Divine Uniformity: Wacky costumes help add fun to Emily Johnson soccer tournament
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — The winning streak was more important than the losing streak to the Silties on Saturday.
Mind you, it was a long losing streak the aptly named team from Silt ended while competing in the adult recreational branch of the sixth-annual Emily Johnson Play it Forward 3-on-3 Soccer Tournament at Gates Soccer Park. That squad hadn’t won one — repeat, not one — tournament game since it entered the inaugural tournament.
That streak ended on Saturday with its first tournament victory, sparking smiles all around the seven-member team. But a much prouder moment came when they won the tournament’s costume contest, claiming that crown for the fifth consecutive year.
“Hey, that’s what’s important!” team member Katie Cox said with a smile.
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What made it even more important, and special, was that almost all of the team members were close friends with Emily Johnson, after whom the annual event is named. Johnson, who was a standout soccer player at Coal Ridge High School, was killed in 2008 following injuries from an ATV accident.
This year’s tournament, like the Silties, reached an impressive milestone. It drew 50 teams from age groups ranging from under-8 to adult competitive and recreational, topping the all-time high of 40 that was set last year.
The Silties, whose team members included Shanna Fix, Kaitlin Moeller, Sylvain Bidet, Rachel Becker, Michael Pfaff, Tasha Ehlers and Cox, were one of 23 adult teams in the tournament field. They attribute the amount of adult teams making year-after-year returns not just to the scholarship money the tournament provides, but as a way of coming together every year as a way to remember their friend.
“We don’t play soccer,” Cox said. “We do this just as a way of remembering Emily. Plus, this is the one time every year when you get to see everyone and you know everyone will be here.”
The Silties have had a different theme for each one of their costume-contest victories. This one was directly tied to Emily, as the team’s theme for the tournament was “The Planet Protectors.” It came from when Emily and her friends donned capes and superhero garb as children. Saturday, her friends wore that superhero garb and vanquished their five-year tournament losing streak.
Emily’s mother, tournament organizer Sheryl Johnson, said Emily and her friends came up with the theme of The Planet Protectors as fourth-graders, which was just a part of the inspiration for the tournament’s contest for best costume. Sheryl said her daughter, who would have been 21 now if she were still alive, had a special T-shirt for every occasion.
As for the reunion aspect of the tournament, that’s just an added plus.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Sheryl Johnson said. “It’s about friendship and laughter and getting together, and we just happen to do it every year playing soccer. Can you really think of a better way to do it?”
Of course, that massive weekend turnout will pay forward benefits other than quality time together. The tournament serves as scholarship fundraiser to area students. Roaring Fork’s Toni Gross won the valleywide soccer scholarship, Brittany Young won the Coal Ridge soccer scholarship, and Coal Ridge’s Marteen Herrera won the Coal Ridge creativity scholarship. Each recipient was awarded $3,000, which is just part of the $48,000 in scholarship money that has been awarded over the past five years.
That creativity showed with a lot of uniforms, which varied from hot pink to highlighter green and tie-dye. The New Castle Pride of the U14 age group won the kids costume contest, and creative team names like #Selfies, Cereal Killers, Mormon Drinking Squad and Six Foot Twelve populated the adult pool of teams.
It’s a pool of players who knew Emily Johnson well, and wearing silly clothing is just part of the fun.
“Most of the people here, especially the adults, knew Emily and played soccer either with her or against her,” said Hanna Johnson, Emily’s younger sister. “It’s like a family coming together every year.”
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