Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs High School basketball coach Luke DeWolfe knew he was in a precarious position.
As a first-year varsity coach following in the large shadow of former coach Kelly Meek, DeWolfe had all the watchful eyes of Steamboat basketball loyalists on him.
But the first time he coached the Sailors in the summer, senior Alex Wood made DeWolfe feel much, much better.
Wood was playing against a 6-foot-8-inch post player from a Class 4A powerhouse. Wood, at 6 feet 3 inches tall and 225 pounds, simply punished the poor guy.
"He was playing against a big, strong athletic kid," DeWolfe recalled. "Woody just took his butt and moved the kid out of the way. When the kid got around to try and front the post, Woody would take his knee and move him around. By the end, the kid's legs were so shot and tired that he literally had tears in his eyes. He was crying from what Woody had done.
"This kid was a big, strong kid and one of those kids that was a really good 4A basketball player, and Woody took him down," DeWolfe continued. "Woody took this kid's will away to play against him. That's probably the biggest impression I got going into the season."
And basketball isn't even Wood's best sport. But with the senior season Wood had, it was hard to pick exactly where he shined most.
He was first team All-Western Slope League in football, basketball and baseball. He earned All-Colorado Class 3A tight end from The Denver Post and was an all-state selection in football and basketball. His 2.38 ERA in baseball was near the top of the league.
Because of this, Wood - who will be a preferred football walk-on at the University of Colorado in the fall - is the Steamboat Pilot & Today's second annual Routt County Male High School Athlete of the Year.
"Alex is just one of those special athletes on and off the field that makes all those players around him better," Steamboat football coach Aaron Finch said. "I think that's the best thing you can say about those athletes."
With high school athletics becoming more specialized, the multi-sport athlete keeps looking like a thing of the past.
But Wood, who had opportunities in all three of his sports past college, certainly bucked the trend.
He was Steamboat's best player on both sides of the ball in football. He was a defensive leader and go-to scorer down the stretch on the basketball court and was the baseball team's No. 1 pitcher in the spring.
Although Wood often made it look easy, a look beyond the statistics on a Friday or Saturday night tells the story. Wood always had a good build, but put in the work to transform himself from a good athlete to a great one.
"It's just my will to win," Wood said. "I've loved sports since I was little. But I've also always known the only way you get better is through hard work and dedication. It's hard work every day, and then you improve yourself through competition."
Wood's intangibles separate him from most athletes. They don't show up in physical attributes or on film. But Wood's innate ability to make plays, to will his teammates to victory, to never quit and to never get outworked make him the athlete he is.
"There was never a game where he'd be outworked by another player or team," DeWolfe said. "He's one of those kids that will do anything to win games. There was never a game that we had during the entire season that he didn't leave everything he had on the court. : He was undersized and wasn't the biggest guy and couldn't jump the highest, but he outworked everyone. He was one of a kind, for sure."
Wood certainly had competition in the local running for Athlete of the Year.
Other contenders included Steamboat Springs High School's Cole Worsley and Jasper Gantick and Soroco High School's Alex Estes and Cody Miles.
Worsley won the 50-yard freestyle at the state swimming championships and was voted Class 4A Swimmer of the Year. Gantick was all-state in lacrosse, in addition to qualifying for all four events at the state skiing championships.
Estes finished second in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the state track and field meet. He also was the point guard and an all-district selection in basketball. Miles was a three-sport athlete and one of the most exciting players on the football field in the fall.