2006 Sports Year in Review (Nos. 6-10) | PostIndependent.com

2006 Sports Year in Review (Nos. 6-10)

Joelle Milholm and Phil Sandoval
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

It was a heck of a year. From gold medals in the water to world records on the slopes, 2006 was packed with jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring sports moments. With dozens of talented athletes to choose from and memorable happenings, picking the top 10 wasn’t easy, but here’s what the PI staff came up with:

Caroline Cretti’s long list of accolades grew even longer in 2006 as the Roaring Fork grad raced to her first individual track and field title at the NCAA Division III Indoor Championships in March. Then in May, she captured a 5,000-meter title at the D-III Outdoor Track and Field Championships, she also raced to a championship in the 10,000.

She won the 5,000 in 17 minutes and 12.32 seconds and cruised through the 10,000 in 35:10.42.

The 15-time All-American also holds the women’s school record at Williams College in the 5,000 and 10,000 with outdoor times of 16:29.70 and 34:35.71.

No wonder Williams track and field head coach Ralph White calls Cretti the greatest distance runner in the history of the school.

With a resume like that, Cretti is deserving of a top 10 spot as one of the best, and speediest, athletes to come out of the valley.

For most athletes, making the Olympics, not winning a medal is the main goal.

When it comes to that aspiration, Robel Teklemariam had the longest and most time-consuming trek among competitors at the 2006 Winter Games.

The process for the 1993 Colorado Rocky Mountain School graduate took years to come true.

Originally from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Teklemariam wanted to compete for his native country.

One problem. Ethiopia, at the time, didn’t recognize skiing as an Olympic sport.

It took Robel three years of cutting red tape along with visits to the Ethiopian counsel, the country’s Olympic committee and ministry and the Federation of International Skiing to plead his case.

To clear the obstacles in front of him, Teklemariam had to establish a ski federation for Ethiopia. Robel enlisted his brother Yoseph to write the bylaws and give the fledgling organization structure.

The brothers’ work impressed the Ethiopian Olympic Committee enough to give Robel the opportunity he desired.

Robel was even featured in Sports Illustrated as part of their Olympic preview edition.

At Turin, Italy, Robel participated in the Men’s 15K Classical Finals, finishing the course in 84th place.

After completing brilliant careers as high schoolers, Amber Sutherland, Leah Hinkey and Jenni Hirneisen continue to excel as key members of Division I college volleyball programs.

Sutherland, who recently completed her junior season at the University of Colorado, earned a second-team spot on the Big 12 Conference team.

A starter for the past two seasons, Sutherland, a 2004 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, was one of the Buffaloes’ team leaders in kills and blocks.

It also didn’t take long for Hinkey to establish herself once she arrived in Knoxville, after inking a full-ride scholarship to the University of Tennessee.

Thrown into the lineup immediately, the 2005 Glenwood all-stater earned her way on the Southeastern Conference freshman team.

Hirneisen, a 2002 Grand Valley grad, earned a spot on Colorado State’s roster as a non-scholarship walk-on.

Prior to transferring, Hirneisen starred at Northeastern Community College, helping that program to back-to-back top NJCAA top 15 national rankings in 2003 and 2004.

Individually, they have been on the local scene for years. So, the news of Howard Jay, Blake Risner, Jack Smith and a pair of Glenwood Springs basketball coaches walking away from their jobs hit their respective athletes hard.

Along with a lot of tears.

Jay, after 20 years as head coach of the Sopris Barracudas resigned.

So did Blake Risner. Who opted to spend more time with his growing family, after a 10-year tenure of directing the Glenwood Springers track club to national prominence.

In the years both directed the youth club programs, numbers rose appreciably.

Lacking the benefit of an indoor pool, the Barracudas’ regular summer roster hovered anywhere from 50-70 swimmers annually.

The Springers drew promising young runners throughout and beyond Garfield County. The program helped lead to some high school athletes winning state track medals and titles.

Despite exhaustive searches, both programs are currently still looking for replacements.

The number of athletes Rifle’s Jack Smith impacted over his four decades of coaching is impossible to count. During his time, he coached sports from football to basketball to baseball at Rifle High School. He directed one girls basketball team to a second-place finish in state.

When Kevin Flohr and Deb Henderson stepped down after leading Glenwood’s boys and girls basketball teams to state playoff berths, it was a surprise to many.

Peddling through the national kayaking scene, former valley residents Hanna Farrar and Ben Guska had tremendous years in the water in 2006.

Farrar, a Colorado Rocky Mountain School grad, made her way on to the U.S. kayaking team in August, which then also qualified her for the world kayaking competition in May of 2007. Farrar, who competed in the junior worlds competitions in 2003 and 2004, is now riding the pro circuit and showing she can take the water with the big girls.

Guska earned a spot on the Wave Sport Global team, touring the waters of North America, picking up sponsors and making kayaking movies. The 20-year-old Glenwood graduate is one of the youngest kayakers on the squad and also helps with Team River Runners, a program that gives injured war veterans the opportunity to kayak.

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