After leading the Pioneers to their first Frozen Four in over a decade, University of Denver defenseman Will Butcher is our College Athlete of the Year. Read the full story here.
But 2016 was a banner year in Colorado sports for other reasons. These finalists for our College Athlete of the Year award helped make it so.
Air Force Academy – Track and Field
Hannah Everson might be a member of the United States Air Force, but it’s her ground game that makes her stand out as an athlete. At the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in June, Everson broke her own program record in the 10,000-meter race. She clocked in at 32 minutes 47.25 seconds, placing third in the event. That time was good for a third-place finish, the best individual finish for the Air Force women’s team since 2006.
University of Colorado – Football
If an opposing quarterback was looking to drop back to pass, odds are he was desperately trying to find where Jimmie Gilbert was lined up. The Buffs senior outside linebacker racked up 10 sacks in 2016, tying him for the ninth most in school history. He also forced six fumbles on the year, which ranks second in program history. The coaches voted him First Team All-Pac-12, making him the first Buff to receive such honors. The Associated Press selected Gilbert to its 2016 All-America team as a third-team selection.
Colorado State University – Track and Field
Mostafa Hassan traveled a long way to Fort Collins to throw the shot put a very long way. Since joining the Rams, the Cairo, Egypt native has built upon an already impressive international career. The Egyptian, Arab and African junior record holder in the shot put now claims the outdoor record at Colorado State with a throw of 66 feet, three inches. He earned First Team All-America honors both indoors and outdoors and was named the Mountain West Men’s Co-Student-Athlete of the Year (Outdoor T&F). The pioneering thrower is CSU’s first recipient of first-team All-America honors in the shot put.
University of Denver – Alpine Skiing
Capping a career in which she won 22 of the 45 races she finished, Kristine Haugen saved one of her biggest performances for last. Haugen delivered an individual NCAA national championship in the giant slalom and a sixth-place finish in the slalom to earn Women’s Alpine National Skier of the Year honors and help secure DU’s record 23rd national team title. She finished 11 of 14 races in the 2016 season with all 11 finishes in the top 6 including eight podiums and three wins. Her unbelievable career included four individual NCAA championships.
University of Colorado – Football
Perhaps no player meant more to the resurgence of the Buffs than quarterback Sefo Liufau. Sure, he only garnered honorable mention All-Pac-12 honors, but perhaps a better gauge of Liufau’s importance was what happened when he wasn’t on the field. The Buffs were beating Michigan before injury forced him out of the game. He did not play in CU’s loss to USC and when banged up in the Pac-12 title game, the Buffs struggled. Liufau was the heart and soul of CU’s best team in over a decade.
University of Colorado – Nordic Skiing
Mads Stroem will have a target on his back when he races at the 2017 NCAA Championships. But there’s a good chance his back is the only thing his opponents will be seeing. Stroem swept the individual championships in freestyle and classical in 2016 to claim his second and third national titles. He also picked up his fifth and sixth All-American honors in the process. The 2016 Men’s Nordic National Skier of the Year, Stroem has 14 career wins and 26 podium (top 3) finishes in 32 career races entering the 2017 season.