From first-time accomplishments to gridiron greatness, Park City sports had a little bit of everything in 2019
It’s been an interesting year in the Park City sports world. From first-time accomplishments to gridiron greatness, the mountain town saw a little bit of everything in 2019.
Here are the top five sports stories of 2019, ranked No. 5 to No. 1.
5.) Rob Lea — ‘ultimate world triathlon’
Parkite Rob Lea is in a rarified group of one – he’s the only person to have swam from England to France, bagged the world’s highest peak and biked across America in one year.
“There was certainly a sense of accomplishment and celebratory elation, but there also this massive form of relief,” Lea said about his feat. “A major part of it though was the relief and the weight that had just been lifted off my shoulders. Not only did I get done when I set out to do, I finally get to move on with my life.”
Lea began what he dubbed his “ultimate world triathlon” by summiting Mount Everest with his now-wife Caroline Gleich in May before swimming the English Channel solo in July. He married Gleich in August before he began his bike ride across America in September: a 39-day journey that spanned 14 states and 3,608 miles.
Lea, an avid runner, dreamed up the idea in 2016 during a doctor’s appointment in which he learned he needed a procedure to remove bone spurs and reattach the stabilizing ligaments on both ankles. The doctor also told him he probably shouldn’t be running.
Knowing he needed something to look forward to in order to get through the rehab process, Lea came up with the idea and then followed through.
But as time went on, Lea decided to do the triathlon as well as a way to promote gender equality.
“Some of the assumptions we make as men, we don’t realize the bias we have and different ways we do that,” Lea said. “I’m not trying to lead the charge for gender equality, just want to help advocate for women and their equality. It’s not about standing up for women, but rather standing with them.”
Now Lea is spending his time with Gleich hitting the slopes and figuring out what’s next in life. Regardless of what it is, Lea knows it’ll be something fun.
4.) Woodward Park City — now open
On Dec. 14, people traveled to Park City to see what all the talk was about when Woodward Park City became the area’s newest resort — albeit one with an action-sports twist.
It seemed to live up to the hype as 2,500 people attended the opening day, which was deemed a success by Tucker Norred, spokesperson for Woodward Park City.
“I would definitely deem it a success considering how many people showed up and participated in everything we had to offer,” said Tucker Norred, spokesperson for Woodward Park City, amid the opening day festivities. “Not only did we open our doors on time, we opened them to show the local community that we are trying to put our best foot forward and truly be a part of this community. The turnover throughout the day was incredible because it allowed a lot of people to enjoy what we offer both indoor- and outdoor-wise.”
The action sports and ski resort, located on the hillside north of Pinebrook and visible from Interstate 80, is one of six Woodward locations owned by Park City-based Powdr. Outdoors, the 126-acre campus features skiing and snowboard terrain as well as tubing at Gorgoza Park, while a 66,000-square-foot indoor facility offers a skate ramp, trampolines and other amenities. It caters to athletes of all skill levels and ages.
While there was controversy surrounding Woodward as it made its way through the county approval process — nearby residents expressed concerns about noise and light impacts on the surrounding area, for instance — Norred said the resort wanted to make a good impression on opening day. So it donated all of opening day’s proceeds — over $20,000 — to six local charities, including the Youth Sports Alliance, Live Like Sam and the National Ability Center.
Woodward is now open 365 days a year from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (most days), while offering multiple classes, training programs and camps.
3.) Utah Olympic Park — big changes
It’s been a huge year for Utah Olympic Park.
After breaking ground on an $11 million expansion project in July, the UOP also officially opened its athlete housing development on Sept. 5.
“This has been a long time coming to have this building completed,” said Colin Hilton, president and CEO of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation during the grand opening of the Residences at Utah Olympic Park. “The process that we went through to make this building a reality started with a vision and a concept that goes back to 1994. The effort and idea was to have an entity that not only looked after the facilities but had a legacy in growing winters sports in the state of Utah.”
