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New head coach to bring European style to Rifle varsity boys basketball

New Rifle High School basketball coach Laimutis Grybe inside the gym at the school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Laimis Grybe finds relaxation from the basketball court. From his young days in Lithuania to his new role as head coach of Rifle High School’s boys varsity basketball team, it’s been the place Grybe has felt he can best be himself.

He almost takes on a new persona.

“Friends have said that to me. They’re like, ‘You’re a different person,’” Grybe said. “When I get on the court, whether I’m on the bench coaching or playing it, I forget about everything that’s going on. I’m just in the zone doing things basketball. It recharges me.”

After four years helming the junior varsity girls squad, the slender, 6-foot 4-inch, shaved-head Baltic man makes the transition over to head coach of the boys program. This fall, he guided the boys soccer club to a 5-8 finish, a sharp improvement from the 0-10 record the team had in the spring season. Grybe said he never played on a soccer team, but “being from Europe, everyone loves soccer.”

He had enough rudimentary knowledge of the sport to lead the team’s talent and took a team-first, chemistry-based approach. They had team breakfasts and played airsoft soccer, in which they “try to score while shooting at each other.”

“He has a passion for coaching and wants to make sure every team is doing good,” Rifle High School soccer and basketball player Javier Salgado said. “He’s just really humble and looks out for everyone.”

New Rifle High School basketball coach Laimutis Grybe inside the gym at the school.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Now, Grybe is taking the same approach to his happy place and to the sport he knows. He wants to prioritize that team-first mentality and spread the wealth.

Also a math teacher at the school, he used numbers to pitch his new triangle offense strategy to his players.

“I said, ‘There’s 10 of you on the varsity bench. If all 10 of you score three buckets, how many points is that?’ They sit there, think through it, and go, ‘Oh, 60,’” Grybe said.

If the Bears scored 60 in each of their games from the spring season, they would have gone undefeated. Their highest scoring game was a 56-50 win over Glenwood Springs on March 3.

It’s a style that he crafted since he first picked up a ball at 6 years old. It helped him as an exchange student at Murphy High School in Murphy, North Carolina, as the team went to its first — and only, according to Grybe — trip to the state championships in the 1995-96 season. His playing career peaked as a semi-pro for his hometown in Lithuania.

In the United States, however, it’s a style that goes against the grain. American basketball is dominated by singular stars like LeBron James and Nikola Jokic or super teams.

“I don’t like watching that kind of basketball,” Grybe said. “That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, is to get them out of that mentality that every time they touch the ball they have to score by themselves without the others’ help.”

Grybe is also realistic about the ceiling for a lot of his players, saying that the players that can be good teammates and share the ball are going to be the ones that might move on to a junior college or Division III school. Because of that, he’s prioritizing character and being a member of a group along with other skills that will translate outside of sports.

Along with girls coach Eric Caro, the two teams and the school as a whole are trying to build a stronger sense of community. The girls and boys basketball teams scrimmaged on Wednesday evening.

“He did some pretty amazing things with those kids during the soccer season,” Rifle High School Athletic Director Chris Bomba said. “He believes in the processes we have in making these kids just good people above the basketball skill.”

Grybe took the helm just a week before Thanksgiving break, two weeks before a nonleague game against Coal Ridge on Nov. 30. It’s a small window to implement a new system, but it’s one he hopes will endure for the long haul and make the Bears competitive for years to come.

Grybe’s youngest child is in sixth grade and he maintains that he and his family are “rooted here.”

“It takes extra time to change a culture,” Grybe said.

For the foreseeable future, Jack Smith Gymnasium will be Laimis Grybe’s charging station.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

Sports programs scrambling after Glenwood Springs Ice Rink goes out indefinitely

Glenwood Springs High School head hockey coach Tim Cota runs through drills with players during practice at the ice rink.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A mechanical failure at the Glenwood Springs Ice Rink disabled the cooling system, leading to the shutdown of the facility for the foreseeable future and cancellation or relocation of all programming just as local youth hockey programs get underway.

Red tape, system complications, supply chain and other issues have thawed the sheet for the foreseeable future.

“We’re doing everything that we can and are working to determine when we might be able to get the rink back up, but the rink is not expected to be back online for many weeks,” Glenwood Springs Public Information Officer Bryana Starbuck said in a statement. “The City of Glenwood Springs has made this a high priority; however, there are a lot of variables and unknowns at this point, and unfortunately, we do not have an estimated reopening date at this time.”

An elbow fitting in the refrigerant system failed Nov. 14, leading to a leak, according to the city.

