Pulling off the unexpected seemed to be a theme for most of the sports stories coming from Garfield County, Colo., in 2013.
Surprises seemed to spread like a virus last year. They came in all shapes and sizes and didn’t discriminate based on team or gender.
They came from athletes who were only 106 pounds. They also came from athletes who were well over 6-feet tall. They came from school administrators. They came from runners, skiers, basketball and football players, and even from competitors of all ages.
There wound up being so many special moments that it became difficult to arrange everything into a Top 10. Instead, everyone will get their just due mention.
Grand Valley’s Cody Pfau
Cody Pfau had garnered plenty of accomplishments over the course of her youth and high school wrestling career. None of them, however, made as much noise around Colorado as Pfau’s first-round victory in the Class 3A State Championships at the Pepsi Center in Denver.
Pfau netted a 6-5 victory over Ferdinando Martinez of Fort Lupton, becoming the first female to post a victory in the championship round of the state tournament at any level. The nail-biter match was in doubt until the final seconds, even to Pfau.
“I kind of stood there [when the match was over] and waited to see if I should be happy or not,” Pfau said on Feb. 21.
Pfau finished the tournament 2-2 and wasn’t able to reach the podium in the 106-pound bracket. Still, the win earned her recognition at the annual Sportswomen of Colorado awards banquet — where Olympic gold medalist Missy Franklin recognized her. She also wound up winning her third national wrestling championship, claiming the 105-pound title at the Junior Women’s Freestyle Nationals at the Fargodome in Fargo, N.D.
Pfau now attends Oklahoma City University, where she is currently 10-0 as a collegiate wrestler for the Stars.
Alice McKennis rises after her fall
Alice McKennis of New Castle will be on the United States Olympic team when it competes in Sochi in February. There was a time earlier this year, however, when the chances of the 24-year-old Glenwood Springs native competing for a gold medal were slim.
McKennis reached the peak of her Alpine skiing career in January when she won her first FIS World Cup race in early January in St. Anton, Austria. It was more than just a victory for McKennis — she became the fifth American to win a World Cup race that season while earning her first World Cup finish in the Top 3.
Two months later, McKennis shattered a bone in her right leg during a World Cup race in Germany, effectively ending her season. The injury broke her tibial plateau in 30 places.
That didn’t stop her from earning a spot on the 2014 Winter Olympic team. A summer full of intense rehab to earn her strength back, she’s confident that she can compete with the world’s best when the Olympic Games begin in February.
Jake White beats the odds
Another Grand Valley graduate, Jake White, had to overcome an enormous amount of adversity just to return to the playing field.
White, who was a three-sport athlete at Grand Valley High, suffered what looked to be a debilitating injury prior to the Cardinals’ first-round state playoff football game on Oct. 31, 2012. A 22-inch long piece of angle iron went through White’s left thigh — barely missing his femur — and prompted doctors to strongly consider amputation of his leg before conducting a 10-hour surgery to remove the metal.
Months of rehabilitation, fundraisers and medication followed, but White was able to return for his senior season of baseball in late February. And he wound up one of the best players in the Class 3A Western Slope League, despite a 5-12 overall record for the Cardinals, hitting .429 with 13 runs scored, 16 RBIs, four doubles, five stolen bases and a home run.
White, at the end of the season, was a first-team award winner on the WSL’s all-league team.
State track and field
Andy Bowles walked — and didn’t run — the Class 3A 300-meter hurdles final at the Class 3A State Championships in May. And by doing that, he helped the Coal Ridge Titans walk away with a trophy.
Bowles walked the race after suffering a torn ACL in the 110 hurdles final earlier in the day. He decided to walk the race to earn more points for Coal Ridge in the team standings, even after he was advised not to. It took him more than 3 minutes to finish the race, and the sellout crowd at Jefferson County in Lakewood gave him a standing ovation as he crossed the finish line.
It ended up making a difference, as the Titans wound up sweeping each of the four boys relay finals en route to a second-place finish.
