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Routt, Garfield, Moffat County runners make strides in Girls on the Run 5K

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A pack of runners layered in jackets, leggings and tutus lined up at Steamboat Springs Middle School on Saturday to take part in the Girls on the Run 5K.

Girls on the Run is a nationwide 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps inspire girls in third through eighth grade to develop life skills and establish a lifetime appreciation for fitness. The program consists of a 10-week training program that culminates with a 5K race.

Girls On The Run gives the girls better awareness of themselves, their emotions, and it increases their confidence to make good choices both in their own lives and when dealing with others,” Alissa Merage said, one of the Steamboat Springs Girls on the Run coaches. “The girls develop life skills that can be transferred from the Girls On the Run lessons to real-life scenarios, such as remaining calm when a sibling frustrates them, dealing with bullies at school or supporting your friends in an unpopular situation.”

While the program is all over Western Colorado, there are five locations to run the 5K: Montrose, Fruita, Durango, Frisco and Steamboat Springs.

Steamboat Springs started its Girls on the Run program eight years ago, adding the 5K race six years ago.

“We didn’t have a race originally in Steamboat,” Western Colorado 5K director Megan Lancaster said over the phone on Wednesday, Nov. 7. “Now, there will be 16 teams from Routt, Moffat and Garfield county that go to that race, and we are expecting 500 participants: 350 girls, 80 coaches, the rest are community runners.”

In the past, Steamboat Springs also hosted Frisco runners, but the program grew enough for the town to host its own race. Steamboat Springs’ central location and growth has enabled it to be an ideal host. The program has 42 coaches with about 15 or more girls to a coach.

Exercise and running is incorporated into each of the 20 lessons as we train for the 5K, but the focus is on being healthy, having fun and supporting each other,” Merage said. “With this focus, the girls are encouraged to see exercise as a fun and social lifelong habit.”

The 5K is open to anyone, so girls ran with their families and friends to show how much they have accomplished through the program. Others stood through the 25-degree weather holding signs with the girls’ names on them or the words “girl power.”

The first runner to cross the finish was Abigail DuFon, 12, finishing with a time of 23 minutes and 13 seconds. But runners continued to finish over the next 20 minutes because it wasn’t about the time — but having the confidence to go to the distance, even if it meant walking.

“Everybody can do it. Doesn’t matter if you walk or you run, everybody is special,” DuFon said. “I have a lot of running buddies, so it’s fun.”

While DuFon aspires to be a competitive runner, she likes the inclusiveness of the program and how it taught her that it’s ok to be yourself. She turned to watch the second runner finish, clapping, then waiting for others. Runners piled in, sometimes hand-in-hand, others sprinting towards the finish. Every participant received a medal.

Claire Booth, a Steamboat Springs Girls on the Run coach, said that the energy at the 5K was uplifting despite the low temperatures. She was happy to see the community running alongside the girls. Booth grew up running in both high school and college and moved to Steamboat Springs from Golden this year. She pushed her 3-year-old daughter in a stroller for the 5K.

It was also cool to see all the girls cheer on the other girls from other schools,” Booth said. “It’s an interesting age because they form bonds and cliques. Last week, we had a practice 5K, and the curriculum they give the coaches has that built in. At least, they weren’t going into this blind. They seemed to do well. It’s helpful for me to know what girls go through this day and age.”

The program costs $55, including two free t-shirts and entry into the 5K, but if families are unable to pay for the cost, they can call the office to waive the fee.

For some, the most rewarding part is watching the girls they’ve gotten to know through coaching complete the race, embracing them as they cross the finish.

“Some of these girls could hardly run once around the soccer fields when we started back in August,” Merage said.  “What an amazing confidence builder for them to complete the 5K and a great lesson that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to in life.”

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports

Craig Middle School hoops outshoots Meeker Cowboys in Saturday series

It was a shorter day than expected in the Craig Middle School gym, but Bulldog basketball cleaned up quickly with a sweep of the Meeker Cowboys of Barone Middle School.

