Olympic hopefuls and high school teams made for a big 2014 in Summit County sports
From start to finish, 2014 was another busy year in the Summit County sports and outdoor world. And while we’re excited to see all of what 2015 has in store — including an unprecedented four stops on the seven-day 2015 USA Pro Challenge — this week we’re taking a look back at some of the biggest news makers of the last year.
Without enough snow in California, the road to February’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, came back through Summit County to start 2014. The U.S. Grand Prix ski and snowboard slopestyle and halfpipe competition originally scheduled for the Northstar California resort was moved to Breckenridge Ski Resort, Jan. 8-12. It was the third of five U.S. Olympic Team selection events leading up to the Olympics, and also the third competition held in Summit. Breckenridge’s 2013 Dew Tour Mountain Championships and Copper Mountain’s U.S. Grand Prix began the road to Sochi for freeskiers and snowboards to close 2013.
Organizers moved the Grand Prix to Breckenridge because the resort still had the slopestyle and halfpipe courses from the Dew Tour at the ready.
In a move made because of a lack of snow, organizers got more than they bargained for. A blizzard the weekend of the competition ended up canceling the final rounds of each discipline, except skier halfpipe. Organizers and athletes decided to use skier slopestyle qualifying round results as finals. For Breckenridge locals Bobby Brown and Keri Herman it meant first-place finishes that put them in the driver’s seat in their respective events for eventual spots on the inaugural U.S. Freeski team.
Snowboarding officials opted to cancel slopestyle and halfpipe finals and not count qualifying results. The decision upset a number of athletes, but in the end U.S. team officials decided to add an extra qualifier at the final Olympic team selection event.
SHAUN WHITE at HOME AT COPPER
Snowboarding superstar Shaun White made headlines across the country in January when he announced that he would not be participating in the X Games at Aspen, opting instead to focus on his preparation for the Olympics. While others were preparing for the X Games, a giant air bag jump appeared at the bottom of a roped-off section of slope at Copper Mountain. Copper officials would only say that a private party had reserved the space for training. It was soon discovered, however, that White was that party and he had decided to spend some time training at Copper. He proceeded to qualify for both slopestyle and halpipe in Sochi in an attempt to add to his medal count, but opted out of slopestyle in the days leading up to the event. He also failed to medal in halfpipe. Both the Sochi halfpipe and slopestyle courses were heavily critiqued during the Winter Games. Warm temperatures made the halfpipe slow, and the size of the slopestyle course was a source of contention with some of the athletes, who said the jumps were simply too big.
SUMMIT GOES TO SOCHI
Freeskiers Bobby Brown and Keri Herman weren’t the only athletes from Summit who made the trip to Sochi. Accomplished adaptive snowboarder Amy Purdy of Frisco made the U.S. Paralympic team. The dual-amputee (both legs below the knee) brought home a bronze medal in snowboard cross, then followed it up with a second-place finish in ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars.” She was the first double amputee to compete in the popular TV show.
Brown finished ninth in men’s skier slopestlye, and Herman took 10th in the women’s competition. While they no longer reside in Summit full time, fellow Olympians Katie Uhlaender (luge) and Justin Reiter (Alpine snowboarding) also competed in Sochi.
Colorado as a whole sent several successful athletes to the Winter Games, including 19-year-old Vail phenom Mikaela Shiffrin, who won gold in slalom; Telluride’s Gus Kenworthy, who claimed silver in skier slopestyle; Steamboat Springs snowboard siblings Taylor and Arielle Gold; freeskier Aaron Blunck, of Crested Butte; and mogul skier Heidi Kloser, of Vail.
TIGER RUGBY, SOCCER WIN BIG
Summit High School also made headlines last year with big seasons from both the girls’ ruby and boys’ soccer teams. With six undefeated seasons already under their belt, it came as little surprise that the lady Tigers once again bulldozed their way through their five-team 15s division on their way to a seventh consecutive state title. The team outscored its opponents 692-22 on the year.