Bowles wasn’t the only one who stood out. Auston Tribble of Glenwood Springs became the first hurdler in school history to win a state title in the 300 hurdles. Also earning a first was the Coal Ridge 4x400 relay team, which became the first female team in the school’s short history to win a state title.
Community reaches out to Glenwood A.D.
Glenwood Springs High School was shocked to find out that its longtime athletic director, Craig Denney, had been diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma.
Denney has been undergoing chemotherapy treatment since the diagnosis was made in November and is not expected to be able to return to work until the middle of February. An announcement of Denney’s condition was made to the GSHS student body in the third week of November.
Since then, the Glenwood community has organized several benefits and fundraisers to help with the Denney family’s medical expenses.
The Selsor sisters
Katrina and Sharaya Selsor, both graduates of Glenwood Springs High School, played key roles in helping the Colorado Mesa University women’s basketball team reach the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the first time in the school’s history.
Mesa posted a school-best 31-2 record in part thanks to Katrina Selsor, an All-American who averaged 14.4 points and a team-high 8.2 rebounds, and Sharaya Selsor, who averaged 12.4 points and hit a team-high 64 3-pointers. Sharaya Selsor had taken time off from basketball prior to the season before joining the Mavericks, helping the team post an RMAC-best 21-1 conference record.
Katrina Selsor has graduated, but Sharaya is still making an impact for Mesa. On Nov. 9, she scored 39 points in an 82-69 win over Southwestern Oklahoma State to break Mesa’s 19-year-old single-game scoring record set by Tonya Stites in 1994.
The Mavericks are ranked No. 5 in Division II with a 10-0 overall record.
Cowboy, and cowgirl up
Four rodeo youths from the Rifle and Silt area showed their stuff and then some.
Rifle Middle School student Colten Fritzlan came oh-so close to winning a national bull riding title at the National Junior High Finals Rodeo. He was bucked off just three-tenths of a second short of the 8-second mark, and judges said he likely would have won a national championship had he gone the distance. He still finished sixth in the nation, however.
One girl who did go the distance was Rifle’s Taylor Davis, who at 12 years old teamed up with Ryley Beach of Loma to win the world championship in ribbon roping at the Little Britches Rodeo in Pueblo. Coming close was Rifle High School senior Dallas Rohrig, who made the bull riding final of the National High School Finals Rodeo but was bucked off on his third and final ride in Rock Springs, Wyo., finishing fourth in the nation.
Also earning attention nationally was 14-year-old Sydney Surin, who qualified for the barrel racing semifinals of The American. It’s a first-year rodeo that will divide $2 million in prize money to the top finishers, and Surin will be the youngest competitor in the nationwide field in February in Texas.
Another local who will be competing in the semifinals for The American will be Silt’s Ronnie Will, who finished third in the same qualifying field that Surin competed in at the Larimer County Fairgrounds in Loveland.
High School football
Both the Glenwood Springs and Rifle High School football teams had impressive seasons, with each capped by appearances in the Class 3A state playoffs.
Glenwood came the furthest of the two, however. The Demons began the season with an 0-3 record that included losses to Rifle and Palisade, but reeled off victories in their final seven regular-season games to reach the state playoffs. There, as the 12th seed in the 16-team field, they earned a come-from-behind, 14-13 victory at fifth-seeded Elizabeth. The Demons eventually lost in the state quarterfinals to Delta.
Rifle put together another solid regular season, with its only loss in the Class 3A Western Slope League coming in a 28-27 setback against Palisade in Rifle. The Bears, however, finished the regular season with eight victories and shared the league championship with the Bulldogs, putting Rifle atop the WSL standings for the third consecutive season.
Rifle went to the postseason as the No. 11 seed, but lost to eventual Class 3A state champion Coronado in the first round of the state playoffs.
• A pair of Garfield County athletes earned Division I athletic scholarships. Trae Moxley of Roaring Fork is now playing football at Colorado State in Fort Collins, and Lilly McSwain of Glenwood Springs is playing soccer for the University of Denver.
• Scott Grosscup of Glenwood Springs, who ran the 2013 Boston Marathon with his family, was near the finish line when the pressure-cooker bombs were set off.