Top of their games: Holli Salazar | SteamboatToday.com

Top of their games: Holli Salazar

Athletes dominated respective sports in 2007-08

— Holli Salazar, now in the summer before her senior year at Hayden High School, knows plenty about rankings.

She ranked as the top point-scorer and the best rebounder on Hayden’s basketball team. She ranked as the No. 1 shot putter, not just in Hayden’s Class 2A, but in all of Colorado, thanks to her performance at last month’s state track meet.

She espouses her love for volleyball, then basketball, with the equal conviction. The shot put probably is her best sport and she loves it the most, too, she said, speaking as if entirely unaware of the contradictions she’s unloading.

Only the calmness – the strength and confidence – of Salazar’s words make them believable. She’s a three-sport athlete in the oldest sense of the word, her passion funneled wholly into whatever sport is in season.

Holli Salazar ranks as the inaugural Steamboat Pilot & Today Female Athlete of the Year because she threw the shot put farther than any other girl at a state meet this year, and because even without that colossal achievement, she proved dedicated and accomplished enough in each of her three sports to warrant the honor.

“I just like sports. I love sports,” Salazar said last week. “Ever since I was little, I’ve done everything.

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“My summers are crazy,” she continued. “June is usually for basketball, then I have a bunch of volleyball camps next month. I’m gone all month, pretty much.”

So many favorites

Salazar’s indecision about a favorite sport isn’t limited to those at Hayden High School.

She sat cool and calm on a fence last weekend at the rodeo in Steamboat Springs as she watched family members compete, all the while harboring ideas of saddling up to ride in the rodeo herself later in the summer.

She plays too rough in the annual Powder Puff football game, likes snowboarding, loves to fish on her grandparents’ property and is an accomplished hunter.

“I took my elk two years ago,” she said.

She was in full force Thursday, playing in three softball tournament games with a group of Hayden girls before calling to cancel her planned appearance that evening with a co-ed softball team in Craig. The cancellation was at the insistence of her parents, but their hopes that she’d use the time off to relax were deflated when she spent the evening working on her roping.

“I think she’s crazy,” said her mother, Sally Salazar. “She wants to be the best at everything. It’s impossible, but she never stops trying. She’s interested in everything sports-wise. She even wanted to play football and wanted to wrestle when she was younger, but her mother wouldn’t let her.”

Such a wide array of interests did little to slow Salazar down during her breakout junior season. She was one of the best players on Hayden’s volleyball team and one of two recognized with Western Slope League post-season awards, earning all-league honorable mention honors.

She earned a first-team league honor in basketball, averaging 14.3 points and 8.8 rebounds per game.

State champion

Those accomplishments all paled next to what Salazar accomplished in the shot put ring. She was good at the shot put as a freshman and sophomore, earning a trip to state each season. When she strode into the ring in Delta on March 15 for her first throw of 2008, her career-best mark was 34 feet, 1 1/4 inches. When she walked out of the ring 53 days later at the state meet in Pueblo, she had increased that distance by 7 feet, 6 1/2 inches, shattering the school record nearly once a week and stunning her opponents, which included one returning state champion and three throwers with longer marks than Salazar’s previous best.

Her first throw at the state tournament would have been good enough to win her class. Her toss of 41 feet, 7 3/4 inches would have been championship-worthy in any of Colorado’s four athletic classes, and it earned her all-state honors from The Denver Post and all-state and girls weight event athlete of the year honors from the Rocky Mountain News.

“When she threw the first one, I looked over and saw the other girls, and their faces just dropped. When she improved on it with her second throw, they really dropped,” Salazar’s shot coach Kevin Kleckler said. “Some days you pick up the shot and it weighs five pounds. Some days it weighs 50.”

In 2008, Salazar made it look more like 1 pound.

Contenders

Other outstanding female high school athletes in Routt County this year include Steamboat Springs High School graduates Molly Weiss and Miranda Schrock, Steamboat rising senior Brittany Long and Soroco High School rising senior Sarajane Rossi.

Weiss won the No. 3 singles state championship with a series of heart-stopping matches in May at the state tournament in Pueblo.

For Schrock, one story sums up her athletic ability: When she signed to play next year at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., she was still up in the air as to what exactly she would play – soccer or hockey. She played with the boys high school hockey team and was an important member of Steamboat’s girls soccer team, earning honorable mention all-league honors in the sport.

Rossi was a valuable member of the Rams volleyball team and an all-league selection in basketball, but she perhaps shined brightest on the track. She advanced to state in each of her four events, medaling as a part of a team in two relays, and grabbing one of her own in the 400-meter run.

A three-sport standout, Long just missed a chance to compete at the state track meet but capped a strong year with a personal-best time in the 3,200-meter run at the league meet. The distance specialist ran cross country and also played basketball.

– To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@steamboatpilot.com

Honors

– Class 2A state shot put champion

– Named first team all-state in track by The Denver Post, and Rocky Mountain News

– First team Western Slope League, basketball

– Honorable Mention Western Slope League, volleyball