A look back on the top five sports stories of 2017
December 31, 2017
Hello 2018, goodbye 2017. This year, the Park City community outdid itself again as high school and professional athletes alike demonstrated the depth of the city's athletic talent. But like any year, it was not without loss. Here are the top five stories of 2017.
Picabo Street — dedicated mom, Parkite and Super G Olympic champion – was honored by the Alf Engen Ski Museum as an inductee into the Intermountain Ski Hall of Fame in September. Street is a central figure among American skiing lore and has invested in Park City's future through the Picabo Street Academy – which primarily offers education for athletes that have nontraditional schedules because of competition.
She joins the ranks of Alf Engen, Stein Eriksen, Woody Anderson, and Meeche White (co-founder of the National Ability Center).
"It's kind of embarrassing to be at the center of it, because quite frankly, as a mom, you're on the back burner, and I just have been so busy paying it forward, so to be honored tonight is hitting me in the pit of my belly," she said before her induction. "It's taking me all the way back, and I just hope that the legacy of this inspires more kids to do the same thing and believe they can do it no matter where they come from. This is one of those that as you get older you really realize what it means, you realize what you've left, and that's happening currently."
She said this year she is rooting for Lindsey Vonn.
4. Olympic Athletes gear up for 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games
Park City is essentially a farm for Olympic athletes. In 2014, 64 Olympic hopefuls had connections to Park City and many came up through the Youth Sports Alliance's local programs.
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This year is shaping up similarly, with dozens of Park City athletes jostling for spots on the national team.
From up-and-comers like freeskiers Alex Hall and Colby Stevenson and skeleton racer Andrew Blaser to veterans like Ted Ligety, Sarah Hendrickson and the Fletcher brothers, Taylor and Bryan, there has been no shortage of contenders coming out of Park City.
Hendrickson was also at the center of internal debates about how athletes are funded when she told the press at the 2017 Team USA Media Summit she would be self-funding her Olympic efforts after not meeting podium requirements established by the U.S. Olympic Committee. Shortly after, the women's ski jumping team was brought under the wing of U.S. Ski and Snowboard, which helps cover its athletes' travel and competition fees.
Park City has also played an important role in the events leading up to the Winter Games, such as hosting bobsled and skeleton World Cup events, continental cups in freestyle skiing and bobsledding and skeleton, hosting Team Trials for Nordic combined and ski jumping, plus the freestyle World Cups coming to Deer Valley in January. Considering all the ways Park City is involved in winter sports, it's likely several athletes will represent the town in Pyeongchang – if they are not already local legends, they are legends in the making.
3. PCHS athletics flexes, even in Class 4A
How do we even start talking about PCHS athletics? The school had several massive moments — capping off a decade at the top of Utah's golf scene, a first-ever state championship title in volleyball, a fourth state title in five years in girls tennis, and the fourth straight Class 3A state win for its swimmers, who set six 3A records in the process before the move to Class 4A for the 2017-18 season.
While the school's swimmers easily beat their 3A competitors, other contests were tighter, such as the girls’ tennis. The Miners won after Desert Hills and Logan essentially eliminated each other by stacking their doubles teams and, in the process, drew enough points from each other for Park City to emerge as the winner among its new 4A classification. The Rockwood sisters, Livi and Gabby, and senior Taylor Matz helped earn crucial points in singles.
Add in the creation of the first official feeder program for boys basketball and the recognition of its athletic director, Jamie Sheetz, among a small group of well-studied professionals and it's hard to ignore the school's accomplishments and dedication to sports. No wonder Sheetz said he has no favorite sports but enjoys whichever PCHS activity he's watching – nearly half the time it's a state championship team.
2. The formation of Park City Ski and Snowboard
Five youth winter sports teams converged to make one massive club last summer, all under the umbrella of Park City Ski and Snowboard. The merger of Park City Ski and Snowboard means that athletes from Park City Ski Team, Summit Ski Team, Team Park City United, Park City Nordic, and Fly Freestyle are under the tutelage of one multidisciplinary organization.
According to Jesse Hunt, executive director of PCSS, the merger should decrease scheduling issues for clubs, parents and venues while providing a high level of coaching and increased flexibility for athletes looking to switch sports.
"It's a little more applicable to [younger-aged kids], because at that point it's sampling," Hunt told the Park Record in June. "They're not moving up the scope in their skill development, they're just trying to figure out where they fit, what they like to do. That's really where the multi-sport sampling is important and where we see it fitting in the scheme of things."
With nearly 900 athletes practicing and competing with PCSS, the club has the potential to eliminate a lot of headaches for locals.
Both Deer Valley Resort and Park City Mountain Resort were quick to embrace the merger and recognize the new club, which helped cut down of scheduling issues of their own.
1. Rest in peace, Steve Holcomb
Park City lost one of its homegrown heroes in Steve Holcomb. The bobsled-racing Olympic medalist died unexpectedly at the age of 37 while competing in Lake Placid, New York, in early May.
"Steve was a wonderful man, and a great friend," said Pete Piechoski, chairman of USA Bobsled and Skeleton's board of directors, in a press release after Holcomb's death. "He was a fearless competitor whose light shone bright and guided us all."
That light helped illuminate Park City, where he was involved in several athletic programs. He grew up ski racing with Park City Ski Team, went through the Winter Sports School, and regularly trained and competed at the Utah Olympic Park, where he got his start as a bobsledder and eventually won numerous World Cup titles.
As an Olympian, Holcomb was the driver of two bobsled teams that both stood on the podium for the U.S. in Sochi, Russia, earning a pair of bronze medals. Those accomplishments were posthumously improved when Russia's pair of first-place finishes were thrown out for doping.
But more than medals, those around Holcomb — including other Olympians, coaches, friends and family — said he was a steady and reliable man, who could be confided in during times of trouble.
He never forgot his community. At the time of his death, his racing helmet was adorned with the logo of Park City.
"Every day, our students pass beneath a poster of Steve, highlighting his amazing accomplishments and contributions to winter athletics," The Winter Sports School said in a statement released after his death. "Just as importantly — and amazingly — Steve was a true gentleman: kind, polite, caring, and always supportive of his many followers."
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