Roaring Fork’s Thompson is PI’s Male Athlete of the Year
Thanks to a strong internal drive — and some serious blood, sweat and tears poured into offseason workouts — recent Roaring Fork High School graduate Justin Thompson put together one of the best individual sports years this valley has seen in quite some time.
Thompson, who recently signed with Metropolitan State University of Denver for basketball, blew away the competition throughout his senior year in basketball and track and field for the Rams, winning the 3A Western Slope League Co-Player of the Year in basketball, as well as the 3A Western Slope League Sportsmanship Award, as voted on by the league’s officials, all while helping the Rams reach the 3A state playoffs.
During track season, Thompson broke the school’s 110m hurdles record, won the 3A Western Slope League Male Athlete of the Year award, and won a state championship in the 3A triple jump, with medals in the long jump and hurdles events, as well.
Not bad for a kid who just one year ago was just reaching his stride in both sports.
Due to his accomplishments on the playing surface, and for his upstanding character in the classroom, Thompson was named the Post Independent’s Male Athlete of the Year.
“It’s so great, because I never could have imagined I’d reach this level,” Thompson said. “It’s hard to wrap my mind around everything that I did this year. Looking back on all the work I put in last summer, it means a lot. This award was something I was competing against people here in the valley to win, so it feels really good to show that I’m more than just one sport.”
Thompson was known as a solid basketball player in the valley prior to his senior year, but something clicked this past season at both ends of the floor, allowing him to take over games offensively, combining with junior Joe Salinas to be a stout 1-2 punch for the Rams under veteran head coach Larry Williams. Behind Thompson’s 19.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, the Rams finished second in the 3A Western Slope League before bowing out of the state playoffs in the first round of the regional tournament in Greeley.
Along with his dominance on the court, Thompson transitioned quickly into track season, and proved to be one of the best hurdles and jumpers in the state, consistently finishing in the top 3 in nearly every track meet throughout the season in at least one event.
“There wasn’t really a point where I knew I was having a good senior year,” Thompson said after hearing he’d won the Athlete of the Year award. “I knew I had a good basketball season, just by looking at my averages. But once the All-State teams came out, I knew I was having a pretty good year. I just kind of kept it going in track, too.”
Thompson is one of the rare athletes that didn’t really need to be motivated to work on his game. In the summer between his junior and senior seasons, Thompson honed in on just what he wanted to accomplish in his senior year, set those goals, and dialed into that internal drive to be great, leading to one heck of senior year across two sports platforms.
“My coaches believed in me and helped me get there, but all of it mostly came from me internally,” Thompson said. “I wanted to be better internally than I was the day before; that’s what drove me.”
Through that drive, Thompson became a role model in the Carbondale community for young athletes. Although that caught him off guard a bit, Thompson embraced it.
“I just told them that they need to want it,” Thompson said. “I told them I hope that if they really want this, they have to dive right in, because I feel like I was a bit late in the process. I wonder how much further along I’d be if I was as serious about this in my freshman year as I was with the work I put in between my junior and senior years.”
Off the court, Thompson was an upstanding student in the classroom, which has set him up to pursue a degree in physical therapy while at Metro State. Down the line, Thompson hopes to return to the valley and host a basketball camp for young players looking to work on their game.