To compound issues, it is not yet known if low pressure sensors functioned properly and shut down the system’s four compressors. All four of the compressors may have experienced some level of damage and at least one may have been damaged irreparably. The compressors can only be tested once the refrigerant is replaced, which presents another set of challenges and delays.

The freon refrigerant used in the system is no longer permitted by the Environmental Protection Agency and was grandfathered in from the old system. Starbuck said that acquiring a new, EPA-approved refrigerant could take several weeks due to global supply chain issues.

Only once all leaks are sealed, refrigerant purchased and compressors tested and fixed can ice be made, which in itself could take up to 10 days if warm temperatures persist.

In the meantime, the facility’s public programs are on hold, and local hockey clubs are having to get creative to continue practices and games.

Hockey organizations scramble

The Glenwood Springs High School Demons and Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association began a desperate search for ice slots locally, forced to travel as far as Grand Junction to lace their skates.

Both groups sent players to Grand Junction’s River City Sportplex — formerly known as the Glacier Ice Arena. It’s an hour and a half drive from Glenwood Springs, a distance made feasible only by the flexibility of Thanksgiving break. Open slots for rent are sparse, and many are available only in the morning or midday, which don’t work when students are in school.

The Demons have used Stubler Memorial Field — the high school’s football field — for “dry practice,” doing conditioning and other drills. With their first game scheduled for Dec. 3 at Mullen, it’s crunch time to prepare a roster that saw more than 10 seniors graduate in May.

A Glenwood Springs High School hockey player waits for instruction during practice at the ice rink before the start of last year’s season.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

“We’ve got just under two weeks until our first game, and it’s really important for us to just be getting out as a team and working hard, getting into shape, even off the ice,” Glenwood Springs High School hockey player Aiden Senn said.

A bright spot in the situation, however, is for eight of the team’s players that reside in the Grand Junction area to begin with. Junior Kaleb Holm goes to school in Fruita and grew up in Mesa County. He, along with seven other players, make daily commutes to Glenwood Springs for hockey practice since there’s no high school program there. The players trade off driving responsibilities and often have to leave school early.

The rink being down has provided a role reversal for Holm after making the trip east for the past two seasons.

“It’s nice to pay it forward and have them see what it’s like to come down here,” Holm said. “It’s definitely so nice just to be able to drive 10 minutes to practice. I make sure to let everyone know to have safe travels back home when practice is over.”

For the youth hockey organization, the challenge is only amplified with its 150-plus players. They’ve done off-ice training at the Glenwood Springs Community Center and sent players to Eagle and Grand Junction.

Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association Executive Director T.K. Kwiatkowski said participation is down around 50% at practices outside Glenwood Springs.

A youth hockey player practices at the new basketball court at Sayre Park while the ice rink at the Glenwood Springs Community Center is down for repairs.
Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association/Courtesy

“This time off the ice is going to be detrimental to our player development,” Kwiatkowski said. “The other associations who are taking Thanksgiving off or take Christmas break off, those are three weeks that we use to catch up.”

Because the Glenwood rink is outdoors, it is dependent on weather factors for operation — part of the reason there could be a delay reopening the rink. It also leads to a later season, giving Glenwood-based teams a later start on their home season than other teams with indoor accommodations.

The youth hockey association began programming Nov. 1 and hosted two league jamboree weekends before shutting down.

Kwiatkowski said the association lost three key events to the closure already, including a Try Hockey for Free event, a Skatesgiving fundraiser event and a Mite Jamboree, which can bring in more than 200 kids.

In his optimistic mind, Kwiatkowski sees the indefinite closure as “conservative,” and hopes to see the rink open sooner rather than later.

The youth organization has games scheduled Dec. 11-12 and the Demons’ first home game is slated for Dec. 17. As of now, those games have not yet been rescheduled.

Reporter Rich Allen can be reached at 970-384-9131 or rallen@postindependent.com.

Aspen Mountain, Snowmass will open on Thanksgiving Day with combined 57 acres

Crews work Monday morning to set up at Gondola Plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain. Aspen Skiing Co. announced Monday that opening day Thursday will include 50 acres at the top of Aspen Mountain and skiers and snowboarders will have to download on the Silver Queen Gondola.
David Krause / The Aspen Times

Aspen Mountain and Snowmass Ski Area will open as scheduled on Thanksgiving Day despite the challenges presented by warm and generally dry weather.

Aspen Mountain will open with 50 acres of terrain at the top of the mountain accessed by the Ajax Express and Gent’s Ridge chairlifts. Uploading and downloading will be required on the Silver Queen Gondola.

