Colbert: Williams, Lanese named senior athletes of the year at AHS sports banquet
Without providing any of the in-person drama I did my best to dish out at the time, Dominic Lanese and Mary Williams were named the male and female senior athletes of the year Thursday evening when Aspen High School held its annual senior sports banquet at The Inn at Aspen.
The first two years I covered this event I wrote this story from more of a pure news angle, but I’ve become too heavily involved in the handing out of those awards to keep that up. So I’ll write this one from a first-person perspective and maybe explain why those two won opposed to all the others.
First off, this award predates my arrival in Aspen only a month before the 2016-17 fall season kicked off. It seems it’s been a long-standing tradition for the sports editor of The Aspen Times — that would be me — and the AHS athletic director to agree on a single senior boy and girl to recognize with the awards at the end of the season. So, last week I gave Martha Richards, who is wrapping up her second year in charge of AHS athletics, my two choices and she didn’t disagree so that was that.
Of the two, I’d say the male athlete of the year was the most difficult to decide. We put a lot of stock in multi-sport athletes who have seen a lot of success from season-to-season, and certainly Lanese checks those boxes. It came down to him and Noah Hollander, who I have to bring up here, because he deserves the recognition as much as Lanese does.
In fact, Lanese brought up Hollander’s name with the first question I asked him after winning the award. Hollander was a three-sport standout in football, basketball and lacrosse.
“There were a lot of great candidates, like Noah Hollander. I’m super thankful to be in the shoes of all those other people who have won it,” Lanese said. “I’m still in awe. I did not think I was going to win this award.”
To recap, Lanese closed out his spectacular golf career by helping the AHS boys win their first state championship in program history for coach Mary Woulfe. He easily led Dru Lucchesi’s hockey team in points during the winter and was neck-and-neck this spring in points with junior Robbie Fitzgerald for second on the boys lacrosse team coached by Tommy Cox, behind sophomore Tyler Ward.
I bring up the coaches because Lanese did.
“Most of my success came from them,” he said. “They were awesome. Coach Dru has been with me forever and I’m so thankful for him, and Mary Woulfe was awesome and having Tommy Cox this year was also awesome.”
Lanese plans to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he hopes to walk onto the men’s golf team. If he does, he would be playing alongside AHS teammate Jack Hughes, who signed to play golf for CU back in November. He’s undecided on a major.
I didn’t have quite the difficulty deciding the female athlete of the year, although there were plenty of viable candidates. But the dominance Williams showed in her two sports was tough to beat.
She was an offensive workhorse for the volleyball team in the fall, which won 18 games, which very well could be the most wins in program history (update: it’s not, but the records on MaxPreps only go back to 2007, so I didn’t have a lot of easy info prior to that).
This spring, Williams wrapped up her fourth straight season playing at No. 1 singles for the girls tennis team. She ended up finishing third at state and made the state semifinals for the first time in her career.
“It was surprising, but it was awesome to hear that everything I’ve done people are recognizing. It was really cool,” Williams told me of winning the athlete of the year award. “I get super emotional thinking about it because I love my class and I think we have done great things together. I’m super surprised that out of all of these amazing people that I got chosen for this, but I think it’s so awesome our community is able to be so athletic and be so successful academically, too.”
Unlike Lanese, who obviously doesn’t mind the cold of Colorado, Williams is heading to the sunny, warm beaches of Southern California to attend Chapman University in Los Angeles. She hopes to continue her athletic career in either sport for the NCAA Division III school.
She plans to study health sciences and pursue a career as a physical therapist.
Hopefully none of the other kids, especially Hollander, holds a grudge against me for not picking them. I’d hand out more awards if I could. Either way, I want to say a heartfelt goodbye to this spectacular senior class. It was a tremendous year across the board and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed writing about you these past three years.
Class of 2020, you’re up.
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The state track and field championship meet got underway Thursday at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood, with Basalt High School coming away with a couple of podiums.