Not many people get as much joy out of athletics and competition as Ruth Holcomb.
The freshman at Durango High School seems to have a smile on her face at all times, partly because she’s so often standing on a podium for one of her various sports, but more so because she’s having such a good time.
Her infectious attitude helped the DHS girls cross-country team to a third-place finish at the state meet and helped the DHS mountain bike team to a state title during the fall. She was a force for the Durango Nordic Ski Club in the winter months and returned to her bike with strong performances at numerous races during the fall, all of which led to the fun-loving freshman being named The Durango Herald’s Freshman of the Year for girls athletics.
“It was all around a really fun year. I came into it and wanted to have fun and make some new friends, and it just turned out to be amazing,” said the daughter of Tom and Tracy Holcomb. “I kind of think I did so well because I had so much fun. It was an amazing group of people I had for all three sports I did. All around, it was a super fun experience.”
Holcomb has been a steady presence in mountain biking and Nordic skiing for years but broke through as a runner during the fall. It hadn’t always been one of her main focuses, but she was pulled to the sport by several of her friends who compete in cross-country.
The highlight of the cross-country season came during the Demons’ home meet, the Southwest Sunset XC Classic, when Holcomb kept pace with Durango’s Kiara Hamlin and Abby Scott to give the Demons first, second and third in the race. Hamlin won the race, followed by Holcomb in second and Scott in third.
“She probably had no business being in the top two or three, but she ended up there,” DHS cross-country coach David McMillan said. “She ran with Abby and Kiara for most of the race, and I think she surprised almost everybody, including myself, with that performance. Her expectations for herself was that she could run with our top kids, and she did.
“I had seen a glimmer of what she had when she came to one of our summer practices and challenged her dad to an 800 (meter race) and crushed him with no mercy. I knew she was competitive and one of these great young endurance athletes.”
Holcomb bounced back and forth from her mountain bike to cross-country during the fall. She’d often compete in cross-country meets on Fridays or Saturdays, then would be at a mountain bike race on Sundays.
One of the most grueling stretches came in late October. On Oct. 19, Holcomb placed fifth at the Class 4A Region 5 cross-country meet to help the Demons to the title, then on Oct. 22, she placed first in the junior varsity division for mountain biking at the Colorado Cycling League’s state championships, and on Oct. 28, she finished 49th at the state cross-country meet.
Holcomb credited her parents for getting her involved in cycling and skiing, her friends for introducing her to running, and the Durango community as a whole for her continued progression in sports. She said she likely would not have found as much success in sports, or as much enjoyment, if it wasn’t for Durango.
“I think that definitely in these sports, I’ve been super supported by the community,” Holcomb said. “I have amazing coaches and friends who all do these sports, and it’s super inspiring to see all these athletes who also do my same sports. It’s super easy to do these sports in a town like Durango.”
A few weeks ago, Holcomb made a big leap on her mountain bike at the Soldier Hollow mountain bike races in Midway, Utah. She placed second in the 15-16-year-old age group’s Category 1 cross-country race and was second in the short-track race, which gave her the individual omnium win for her age group.
The question of whether Holcomb will be a great athlete during her time at DHS isn’t up for debate. The only question is if she wants to continue in all three sports while maintaining her academics or turn her focus to a specific discipline.
“If she is not attracted to the glittering bicycle and the allure of cycling, she will be an excellent four-year progression athlete at Durango High School,” McMillan said. “It does make it tough, though. Coming into cross-country season, Ruth has biking in the spring with heavy training, and the balance for her will be how she manages all three successfully.”
Regardless of what the future holds for Holcomb, there’s no doubt she’ll continue to have fun with whatever she’s doing.
“I just try to have fun with it,” she said. “I love competing and I love the people I compete with, and it’s always super rewarding to do well, but I think having fun is super important and keeps me motivated in doing these sports.”
Editor’s note: The Durango Herald selected high school sports players of the year based on a unanimous decision between sports editor John Livingston and sports writer Karl Schneider. Increased consideration was given to multi-sport athletes who showed leadership in their firstname.lastname@example.org