The open trails on Thanksgiving Day on Aspen Mountain will include portions of Silver Bell, Upper Copper, Lazy Boy and Deer Park. The lifts will run 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and the Sundeck will also be open for food and beverages.

Snowmass will open with 7 acres in the Elk Camp Meadows learning area. Uploading and downloading will be required on the Elk Camp Gondola.

“We’re thrilled to be open,” Katie Ertl, Skico senior vice president of mountain operations, said Monday. “Amid a challenging start to winter, it has been great to see our teams come together to give us all the chance to get out on the hill and make some turns. We will continue to work hard to open more terrain as we get cold temperatures and more natural snow, and we’ll have a ton of people working out on the hill, so please be alert and aware out there.”

Aspen Highlands and Buttermilk are scheduled to open Dec. 11. Skico will celebrate its 75th year in business this season, with special events marking the occasion throughout the winter.

Aspen Mountain’s expanded snowmaking system paid dividends for the second season in a row. Skico added snowmaking to limited terrain on the upper one-third of the mountain prior to the 2019-20 season.

Without that expanded systems, it is likely the opening would have been delayed this season.

Visitors walk around the base of Aspen Mountain on Monday morning. Aspen Skiing Co. announced it will open Thursday with 50 acres at the top of Aspen Mountain with downloading required on the Silver Queen Gondola.
David Krause / The Aspen Times

Lift tickets are $149 for adults and $99 for children, teens and seniors. Sightseeing tickets are $40 for adults and $30 for children, teens and seniors.

At Snowmass, access will be free on Thursday and Friday. Starting Saturday, tickets will be $40 for adults and $30 for children, teens and seniors for sightseeing as well as skiing and riding.

The Elk Camp Gondola will provide access to the beginner terrain at Elk Camp Meadows as well as the Breathtaker Coaster and the Elk Camp Restaurant. A small terrain park will open on Fanny Hill and the climbing wall at the Limelight Hotel Snowmass will open in the afternoons.

The Ski & Snowboard School will offer both group and private lessons for all ages at Snowmass, including children’s lessons out of the Treehouse Kids’ Adventure Center. Private lessons will be available at Aspen Mountain. Four Mountain Sports will be open for rentals and gear.

Per Pitkin County guidelines, masks are required in all indoor facilities. For these guidelines, gondolas are considered to be indoor spaces and masks are required. For full COVID-19 procedures and information visit www.aspensnowmass.com/safety/covid19-operating-procedures.

The Aspen Snowmass app will be updated with tracking, snow reporting, parking lot status and skier information as well as on-demand, on-mountain dining options for takeout. For more information, visit: www.aspensnowmass.com/aspen-snowmass-app/mobile-app.

This is a developing article that will be updated.

Sports briefs: Turkey trots abound for an active start to your Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving morning turkey trot fun runs of varying distances are being planned for Rifle, Carbondale and Basalt on Thursday morning. Here’s the lineup:

Basalt Elementary hosts Gobble Wobble

Basalt Elementary School hosts its fifth annual Gobble Wobble fundraiser for STEM and other supplemental programming at the school, starting at 9:30 a.m., with race-day registration getting underway outside the school at 8:30 a.m.

“The Gobble Wobble has been a tremendous funding source for our Parent Engagement Group,” BES Principal Grant Waaler said. “Having such an upbeat and active outdoor event involving the entire community embodies many character traits that we strive to instill in our young students.”

Participants can register online at bit.ly/basaltgobble and can choose to either complete the 5K run or a 1 mile fun run. The cost to register individually is $20 per adult and $10 per child. A family of up to five can register and receive a capped entry fee of $50.

The first 100 adults to register receive a swag gift; the first 60 children that register will receive a Pop-It. All who register receive a prize drawing ticket.

Carbondale Turkey Trot

The Carbondale Recreation Department puts on the annual Carbondale Turkey Trot 5K or 1-Mile fun run, beginning at 9:30 a.m. outside the Rec Center.

Race day registration starts at 9 a.m., or register online at carbondalerec.com. Cost is $12 for adults, $7 for youth ages 3-17 and seniors 62 and older.

Rifle High School Turkey Trot

Rifle High School hosts its annual Turkey Trot 5K beginning at Deerfield Park, 300 E. 30th St. Little Gobblers run at 9:15 a.m., Big Gobblers at 9:30 a.m.

The event serves as a fundraiser for the RHS track team. Cost is $30 for individuals, or $100 for the family. Info at RacePlace.com/Rifle High School Turkey Trot.

