In inducting Aleisha (Latimer) Heier, the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame is adding a story that couldn’t be more quintessential Colorado Springs.
Like so many in this community dotted with military bases, Latimer arrived in in the city in 1990 as the child of a military family.
She was in fifth grade – the previous two stops being Germany and Florida – when she enrolled in Rudy Elementary School and anxiously awaited the first snowfall.
“Being younger, I thought that was pretty cool to live somewhere where we could go sledding,” said Heier, whose father, Ed, retired from the Air Force as a major and became track coach and then longtime athletic director at St. Mary’s.
The snow fell, and so did records.
Aleisha attended Palmer and became one of the state’s all-time greatest track and field athletes. She won 5A state titles in the 100- and 200-meter dashes in 1997, setting the classification mark at 11.37 seconds in the 100. She was named the Gatorade Player of the Year and Colorado Female Track Athlete of the Year. An indoor runner for a Denver club team, she was named the U.S. High School Indoor Athlete of the Year by Track and Field News.
She accepted a scholarship to Illinois, and despite injuries, won the Big Ten 100-meter championship.
“Oh gosh, don’t ask me to name stats,” said Heier, whose sea-level national records in the 55 and 60 meters still stand.
The memories of her track career have largely blurred together in her mind over the past 20-plus years. She definitely recalls the Colorado titles, competing as a high school student in an event in Paris and running with international stars like Gail Devers and Gwen Torrence at the U.S. National Championships. She was in the same event at Marion Jones, though they ran in separate heats.
“As I’m older now I look back and see how cool it was,” Heier said. “I don’t know, I was a strange kid. My dad will tell me, ‘You did this,’ and ‘You did this.’ I’m realizing now some of the things I did and how unique it was, but at the time I just didn’t really think about it. It was just something that I did and it was fun for me.”
The accomplishments have earned Heier inclusion in the 20th Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame class. She joins Colorado College hockey coach Don Lucia, Paralympic standout Allison Jones, Doherty quarterback Steve Bartalo, Air Force athletic director John Clune and the 1995 Doherty girls basketball team. Longtime Cheyenne Mountain and CSU-Pueblo football coach Carl Fetters will receive the Col. F. Don Miller Sports Service Award and community leaders David and Chris Jenkins will take the Thayer Tutt Sportsman Award.
A gala celebrating the class will be held on Oct. 21 at The Broadmoor World Arena.
“This class is a great one, and it underscores the city’s rich sports history, and the women, men, teams and contributors who will be recognized in years to come with our wonderful event,” Sports Corp president and CEO Tom Osborne said.
The story of the Latimer family reaches beyond athletics.
Ed retired from the Air Force four years after arriving in Colorado Springs. He served 20 years as an administrator, teacher and coach at St. Mary’s.
Aleisha’s older brother, Derien, set a Colorado record with 3,150 rushing yards at Air Academy in 1994 (the mark is now fifth-best in state history). He played football at Oregon and is now the principal at Madison Elementary in District 11.
Aleisha’s sister, Shantelle Nix, works in the District 11 administration building.
Following graduation at Illinois, Aleisha coached college track for three years at the University of Illinois-Chicago and North Park. She then worked for the non-profit Girls in the Game after-school program in Chicago, worked at the YMCA, served as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor and physical therapy tech.
She then went back to school to earn a degree in education and is now a physical education teacher at GLOBE Charter School near Chelton and Maizeland roads.
“It has smaller class sizes and I really have a sense of family and community,” Heier said of GLOBE. “It’s a unique little school. The students are awesome, the staff is awesome.”
She sometimes has to remind her bolder students that she could still take them in a race, even if a fear of a pulled hamstring prevents her from actually backing up that claim.
At every stop, she has found a way to fuse a desire to work with young people and utilize her background as an athlete.
“My faith is a big part of my life and always has been,” Heier said. “I was just truly blessed and thankful that the Lord allowed me to do all of those things and to be here today to share that.”
Aleshia returned to Colorado Springs about 12 years ago. It was here that she met her husband, David Heier.
Her daughter, Sarai Castro, 10, is a soccer player for Pride Soccer Club, and her mother suspects she may one day blossom into a sprinter.
Stories like this make up the fabric of Colorado Springs. Countless city blocks contain at least one active duty or retired military family.
This was the Latimer family’s story, a group of a speedsters who found a city to slow down and put down roots. One of those branches will now live on in the city’s sports Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame Class of 2019
The following athletes/teams will be inducted into the Colorado Springs Hall of Fame in October.
Don Lucia, Colorado College hockey coach
Lucia coached the Tigers to a 166-68-18 mark from 1993-1999, winning three WCHA regular-season titles (after a 37-year drought) and an NCAA runner-up finish. He then left for Minnesota, where he went 457-247-73 and won two NCAA titles. His 736-403-102 career record is the eighth-best in NCAA history.
Allison Jones, Paralympian cycler and alpine skier
A mechanical engineer born without a right femur and whose right foot was amputated when she was 7 months old, Jones owns eight Paralympic medals (two gold, three silver, three bronze) earned across eight Games.
Aleisha (Latimer) Heier, Palmer track champion
The 1997 Colorado 5A state champion in the 100- and 200-meter dashes, Latimer later attended the University of Illinois and won the Big Ten 100-meter championship. She was also named U.S. High School Indoor Athlete of the Year by Track & Field News and still holds national high school records in the 55 and 60 meters at sea level.
Steve Bartalo, Doherty/Colorado State football
The 5-foot-9 Bartalo walked on at Colorado State in 1982 and went on to lead the Western Athletic Conference in rushing four consecutive years. His 4,813 career rushing yards remains best in Rams history by nearly 1,200 yards. His 1,211 carries ranks second to Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne in NCAA history. He played one season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and two seasons in the World League in Europe.
John Clune, Air Force athletic director
A 1954 Navy graduate, Clune cross-commissioned into the Air Force and came to the Air Force Academy as athletic director in 1975, a post he held until 1991. The Falcons moved into the Western Athletic Conference under his leadership, and the women’s programs transitioned from AIAW to NCAA Division II. He worked with Colorado Springs officials to bring the Olympic Training Center to the city and was awarded multiple military awards and medals. Air Force’s basketball arena was named in his honor in 1993, a year after his death from cancer. His wife, Pat, currently resides in Colorado Springs.
1995 Doherty Girls Basketball Team
The Carl Krug-coached Spartans went 25-0 and defeated Heritage for the 6A state title. The team finished the season ranked No. 3 nationally by USA Today after remaining in the publication’s top five throughout the season. Point guard Stephanie Frisch was a first-team all-state selection. Other standouts included Dena Koskovich, Nikki Swagger, Jacque Johnson, Chelsea Richardson, Mandy Gonser, and Karen Rants.
Col. F. Don Miller Sports Service Award – Carl Fetters
Fetters was a head coach in high school for 44 years in Colorado Springs and then served nine years as a linebackers coach at CSU-Pueblo. He was named to the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014 and was the first inductee to Cheyenne Mountain High School’s Hall of Fame in 2011. He won more than 200 games for the Indians football team and also led teams in girls' and boys' basketball and baseball while teaching physical education for 32 years. He was an NAIA All-American running back for Adams State after starring in football, basketball and baseball at Cheyenne Mountain.
Thayer Tutt Sportman Sward – David and Chris Jenkins
The father-son team’s Nor’wood Development Group has provided headquarters for a number of USOC National Governing Bodies, including USA Cycling, USA Wrestling, USA Triathlon and USA Volleyball. Their contribution of land allowed for the U.S. Olympic Museum and Hall of Fame, which is slated to open in 2020.