Carney column: An exciting year lies ahead in Western Slope sports

The past year in high school sports brought a lot of excitement and heartbreak to the valley at the high school level — from the Rifle girls basketball team making a run to the Great Eight of the 4A state playoffs to Glenwood standout swimmer Lauren Fetzko winning a state championship in the 200 individual medley. There’s also the Glenwood boys track and field team dominating the league once again, claiming another district championship. Glenwood’s Myles Wilson also capped off an incredible career on the mat for the Demons, claiming a second straight state championship while becoming the winningest wrestler in state history.

I also can’t forget to mention Coal Ridge and Grand Valley standouts Hunter Gerber and Kylyn Rigsby eclipsing the 1,000-point marks for their distinguished careers. Or Coal Ridge and Glenwood head coaches Paul Harvey and Cory Hitchcock winning their 100th career games at the helm of two impressive programs.

While 2017 had a number of accomplishments that were newsworthy during the calendar year, 2018 has a chance to be even better.

In basketball, the Roaring Fork, Glenwood, Coal Ridge and Grand Valley boys all have a chance to rack up a number of wins, add the 2017-18 season to their respective banners for league championships and even make a deep run into the state playoffs. On the girls’ side, Rifle looks loaded for bear, pun absolutely intended.

Despite the graduation of Wilson from Glenwood and wrestlers like Evan Hoff, Austin Walck and Alex Cordova from Grand Valley and Rifle respectively, guys like Jacx Power (Coal Ridge), Juan Felan (Glenwood Springs), AJ Serna (Grand Valley) and Brian De La Rosa (Rifle) headline an impressive group of wrestlers here in the valley that could find themselves on the state podium in early March at the Pepsi Center.

Once we thaw out from the inevitable hit of winter that comes in the next few weeks, spring sports season will bring us a number of terrific track athletes vying for the podium at the state meet in April, while Glenwood and Coal Ridge look to push for continued excellence at the district levels.

Baseball season will bring us another look at a budding program in Roaring Fork under Marty Madsen, as well as stalwarts in the Rifle Bears and Glenwood Springs Demons. Plus, Coal Ridge should take another step forward under Dan Larsen with a talented group of underclassmen returning this spring.

Girls soccer powers Coal Ridge and Glenwood Springs should once again put together tremendous seasons on the pitch, with both hopefully making deep state playoff runs.

Once summer hits, running season will once again be loaded with a number of events and strong runners up and down the valley, which then leads into late summer/early fall with the start of football season.

The new year will bring us the first look at the Rifle Bears football team at the 2A level, but with that comes the decline of the Roaring Fork football program, which will compete at the junior varsity level for the 2018 and 2019 seasons.

Glenwood will play football for the first time in 14 years under a new head coach after the resigning of Hall of Fame head coach Rocky Whitworth, while Coal Ridge and Grand Valley will undoubtedly take another step forward under blossoming head coaches in Bob Frederickson and Tim Lenard.

While football will draw the headlines during that time, Glenwood cross country will return a number of strong runners in both the boys and girls, as will Rifle despite losing all-state-worthy runner Sarah Wagler to graduation.

The same can be said for boys soccer programs at Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork, Rifle and Glenwood Springs. One could add in Grand Valley there as well with a very young team under head coach Rick Van Vleet.

Bottom line: The 2018 calendar year in high school sports here in Garfield County is going to be exceptionally fun to cover, not just for the story lines, but for the amount of talent that is prevalent in the area.

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