“Last year we had participants from states that included Arizona and Texas,” according to the event website. “We are excited for the opportunity to host a community/country event and get people out and about to enjoy this great holiday together.”

Burn the Turkey 5K

For some post-Thanksgiving calorie burning, Anytime Fitness on Colorado Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale hosts its third Burn the Turkey 5K at 10 a.m. Friday.

Canned food and cash donations go to LIFT-UP for its food assistance programs. Enjoy a beer at Ball Brewery afterwards.

Community profile: Vanderhoof a lifelong Barracuda, champion for youth swimming in Glenwood Springs

Glenwood Springs High School swim coach and longtime Team Sopris club coach Steve Vanderhoof coaches high school swimmers during a practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

For a town with a culture revolving in large part around water — from its world-famous hot springs to the confluence of two popular recreational rivers — it should come as no surprise that Glenwood Springs is home to one of the premier swimming programs in Colorado.

Going back to the very beginnings of the Team Sopris Barracudas swim club, there’s been a mainstay who has helped keep it going for 50 years.

Glenwood Springs native Steve Vanderhoof swam on the very first Barracuda Swim Team in 1970 at the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, and remembers his mother, Eddi Vanderhoof, teaching him how to swim in the uniquely warm water.

Today, now 63, Vanderhoof serves as the head coach for the Team Sopris youth program as well as the GSHS girls and boys swim teams.

He fondly recalls those humble beginnings.

“They had the Learn to Swim program at the Hot Springs back then, and they’d do sessions for 9-, 10-, 11-year-olds where we’d spread out into different groups in the shallow end,” he said.

By 1970, when he was entering junior high, the Glenwood Barracudas formed as a summer-only youth swim club team. Vanderhoof was among the founding members.

A few years later, “We tried to get the high school to do a team, but they wouldn’t let us,” he said.

So, during the school year when high school swim season rolled around, Vanderhoof and a handful of other coachless swimmers would take the bus on their own to Golden to compete in a big swim meet.

The success of the local club program through the years, especially after the Glenwood Springs Community Center pool was built in the early 2000s, eventually spawned Glenwood Springs High School girls and boys swim teams. The Demons have since had a fair amount of success at the individual and team level, producing several collegiate swimmers in the process.

Among them was one of Steve and wife Wendy Vanderhoof’s daughters, Kendall, who was an All-American swimmer for Kenyon College in Ohio from 2017-20, a stretch that included a third-place finish in the mile swim at the NCAA 2018 Championships and fourth in that event the following year.

Hometown kid

Glenwood Springs High School swim coach Steve Vanderhoof walks down the length of the lap lane pool during swim practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Vanderhoof was born and raised in Glenwood Springs, attending GSHS from 1973-76, then studying at Mesa State (now Colorado Mesa University) in Grand Junction and the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.

“I played basketball in high school. That was my passion, along with swimming,” he said, adding his older brother, David, also swam with the Barracudas.

It was at UNC that he took a swim coaching class and read the works of renowned swimming coach James “Doc” Counsilman, considered the father of competitive swimming in the United States.

“I took that class, and then I coached the Barracudas for three summers,” Vanderhoof said of his early coaching days.

He swam competitively for one semester at UNC, but said that without the benefit of a year-round program he quickly found he wasn’t as fast or in the same condition as the athletes who had devoted more time to the sport.

He kept swimming to stay in shape, adding running and cycling to his regimen and eventually taking up triathlons.

He met his wife, Wendy, while growing up in Glenwood Springs. After college, Steve went into the banking business with his father, the late Don Vanderhoof, whose family had founded the Glenwood Industrial Bank. Don, who died in 2017, later served on Glenwood Springs City Council, including two years as mayor.

After about 40 years in banking, including stints with what eventually became Glenwood Independent Bank and its successors, then retiring from US Bank a few years ago, Steve focused his attention on swim coaching.

Program growth

Vanderhoof recalls the transformation of the Barracudas from a summertime program to a year-round program, which coincided with the construction of the aquatics facility at the Glenwood Community Center.

Prior to that, the program had bounced between the Hot Springs Pool, Carbondale’s John Fleet municipal pool and even the indoor pool at the former Sunlight Racquet Club.

“The Barracudas are the ones that really pushed to get this thing open, raising dollars through the ‘lap campaign,’” he said.

That campaign eventually raised over $1 million, and the swim club was on its way to having a legitimate year-round training facility.