CMS won all three games against the visiting team in what was originally intended to be a full tournament only for half the teams to pull out late in the week.

Even so, the Bulldog seventh-grade B-Team made the most of their playing time and edged past the Cowboys 26-16, while the A-Team upped the ante at 54-25.

Coach Mark Carlson’s squad held a healthy halftime lead at 33-17 and didn’t bother to slow down from there.

“They shared the ball really well, 17 assists, so that was really nice,” Carlson said. “They drove really well, got a lot of turnovers, and ball movement was just great.”

The day ended with a 40-16 wallop by the eighth-grade A-Team.

Evan Atkin said he and his teammates worked to mix up the energy so Meeker never got too comfortable.

“We switch really well between our plays,” he said.

On a personal level, Atkin said he’s improved throughout the weeks in his shooting style.

“I’ve gotten a lot better on my open layups. I missed a lot of those last year,” he said. “Our passing has gotten a lot better, too.”

Coach Steve Maneotis noted the group’s ability to overwhelm the Cowboy offense.

“They played well. I thought we did a great job with our man-to-man defense, it really took them out of their flow,” he said.

He added the A-Team defeated the Cowboys 24-14 during a tournament in Steamboat Springs a week earlier.

“They have some good guards who are quick, and we saw them at Steamboat, but the biggest thing is that we ran the floor and looked for fastbreak opportunities, very seldom got into a half-court set,” he said.

The same event in Steamboat saw the Bulldogs fall to the Sailors for the second time as the hosts hit a last-second shot to win 23-21 despite the Dogs fighting their way back from a bad start in a 10-0 first quarter.

“They’ve made great strides,” Maneotis said.

A B-Team tourney hosted Friday by Soroco saw seventh-graders go 2-0 and eighth-graders 1-1, while 5-1 seventh-grade A saw its first defeat at Steamboat, one which players will be looking to avenge. Likewise, CMS eighth-grade A-Team is 4-2, still setting their sights on a couple goals: a 60-point game and defeating the Sailors at districts, hosted by Rangely in December.

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Craig native Aaron Kawcak bounces back from broken neck to coach at Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Aaron Kawcak jogs with a group of junior ability snowboarders across the snow to a parking lot by the fairgrounds.

The junior ability program is offered to kids 14 and younger at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club. It provides advanced snowboard training for giant slalom, slalom, halfpipe, slope style and snowboard cross with optional competition participation.

For Kawcak, the new full-time head coach of the program, it was an opportunity to come home when he needed it most.

He sets them up for a dynamic warmup, which includes lunges, bear crawls, crab walks, running and other movements. Today, he plans on taking them for a hike up Emerald Mountain to help build up their strength and endurance.

"Coaching higher level kids, you get to build a relationship," Kawcak said. "Teaching, you get them for a half day or two days. Coaching, I became passionate about."

Kawcak grew up on his family's ranch in Craig. After working in the oil field for a few years after high school, Kawcak longed for something new.

He deemed himself a "decent" snowboarder, growing up with it, but didn't know he could turn it into a career. He impulsively left home and found out it was exactly what he wanted to do.

"I took a Greyhound to Utah," Kawcak said. "I got into a class at the University of Utah on how to teach snowboarding. I enjoyed it but didn’t know how to teach it or realize there was a whole industry and lifestyle. I fell in love with it."

Kawcak made his way through the ranks, earning a coaching position for Team Utah, the snowboarding sports club in Park City, Utah.

But Kawcak's grandfather was in and out of the hospital, and he felt like he needed to be closer to family to help out on the ranch.

A week before his intended move back to Craig in July 2017, Kawcak went cliff jumping with his friends and broke his neck. Lying nearly paralyzed in the water, unable to move his arms, Kawcak's friends fished him out and rushed him to the hospital.

"I was in a halo for three months, not being able to move," Kawcak said. "Looking back, it was really emotional. It was like being locked up in a cage for months not being able to move or shower."

