Antonio Olivero: My 2020-21 Summit High sports awards
11 individual and team honors to summarize a weird year
A few months ago — with Summit County still mired in the coronavirus pandemic and response — I wrote about why I felt sports were essential for the holistic health of our community, families and children. Reflecting on the 2020-21 Summit High School sports season, I couldn’t be more happy that, since February, our local high school children and their families have been provided the opportunity to experience what they love and live for.
With that — and with the final 2020-21 sports seasons coming to an end with track and field winding down next week — it’s time to honor the athletes, coaches and teams who made the most of an unprecedented year. From my perch behind the camera in the stands these past few months, here are the honors I’d like to bestow:
Most Outstanding Boys Athlete: Cam Kalaf
Kalaf proved this year that he’s more than a good high school quarterback. He racked up eye-popping stats for the football team in the fall, led the basketball team to the state playoffs with his athleticism and captaincy and is now eyeing the state meet and school record in the high jump. The Colorado Mesa football team is getting a good one.
Most Outstanding Girls Athlete: Olyvia Snyder
While several other athletes are also deserving of this honor — Lily Hess, Jenna Sheldon and Bryton Ferrari are just a few who come to mind — Snyder stands out. Frankly, the elite-level Alpine skier has an excuse to not compete in any Tigers athletics with her club skiing escapades. Surely other kids at her level don’t. But not only does Snyder compete for the Tigers, she dominates. The rising senior is a state-championship Alpine skier. She’s a meet-winning track star. And she’s a high-level contributor down the wing for the rugby and soccer teams. What doesn’t she do?
Most Inspirational Teammates: Boys lacrosse
It might have been a tough year in the win department for Matty Marks’ squad, but the boys lacrosse team was playing for more this season after the death by suicide last year of teammate and friend Toby Gard. At each game this season, Marks tabbed a player to wear Gard’s No. 4. Each time out, the Tigers athlete adorning the jersey played his heart out for Toby.
Coach of the Year: Karl Barth
Not much needs to be said here. Barth is unequivocally on the Mount Rushmore of Summit athletics. Not only did his team win a 13th-straight title this season, Barth did whatever it took to give his girls a season, including refereeing when umpires didn’t show up to games. Oh, and he coaches skiing, and track and field, too.
Rookie Coach of the Year: Jotwan Daniels
Talk about passion — goodness, does Daniels harbor it for the Tigers girls soccer program. After he was unable to coach the team last spring due to COVID-19, Daniels poured all he had into this year’s squad. And though he only led the inexperienced team to one win, Daniels got a return of commitment from his girls — a group that never wavered in its dedication for the coach it loves.
Most Passionate Coaches: James Wagner and Pete Baker
Daniels could easily win this one, as well, but considering we tabbed him above, we’ll give this to Wagner and Baker. Why? Because they were two guys who tried everything they could to provide their football and wrestling squads, respectively, as normal of seasons as possible. And that was even when damn near everything else in this county wasn’t normal during early- and midwinter. With COVID-19, their seasons were far from normal. But that doesn’t mean Wagner and Baker weren’t scraping and clawing to provide the normalcy they felt their kids deserved.
Boys Team With Stock Up: Baseball
Patrick Stehler’s boys — namely his loaded sophomore class — are special. If you didn’t get a taste of the Tigers’ mullet madness on our Facebook Lives this spring, report back next March. Big future ahead.
Girls Team With Stock Up: Soccer
Kayle Walker-Burns’ girls basketball team could qualify here — a lot of the same talent — but we’ll give the nod to Daniels again. Katy Clapp and Kelley Duffy are stars to be, and Daniels has done a marvelous job cobbling together the best young athletes from multiple sports to buy into what he’s preaching. Oh, and like their coach, they got motivation to burn. The Western Slope better watch out.
Boys Team of the Year: Basketball
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better baller and bigger basketball fan in this county than Jordan Buller. And the prideful Indianan coach finally had his breakout squad this season. He was telling anyone who would listen back in December that these boys were special and deserved a season. Led by Tyler Nakos, boy, did they deliver — all the way to the state tourney under sweat-soaked cloth face masks.
Girls Team of the Year: Rugby
Again, considering Barth’s dynasty, not much needs to be said here. But we will say this: The 2021 Summit girls rugby team will not be one lost to the program’s overflowing history. And that’s because they rose to the occasion to meet their predecessor’s high standard no matter what unforeseen obstacles came their way — on or off the pitch.
Unsung Hero: Rob Courtney
Does this guy sleep in a bunk in the Tigers’ athletic training room? All kidding aside, Courtney was always — ALWAYS — there for the Tigers kids. That was no matter what during a year when the student-athletes missed out on many other elements of school and childhood. He even drew the girls soccer team a yellow card because his instinct was to run out onto the pitch mid-play when a player howled on the turf in pain. The guy’s committed. In Courtney, Tigers Director of Athletics Travis Avery has a proven all-star undertaking what public schooling is all about: serving the children.
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