For their efforts Rachel Fitch, Cassidy Bargell, Natalie Gray, Caroline Wilson, Alex Whitt, Meg Rose, Morgan Courtney, Jodi Losch and Angie Ramos each received All-State honors for the season. Courtney also received the league’s Player of the Year award.
Head coach Karl Barth credited the winning culture around his team for its continued success.
While it didn’t end with a state title, the boys’ soccer team had an equally impressive run. The team lost only twice during the season, both times to eventual state runner-up The Classical Academy. Summit nearly ran the table on its way to a first 4A Western Slope League title. The team tied conference rival Steamboat Springs in one of their two meetings. The Tigers’ impressive playoff run ended with a 3-1 loss to TCA in the state quarterfinals.
The team outscored its opponents 45-11 in the regular season, led by Tiger seniors Thomas DeBonville (forward) and Noah Glasco (goalie).
Glasco set the school record for fewest goals allowed with 11, and DeBonville led the team in scoring with 17 goals and 17 assists. DeBonville earned All State First Team honors and All Conference Player of the Year. Glasco was nominated as an All State honorable mention and All Conference First Team along with senior defender Mitchell Gray.
George Kasch, Alex Veleta and Al Bouchard earned All Conference honorable mentions, and head coach Tommy Gogolen was nominated Western Slope Coach of the Year.
Two Summit athletes also earned their own headlines in 2014 playing their sports on an international stage. The rugby team’s Becca Rosko started her season with a trip to China, where she played on the U.S. team in the Junior Olympics. Summit’s Mitchell Gray, a U.S. and New Zealand dual citizen, played baseball for the New Zealand 21U national team at the IBAF 21U Baseball World Cup in Taiwan shortly after his soccer team’s playoff loss.
SUMMER FULL OF CYCLING
Professional cycling and mountain biking dominated the summer once again in the High Country. The fourth edition of the USA Pro Challenge stage race rolled through Breckenridge, with Aspen’s Tejay van Garderen on his way to a second consecutive win.
Crowds flocked to Breckenridge in record numbers for a stage finish that again featured a daunting climb up Moonstone Road. With the race as popular as it has been in Summit County, organizers announced in early December that the 2015 competition would spend an unprecedented four of the event’s seven days in Summit. The annual race, which features a competitive field of Tour de France–level pro cyclists, will have stops at Arapahoe Basin, Copper Mountain and Breckenridge, including both a finish and individual time trial stage in Breck.
In the mountain biking world, Breckenridge saw the closest finish in the 14-year history of the annual Fourth of July Firecracker 50. A mere 0.166 seconds separated pro riders Jamey Driscoll and Chris Baddick at the finish of the 50-mile race. Driscoll won by a tire length in a sprint. Less than 6 seconds separated Jennifer Smith and Kelly Boniface in the women’s race.
Later in the summer Alex Grant and Kate Ardall took the top spots in the six-day Breck Epic mountain bike stage race.
OLYMPIANS CLOSE YEAR ON TOP
The year closed just like it started, with Olympic-level freeski and snowboard competitions. Copper Mountain once again hosted the first stop of the U.S. Grand Prix, and Breckenridge saw its seventh consecutive Dew Tour. Olympic gold medalists David Wise (freeski) and four-time Olympic snowboarder Kelly Clark took the top spots on the podium at Copper, showing there was no such thing as an Olympic hangover. Clark, a bronze medalist in Sochi, also topped the Dew Tour podium the following week. Sochi medalists Gus Kenworthy, David Wise, Nick Goepper, Maddie Bowman and Jamie Anderson also made appearances on the Dew Tour podium in December. But perhaps the biggest story coming out of this year’s Dew Tour was Breckenridge local and Sochi Olympian Keri Herman topping the slopestlye podium for the first time on her home turf. The X Games medalist claimed her first Dew Cup after scoring an 87.5 on her first finals run in front of a loud crowd of family and friends.
On the Alpine side, four-time World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn got back to the business of training with the U.S. team at Copper Mountain in November after missing Sochi with an ACL tear. Later in the month, at Lake Louise, Canada, she would earn her first World Cup win since the injury.
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