A halo is a metal frame that includes a vest, stabilization bars and a metal ring that circles the patient's head, fastened to the skull. Kawcak remained in the hospital for a week before returning home in Craig.

He was told that fewer than two percent of people who break their c1 vertebrae have a chance to walk again, and the injury can sometimes be fatal. For that week in the hospital, he couldn't walk, but he would spend the next six months in physical therapy.

"It was in the air. They didn’t know if the halo was going to work," Kawcak said. "If that doesn’t heal right, they would’ve fused it. I didn’t know if I would have full movement."

Three months later, Kawcak was taken out of the halo and put in a neck brace, continuing through physical therapy to gain back movement.

Summer turned into winter, and Kawcak wondered if he could go back to coaching.

He interviewed with Tori Koski, the snowboard program director at the winter sports club, and he took on a volunteer coaching job for the winter, driving from Craig to Steamboat Springs every day.

"I was like, 'Well the only positions we have left are volunteering,' and he was like, 'I’m in,’" Koski said. "He worked way more than he asked for, came to USASA nationals, coached trampoline this summer. We needed a head coach for this program to go full time, and he was great with the kids."

Kawcak said that he took his neck brace off for the initial interview, scared that it called his ability into question.

"In my head, I thought I was capable of doing it but honestly didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it," Kawcak said. "I was very cautious, but also, it was a very big confidence builder."

The return to snowboarding was a mental hurdle. Kawcak thought any time he fell, his neck would break. But, as he continued his volunteer coaching through the winter, he felt more comfortable getting back to the sport he loved.

"Being around the kids and the whole winter sports club environment was healthy for me," Kawcak said. "It’s worked out well."

To reach Leah Vann, call 970-871-4253, email lvann@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LVann_Sports.

Take every opportunity: Moffat County swimming powers on without home pool

The pool area of Moffat County High School won’t be hosting any aquatic athletes in the foreseeable future, but that doesn’t mean Bulldogs won’t find other ways to compete.

The MCHS swimming program will continue on during the winter and spring despite not having a venue on campus as athletes and coaches look to get creative in continuing the success of the sport in Northwest Colorado.

The announcement came in February that Moffat County School District would be shutting down the pool at the end of the 2017-18 school year due to the cost of potentially repairing the facility’s maintenance issues, including an ongoing leak.

The price tag was estimated to be about $1.1 million, with board members opting to close the pool, a decision that hit hard for the girls and boys swim teams.

The news was particularly rough for girls, who were just coming off multiple state-qualifying swims at the Southwestern Conference League Championships and nonetheless went on to compete at the state championships days later.

In the spring, the boys team likewise took its possible last season to heart as nearly every member went to state.

While organizers continue to work toward building a new indoor pool facility for Craig, the end of the school year also seemed like the end of an era for coach Meghan Francone, but during the summer, discussions began to keep teams in place even without their own pool.

The arrangement will involve traveling three times a week to swim at Meeker Recreation Center, while two days a week will be devoted to “dryland” work, including core training, cardio and aerobic exercise.

Working out of the water was a supplemental technique Francone insisted athletes practice last season, though now it will be all the more necessary.

“We’ll be doing all we can to support our water workouts since we don’t have that water here,” she said. “It’s not the most ideal situation, but our kids are Moffat County proud, and we will do the best with what we are given, and we’re just grateful to still have a team”

Francone expressed her gratitude to Meeker for working with MCHS, which is hardly new given how frequently other area schools compete as part of the Bulldog crew. Meeker’s Jeni Kincher and Steamboat Springs’ Brooks Birkinbine were among those in the past year who went to state for girls and boys, respectively.

Throughout the summer, many MCHS athletes stayed sharp as part of Craig Sea Sharks, with Ellina Jones, Kelsey McDiffett, Alexa Neton, Molly Neton and Katelynn Turner among those attending the Seasonal State Club Championships in August.

As part of those honors, Molly Neton, a senior at MCHS this year, went on to receive the Seasonal State Female Athlete of the Year.