He vividly remembers introducing his own daughters, Kendall and her younger sister, Kaitlyn, to competitive swimming, perhaps a little too early after they’d been used to swimming at the Hot Springs.

“They loved swimming, but we brought them over here (to the Community Center pool) with coach Howard Jay, and he had everybody get in the pool all at once and swim to the other side,” Vanderhoof said. “They made it about halfway and got out crying, the water was so cold.”

They waited another year, and by then Kendall and Kaitlyn were all in, he said. Kaitlyn attends Colorado State University but didn’t take her swimming to the intercollegiate level.

Vanderhoof didn’t coach in the club program in those early days at the Community Center but took on the high school teams at different times.

He’s now coached the GSHS girls for eight years and the boys for seven, and six years ago took the helm as head coach of the Barracudas Team Sopris age groups.

After dropping to around 30 swimmers prior to him taking over, the club program has grown in recent years to about 90 youth swimmers, ages 7 to 18, and a smaller contingent of adult “Masters” swimmers.

That growth occurred even during the pandemic, when swimming was one of the few youth activities that was deemed safe to do with certain safety protocols in place.

“Through COVID, we managed to stay open after a break from the pool (in the spring of 2020) and came back in June-July. We’ve been in here ever since and able to stay safe and stay connected at the same time,” Vanderhoof said.

Even during the break, the club members would have dryland training via Zoom, including yoga and conditioning sessions, and even fun games to keep the kids engaged, he said.

“I think more than anything else they just liked to get on there and see all their friends, so that was kind of fun,” he said.

Meanwhile, the high school teams have excelled, with the Lady Demons having won back-to-back conference titles in 2020 and 2021, and placing several individual swimmers and divers at state while placing third as a team. Vanderhoof was named conference coach of the year.

The Demons boys team also won the Southwest Conference championship this past spring and sent several swimmers to state after having the 2020 season called off due to the pandemic.

Swim team parent Tiffany Lindenberg acknowledged Vanderhoof for keeping the programs together, even with the challenges presented by the pandemic.

“Steve’s commitment to getting the kids back in the pool when everything was shut down is a testament to his dedication to this team,” she said. “The time commitment it took to make all of this happen was absurd, but his ultimate goal was to figure out how to get the kids back to swimming.”

As a result, the Barracudas were able to hold a swim meet in September 2020, but with a long list of safety measures.

“In the end, it was a huge success,” Lindenberg said. “What stands out most to me about Steve is the positive relationships he is able to build almost immediately with kids.”

Lindenberg’s son Hazen is in the sixth grade and is a club swimmer, and their daughter Ella is a senior on the GSHS team.

“Steve is kind and encouraging to all families and swimmers, and his interactions are intentional,” Ella Lindenberg offered. “He is mindful of each swimmer and helps them find the best version of themself both in and out of the pool.”

Coaching philosophy

Glenwood Springs High School swim coach Steve Vanderhoof coaches swimmers during a practice at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Beyond teaching conditioning and swim stroke technique, Vanderhoof says much of his approach to coaching revolves around role modeling.

That seems to resonate especially with the high school girls program, he said.

“I’ve taught some of these girls how to swim as freshmen, who’ve gone on to be state qualifiers as a senior,” he said. “We’re giving them a lifelong skill and some self-confidence, so that’s pretty special. And a lot of it is just making kids into good adults.”

That’s also evident in the programs’ recent success at having Glenwood swimmers continue and even excel at the collegiate level.

“It’s always fun to see those really good swimmers, and we have a few of them right now, where they have really good support and they work their butts off, and they can probably pick almost any college they want,” he said.

That’s something he talks about with the younger swimmers during their routine goals sessions. Some take it to heart, eyeing the junior nationals or even the Olympic trials, Vanderhoof said.

Last year’s GSHS girls broke eight individual event school records at the 3A state meet.

A contingent of divers, coached by Lara Claassen, rounded out the Lady Demons swim team in recent years, helping them go undefeated through last season and turning heads at the state meet.

As seniors last year, Libby Claassen was named Class 3A Diver of the Year, and Abby Scruton signed to both dive and play soccer for the Division I program at St. Francis College in New York City.

Several swimmers have also crossed over to do well in other sports, including cross country and track. That, in turn, has produced a few triathlete prospects heading into college, he said.

As for continuing on with coaching even after his own daughters have graduated, “It gives me something to do, and it’s fun. I love to see the kids succeed and become good adults.”

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.

