A year of victories, inspiration
Here are Post Independent sports stories of the year Nos. 1 through 5.1. Red, White and Due! Grand Valley boys win state hoops titleGrand Valley took the underdog tag and ran with it in the March state tournament, parlaying the No. 5 seed in the eight-team bracket into a Class 2A boys basketball title. The Cards used their run-and-gun offense to outfire teams, scoring 78.7 points a game and winning by an average margin of 15.7 points in its three state tourney games at Pueblo Event Center. Lots of transition layups and 3-pointers went into those numbers.Grand Valley, with five seniors that played together for the most part since grade school (Sam McKinley, Mitch Belden, Richard Gallegos, Luke Braby and Danny Manzanares), capped its historic run with an 84-75 win over Burlington in the final.”Praise God. It is a dream come true, really,” said Braby after beating Burlington. “It’s my last game, and I am going out on top. The fab five, the seniors, the team – we did it. I feel like we shocked the world. We put Grand Valley on the map.”The Cardinals, coached by Scott Kiburis, finished the season with a 22-4 overall record.
Local running icon Paul Driskill nearly lost his life in a Sept. 22 hit-and-run accident that left him severely injured. But that did little to slow the 70-year-old former teacher, who ran roughly 15 miles a day prior to the accident, which cut short one of those famed morning runs.Exactly two months after the horrific happening, on Thanksgiving Day, Driskill beat the odds and returned to the race course for Glenwood Springs’ annual Turkey Trot 5K. The man who’s run races in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1972 sported a cane and had assistance from his granddaughter, Rebecca Cossins, but through sheer resolve he didn’t miss out on the race he’s never missed.”With Paul here, the spirit and tradition of the Turkey Day 5K continues,” Turkey Day 5K co-director Karen Greenwood said on race day.Added race participant Rick Chavez: “I remember seeing Mr. Driskill out there every day pounding the pavement. As kids, none of us would run unless we were playing a game of some kind. Now we’re all training and running races. He must have inspired us when we were young and we didn’t even know it.”
Glenwood Springs High School and winning football haven’t been synonymous for some time, but in 2007 the Demons returned to gridiron glory by making the playoffs for just the second time in 17 years.Led by junior quarterback Dakota Stonehouse and his 48 total touchdowns – 31 through the air and 17 on the ground – Glenwood posted a 10-0 regular-season record and won the Class 3A Western Slope League title.No Demon team had been perfect in the regular season since the 1979 team entered the playoffs 9-0. Glenwood won state titles in 1978 and 1980 during the program’s late 1970s-early ’80s heyday, to which the 2007 Demons drew countless comparisons.Unfortunately, the regular-season success didn’t translate into postseason glory. Glenwood suffered a devastating 28-27 overtime defeat to visiting Sterling in the opening round. Adding to the pain, the Tigers toppled the Demons with a dramatic, all-or-nothing two-point conversion run.”We’re still proud of ourselves,” Glenwood’s Kevin Screen said after the loss. “We have to keep our heads high. We’re the first league champs in a while, but it’s tough to go out in the first round.”
A midseason meniscus tear did little to slow down Rifle senior wrestler Tim Long, who battled back and tore through the 152-pound Class 4A state wrestling bracket to take home from Denver a title.Long, now wrestling at Mesa State, strung together a 33-4 record during his final year of high school and won the title with a pin, major decision and two decisions. He beat Mullen’s Seamus Waples by an 8-4 decision to seal the deal.”It’s been a privilege to coach him. He’s awesome, a very coachable kid,” John Wisniewski said after the fateful final. “The best thing about Tim is that he’s a gracious winner and he’s a gracious loser. Good things come to good people, and he’s good people.”Long’s penchant for winning big took another turn in the spring when a trip to Reno, Nev., yielded no less than a world title. A 56-competitor 152-pound bracket at the World Wrestling Championships proved no problem for Long, who added another first-place title to his impressive resume.
The Roger Walters-coached Roaring Fork boys basketball team rarely loses, and the 2006-07 season fit that mold as the Rams went 25-2 and finished fifth at the Class 3A state tournament.Led by junior Torrey Udall and the senior quartet of Kyle Raaflaub, Kade Gianinetti and twins Trevor and Tyler Hunt, Roaring Fork sustained its streak of 3A Western Slope League wins, winning its 52nd straight to cap the 2006-07 league slate. That streak spans Walters’ four-season tenure as head coach at the Carbondale school.Needless to say, the coach was sad to see those seniors graduate.”They’re a pretty special bunch,” Walters said after the Rams’ March state tourney trip to Fort Collins. “They collected a lot of trophies for the school. We’re really proud of the boys. I hate to see ’em go.”The early going of the 2007-08 has played out similarly as the Rams are off to a 5-1 start and pushed that streak to 53 with a league-opening win over Basalt in mid-December.
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