“She came to practice ready to work and would often be the motivator for the rest of the team when it was time to jump into the water at 7 a.m.,” Sea Sharks coach Heather Trapp said. “Molly is a consistently hard worker who really does put her heart in the pool.”

Trapp added she expects the high school season will be a success if the summer is any indication.

Francone echoed that sentiment.

“We’re still trying to iron out the details, but these kids are great at going out there no matter what,” she said.

Parents meeting coming up as Moffat County winter sports get back in action

As the weather keeps getting colder, Moffat County High School athletes will remain indoors while keeping competition heated.

MCHS winter sports officially begin practices Monday, Nov. 12 in accordance with Colorado High School Activities Association rules.

Among the official school teams that will compete from November through March are boys and girls basketball, wrestling and girls swimming.

A meeting for parents of all winter athletes takes place at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14 in the MCHS library, 900 Finley Lane with details on coaches and the forthcoming season.

For more information, call 970-824-7036.

Craig Middle School hoops to host tri-tourney: Bulldog Sports — Week of Nov. 7, 2018

Wednesday

3:30 p.m. Moffat County High School wrestling open practice at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

4 p.m. Moffat County High School girls basketball open gym at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

6 p.m. Craig Parks and Recreation fifth- and sixth-grade girls youth basketball at Sandrock Elementary School, 201 E. Ninth St.

6:30 p.m. Moffat County High School boys basketball open gym at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

7 p.m. Craig Parks and Recreation adult volleyball league at Craig Middle School, 915 Yampa Ave.

Thursday

3:30 p.m. Moffat County High School wrestling open practice at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

4 p.m. Moffat County High School girls basketball open gym at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

6 p.m. Craig Parks and Recreation fifth- and sixth-grade boys youth basketball at Sandrock Elementary School, 201 E. Ninth St.

6 p.m. Moffat County High School volleyball awards banquet at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

6:30 p.m. Moffat County High School boys basketball open gym at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

Friday

9 a.m. Craig Middle School boys basketball at Soroco Tournament in Oak Creek

3:30 p.m. Moffat County High School wrestling open practice at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

4 p.m. Moffat County High School girls basketball open gym at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

Saturday

9 a.m. Craig Middle School boys basketball vs. Steamboat Springs and Meeker at Craig triangular at CMS, 915 Yampa Ave., and Sandrock Elementary School, 201 E. Ninth St.

Sunday

9 a.m. Craig Youth Hockey Association 12U Peewees vs. Telluride at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park, 600 S. Ranney St.

11:30 a.m. Craig Youth Hockey Association 12U Peewees vs. Telluride at Moffat County Ice Arena at Loudy-Simpson Park, 600 S. Ranney St.

3:30 p.m. Youth Bowling League at Thunder Rolls Bowling Center, 990 Industrial Ave.

Monday

TBD Moffat County High School winter sports teams season kickoff at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

5:30 p.m. Craig Parks and Recreation third- and fourth-grade girls youth basketball at Sunset Elementary School, 800 W. Seventh St.

7 p.m. Craig Parks and Recreation adult volleyball league at Craig Middle School, 915 Yampa Ave.

Tuesday

6 p.m. Moffat County High School boys soccer awards banquet at MCHS, 900 Finley Lane

Coroner IDs hunter killed in potential accidental shooting

GRANBY — Grand County authorities are currently investigating a possible hunting accident Monday morning that resulted in the death of one man.

Details on the developing investigation were sparse Monday, but officials from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that a man died earlier in the day after being shot by one of his hunting partners. The Grand County Coroner's Office confirmed the identity of the man as Ernest “Ernie” Ackerly, 43, of Centennial.

Lt. Dan Mayer, spokesman for the sheriff’s office, said investigators are looking into the incident as a possible hunting accident and potential accidental shooting. Mayer confirmed that the deceased is not a Grand County resident, though no additional details about the man’s identity were immediately available.

The incident occurred at the far northwestern end of Grand County Road 41, north of Granby, a little after 7 a.m. Monday morning. Mayer said investigators are interviewing multiple witnesses who were on hand when the shooting occurred.

