Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Thursday wasn’t a day to remind anyone of skiing. The drizzle of rain and gobs and gobs of mud building up at Howelsen Hill made it seem more like the Pacific Northwest.
But under an umbrella, with a thick white mustache, glasses and a huge grin, Colorado Mountain College Alpine coach Terry Leonard was dreaming big.
In his fourth year at CMC, Leonard already has reshaped the team. Last year, while standing on the lip of See Me ski run, Leonard talked about changing the culture of skiing at CMC. He talked about bringing in top athletes, going to top events and producing top results.
He dreamed big.
On Thursday, his biggest dream — at least to this point — was on display. The CMC Alpine team will ski in the Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association this year, alongside traditional programs like the University of Colorado and University of Denver.
As an associate member, CMC will attend all the same meets, skiing in a conference that sent three skiers to national teams last year.
Most of this is because of Leonard’s vision.
Who among us would have ever thought CMC would ever boast a Division I program? But that’s Leonard. It wasn’t a flash in the pan moment this summer that Leonard thought about doing this.
It’s been three years in the making. Leonard saw the opportunity years ago and started to move in that direction. He would take his athletes to as many events where the RMISA schools were competing.
When it came time for his proposal to CMC administrators, he didn’t just have the athletic benefit in his back pocket.
Leonard knew what administrators care about. Believe it or not, it’s more cost efficient for CMC to be in the RMISA. It also follows along with CMC’s new four-year degree program.
But maybe the most interesting thing about a dreamer like Leonard isn’t about what’s already been accomplished, but what’s currently churning in his head.
Leonard tossed out the idea that eventually — maybe in five or 10 years — CMC could be an NCAA sanctioned school.
Crazy to think about, but at bare minimum, CMC would have to have 10 sports, half of which must be women’s. Women also must have a sport in each season.
As wild a thought as it seemed, Leonard thinks it’s possible. He rattled off sports just in Steamboat that could be added where little or no more infrastructure of fields would have to be built.
He talked about the possibilities, the present and the future.
While the weather featured ominous grey skies, constant rain and didn’t feature one bit of that Colorado sunshine we all love, Leonard still stood under his umbrella with a huge smile, big eyes and a peppy demeanor.
A little rain and cloud cover weren’t going to bother a dreamer.
— To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229 or email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com