On the Fly column: Finding your magic

A local brown trout. Kara Moore/courtesy photo

Fly-fishing serves different people in different ways. For many, getting out on the river and being immersed in nature is all one needs, using the time as a meditation, and landing a fish is just a bonus. Others are addicted to the tug, and will drive miles on end for a chance to tangle with a trophy fish. It is hard to deny that fly fishing holds magic, but where one sees it differs from person to person.

Floating down the Roaring Fork as the sun slowly drops below the mountains while our famous green drakes pour off the river is nirvana for some. Other anglers might say floating is a little too fast-paced, and prefer the beauty of what they find while wading; appreciating the stillness, the sound of the river and listening to the wildlife sing their sweet song throughout the seasons.

Some anglers might find our local rivers in summertime a little too crowded for their liking, and resort to using their feet to go the extra mile, where they can find paradise in the high country. Catching trophy fish is not a concern to those who search for the magic above tree line. Throwing hoppers in crystal-clear streams or pristine mountain lakes for eager cutthroats and brook trout can be as good as it gets. Winter dry fly fishing on the Fryingpan with no crowds is a draw for many as well.

When it comes down to it, fly-fishing is a little more than just fishing. For all of us who call the Roaring Fork Valley home, we are doubly blessed with the amount of public land and water we are able to explore throughout the year. For instance, we have the opportunity to be able to ski our world-famous mountains in the morning and fish Gold Medal waters in the afternoon; let’s just say we are pretty darn lucky. Wouldn’t you agree?

This report is provided every week by Taylor Creek Fly Shops in Aspen and Basalt. Taylor Creek can be reached at 970-927-4374 or TaylorCreek.com.

Junior Gents to begin prep for 2022 rugby season, looking for a new set of recruits

The Junior Gents rugby team practices on Thursday, March 8, 2018, in Willits.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Before winter fully sets in, the Aspen Junior Gents rugby team hopes to get a head start on its upcoming season and is looking to recruit some fresh talent to the pitch.

The high school-level program is planning a training session this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. on the field in Willits, which is home base for the side during the season, and will train until Mother Nature forces them indoors.

“We’ll get serious in February again to get ready for the season,” coach Cameron McIntyre said. “Due to the COVID thing, we’ve lost quite a lot of guys who were there. But the guys who were with us when we had our state playoff run as freshmen, they will be back in the fray as seniors.”

The Jr. Gents are an offshoot of the Gentlemen of Aspen Rugby Club, which earlier in the fall won its latest Aspen Ruggerfest championship at Wagner Park in downtown Aspen. The younger side competes statewide through Rugby Colorado, which is not affiliated with the Colorado High School Activities Association.

Playing for the Jr. Gents is open to anyone in high school in the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding communities. The bulk of the roster in recent years has come from Basalt and Glenwood Springs, although McIntyre would love to recruit players from as far as Rifle if they are interested. The season begins in late February and runs into May.

Many former football players have made the transition to rugby through the Jr. Gents over the years. No prior rugby experience is required. McIntyre is selling it as a fun, contact sport to discover now that the fall football season is concluded for area teams.

The team already has a couple of strong players to build around ahead of 2022 in Glenwood’s Sawyer McKenney and Cadin Howe. Howe spent the past year back in South Africa at a rugby school and is set to soon return to the valley.

To reach out about joining the team, contact McIntyre via email at camaroonmci11@live.com or by phone at 970-379-4740.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Glenwood Springs places four on Western Slope League all-conference roster

Glenwood High School’s Charlotte Olszweski spikes the ball at Aspen on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, inside the AHS gymnasium. The Skiers won, 3-2.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

A strong frontcourt presence landed four Demons on the 4A Western Slope League volleyball all-conference roster following the fall season.

Senior middle blocker Charlotte Olszewski and junior setter Mattea Enewold landed on the first team. Senior libero Kenzie Winder and sophomore setter Rilyn Goluba were named honorable mentions.

“We had a good season overall,” Glenwood Springs interim coach — who has since resigned — Lynn Goluba said. “We are fairly young and we had an opportunity for the younger girls to get a lot of experience on the court this season.”

According to MaxPreps data, Enewold led league play with 52 blocks, nearly double second place. Enewold was the only qualified player with more than a block per set in the 10-match interleague season. She was also fourth with 181 assists.

“Mattea ended the season in the top 10 for blocking, assists, kills, aces and hitting,” Goluba said. “She obviously is a solid all-around player.”

Olszewski finished third in league play with a .277 hitting percentage while holding down the middle of the front court for the Demons. She tied for second in the league in blocks behind Enewold with 28.

Winer’s 179 digs led WSL in-league competition. The senior also served as captain for the team.

