Coach’s passing leaves a big hole in all she touched |

Coach’s passing leaves a big hole in all she touched

In the Bullpen
Phil Sandoval
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Kim Richardson is gone.

It’s something I can’t fathom.

Check that. Really, really can’t fathom.

I, like all who knew Kim, felt she was the one person who could beat the brain cancer that took her away from us much, much too soon.

You see, I believe Kim was invulnerable. Invulnerable in the sense that when determined she was going to beat something, undoubtedly, she would win.

Because Kim was a winner.

Not because of the three state championship banners Kim directed the Glenwood Springs High cheerleaders to. Not because she was named as the Colorado Spirit Coaches Association’s Coach of the Year.

And not because she was among the top of her field as a businesswoman.

Kim had that special talent to turn a person’s ignition on. Then make them better.

To which I’m going to limit myself to the magic she produced as a cheer coach.

Competitive cheerleading is tough, expensive and exhausting.

Kim tackled those challenges, without a hitch.

I watched her take the Glenwood High cheer program from a point where she and assistant Jojo Godeski were trolling the halls to recruit enough girls to have a squad for basketball season to one of the best high school programs in Colorado.

In a school of 650-700 students. With no junior varsity program, middle school feeder, youth program or all-star program to build from.

In today’s cheerleading world, that’s an impossible task.

Not for Kim.

But don’t think the road to success was easy. It took years to build up.

I was one of the very few around (or who cared) when the Demon cheerleaders started to compete at regionals and state. Those early squads took their lumps.

Kim never gave up.

The addition of current co-coaches Lynn Goluba and Jody Jordan to the cheer staff helped.

Yet, after a number of years of reaching the finals, Glenwood couldn’t get beyond fourth place. For all of us, it was frustrating.

But 2002 was different. Kim, Lynn and Jody, with a group headed by student leaders Ali Tonozzi and Michelle Whitten, gave the Demons their first 4A state title. Followed by two more.

The 2003 squad ran roughshod through state that year. The juniors of the ’02 champs, now seniors, ran away with the 4A crown.

Personally, with graduation, I thought the run was over. To my surprise, the ’04 team won it all again.

And, after a short period of down years where the Demons could only break into the top five, last year’s squad was first after the preliminaries and third in the finals.

I’ve got to admit, those state championship squads were among the personal highlights of my 13-year career at the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.

Yeah, the state titles were fun. But, the best part of the whole ride was getting to know the athletes.

Kim played a major role in each one’s development. Not just physically. More importantly, she helped mold them into class individuals.

After all, how many 15- to 17-year-old kids in the middle of vying for a state title have enough class to give a sports writer a standing ovation?

That happened at the 2004 championship when the Demon cheerleaders applauded me after winning an award myself. My reaction? I ran up to each girl and thanked them.

Kim was the last I thanked. I know she had something to do with the whole ceremony.

That’s the legacy Kim leaves all of us, including the girls she coached. Many of them are, or in the next few weeks, will graduate from college. While we’ve all gone our separate paths, we remain close.

Molly Ackerman, Michelle Whitten, the McCallum sisters, Paige Burger, Carolyn Wiltse and many others have now become lifetime friends. True, we haven’t seen each other for awhile. In some cases a long while, but should any of us need each other, we’ll coming running as fast as we can.

Kim’s celebration of life is next Sunday. I’ll be in the bleachers with many of her former athletes. At first, it will be very uncomfortable.

Yet, from beyond, Kim, I know, will lighten the load.

Right now, I’m sure Kim’s smiling at all of us from Heaven. And, with God’s guiding hand, she’s certainly coaching a cheerleading squad where she build a champion in the stars.

Goodbye, Kim. Thanks. Peace.

Phil Sandoval spent 13 years covering sports at the Post Independent and is now the sports editor at the Grand Junction Free Press. Contact him at

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