The Grand County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the incident along with officials from Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A crime scene processing unit from the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was en route to Grand County late Monday morning to help local officials process the location where the shooting occurred.

This story is developing.

Hayden, Steamboat, Craig parties charged with wildlife crimes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A Routt County outfitter has been ordered to make a $20,000 donation to Operation Game Thief, a wildlife tip line, after he admitted to committing wildlife crimes during the 2016-17 hunting seasons.

Marvin Doherty, 70, owner and operator of the Hayden-based Outdoor Specialist LLC, and four of his employees must also pay thousands of dollars in penalties for their crimes based on an agreement reached with the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Doherty's son, Vaughn M. Doherty, 45, of Craig, also participated in the scheme, as did co-conspirators Gregory L. Londos, 36, Philip O. Davis, 33, and Ryan J. Doughty, 29, all from Steamboat Springs.

The case was investigated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

"They committed numerous crimes including manipulating the system by purchasing licenses available over the counter, then used them where they were not supposed to," Evan Jones, a CPW wildlife officer from Craig, was quoted as saying in a news release. "Because of this, their clients illegally harvested numerous elk on public land, taking the opportunity away from legal, public land hunters. We are very satisfied with having brought this activity to an end."

According to CPW officials, the group led clients on public land hunts using licenses valid only on private land in game management unit 12. They also took wildlife illegally, trespassed and committed several additional criminal acts.

None of the clients who participated in the illegal hunts face criminal charges.

Marvin Doherty pleaded guilty to one count of illegal sale of wildlife, a Class 5 felony, and to the illegal possession of three or more big game animals and baiting big game wildlife. He agreed to a four-year deferred judgment and sentence, and the judge prohibited him from hunting for four years.

He also was ordered to pay $4,050 in fines in addition to the $20,000 donation to Operation Game Thief and he will also forfeit two utility vehicles used extensively to commit the crimes.

Vaughn Doherty pleaded guilty to three counts of hunting elk without a proper and valid license and criminal mischief, both misdemeanors. The judge sentenced him to four years of probation and $476 in fines.

Londos also pleaded guilty to illegal sale of wildlife, the illegal possession of three or more big game animals and hunting on private property without permission. He received a three-year deferred judgment and sentence and was placed on probation. He was ordered to pay $4,100 in fines.

Davis pleaded guilty to three counts of misdemeanor hunting elk without a proper and valid license and two counts of illegal possession of wildlife. He paid $5,966 in fines.

Pending a CPW hearing, all five men may receive an additional suspension of their hunting and fishing privileges in Colorado and 46 Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact States, and the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies may review Doherty's status as a state licensed outfitter.

"They thought they could get away with it due to the remoteness of their location," CPW Officer Johnathan Lambert, who assisted Jones with the investigation, said in a news release. "They thought wrong. We have very dedicated game wardens in this state. Each of us will do all we can to apprehend violators, even in the most remote areas, and other states."

Deputy District Attorney Alexandra Jennings also was commended for her role in helping to bring the poachers to justice.

To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @LSchlichtman.

Craig Bantam hockey hits hard in home opener with Telluride

The season is in full swing for Craig Youth Hockey Association’s 14 and under Bantam team, and a meager roster is bolstered by a group that’s ready and raring to hit the ice hard.

The trick, according to coach Cary Herndon, will be making sure players harness that excitement properly and keep their heads.

The Cougars began their schedule Saturday at home with a doubleheader against Telluride, one which the Craig team split with the Lizardheads, falling 6-5 in the early game only to dominate the next round 9-3.

The match-up was a highly physical one between Telluride, who relied on speed, and the Cougars who, even with only seven skaters to the Lizardheads’ eight, came out swinging as the undeniable bruisers.

The two opponents were close in penalty minutes for the opener, but Craig players were far more frequent visitors to the box in the afternoon game, amassing 29 minutes.

Even so, Telluride’s power play possibilities were limited to three goals in the second period, at which point, Craig had already put four points on the board, with Chayton McDonald already earning his second hat trick.

