The year began and ended with career milestones.
On Friday, Steamboat Springs embraced its 57th Winter Olympian when Ryan St. Onge won the men's aerials competition under the lights at Howelsen Hill.
St. Onge, a graduate of The Lowell Whiteman School, landed two quad-twisting, triple somersault jumps, scoring an impressive 240.93 points to defeat runner-up Jeret Peterson, the defending World Champion, by more than 40 points.
The win guaranteed St. Onge his first Olympic appearance, but he isn't satisfied with just making the team.
"Now, I have to train to win that," he said.
St. Onge's win capped off a memorable day of competition during which thousands turned out to support the Olympic dreams of the assembled U.S. Freestyle Ski Team members. The day ended with an Olympian Celebration and Send-Off that highlighted past and present Steamboat Olympians and included a fireworks show and concert by Hootie and the Blowfish.
Late winter 2005
The year didn't begin with fireworks or a concert, but it had a milestone when Steamboat Springs High School boys basketball coach Kelly Meek won his 500th career game with the Sailors on Jan. 15. The season was a memorable one for the Steamboat boys and coaches. Former players and opposing coaches extended warm congratulations during the week leading to Meek's milestone win.
"I've been blessed," Meek said. "I've been lucky."
The Sailors -- behind a dominant senior class -- finished the year 21-3, which included an 18-game winning streak and a perfect Western Slope League season. Steamboat advanced to the Sweet 16 before falling to D'Evelyn.
"This was one of the best teams I've ever had," said Meek, who is in his 32nd year of coaching the Sailors.
In February, Hayden and Soroco took a combined five wrestlers to the Class 2A Colorado State Wrest---ling Cham-p-ionships. Three placed. Sor---oco's Matt Iaco-vetto and Joel Schl-egal took fourth at 152 pounds and 103 pounds, respectively. Hay-den's Randy Muhme placed sixth at heavyweight.
Soroco's Levi Gonzales and Hayden's Robert Culver also qualified for the state wrestling tournament. Iacovetto and Muhme were seniors. Schlegal was a sophomore.
"I know I wrestled well, but it's not how I wanted my last match to go," said Iacovetto, who lost in the consolation final.
The winter and spring were kind to Soroco's athletes. Wrestling gave way to track and more state championships for the Rams. Soroco's quartet of Melissa Roy, Nichole Wilson, Karli Babcock and Kyla Schmidt finished with gold in the 800-meter medley relay at the Class 2A State Track and Field Championships, setting a school record of 1 minute, 52.32 seconds.
"After I got done running, I didn't know what was going to happen," said Wilson, who had a shaky baton exchange with Roy. "It was one of the better runs we've had."
Soroco's Andy deGanahl had one of the best track and field careers in Colorado history. He teamed up with Matt Iacovetto, Tony Iacovetto and Steve Meade to win the 800-meter relay in 1:31.92. DeGanahl also won the 400-meter crown in 49.95. It was his third 400-meter title in as many years and his eighth state championship overall.
He didn't have a chance to defend his 200-meter title or help the Rams defend their 400-meter relay crown when he fell to the track during the 200 finals. One week before the championships, deGanahl strained his left Achilles tendon. At state, he strained his right hamstring while compensating for his injured leg. The moment did nothing to detract from his career.
"The first thing I'll remember about Andy is his character, how humble, gracious, caring and respectful he is," Rams coach Gary Heide said. "Quite frankly, you never use the word 'superstar' to describe a track athlete, but he probably is that."
Soroco was the only Routt County school to win state championships, but Hayden and Steamboat also were represented at the state track meet. Hayden's 400-meter relay team of Jesse Drennan, Tyson Letlow, Kenny Gehrman and Evan Hilling ran a 44.67 and placed second.
"I'm disappointed our team didn't win, but I'm proud of what we did and accomplished," Hilling said.
Few teams in Colorado had a better football season than Steamboat. The Sailors finished 10-3 and advanced to the Class 3A semifinals before losing to Rifle. During Steamboat's 2005 campaign, the Sailors had to win two overtime games, including a 31-30 quadruple overtime win against Montezuma-Cortez.
Second-year coach Aaron Finch pointed all the way back to the four-game winning streak at the end of the 2004 season as the catalyst for 2005.
"It became clearer for all of us what kind of program we wanted to be and how we wanted to go about preparing and competing," Finch said.
Steamboat used a lightning delay against Aurora Central in the first game of the 2005 season to reflect on its goals. The Sailors went into the locker room behind but came back out and won.
"It showed our kids they could go up against great athletes and compete -- and compete as a team," Finch said. "If we hadn't come out after the lightning delay and executed and won that game, where would we have gone?"
It was a question never to be answered. Perhaps an equally, if not more important win, was the double-overtime victory against rival Moffat County in Craig.
"We set a realistic vision on the playoffs," Finch said.
The Sailors routed Harrison in the first round of the playoffs and dominated Eagle Valley in the quarterfinals, despite the 14-6 final score. It was one of the best seasons and deepest postseason runs made by any Steamboat squad. It is an accomplishment the senior class deserved, Finch said.
"Five years in a row, I've been on the field with this senior class," he said. "I just love these kids so much. I'm mainly happy for them. They are finally leaving knowing they are good football players. They were a really good football team."
As the calendar flips to 2006, all eyes look toward Turin, Italy. Steamboat's next line of Olympic athletes are ready to represent the country, county and community with pride.
-- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org