“Kenzie stepped away from her previous role as a hitter to fill a vacant libero position,” Lynn Goluba said. “She was a great captain, role model and was selected as MVP by her teammates.”

Rilyn Goluba — the daughter of interim coach Lynn Goluba — is one of five sophomores to earn all-conference recognition. Only one was named to the first team. No freshmen made the list.

She was sixth in kills and fifth in assists in league competition.

Glenwood Springs finished the season 10-13 overall and went 5-5 in league play to finish fourth in the standings. An 8-3 stretch from Sept. 4 to Oct. 2 — including a five-game winning streak — propelled the Demons to a 9-8 overall record and 5-3 in league at the time before a five-game losing streak against tough opponents ended their league calendar at .500 and dropped their overall standings.

The Demons’ winning percentage improved from the 5-8 spring season as the program looks to return to its dominant state in the previous year, when they went 20-5 overall and 11-1 to win the league title.

Garrison’s track scholarship first Division I full ride in Coal Ridge history

Coal Ridge junior Peyton Garrison pushes across the finish line Saturday as the Titans’ 4x400 relay team took gold at the 3A State Track and Field Championships in Lakewood.
Cody Jones/Post Independent

In Ben Kirk’s fondest memory of Peyton Garrison, she’s chugging pickle juice.

Garrison had just won her first state championship title in the 100-meter dash, the race she was most concerned about entering the state championship meet in Lakewood in June. After the podium photo, Kirk expected to meet her — and a celebration — at base camp. Instead, she was slamming a half a jar of pickle juice, getting mentally and physically prepared for her next race, the 400 meters — which she also won.

“She didn’t want to take about the 100,” the Coal Ridge athletic director and track and field coach remembers. “She was just ready for the next thing. That’s always her. She never focuses on, ‘I’ve done this.’ It’s just, ‘What’s the next thing I can accomplish?’”

As it turned out, there were a lot of next things for Garrison to accomplish. She’s a two-time all-conference runner and one-time all-conference volleyball player. She won four state championship events.

For Coal Ridge, Garrison accomplished several firsts. She led track and field to its first team championship. She was, as far as Kirk could tell, the school’s first statewide Athlete of the Year.

On Tuesday, yet another accomplishment blazed another trail for her fellow Titans — signing a letter of intent on a Division I full-ride athletic scholarship to Montana State University. Never before had a Titan had their full college tuition paid for by an athletics scholarship, according to Kirk.

Broaching yet another frontier, however, has still not changed Garrison’s mindset.

“It’s exciting,” Garrison said. “I don’t let myself get ahead of myself knowing, ‘OK, I did that, but I know I can do more.’ I’m not going to let that limit myself.”

Coal Ridge High School’s Peyton Garrison signs her national letter of intent to Montana State University on Nov. 16.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

It’s a mentality that propelled Garrison to being the top running collegiate prospect in the state, as some coaches told Kirk. Early on, Kirk saw what he had in Garrison and pushed the envelope. He ran her with the boys in practice. He tasked her with competing in extra events throughout the season just to better prepare her for state competitions.

Whatever he threw at her, she grinned and rose to the challenge.

“Most kids, if I put them in that kind of situation, they would either complain about it or they wouldn’t run them at the highest level,” Kirk said. “It was just typical Peyton. She’s like, ‘Love it, let’s do it.’”

Even in her other sports of volleyball and basketball (she’s not playing this year), the work ethic bleeds in. She secured an all-conference volleyball spot as the team’s outside hitter this season as the Titans made a late push to reach the regional round of the playoffs.

“There’s always a desire to be better at what she does,” Coal Ridge volleyball head coach Aimee Gerber said. “I’ve never seen her not get along with her teammates. I’ve also always been impressed with … she has this special gift that not everyone gets with her running ability, and she’s very humble about it and grateful for it and just an overall hard worker.”

After compounding on an obvious talent early on to turn into a state champion, the college calls started coming. Colorado Mesa University, Colorado State University, University of Wyoming and others picked up the phone.

But after a trip to Bozeman a week before signing plus a full-tuition scholarship, the temptation to become a Bobcat was too strong to pass up. Garrison will not only continue her running career but will also get to study equine science at no expense.

“Them being very well in agriculture was a big piece in the decision for me to go there,” Garrison said. “Their offer was a big part. also. and them giving me a full-ride was a big part. also. I was like, ‘100%. I’ll take that.’”

The letter of intent may be signed, but there’s still work to be done before the Titans see Garrison off to Bozeman. There’s another track season to try to claim more medals.

