From Athens to Rifle, local sports had a winning year
Area sports interests extended from right in our own backyard to the French Alps and Athens, Greece, in 2004.Our local squads hoisted state trophies and area natives captured Olympic and X Games hardware. Needless to say, it was another eventful year in the local sports scene. There’s no way to make a perfect top-10 list, but here are our top-10 stories of 2004:1. Bears gridders notch first title in more than three decadesThe Rifle High School football team started the season ranked No. 2 in Class 3A, but after a couple of upset losses, the Bears found themselves fighting for the final playoff spot out of the Western Slope Conference. Rifle fought its way into the playoffs and never stopped. With high-scoring wins over Florence (28-20) and Conifer (38-22) in the opening two rounds, the Bears pulled off a 23-20 road upset of previously unbeaten Niwot in the semifinals.In the championship game against Sterling on the frozen field at Bears stadium, Rifle turned to its defense. The Bears posted a 7-6 victory. A missed extra point, some timely defensive stands and a roughing-the-kicker penalty against Sterling late in the game proved to be the difference in Rifle’s first state football title in 31 years.Running back Rocky Rauman earned the Class 3A player of the year award from the Denver Post, and head coach Darrel Gorham was named the coach of the year.
2. Rejuvenated Julich wins Olympic bronzeGlenwood Springs native Bobby Julich considered a retirement from competitive cycling prior to the 2004 season. It’s a good thing he didn’t. Julich, who grew up riding the roads of the Roaring Fork Valley, hooked up with Team CSC and saw his career come back to life. Julich’s comeback season led to a spot on the Olympic team. After a rough Tour de France, which included some nasty crashes and a broken wrist, Julich made the most of his first trip to the Olympics with a third-place finish in the men’s time trial in Athens, Greece.And it doesn’t look like thoughts of retirement have crept back into Julich’s mind. Julich has reportedly signed on for another two years with CSC.3. Demon cheerleaders notch three-peatThe Glenwood Springs High School cheerleaders were supposed to be rebuilding in 2004 after a number of key team members graduated from the prep ranks.It turned out they were just reloading.A young Demon squad racked up its third consecutive Class 4A state title in December, the same day coach Kim Richardson was awarded the Colorado Spirit Coaches Association’s coach of the year honors.
4. Roaring Fork boys hoopsters suffer just one lossUnder first-year Roaring Fork head coach Roger Walters, the Rams dominated area courts in 2004. Roaring Fork, led by senior all-stater Dan Markoya and an exceptional supporting cast, had little trouble in the regular season and won the league, district and regional crowns without a loss. The Rams finally met their match in Platte Valley in the Class 3A state semifinals, falling 63-52. Roaring Fork rebounded in the third-place game with a 59-35 drubbing of Eaton to finish the season 26-1.5. Demon football makes long-awaited postseason appearanceThe Glenwood Springs high school football team hadn’t been to the playoffs in more than a decade and hadn’t been on the winning side of the Glenwood-Rifle rivalry in 14 years entering the 2004 season.Both streaks ended.The Demons had a new system and new attitude with first-year Glenwood coach Rocky Whitworth, and it showed on the field. Glenwood showed it could play with anyone in the state when it pushed No. 1-ranked Palisade to the brink before falling 14-13.The Demons got over the hump the next weekend. Glenwood kicker Joe Schreiner nailed a late field goal to give the Demons a 15-14 victory over Rifle and relieve years of frustration.
The Demons went on to claim the third seed out of the Western Slope Conference and earn a spot in the Class 3A playoffs. After a loss in the opener at eventual state runner-up Sterling, Glenwood finished with a record of 6-5.6. Basalt soccer solidifies itself as soccer powerWhether it was the boys team or the girls team, Basalt was “the” soccer team on the Western Slope in 2004.The Longhorns squads both went unbeaten in league play and also advanced to the semifinal round of the Class 3A playoffs. In the spring, the Basalt girls team finished with a 14-2 mark after falling in the semis, 1-0, to eventual state champion Denver Christian.The boys were equally as impressive in the fall. The Longhorns wrapped up their season 15-2-1 after losing to Salida, 1-0.7. Udall named Ms. Basketball in solid season for WSLRoaring Fork standout Tarn Udall was picked as the top girls basketball player in Class 3A and tabbed the Rocky Mountain News/News 4 Ms. Basketball. Udall was the first Ms. Basketball out of Roaring Fork since Tricia Bader, who graduated in 1991, earned the honor.
Led by Udall, the Rams won the Western Slope district title and, in doing so, downed rival Basalt for the first time in recent memory. The Longhorns, however, exacted revenge in the consolation round of the state tournament, eliminating Roaring Fork from the field before going on to take the consolation title.8. Rifle girls basketball goes unbeaten in league playThe Rifle Bears girls basketball team, led by senior Krista Wagstrom, claimed the WSL title after going unbeaten in league play. The Bears finished the season with a mark of 19-5 (12-0 in league) and Wagstrom is now playing for Mesa State.9. Olenick X-ceptional in the half-pipeCarbondale native Peter Olenick soared to new heights at the Winter X Games in Aspen. The skier parlayed his first appearance at the extreme sports event into a silver medal in the slopestyle competition and a bronze in the halfpipe.10. Basalt girls take third in cross countryPaced by top-20 finishes by Kate Wilson (10th) and Amy Lund (17th), the Basalt Longhorns took third place in the Class 3A state cross country meet this fall in Colorado Springs.In the 4A meet Glenwood Springs qualified a girls team for the first time in history, and Elisabeth Strouse became the first Rifle girls runner to qualify in 18 years. Class 2A Grand Valley had its first two qualifiers in history in Katie Bryan and Jonathan Thompson.In the 4A meet Glenwood Springs qualified a girls team for the first time in history, and Elisabeth Strouse became the first Rifle girls runner to qualify in 18 years. Class 2A Grand Valley had its first two qualifiers in history in Katie Bryan and Jonathan Thompson.
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The Roaring Fork High School baseball team was deadlocked with the visiting Gunnison Cowboys in Carbondale through the final three frames Tuesday, before falling 16-9 in nine innings.