Happy homecoming in Rifle for Jenny LaBaw
It was a brief but happy homecoming for Jenny LaBaw, the Rifle native who is running across Colorado to raise awareness and money for epilepsy.
LaBaw started her departure from Rifle early Thursday, Oct. 8, at Rifle High School, her alma mater, where students and staff lined the driveway to send her off. More supporters held signs and cheered as she made her way down to Railroad Avenue and headed north on Highway 13.
“When your legs get tired run with your heart,” several signs read. Others simply had the title of LaBaw’s effort: “Move Mountains.”
“It was pretty special today,” said LaBaw, who was a multi-sport athlete while at Rifle High. “To go up to the high school and see Theresa Hamilton and Todd Ellis and Troy Phillips … all these faces that I grew up with.”
Although she usually returns to her hometown several times a year, the circumstances surrounding this trip brought a heightened buzz.
A day before leaving Rifle, LaBaw spoke briefly before a crowd of about 40 people, some were friends and former high school classmates, in Centennial Park. The event was organized by the owner of 1211 Fitness in Rifle, Ashley Gavito, as a way to help contribute to LaBaw’s fundraising efforts — her crowdrise.com page totaled $22,377 Wednesday evening.
Gavito, who played soccer with LaBaw at Rifle High, said she was amazed her former teammate was walking around without any discomfort, despite having made the 26-mile haul from Glenwood to Rifle the day before. “It’s incredible,” she said.
LaBaw has always been a super athlete, said Jacquelyn Johnson, another one of LaBaw’s former high school soccer teammates who came out to Centennial Park Wednesday.
Diagnosed with epilepsy at the age of 8, LaBaw now works as a professional strength and conditioning coach. She told the crowd Wednesday that she struggled with the disease for a long time and her success in CrossFit gave her a platform to bring awareness of the disease that will personally impact 1 in 26 people — a statistic gleaned from the Epilepsy Foundation, which is where the proceeds from LaBaw’s effort will go.
“What is most amazing about Jenny is she’s obviously a phenomenal athlete, but she’s an even better person,” said Lindsey Ellsworth, one of LaBaw’s good friends since childhood. Ellsworth remembered when she was 5 and her family first moved next door to the LaBaws. LaBaw, who was 4 at the time, walked into Ellsworth’s house with a toothbrush in hand and informed the family that she was going to be spending a lot of time in their home.
The story is true, LaBaw admitted. “I guess I wasn’t shy that day,” she said.
LaBaw officially passed the 300 mile mark last Thursday, leaving a little less than 200 miles. Among her plans after completing the cross-state journey later this month is a trip back to Rifle.
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Fans, players and coaches on both sides of Stubler Memorial Field seemed to know it would come down just the way it did, regardless of who had the ball at the end.