Photo by Joel Reichenberger
Routt County Athletes of the Year Ramsey Bernard, left, and Holli Salazar pose on the farm of Greg and Gail Haight near Steamboat Springs. Bernard, a senior at Steamboat Springs High School, dominated his way to the Class 4A No. 1 singles state title, winning the tournament without dropping a set. Salazar, who was a junior at Hayden High School, won the Class 2A state shot put championship. She also earned all-league honors in basketball and volleyball.
By the numbers
Bernard's record his senior tennis season: 10-0
Number of sets Bernard lost all season: 0
Grade point average at graduation: 4.2
- Won Steamboat's first state tennis title at No. 1 singles
- Also won a state title his freshman year at No. 3 singles
- Finished third his sophomore year and second his junior year at No. 2 singles
- 2008 All-Colorado Tennis player by Rocky Mountain News and The Denver Post
- One of six finalists for the 2008 Steinmark Award, given by the Rocky Mountain News to the best student-athlete in the state
Steamboat Springs In 20-plus years of coaching tennis, Steamboat Springs High School coach John Aragon has seen a lot at the state tennis championships.
He's seen players who should win, players who should lose and players who unexpectedly win.
But in all of his years as a tennis coach, Aragon saw something in 2007 he'd never witnessed before.
Aragon said he's never seen a player crush competition in the No. 1 singles bracket like Steamboat's Ramsey Bernard did last fall.
"That's probably the most dominant performance from a No. 1 singles player I've seen in 24 years," Aragon said of Bernard, who won the Class 4A No. 1 singles title. "I cannot recall a finals that was that lopsided. He really displayed that dominance."
And that's why Bernard - who didn't lose a single set his entire senior year - has been named the inaugural Steamboat Pilot & Today Male Athlete of the Year.
Bernard, who will attend and play tennis at Pomona College in California this fall, also won a state title at No. 3 singles as a freshman. He was the slalom runner-up in the 2007 State Skiing Championship. His junior year in tennis, he finished second at No. 2 singles.
Bernard said that loss at No. 2 singles his junior year might have been the biggest motivator for him. After winning the first set in the finals his junior year, Bernard dropped the last two sets and his opportunity at a state title.
"I think it helped me a lot," Bernard said. "It just pushed me to motivate myself and work that much harder for the next year."
Second to none
While winning a state title is an accomplishment in itself, it was the matter in which Bernard did it that makes the achievement even more special.
Bernard went into the regional tournament at 10-0. After breezing through the regional tournament, Bernard was primed for a state title run.
Aragon admits most people put Bernard as the third- or fourth-likeliest person in his bracket to win a state title.
"I wasn't really paying too much attention to that," Bernard said.
Bernard cruised through his first four opponents, setting up a finals match with Justin Hermes from Cheyenne Mountain.
Before the season at an Intermountain tournament, Hermes beat Bernard in straight sets.
"He was really confident," Bernard said. "I could just tell."
But Bernard said he just played his game. He admits now he was nervous at the time and thought a little bit about previous encounters with Hermes.
"I wasn't too worried," Bernard said. "I wanted to go in there, do my best and at least give him a match."
Bernard didn't give Hermes a match - he gave him a beating.
Bernard easily won the first set, 6-0, and followed with a 6-2 win in the second set.
"I broke him the first two times on his serve, and I could see his demeanor change," Bernard said. "But that happens in a match. It goes back and forth. I was trying not to get too overconfident."
Aragon said the key to Bernard's senior season was his dedication. Along with attending summer tournaments, Bernard played tennis for at least an hour every day. He worked with Aragon on the weak spots in his game and had a personal strength coach.
"Even at a young age, he was a focused individual," Aragon said. "You'd tell him what things he'd need to do, and he'd do them. The thing about Ramsey is it didn't matter what time of day or if it was an early practice session, he was always there on time. That made a big impression."
Bernard departs for college Aug. 24. Until then, he'll continue to refine his game, continuing the practice pattern that made him Steamboat's first tennis champion at No. 1 singles.
"I mean, I knew I had the potential to have a good and successful season," Bernard said. "I wasn't really expecting it to turn out the way it did. But I always knew it was possible if I worked hard."
Others receiving consideration for Male Athlete of the Year were Steamboat Springs athletes Alex Wood and Michael Vandahl, Hayden's Coy Letlow and Soroco's Alex Estes. Wood was a three-sport athlete, earning all-conference honors in football, basketball and baseball. Vandahl helped the Steamboat Springs High School basketball team to the Sweet 16 and leaves as the school's all-time assists leader. Letlow was an All-State running back for Hayden High School and finished fifth at the state wrestling meet. Estes competed in four sports, including track and field, where he broke the school record in the long jump.
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