The top sports stories of 2022
This year brought out the best in Steamboat Springs athletes and adventurers.
More than a dozen skiers and snowboarders traveled to China to compete in the Winter Olympics. Routt County residents pushed themselves to complete wild feats like walking the Appalachian Trail and competing in extreme triathlons.
Youth across the county recorded impressive finishes in their respective sports, with one state champion emerging and the 4-H shooting team once again saw success at nationals. Here’s a recap of some of the top sports stories of 2022.
In February, 13 athletes with ties to Steamboat Springs competed in the Beijing Olympic Games, and the 2022 Winter Olympics saw Steamboat skiers and snowboarders earn big finishes.
With a late nod to the US men’s ski jumping team, Steamboat-raised Decker Dean became the 100th Olympian to come from Ski Town, USA, a town that has a long history of churning out high-level athletes.
Jaelin Kauf, who used to train at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, won silver in women’s moguls. It was just the second US medal of the Beijing Games and the first US moguls medal since 2014.
Former SSWSC rider Ester Ledecká earned her second straight gold in parallel giant slalom, and Taylor Gold smashed a run he’s been dreaming of for years to finish fifth in men’s snowboard halfpipe.
Taylor Fletcher was the world’s fastest man on skis in the men’s Nordic combined large hill event, capping off his fourth Olympics with a bang. He announced his retirement shortly after the Olympics concluded.
2. Sarah Floyd steps down from SSWSC
After 35 years with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and four spent as its executive director, Sarah Floyd announced she would be stepping down in April.
Floyd held several positions with SSWSC including coach, athletic director, associate executive director and executive director. She is a local legend.
Taking Floyd’s place will be Brian Krill, who is currently the head of the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy in Truckee, California. Krill will make the transition on July 1.
3. Extreme accomplishments
Routt County residents take pride in the amount of time they spend in the great outdoors and what they can do on a bike, in the water or with their own two feet.
One local man pedaled 1,000 miles on the Iditarod trail in Alaska. Others cycled closer to home, including a 72-year-old competing in the Leadville 100 and taking second in his age division.
Several locals dominated three sports, including extreme triathlete Veronika Merchant and Ironman athlete Joy Rasmussen-Otterman.
Others stayed on their feet, such as two women who ran the Wasatch 100 race in Utah and took first and third overall among female athletes. Michelle Petix put one foot in front of the other for 165 days, hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail.
4. 4-H Champions
Two Routt County teenagers competed in the 4-H National Championships in Nebraska in late June.
Teagan Herold had several strong finishes including a fifth-place nod in the 3D competition. Leah Halder also collected top results including a top-10 finish in the Civilian Marksmanship Program, a competition ella Halder had never competed in prior to the National Championships.
5. Routt County prep sports earn impressive accolades
In 2022, Routt County high school athletes jumped, ran, kicked and scored their way to playoff runs and championships.
Leading a large group of Routt county track and field athletes, Hayden senior Alison Rajzer won her third straight triple jump crown at the state championship meet in May.
Early in the year, the Steamboat Springs High School ski team was fifth overall at state, thanks to a handful of top-15 finishes.
Hayden wrestler Dylan Zimmerman finished second at state in late February, as did Soroco’s Larhae Whaley, making her the most successful Routt County female wrestler.
The Steamboat boys hockey team had an incredible season as well, earning a spot in the 4A state semifinal game in March. The No. 4 Sailors fell to eventual winners Cheyenne Mountain, but were still proud of their performance.
The Soroco girls basketball team had a historic season, going 11-0 in league, winning districts and hosting a regional tournament where the team fell just short of a trip to state.
The Steamboat boys basketball team’s season ended in early March too, as the Sailors lost in the Sweet 16 round of the 4A playoffs.
The Sailors girls tennis team’s No. 1 doubles pairing of Liesel Wilkinson and Amanda Dietrich went to state in May and finished fourth.
Steamboat’s girls soccer team also fought through the playoffs in May, using two dramatic home wins to propel the Sailors to the quarterfinals where they lost to Durango on the road.
Just a couple weeks later, Steamboat golfer Kaitlyn Grommeck recorded the best finish ever by a Sailor golfer, taking 16th at state.
In the fall, two Sailor boys golfers traveled to the state where they tied for the 33rd in early October. A few weeks later, the No. 1 doubles pairing of JP Carter and Wiley Cotter on the Steamboat boys tennis team traveled to state and finished fourth.
Meanwhile, 23 Steamboat high school mountain bikers had a strong showing at state.
In late October, the Steamboat girls cross country team and Soroco’s Alan Mayer traveled to the state meet. Mayer finished 61st and the Sailors squad earned 18th.
Finally, in its first year competing, the Steamboat Springs dance team won at the Western Colorado Regional Spirit Championships in late November.
6. Women’s Nordic combined
As their friends and acquaintances and relatives were all being named to Olympic teams in late January, three Steamboat women making up the Nordic combined National Team could do nothing but watch as women’s Nordic combined was the only sport in both Winter and Summer Olympics in which women do not compete.
They were holding out hope for a June meeting of the International Olympic Committee, at which the committee would determine whether the sport was included in the 2026 Winter Olympic Games in Milano-Cortina, Italy. To the dismay of the three Steamboat women and more women across the world, the sport was not included in the Olympic program.
7. Tennis and Pickleball Center expansion
Steamboat Tennis and Pickleball Center underwent the first phase of a two-part facelift in 2022.
The first round of improvements included new tennis courts, pickleball courts, parking and green space. Eventually, the second phase will erect a building over 12 pickleball courts, which could be complete by next winter.
The expansion project is a symbol of the speed at which the sport is growing, and how committed the citizens of Steamboat are to providing space for it.
8. Longtime swim coach retires
Following 23 years coaching the Steamboat Swim Team, local legend Patti Worsley announced her retirement in July.
Taking over in 1999, Worsley was a staple in the local swimming community and produced top talent in the pool and great human beings out of it. Her son hers, Blake, even competed in the 2012 London Olympics for Team Canada.
Charlie Coates was appointed the new coach in September.
9. Record trout in North Routt
Following a long day guiding on Steamboat Lake, Brady Wettlaufer reeled in a potential record-breaking rainbow trout in August.
The record verification has been submitted to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Wettlaufer’s catch was reported to be 26.5 inches and 12.5 pounds.
10. Stanley Cup comes to town
Residents got the opportunity to celebrate with two-time Stanley Cup champion Curtis McElhinney when he brought the historic trophy to Steamboat.
McElhinney won both trophies with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2020 and 2021 but his day with the Cup was delayed due to COVID-19.