Part one of the “Mountain Expansion” involves devoting $3.5 million to the improvement of the preexisting training grounds while also creating new facilities.
The overall expansion project will improve training opportunities across the board while adding more course availability for skiers and snowboarders.
The first phase of improvements took place west of the Alf Engen Ski Museum, extending an intermediate training hill to over 1,000 feet. Also included in the expansion will be a new ski lift and operations center at the top of the hill, providing athletes with disabilities the opportunity to travel to the top and train.
The residences provide short- and long-term housing options for athletes and employees of the Utah Olympic Legacy Foundation as Salt Lake City makes a run for the 2030 Winter Olympics. The long-term residence area consists of studio apartments, two-bedroom/two-bathroom apartments (four-person occupancy) and two-bedroom/one-bathroom (two-person occupancy) options.
For short-term residents, a standard two-bedroom/one-bathroom hotel-style room and a two-bedroom/one-bathroom suite are available.
UOP officials have said the housing project highlights Utah’s continued commitment to keeping the Olympic legacy alive and creating sustainable venues.
2.) Park City football — state championship run
It was a magical season for the Miners on the gridiron.
Led by a stifling defense and a physical running game, Park City had arguably its best football season in school history when the Miners finished 13-1, with their lone loss coming against Sky View in the Class 4A state championship game.
Following the title game, coach Josh Montzingo was quick to point out to his kids that the lone loss doesn’t diminish what the Miners accomplished.
“It may be cheesy and it may be corny but I don’t care. … I love these boys, and they’re truly family to me and each other,” Montzingo said after the state title game. “I told them ‘one game doesn’t define you or what you did this season’ and I meant every word. This is an incredible group of young men and ones that I’m honored to have coached.”
The Miners were led by five players on the 4A all-state first-team, including senior wide receiver Mark McCurdy (two-time first-team member), senior running back Dylan Bauer (Utah’s leading rusher) and senior linebacker Chase Johansen (4A’s leading tackler). Four other Miners also received all-state honors, including senior quarterback Jack Skidmore and junior safety Kirby Baynes.
Among the season highlights was Park City winning Region 10 outright this year, while also avenging last season’s losses to rivals Wasatch and Stansbury.
Park City has been known for its silver mines and as a resort destination over its history. But when it comes to a hotbed of high school football in the state, the small mountain town with a population of 8,500 doesn’t exactly come to mind.
So what this team, and this group of seniors did, extends far past this season’s record.
“Nobody used to come to Park City looking for football players, or even a football town,” Montzingo said. “But this senior class helped turn all of that around, and they’ve been instrumental in putting us on that map. Combine with what they did and the support from the community, I think we can say Park City is a football town now.”
1.) 2019 FIS World Championships — Park City again plays host
In what was deemed the largest sporting event in Utah since the 2002 Winter Olympics by U.S. Ski and Snowboard, Park City played host to the 2019 FIS Freeski, Freestyle and Snowboard World Championships in February.
The World Championships didn’t require any new, permanent infrastructure, but it was still considered a logistical undertaking as 1,500 athletes and coaching staff descended on Park City before the Sundance Film Festival had wrapped.
The World Championships were reminiscent of the 2002 Winter Games, though the scale and significance of the event were not as large as the Olympics. There was a festival-like atmosphere as musicians and other forms of entertainment were prevalent throughout the 10-day event, truly making the fan experience something special for the thousands who attended.
According to Park City mayor Andy Beerman, hosting the World Championships served as an opportunity to prove to the International Olympic Committee that Park City, and by extension Salt Lake City, would be an ideal location to host the 2030 Winter Olympics.
“It’s quite an opportunity and an honor to have this event here, and it has really allowed us to show the world how ready and willing we are to host major games like the Olympics,” Beerman said in February.
“In Park City, we love winter sport,” he added. “We love big events. We have Olympic-sized and Olympic-quality venues, which we continue to maintain.”
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