Steamboat Pilot & Today sports reporter and photographer Joel Reichenberger can be reached at 871-4253 or jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs The best runner at my high school was named Paul.
I met Paul during his junior year, and he was a very funny guy and a nice guy, even to a scrawny freshman some of his buddies picked on.
He was the fastest guy on the cross-country team and one of the best on the track and field squad.
He ran at state in both sports but never placed real high or threatened to win any kind of championship. He was a local hero — to me, anyway — not a statewide hero. And as he worked his way through his senior year, he started to get interest from college coaches.
He wasn’t ever going to go to one of the state’s big schools, but there were a number of small colleges and junior colleges that would have loved to have had Paul.
Paul didn’t want to go to school, though. After graduating high school, he went into business with his family.
For the longest time, I couldn’t understand, but he just didn’t want to go to college — said it wasn’t for him.
I was reminded this weekend of Paul as I talked to some of Routt County’s finest track stars.
This was a heck of a senior class at Soroco and Hayden. They’ve been the backbone of their schools’ sporting efforts for the past four years.
And some of them are going to college to continue their athletic careers.
Some aren’t, though. It’s not like it was with Paul, but to me, the same principles apply.
Matt Watwood, for instance, is the apple of many a coach’s eye. He won the shot put despite what has been an injury-plagued existence in high school. He’s fast and he’s strong, and with a few years working in a good strength and conditioning program, he could be a beast.
He said he’s gotten a kick out of all the attention he’s gotten from coaches, but he’s going to the University of Denver after winning the Boettcher Scholarship. He’s choosing academics.
Hayden’s Jake Walker, too, said he’s ignoring interest from small schools in the state and instead, will study physics at Colorado State University.
A chance to continue an athletic career at a college is a great opportunity for many. It can open doors for some who would otherwise never have gotten a chance to get a college education, and that’s a great thing. Any athlete who gets that kind of opportunity definitely should consider it carefully.
Some may look at the potential of someone such as Watwood or Walker and think he’s wasting his athletic gift by not pursuing such a path. I think those two have found something they love more than track, though, and that’s pretty cool.
Paul loved running and he liked school, but he didn’t love either or the combination more than he did working with his family. That’s something my teenage self wasn’t able to understand.
Sports aren’t everything for everyone, and it’s great to see some of the area’s best athletes coming to that conclusion.