge time for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard teams to train before the World Cup circuit began in Lake Louise, Canada, around the Thanksgiving holiday.Now in its second year, the U.S. Ski Team training site has upped the ante. In cooperation with Copper, it has become more than a dedicated space for downhill athletes to train. Now, the mountain strives to be the first superpipe to open in the world for the season - and brings in the U.S. Ski Team's freeski and snowboard athletes to train. And new this year was the U.S. Ski Team's freestyle mogul selections, which utilized the speed center's pitch to create a mogul course that whittled a field of hundreds to the top six to determine World Cup and NorAm starts for the season. Thanks to enhanced snowmaking and a modified effort in 2012, athletes were greeted by a course that was ready to ski at Copper. The speed center is the future of early season training, officials say, offering the only facility of such length and quality in the world in November.

Summit High School senior Tristan White died the afternoon of Feb. 3 after collapsing during wrestling practice two days before and spending his last few days in a Denver hospital. He was 17.A statement from Summit High School said doctors had been working around the clock in an effort to stabilize his heart and effort to stabilize his heart and overall condition. White was placed on life support Feb. 2, and though his condition was relatively stable throughout the night, he died shortly after noon on Feb. 3. The exact nature of White's condition wasn't known, Summit School District spokesman Travis Avery said. Students were overcome with grief after SHS administrators gave them the news midday Friday. An announcement in the library prompted hugging, tears and the passing of Kleenex. In the main hallway, students cried in disbelief.At White's memorial service the following week, memories of White's life passions, his big, infectious smile and caring heart were shared by his uncle, wrestling coach, youth leader, pastor and friends, including those he had known since he was a toddler. "Tristan wasn't the kid just sucking up oxygen. He lived his life to the fullest," wrestling coach Pete Baker said. "Tristan may not be with us, but Tristan is not gone."

Breckenridge local and former Olympic rower Greg Ruckman got his second win in as many seasons at the 21st annual Imperial Challenge presented by Mountain Outfitters, which serves as a bridge from winter to summer and takes competitors to the top of Peak 8 via bike and skin.Ruckman was pretty much out in front the whole time. He was fast on the bike and climb; his one weakness compared to some of the other athletes, was the descent. The race wasn't without drama, however."The radio calls were coming in showing (Ruckman) in the lead pretty much the whole way," said race director Jeff Westcott. "He had a really good gap on Pete Swenson, who took second - and he's the record-holder of the course incidentally. Ruckman was directed off course and got sent over to Peak 7, so all of a sudden, Swenson comes across the line first."At first, there was no sign of Ruckman."As I looked down below the finish line by the Bergenhof, here comes Ruckman running up to the finish. Swenson, in an act of total class, said Ruckman gets the win. That's what you want in a good community event like this. "The pseudo triathlon (bike, climb, ski or ride) begins at the Breckenridge Recreation Center, where roughly 140 competitors took off on bikes. They made their way through the back roads of Peak 7 up to the base of Peak 8 at the Breckenridge Ski Resort, before clicking into skis, splitboards or snowshoes to climb up the mountain.Those in the expert category scaled all the way to the top of Peak 8; the sport-category racers got to the top of the T-Bar. Everyone winds up taking Claimjumper to the finish area just above the Bergenhof.

he grandstand was full, and an hour into the Breckenridge Rodeo, spectators were still buying their tickets.It was standing room only at the second half of the tourist town's inaugural rodeo, a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association-sanctioned event, with four more weekends still to go. It mostly attracted out-of-state spectators, but some Coloradans were in the crowd, and other than a smattering of people, Saturday's and Sunday's crowds were completely different."It was a huge success. We were not planning on nearly that many people," promoter Brad Bays said.The fairgrounds of the new Breckenridge PRCA Pro Rodeo occupied the Airport Road parking lot on the north side of town, opening at 3:30 p.m. daily.Once inside, plenty kept rodeo goers occupied, from face painting, mechanical bull riding, a petting zoo and live country music to food vendors, merchandise and libations. A free "behind the chutes" tour, including livestock viewing, took place at 4 p.m., and the rodeo itself ran from 5-7.The setting and temperatures of the High Country help attract contestants, and the nearby rodeo lineup is also attractive."Beaver Creek is on Thursday, Steamboat is on Friday. Breckenridge is Saturday and Sunday. You couldn't ask for a better schedule than that," Bays said.

In mid-February, Nick Wittrock and Jonathan Ramirez wrestled in honor of Tristan White at the Colorado state wrestling tournament at the Pepsi Center. At the regional tournament, Wittrock qualified with a fourth-place finish in the 106-pound class. Ramirez earned his 170-pound spot via a wrestle-back victory against a familiar foe from league-rival Conifer, The Denver Post reported. After track and field sent Ridge Strickler to state and summer passed, Dylan Mitchell teed off at the state golf tournament and placed fifth overall. Later in the fall, the girls' cross-country team accompanied record-setter Liam Meirow to the Oct. 27 state meet after placing third of 10 teams at the Oct. 17 regional meet in Delta, becoming the first harriers team since 2009 to attend state together. In recent history, junior Katherine Pappas has qualified individually in 2011 and 2010.

When 37-year-old Jay Henry, from Avon, crossed the finish line and threw his hands up as the top pro competitor in the July 4 Firecracker 50 mountain bike race, the victory didn't come without effort - a lot of it.All Henry, 2007 Firecracker 50 champion, wanted to do was put some distance between him and silver-medalist Ben Melt Swanepoel and bronze- medalist J.J. Clark, but every time he looked back, they were chasing his tracks."Those guys were pushing me the whole time," Henry said, adding that though he crushed the course, he felt like the 50-mile race crushed him.The top three finishers passed through the split gates neck-and-neck on their way into the second lap. Henry led with a 1:43:58 while Clark tailed with a 1:44:19 and Swanepoel clicked in a 1:44:42. The well-decorated Travis Brown, 2004 Firecracker 50 champion, kept up with the leaders to finish fourth overall."It's pretty spooky someone can go that fast," announcer Larry Grossman said. The course was fast, hard-packed dirt with some rain to reduce some of the dust. Still, racers crossed the finish line covered in grime. The weather was overcast, making it more bearable for racers, who are used to the sun baking down, making their skin feel like it's melting.


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The Summit Daily Updated Dec 30, 2012 10:40PM Published Dec 30, 2012 10:32PM Copyright 2012 The Summit Daily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.