In Looking Back, We Can Look Forward

In 2012, Western College of Colorado became Western Colorado University. The name may have changed, campus looks a bit different as the years have passed, but we are still a family.

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Tonight I had the incredible honor of sitting in on the 21st Annual Induction Banquet to recognize the Class of 2015 inductees into the Mountaineer  Sports Hall of Fame. This may be a bit confusing because none of the Mountain Sports are NCAA sports, right? Well, Alpine and Nordic used to be, before 2008. Western had a strong presence in both disciplines, even holding races in Crested Butte. In 1966, Western took second in the NCAA Championships. The legacy lives on because of many Olympians, World Cup racers, professionals and lifelong athletes.

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Two ski team member were inducted today, Jim Burkholder and Ray Hensley. Burkholder came to Western in 1961 from Anchorage, Alaska. He was a varsity member of the ski team from 1963-1966 and was coached by Sven Wiik. He’s taken what he learned from Wiik, brought it back to Anchorage, coaches now and keeps skiing. Burkholder received the Lifetime Athletic Achievement Award. Ray Hensley is probably one of the most decorated athletes to come through Western’s Ski Team. Racing the 1969-1974 seasons, he earned his first All-American honor in 1972 and was named an Outstanding College Athlete of  America. In the 1972 NCAA Championships, he placed second in men’s downhill and third in slalom, taking away second overall. He would have similar results the next season, and go on to race the World Pro Tour and the Colorado Pro Tour. Thank you and congratulations to all of the inductees.

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Listening tonight to the stories of the ski team alums was an eye opening experience. We are no different from them. They conditioned hard preseason, raced the same venues, trained under West Wall, skied the practice loop on the football field, and are still incredible athletes and friends. The equipment changed, but the competitions still tough. We have to keep our head’s held high, support each other, and race our best. I would like to share a poem Ray Hensley said today in his thank you speech, called The Quitter by Robert W. Service because we can earn our degrees, and ski in our free time. Oh wait, I’ve got that backwards…

“When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
And Death looks you bang in the eye,
And you’re sore as a boil, it’s according to Hoyle
To cock your revolver and . . . die.
But the Code of a Man says: “Fight all you can,”
And self-dissolution is barred.
In hunger and woe, oh, it’s easy to blow . . .
It’s the hell-served-for-breakfast that’s hard.

“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
You’re young and you’re brave and you’re bright.
“You’ve had a raw deal!” I know — but don’t squeal,
Buck up, do your damnedest, and fight.
It’s the plugging away that will win you the day,
So don’t be a piker, old pard!
Just draw on your grit; it’s so easy to quit:
It’s the keeping-your-chin-up that’s hard.

It’s easy to cry that you’re beaten — and die;
It’s easy to crawfish and crawl;
But to fight and to fight when hope’s out of sight —
Why, that’s the best game of them all!
And though you come out of each gruelling bout,
All broken and beaten and scarred,
Just have one more try — it’s dead easy to die,
It’s the keeping-on-living that’s hard.”

Here are some photos of the meet and greet between Mountain Sports and the alumni and the induction:

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-Carley Clegg

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