“I’ve been playing Telluride for a while now, and they always come out strong in the first game and then just get worn out,” McDonald said. “A lot of it’s mental, and then fatigue kicks in.”

Despite a major penalty for head contact that kept him confined for 10 minutes, he had five goals in the second game, eight total for the day.

McDonald spent the past season playing for Steamboat Springs but was looking forward to suiting up again for Craig.

“We come together really well. We’ve got to work more on passing, but we’ve got the speed,” he said.

Brant Gutierrez also had a trio of goals in the second game to add to his two from earlier, while Garrett Anson put one past the Lizardhead keeper on a breakaway during the Cougar penalty kill.

In the Craig goal, Dylan Herndon earned 17 saves in the first game, doubling that with 34 in the second.

Cougars had nine assists across the day, split among Gutierrez, Carter Behrman, Forrest Siminoe and Baryn Suessmeier.

“They definitely came out aggressive,” Cary Herndon said of his athletes, adding that the heavy hitting had pros and cons.

A check from behind against the boards late in the day took Anson out of the game, with Telluride parents going so far as to urge the officials to end the match early. Even with the win, Herndon had some stern words in store for the locker room.

“They get a little riled up, and we don’t condone it, but it gets rough,” he said.

Even with low numbers working against him just as last year when he coached many of the same players at the 12U Peewee level, Herndon said the group has a lot of promise.

“They’re a good team so far, and they do really well when they focus and work together,” he said.

The early season series is Craig Bantams’ last competition for nearly a month, next scheduled to host Grand Junction Dec. 2, the same weekend as the 10U Squirts’ first games against Durango.

The Peewees will host two games starting at 9 a.m. Nov. 11 against Telluride at Moffat County Ice Arena.

As for the 18U Midgets, the Moffat County Bulldogs started their season Saturday with a road win in Denver against Arapahoe’s Navy team.

Goalie Jack Doane earned a shutout, while skaters made it a 6-0 day, including four goals by Clay Durham and one each from Grady Anson and Garrett Stockman.

The Bulldogs moved to 2-0 for the season with a Sunday win against Arapahoe Gold, 8-3.

Colder, snowier weather should aid hunters as third rifle season begins

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Snow and colder weather should help hunters as they head out into the woods this weekend for the third rifle season.

“As the weather gets worse, the hunting gets better,” said Matt Gorevan, with Elk River Guns in Steamboat Springs.

Hunting is big business in Colorado and contributes $919 million annually to the economy, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

The third rifle season for elk and deer kicked off Saturday and runs through Nov. 11. It is also bear hunting season until Nov. 18.

Parks and Wildlife will not know exactly how many hunting tags it has sold until next year, but anecdotally, the season appears to be going well.

“There are a lot of things that can contribute as to whether sales are up and down,” Parks and Wildlife spokesman Mike Porras said.

Steamboat’s Area Wildlife Manager Kris Middledorf said he thinks this region might have been positively impacted by wildfires in other parts of the state that were still active when the rifle season started Oct. 13.

Hunters had to quickly evacuate when the Silver Creek Fire northwest of Kremmling blew up Sept. 12.

Closures have since been lifted, but Middledorf thinks hunters might have changed their plans and gone to alternate locations.

“We saw more people probably coming more our direction,” Middledorf said.

He said in the two days leading up to the second rifle season that started Oct. 20 the Steamboat office sold more hunting tags that any other office in the state.

The current weather should aid hunters because it encourages animals to move to lower elevations.

So far, Middledorf said overall harvest has been average, and muzzleloading and archery hunters did well.

The Hot Sulphur Springs Parks and Wildlife office in neighboring Grand County reported the deer harvest has been good.

They base this off of the number of carcasses that come in for mandatory chronic wasting disease testing.

The Hot Sulphur Springs office was reporting their elk population has proven to be elusive this season.

According to wildlife officials, this could be caused by the drought, which might have caused the population to shift their locations.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatPilot.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland.