Summit County’s year in sports |

Summit County’s year in sports

Bryce Evans
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

Alex Cooper peeled herself off the turf at Infinity Park, blood streaming from her nose, a heap of defenders on the ground at her heels, and the ball tucked safely underneath her for the try.

It was her fourth score of the day, her team’s seventh, and none of them came easily.

In an all-out slugfest of a game, the Tigers duked it out with a tough, physical Douglas County team Nov. 6 in the Colorado State Championship game in Glendale.

The Tigers never really hit their stride in their normally free-flowing offense and never broke away for long tries. Yet, when all was said and done, the Summit High girls’ rugby team pulled out a 35-5 win, finishing off their undefeated season with a third straight state title.

“It’s definitely nice to know we can adjust,” Cooper said. “We can play our out-wide game or their game. Anything they throw at us, we can throw back.”

And the Tigers did so all season, the title tilt being one of the many highlights to an incredible run. Summit finished a perfect 10-0 for the third straight season (the team hasn’t lost since the final game of the 2007 season) and outscored opponents by a combined total of 615-26. The state championship was the team’s closest contest of the season.

To top it off, 11 SHS players earned all-state honors, including senior Heidi Gruber, who was named the state’s player of the year. Head coach Karl Barth was named coach of the year, and the team was given the sportsmanship award, which is voted on by opposing teams.

While the Tiger girls made a whole lot of noise this year, 2010 was chalk-full of great moments in Summit County sports. Here’s a look back at the year’s highlights (in chronological order):

Some times, the worst thing about snowboarding can be the waiting.

All the pressure of competing, laying down a run, impressing the judges – in the end, it all comes down to waiting to see what the other riders do after you.

“That can be the longest part,” Eric Willett said with a sigh.

The now 23-year-old Summit County native should know, because that’s exactly what he had to do at Buttermilk Mountain in Aspen Jan. 30 in the snowboard slopestyle men’s final of Winter X Games 14.

A rookie to his sport’s biggest competition, Willett qualified in the seventh spot of the eight-man final, meaning he was the second rider to drop in each of the three runs. He made the most of it, scoring an 86.33 on Run 1, putting him in second place early on.

Then of course, he was forced to wait.

But after all the years of riding with his friends, grinding through qualifiers and working his way up from the bottom of the sport, Willett’s patience paid off. He was an X Game silver medalist.

“I’ve been working my way into the scene since I was 18,” Willett told the Daily at the time. ” … It’s just crazy. I was finally able to show everybody what I can do.”

A couple months later, Willett stood atop the podium at the inaugural European Winter X Games in March, firmly placing himself at the top of the sport.

On Jan. 29, Breckenridge’s Bobby Brown was perfect in winning the Winter X Games ski big-air competition.

The next day, he made history.

The 18-year-old laid down a near-flawless final run in slopestyle – one that included a switch double misty 1260 off the final hit – to nab a score of 94.33. The effort was good enough to top 2008 winner Andreas Hatveit of Norway, who settled for second with a 92.

Step aside, Tanner Hall, Simon Dumont and other skiing legends. With the win, Brown became the first skier in Winter X history to win two golds in one year.

“Last night when I won gold in big air I was freaking out,” Brown said after winning. “Right now, I’m obviously freaking out twice as much. This is crazy.”

In Big Air, Brown wowed judges and the crowd with a switch-double misty 1440 – four full rotations. He twice received perfect scores of 50 from the judges.

That momentum continued the next day. He overtook Hatveit on the second run with a 93, then bolstered his lead in the final round with a run commentators called one of the best in the sport’s history. He was solid on the rails, then set himself apart with some jaw-dropping aerials.

For Summit High’s Julia Hayes, the 2009-10 Nordic ski season had been a bit frustrating. Despite never finishing outside of the top-3 in a single race all winter, Hayes didn’t record a single win.

That is, until it mattered most.

The Summit junior blitzed a stacked field at the Frisco Nordic Center on Feb. 18 to win the Colorado state championship in classic by more than 4 seconds.

“I was just trying to prove that I’m not a second-place skier,” Hayes said. “I just went out and gave it 100 percent on every foot of the course.”

And her finish helped propel the Summit High girls’ ski team into a second-place overall finish in the state meet behind only Middle Park High School.

Anyone who doesn’t envision skiing as a team sport must not have seen Summit High senior Brian Hartman on Feb. 19 at the Frisco Nordic Center.

Hours after Hartman finished competing at Keystone in the slalom race of the Colorado High School State Ski Championships, he stood in the swirling snow, clad in a pair of gym shorts, cheering on his Nordic counterparts as they clinched a state title for Summit.

“It feels really good,” Hartman said. “I’m really stoked for our team right now.”

Hartman’s sixth place in slalom was a large reason the team wrapped up the title, that combined with sophomore Tucker McCrerey taking third place in the Nordic skate competition. McCrerey also finished third in the classic race the day before.

“I’m really, really pleased,” McCrerey said afterward. ” … It was great how well our team did and great to help us do it.”

Summit High junior Devon Emerson’s first season wrestling with the Tigers was certainly one to be remembered. After transferring from Pennsylvania, Emerson became just the second SHS grappler to qualify for the state meet since the mid-1990s, the first since 2005.