Earning a full-ride scholarship would be a sense of accomplishment enough, maybe even prompt a tactical business decision to take the foot off the gas in the senior season for some. But that wouldn’t be ‘Peyton-like,’ as Kirk calls it.

“It makes me almost want to work harder to get those times I want,” Garrison said. “OK, I signed, but I still have goals and achievements that I still need to make.

“Winning state again is what I want.”

Coal Ridge High School’s Peyton Garrison signs her national letter of intent to Montana State University on Nov. 16.
Rich Allen/Post Independent

 

Standout Glenwood runner Ella Johnson plans to continue on at collegiate level with Air Force Academy

Glenwood Springs High School senior cross country and track runner Ella Johnson has committed to attend the Air Force Academy.
Chelsea Self/Post Independent

Glenwood Springs High School senior distance runner Ella Johnson is flying high at the prospect of being able to take her talents to the U.S. Air Force Academy next year.

Johnson signed her letter of intent last week to run cross country and track for the Falcons, and is now going through the process to be formally admitted to the Colorado Springs military academy.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Johnson said. “I always thought when I was younger that I would be a soccer player in college.”

In fact, up until her sophomore year when she became known as one of the top distance runners in the state with a fifth-place finish at the 4A cross country championships, soccer was her primary focus.

“Running just kind of took over after that,” said Johnson, who took fourth at the state cross country meet in both her junior and senior years.

On the track, Johnson placed fourth at state last June in the 3200 meters as a junior and was part of the Lady Demons’ third-place 4×800 meter relay team at the state meet.

“I’m super excited and super grateful to even get this opportunity,” she said of having a chance to run at the Division I collegiate level.

First things first, though.

Acceptance to a military academy is based in part on receiving a congressional nomination. She interviews this weekend with the office of Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., to obtain that important nod of approval.

She has the chops. Her grandfather was a military pilot but not for the U.S. He flew with Great Britain’s Royal Air Force.

As for herself, Johnson is interested in studying astronautical engineering and hopes to one day work with the newly commissioned U.S. Space Force.

Johnson said she became familiar with the picturesque Air Force Academy campus playing soccer tournaments there when she was younger.

“I just always thought it was such a cool place,” she said.

When she began looking at colleges, she reached out to the Air Force cross country coach Ryan Cole, and things progressed from there.

“We kept talking, and he asked how my season was going,” she said. “Then I had an official visit there in August, and that’s what really solidified my interest in going to the Academy.”

GSHS senior Ella Johnson, center, signs her letter of intent to run track and cross country for the Air Force Academy at a signing ceremony on Nov. 12. She was joined by her parents, Erik and Jessie Johnson and sister Aver.
Glenwood Springs High School Athletics/Courtesy photo

Longtime Glenwood Springs High School cross country and track assistant coach Kim Worline said she recognized something special about Johnson early on.

“Ella has always been a really strong athlete, and the beautiful thing about high school is you get to participate in multiple sports and see what you really like,” Worline said.

In addition to cross country, track and soccer, Johnson also plays basketball for the Demons.

“Her sophomore year, we really started to see that she is a gifted runner, and she also really loves to run and loves to compete,” Worline said. “It’s an absolute pleasure and honor to coach Ella. She’s humble, kind, has a strong work ethic and has really grown in her leadership skills.”

Johnson grew up in Glenwood Springs and is the daughter of Erik and Jessie Johnson. She has a younger sister, Aver.

Ella said she is looking forward to basketball season and plans to again play soccer and run track in the spring.

“I’m not ready to let soccer go just yet,” she said. “Doubling up really helps me with the time management aspect.”

Johnson also points to head Lady Demons basketball coach Rhonda Moser, a Navy veteran, as one of her inspirations.

“So, yeah, she’s been really good to talk to and learn from about her experiences,” Johnson said.

She is focused on improving her times on the track come spring, and looks to her teammates to help her along there.

Junior Sophia Connerton-Nevin has been a running buddy of hers since middle school, and with a little more natural speed than Johnson has helped her to improve her middle distance times, she said.

“There’s always room to improve, and I know I can always be faster and stronger,” Johnson said.

Johnson said her treadmill at home faces a wall with her goals written in front of her so she can focus on improving and achieving those goals.

“This sport has brought me so many opportunities, and I’ve been able to run in such cool places and meet so many new people,” she said. “I look forward to more of those opportunities.”

Academically, Johnson is currently vice president of the GSHS STEM Club, is a National Honor Society member and is in the Spanish Honor Society.

Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or jstroud@postindependent.com.