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Risner named top young track coach

Jim Noelker photoBlake Risner smiles as he holds the prestigious Sason Sharify Outstanding Young Coach Award.
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Blake Risner is a team guy.

Always has been; always will be.

Actually, Risner is a team coach. His coaching philosophy weaves the team concept through what many consider an “individual” sport.



So when Risner was honored recently as the outstanding young track coach in Colorado by his coaching colleagues, he was quick to return to the team concept.

“The kids deserve the recognition,” said Risner, the head boys track coach at Glenwood Springs High School.



“They’re the ones who made people stand up and notice; they deserve the credit,” he said of his track and field athletes.

“Success is … a reflection of commitment and dedication by the athletes,” Risner said, adding that he’s only doing what he loves to do – coach track and field.

“The kids had an incredible run last year,” Risner said of the Demon track team that made statewide headlines last spring as the GSHS boys battled bigger schools and nearly won a team championship in the 4A State Track Meet.

The Demons’ success at the state level, a commonplace occurrence since Risner took over the Glenwood Springs track program, contributed to the honor.

Risner was the recipient of the Sason Sharify Outstanding Young Coach Award, presented at the annual Colorado State High School Coaches Clinic in Fort Collins.

The award is named after the young Colorado track coach who was killed in an accident at Lake Powell on July 17. Sharify was the track coach at Colorado Springs Wasson at the time of his death.

He was known throughout the Western Slope as a track coach at Grand Junction High School before he headed to Wasson just a year ago.

Risner was nominated for the award by two of Colorado’s premier high school track coaches, both recognized nationally.

Teenan Anderson of Colorado Springs Harrison and John Hancock of Mullen, who both built nationally ranked prep track programs, nominated Risner. He was selected unanimously by the Colorado prep track coaches.

The honor was particularly special for Risner because he and Sharify were college teammates at Adams State College in Alamosa. They competed together all over the country, including national championships.

“The fact that he was a good friend made it extra special,” said Risner, who had stayed in contact with Sharify after both became prep track coaches.

Sharify’s parents presented the award to Risner, in person, at the Fort Collins coaching clinic.

“And it was really nice to be nominated by … two of the top (track) programs,” Risner said of the prestigious Mullen and Harrison programs.

Risner, a physical education teacher at Glenwood Springs Middle School, has been the head track coach at Glenwood Springs High School for six years. For two of those years, he was the head boys and head girls coach.

The past four years he has been the head boys track coach.

Prior, he was an assistant at GSHS for two seasons. And he started his coaching career as an assistant for three years in Alamosa.

“Growing up, I was fortunate to be part of some incredible (track and field) teams,” said Risner, a California high school standout who went on to junior college before finishing is collegiate track career at powerhouse Adams State.

“I wanted to bring the same things to the Glenwood Springs program,” said Risner, a 7-foot high jumper in college.

“He’s an extremely hard-working coach who wants the best for the kids,” GSHS Athletic Director Steve Cable said of Risner.

“He spends a lot of extra time working with the kids … in the summers and even in the winters before the season.

“He’s very committed to the kids in his program .. and he’s very intense,” Cable added of Risner, who also directs the Glenwood Springers summer track program.

Last spring, Risner’s Glenwood boys made a strong run for a state title behind twin state jump championships by Jacob Benson (now on the track team at Colorado State University), a state 800-meter title from Pat Davis and a state relay title.

Marco Salmen was one of the runners on Glenwood’s state championship 4×800 relay team, along with brother Chas, Davis and Jake Taufer.

“Mr. Risner realizes how much track can do for you,” Marco Salmen said.

“His intensity helps us get up our intensity. He gets us motivated,” said the distance running standout.

Salmen said Risner also helped develop team camaraderie in the predominantly individual sport.

Risner arranges a lot of team activities and creates a great team atmosphere for track, Salmen said.

“You can tell by the way Coach Risner carries himself that track is very important to him,” Salmen said.

And, Salmen added, that rubs off on the athletes.


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