Tara Traphagan: 2016 Steinmark Award Winner

Tara Traphagan contributed in a big way in three sports at Yuma High School, including a 40-4.5 school record in the shot put. Photo by Alan Versaw.

Special to Colorado Track XC by Scott Stocker

Yuma's Tara Traphagan probably received the longest-distance phone call to a winner of the 2016 CHSCA Freddie Steinmark Award than any previous winner, boy or girl. Why? She was in Mexico on a school trip with friends when she received the call.

"This is awesome, just amazing," said Traphagan (pronounced Traf-uh-gun). "I'm actually surprised and extremely honored to receive this award. I didn't know what my chances were since I come from a smaller school. I just feel very fortunate. Volleyball has been my favorite sport, but I actually love all of them."

Traphagan is the 44th winner of the girls Steinmark since the award was established in 1972. She will be presented with the award and honored, June 10 in Alamosa at Adams State University. The first girl to win the Steinmark was Anne Vento of Pueblo Centennial in 1974.

"To me, this award is all about the giving of yourself, no matter if it is on or off the field," wrote Traphagan in her nomination letter. "It is about strength, dedication, and perseverance. But what stood out to me most was the high regard with which dedication to scholastic excellence and leadership are held."

Traphagan is ranked first in a very competitive class in Yuma with a 4.223 GPA and scored a school-best 34 on the ACT. Tara can credit her older brother, Austin, for setting the bar for her to aim for when setting her goals. Austin was an All-Colorado football player for Yuma HS, class of 2010, and an excellent student, scoring high enough on his ACT that it made Tara work hard to beat his score with her outstanding ACT score.

"In my high school years, it became very apparent that athletics are not the only thing that matter," said Traphagan. "For years, it has been my goal to prove those who believe it is impossible to be both dedicated to your studies and an exceptional athlete wrong.

"Freddie Steinmark is someone all Colorado athletes should strive to be like," Traphagan said. "He is the epitome of courage and perseverance, strength and dedication, and leadership. To have my name in the same sentence as his would be the greatest honor."

Traphagan was an integral part of the Yuma Lady Indians basketball team which made appearances in the State Tournament in the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, 2014-2015, and 2015-2016 seasons. The Lady Indians Basketball Team capped their 2015-2016 season with a 2A State Championship after being State Runner-Ups in the 2A classification the previous three seasons.

In volleyball, Traphagan was All-State First Team for Yuma Lady Indians volleyball teams that were semi-finalists in 2013, runners-up in 2014, and state champions in 2015.

Traphagan was the 2A Player of the Year in volleyball for a Yuma the 2015 state championship team. She was voted All-State First Team in basketball as well, where she played an integral role in Yuma's second state championship of the school year.

She also set a school record in the shot put, 40' 4.5", which boosted her to the tops of the rankings of 2A track and field. The state track and field meet saw Traphagan finish in 2nd place in the shot put.

Traphagan is not just an outstanding student and athlete. She balances her academics, sports and club activities very well. She is involved in Student Council, FBLA, FCA, National Honor Society, Yuma Drama Club, International Thespian Society, Youth Group, and the Pep and Marching Band. She has also been involved in numerous community service activities.

"I have had the pleasure of coaching Tara in basketball the last six years," said Yuma's basketball coach, Mike Neil. "She has been on the varsity team all four years of high school. She started for me her junior and senior years. Tara improved each of those four years and was voted all conference and All-state her junior and senior years. She was voted captain of the basketball team her junior and senior years. Tara is a natural born leader.

"Tara leads by example and encourages her teammates to be the very best she can be," continued Neil. "She is an excellent athlete and basketball player and has been very tenacious in trying to improve her skills and get better every day. She helped lead her team to the state championship game the last four years.

"This year we were able to win the state championship and Tara was very instrumental in our success," said Neil. "Her dedication and work ethic in everything she does is very impressive and is at the very top of all the athletes I have coached."

Jenny Noble is certainly high on Traphagan's accomplishments.

"I hold Tara in highest regard," wrote Noble. "Tara is a young woman who exudes excellence. Being ranked number one is something that we all strive for throughout our lives--we want to be the best in whatever endeavors we take on. Tara Traphagan fits that bill."

She was the Player of the Year in volleyball for her Yuma Indians that won the state championship. She was voted All-State First Team in basketball as well, where she played an integral role in Yuma's second state championship of the school year.

Teacher and coach, Rachel Bragan, also has high praise for Traphagan.

"I have had the honor of working with Tara regularly over the past six years," said Bragan. "I first became acquainted with Tara when she was in my Science class as a seventh grader. I had the pleasure of having Tara in one of my science classes for four out of the past six years of her academic career.

"During those classes I was able to see Tara's dedication to not only her academic success but the success of those around her," continued Bragan. "Tara could always be counted on to go above and beyond my expectations. She performed well on assessments and within group activities as well. She was never afraid to ask the questions that needed asking or to help a struggling fellow student."

Skill alone isn't necessarily the winning ticket and Traphagan has molded her persona through trials and tribulations into a well-rounded athlete that others look up to.

Traphagan is driven to succeed and is looking forward to stepping into the role of college student/athlete as she heads to the University of Wyoming to play volleyball and major in biology.

The Steinmark Award honors Freddie Steinmark, who excelled in football, basketball and baseball while attending Wheat Ridge High School in the 1960s. He was also an outstanding student and was active in several school and community-oriented endeavors before attending the University of Texas, where he helped the Longhorns to the national football title in 1969. He died from cancer in 1971 at the age of 22.

Freddie Steinmark had the ability to motivate his peers on and off the field, always giving more of himself than was necessary. And, he played the game of life harder than anything else.

As noted, the trophies are for both boys and girls, and they must be seniors who participated in two varsity sports. And, the overall criteria for receiving the award is high. The recipient must be of high moral character, a school and community leader, be willing to give more of himself to others, and, of course be that top athlete. The trophies remain at the high school of the winner with each winner receiving a plaque with the same lettering.

Dave Logan of Wheat Ridge High School, and now the extremely well known sports announcer for the Denver Broncos and other sports endeavors, was the first winner of the award in 1972.

The following are the girls who were also nominated for the Steinmark: Lauren Addington, La Junta; Brenna Fankell, Broomfield; Kaitlyn Hanks, Strasburg; Kenzie Henderson, Cedaredge; Taiylor Holland, Swink; Clara Larson, Douglas County; Jenna McKinnley, Sangre de Cristo; Megan Mooney, Horizon; Lexi Reed, D'Evelyn; Ashley VanVleet, Paonia.