Emerson won more than 25 matches in the 112-pound weight class and finished runner-up in the team’s regional competition in late February.

Meanwhile, Tiger hockey player Shamus O’Neill was named first-team all-state after a season in which he finished among the state’s leading scorers. The senior sniper had 20 goals and 26 assists in 26 games.

The Tigers finished the season at 12-6-2, losing in the first round of the state playoffs.

As fat tire hall of famer Dave Wiens put it, the Firecracker 50 mountain bike race is full of “carnage.”

The grueling course – which features a pair of 25-mile laps – twists and turns through the trails of Breckenridge, and along the way, flat tires, crashes and bike breakdowns are simply part of the ride.

None of that, however, was enough to derail the First Couple of the Firecracker – Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Heather Irmiger.

The married pro riders both cruised to the finish line in Carter Park in the annual Fourth of July race with a win well in hand, earning each of them, for the second straight year, the official title of national champion.

A capacity 750 riders competed in this year’s Firecracker, which served as the USA Cycling Marathon MTB National Championships for the fourth year in a row. In all, 14 national titles were awarded in Breck among an array of category winners.

The crowd that lined the finish area in Carter Park anticipated just one thing July 18 at the Breckenridge 100 Mountain Bike Race: a win by five-time defending champ Josh Tostado.

So it was expected by all when the announcer first called out the Breck rider’s name as he made his way across the Sunshine Trail to the finish line. That is, it was expected by everyone but Tostado himself.

“To be honest with you, every year, I expect to lose,” he said, still gassed minutes after taking the title. “I just go into it to ride as well as I can and whatever happens, happens. Every year, I’ve ended up winning, and that’s great, but that’s not what I’m expecting.”

Although, he didn’t seem to surprised by his time of 8 hours, 23 minutes and 47 second, which kept his clean sweep of the 6-year-old race intact.

He eventually won by a whopping 8 minutes over second-place finisher Joey Thompson.

Colorado had been without a professional cycling stage race since 1988, when the Coors International Bicycle Classic went away. But, it was announced Nov. 4 that pro racing was coming back to Colorado – and Summit County would be one of the hosts.

The official stages for the Quiznos Pro Challenge aren’t yet set for the Aug. 22-28, 2011 race, but one of the stops is slated to come from Steamboat Springs to Breckenridge.

Other hosts sites are Vail, Colorado Springs, Crested Butte, Avon, Gunnison, Salida, Aspen, Golden and Denver.

With the majority of the race flowing through the Rocky Mountains, it’s expected to be one of the most grueling cycling tests in the states.

On a day when the snow slowed skiers past the point of frustration, landing a run – any run – became the only priority.

That was all Canadian Justin Dorey was thinking about when he stood atop the halfpipe about to drop in for his second run of the final on Dec. 11. He fell on the first trip down the pipe, and with countryman Mike Riddle posting a big first-run score, Dorey needed a big run of his own to claim the U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix title at Copper Mountain.

“I just wanted to put one on my feet and let the judges figure it out,” he said.

Piecing together a run that started with a high, clean double cork 1260 and finished with a right, flatspin 540, that’s exactly what he did.

And the judges figured out that Dorey won.

Dorey’s 48.0 edged out Riddle by seven tenths of a point, giving Canada the top two spots on the podium. And with Rosalind Groenewoud – Dorey’s girlfriend – taking the women’s title just a half hour earlier, the first-ever freeski pipe final in Grand Prix history had a strong Canadian flavor.

At times, it seems as though snowboarders defy gravity. Overcoming Mother Nature? Well, that’s a whole different story.

The snow smothered the snowboard superpipe finals at the Winter Dew Tour at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Dec. 18, slowing up the mountain’s new (and rather lengthy) 22-foot pipe and leaving competitors struggling to put down anything remotely resembling their normal runs.

“Those were the worst conditions I’ve ever done a contest in,” veteran rider Steve Fisher said. “What can you do? I mean, it was just dumping in Breckenridge. … I wish I could’ve just gone and ridden pow.”

And with riders falling and slipping out continuously (all six women in the finals fell on at least one of the two runs), the smallest rider of the men’s field was the only one who could rise above the fray.

Slow pipe, meet Louie Vito.

The high-flyer from Ohio torched a second run that kicked off with a frontside double cork 1080 followed by a cab double cork 1080, and Vito’s score of 90.25 (out of a possible 100) was more than 15 points higher than anyone else.

“Maybe I just chuck it harder. I’m smaller going harder, maybe. I don’t know,” he said, struggling to come up with an explanation for his astonishing performance.

It was the second time in eight days Vito won a contest on a powdery pipe. He claimed the U.S. Halfpipe Grand Prix title Dec. 11 at Copper Mountain, on a similarly snowy day.

For the most part, the 2010 Nike 6.0 Open at Breck – the Dew Tour’s first stop of the season – will be remembered most for the fresh heaping of powder each competition day seemed to bring.

Each event was slowed by the snow, and riders and skiers alike were disappointed to let the new pipe and slopestyle course be limited by the conditions.

Still, the sports’ biggest names stuck it out to take home some hardware: Simon Dumont won freeski pipe; Jamie Anderson snagged the women’s snowboard slopestyle contests; and Torstein Horgmo won men’s snowboard slope.

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