Success breeds Success: Glenwood’s four winter sports teams are contending
GLENWOOD SPRINGS — During a typical winter sports season, at least one team from Glenwood Springs High School usually has a chance to win a team or individual title.
But all four teams? That’s unheard of.
“I can say this pretty confidently,” said Mike Vidakovich, a lifelong resident of Glenwood and a member of the school’s 1979 boys basketball state championship team. “I don’t think that’s ever happened.”
Through Feb. 2, Glenwood Springs High’s boys basketball team (12-3 overall, 9-0 Class 4A Western Slope League play) and girls basketball team (13-2, 9-0) were both atop the standings in their respective leagues. Glenwood also has a pair of wrestlers (sophomore Myles Wilson at 152 pounds and senior Cristian Gonzalez at 195) who have lost just once in their 71 combined matches this season, and its girls swimming team has enough depth to contend for a team title in this coming weekend’s Class 4A Western Slope Championships in Grand Junction.
And beyond Vidakovich, other longtime residents have said they couldn’t remember a time when each of the winter sports teams had a successful season together. Even Steve Cable, Glenwood’s former athletic director who coached the school’s wrestling team in the late 1970s and early 1980s, said he didn’t think that had happened in his time there prior to his retirement in 2008.
So essentially, just the sheer possibility that each winter sports program has a chance to come away with some kind of title has students, staff and alumni feeling pretty excited.
“I think it would be awesome to, in 10 or 20 years, look back and say we were a part of those four teams that did so well,” said Glenwood senior Jordan DeCrow, a guard on a girls basketball team that was ranked No. 7 in the Class 4A Associated Press girls basketball poll as of Feb. 2. “It’s like coach [Jacky] Gaddis says, not many people get a chance to be on a great winning team.”
This year, there’s four Glenwood teams with that chance.
“I never remember all three programs being successful early on,” said Glenwood girls swimming coach Steve Vanderhoof, a 1976 GSHS grad who spoke in reference to the days before the school’s girls swimming team was started in the late 1990s. “Just the potential of all four teams being able to do something is a pretty cool thing.”
Both of the school’s girls teams have had more success recently.
Glenwood’s girls basketball team was riding a 23-game league winning streak headed into its Feb. 3 league game against Palisade in Grand Junction. They hadn’t lost since suffering a pair of lopsided home losses to fourth-ranked Pueblo West and ninth-ranked Montrose on Dec. 13. Since then, the Demons feel they’ve become much better because of those losses.
“That was a real wakeup call because we’d never felt that way after a game. And it sucked,” said post player Hailey Armstrong, one of five seniors on Glenwood’s girls hoops roster. “We made up our minds that we don’t want to feel that way again, especially with the potential we have.”
Meanwhile, Glenwood’s girls swimming team won its last regional title in 2013, when the Demons eked out a one-point victory over Durango at the El Pomar Natatorium in Grand Junction. They finished third in the meet a year ago, but many of this year’s swimmers — including Jessica Tuttle, Kendall Vanderhoof and Hannah Peterson — were on that Glenwood swim team that won the regional title.
The biggest turn of events has come from Glenwood’s boys basketball and wrestling teams.
Glenwood’s boys basketball team, although it’s reached the Class 4A state playoffs every season since 2004-05, nearly missed the state playoffs during a 2012-13 campaign that ended with a 7-17 overall record. But the Demons rebounded and contended for the 4A WSL title last year, and they held a one-game edge in the standings over Steamboat Springs headed into their Feb. 3 road game against Palisade.
“Coach Cory [Hitchcock] came in, and we started doing a lot of summer camps and traveling all over the place,” said Glenwood senior Brian Burbidge, who was a sophomore during Glenwood’s 7-17 season. “We got a chance to play a lot of 6A-level schools that you don’t get to see in Colorado, and that’s made a big difference.”
As for Glenwood’s wrestlers, that program was also down tremendously two years ago. They sent just six wrestlers to the Class 4A Region 4 tournament in 2013, emerging with just one wrestler — Justin Barham — earning a state-tournament berth. This season, a year removed from the program netting a pair of state-tournament placers, the Demons have proven more than competitive on the mat.
Among the team’s top wrestlers are Wilson, who was 34-1 headed into the Demons’ Feb. 3 home dual meet against Coal Ridge, and Gonzalez, Class 4A’s top-ranked wrestler at 195 who was 36-0 headed into the dual. Also doing well were 120-pounder Riley Prough — who was 32-4 and started the season 26-0 — and 106-pounder Felix Cano, who was 26-10. Also doing well were 170-pounder Jose Diaz (23-12) and 138-pounder Irvin Pallares (22-10).
“I think that overall, we all have a heart for the games that we play,” Glenwood senior post player Will Gray said. “We all not only care about how we do, but we do everything that we can to be the best at it.”
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In a fraction of a second I went from a full sprint to skidding across the ground — pea-sized gravel gashing my knees and elbows, turning them into strawberry crisp.