Demons help make Denney 2014’s top sports story
Craig Denney never really wanted to be in the spotlight when it came to his battle with cancer.
The Glenwood Springs High School athletic director quietly admitted himself into treatment near the end of the 2013 calendar year and, as 2014 began, the treatment progressed steadily until he was named by a unanimous vote as the keynote speaker for Glenwood Springs High School’s graduation ceremony in May. He even quietly made his way to some of Glenwood’s winter sports events during the peak parts of his chemotherapy treatments, watching from either the back of the bleachers or, at the very least, out of sight so not to draw attention to himself.
Regardless of Denney’s effort to not be in the spotlight, however, his health and well-being drew the attention and the well-wishes of the high school students along with people across Garfield County and Colorado, also. And because of that, Denney’s battle with Burkett’s lymphoma at the beginning of the year was chosen as the top sports story in Garfield County by the staff of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
Denney’s story was one of many over the course of 2014 that captured the attention of people throughout Garfield County. Also among them was Rifle High School’s football team during its run to the Class 3A state title game, the success stories of some high school graduates from the area along with the attention drawn to some popular running events in the area due to some unusual circumstances for each of them.
Those, however, are just a summary of some of the things that happened in 2014.
• Craig Denney
Denney, who has served as a teacher and football coach at Glenwood Springs High, saw a huge wave of support from the GSHS student body and beyond. No group was more vocal than the student athletes and coaches at Glenwood, though. They distributed T-shirts around Glenwood Springs that read “Denney’s Demons,” and proceeds from the ones they sold went toward Denney’s medical bills. There was even an event when the boys and girls basketball teams at Glenwood stopped at Valley View Hospital on their way to a Jan. 24 game at Eagle Valley to cheer Denney on with posters and signs while he underwent the final stage of his chemotherapy treatment.
He did, however, have a very scary moment when a strep virus went septic, causing extremely high fevers and a move to the hospital’s intensive care unit. Still, Denney recovered enough to not only return to work two months later, but to give each of the graduating students for the GSHS Class of 2014 high fives before their diplomas were handed out.
“It’s a miracle,” Denney said after the graduation ceremony had ended. “It truly is.”
• Rifle High School football
The Bears, who played in front of standing-room only crowds for nearly all off their home games at Bears Stadium this season, had another successful season. They posted a 12-2 overall record this season, won the Class 3A Western Slope League title for the fourth consecutive season, and improved their overall record over the past four years to 44-7.
“It’s nice to be at a place where it’s a big deal when you lose a game,” Rifle coach Damon Wells said following the Bears’ 18-10 loss to Palisade back in October.
To top it off, the Bears earned plenty of postseason awards. Thirteen players earned all-league recognition, and three seniors — linebacker/offensive lineman Austin Shepherd, running back/linebacker Brock Clark and linebacker/offensive lineman Alex Gould — were first-team award winners on the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Class 3A all-state team. Shepherd earned his second first-team award, and Clark was named the Back of the Year for the all-league team was announced after the season. Wells was named the league’s Coach of the Year.
• Sentimental feelings at Shortcut, Tri-Glenwood Triathlon
This past year’s Strawberry Shortcut, along with the 30th running of the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon, were highlighted by things that were happening away from the races themselves.
The Shortcut had its annual appearance of Bob Willey, who was a mainstay at the race during the close to 40 years it has been going. But this year, instead of running it, Willey was the honorary starter for the 5K race after his diagnosis of lung cancer was followed by a severe stroke that left him in a wheelchair.
Still, many at the race recognized the man who had run 35 of the previous 36 Shortcuts. Willey died in his sleep on July 31.
Running fans may also have said goodbye to the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon, which ran for the 30th time this past September. Its dramatic drop in participants in recent years, coupled with the prospective that the anticipated Grand Avenue Bridge project would be in full swing during its next scheduled running, left many anticipating that September’s race could be the last.
• Carbondale’s Chris Hanks coaches Mesa to Division II baseball title game
Roaring Fork High graduate Chris Hanks, who now serves as the head baseball coach at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction, helped lead the Mavericks to their second appearance in the NCAA Division II World Series in five years and their first appearance in the national title game. And the Mavericks nearly took home the national championship as well, going 12 innings with Southern Indiana before falling 3-2.
Hanks, who was an all-state catcher at Roaring Fork when the program was started in 1983, now has an overall coaching record of 647-294. He owns the best baseball coaching record in the school’s history.
• Selsor, Martinez among nation’s best athletes at Mesa
Glenwood Springs High graduate Sharaya Selsor, along with Rifle High graduate James Martinez, both made a lot of noise on a national stage by what they accomplished athletically at Colorado Mesa University this past year.
Selsor, who was a senior guard for Mesa’s nationally ranked women;s basketball team, was a finalist for the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Player of the Year after being named an All-American by three organizations. The Glenwood native was also a Capital One Academic All-American and the RMAC Player of the Year after averaging 23.7 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. She graduated with a 3.53 grade point average in sport management.
In all, Selsor was named to the D2 Women’s Bulletin All-America First Team after she already was named to the WBCA and Daktronics All-America teams back in early April. She helped the Mavs reach the Division II Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.
Martinez, at one point early last season, was the second-ranked wrestler in the nation at 149 pounds. By finishing fifth last season and with a 22-4 overall record, he improved on his sixth-place finish from the previous season and, in his senior year this year, has a chance to be a four-time national qualifier.
• Glenwood Springs native Alice McKennis officially got back on the World Cup comeback trail following a debilitating knee injury in 2013. She pulled out of contention for the Winter Olympics in Sochi early in the year, but she’s competing at full strength just less than two years after shattering her right tibial plateau.
• Glenwood Springs High’s girls basketball team went 23-2, winning the 4A WSL title with a 14-0 record while reaching the Class 4A state tournament’s Sweet 16. The only teams that the Demons lost to were Palmer Ridge in the state playoffs, and Mesa Ridge, which beat Glenwood at the end of the regular season and went on to win the 4A state title. Senior guard Delaney Gaddis was the league MVP and a first-team, all-state award winner.
• Coal Ridge High’s boys track and field team posted its second consecutive second-place finish in the Class 3A State Championships in Lakewood back in May. The Titans had an individual state champion in Andy Bowles, who is now attending Colorado State University on a track and field scholarship. Coal Ridge also had two girls relay teams — the 4×200 and the 4×400 — win state championships, setting a state meet record with a time of 3 minutes, 57.98 seconds.
• The annual USA Pro Challenge came through Carbondale during the annual race’s second stage on Aug. 19, bringing a national spotlight to the small town at the foot of Mt. Sopris. The event drew thousands of curious onlookers to an event that featured the biggest names in cycling wordwide.
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