The Denver Post names Top 50

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, The Denver Post ranks the Top 50 most influential women in Colorado sports history. The rankings are based on the combination of athletic achievement and impact on women’s athletics.

    1. Mikaela Shiffrin (skiing) – The most decorated American alpine skier with four World Cups and six world championships, more than any other female, and two gold medals in three Olympics.
    2. Missy Franklin (swimming) – Five-time gold medalist and former world record holder in the 200-meter backstroke who became a star at the 2012 London Olympics.
    3. Lindsey Vonn (skiing) – Won four World Cup titles and the gold medal in downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games, setting the standard for American women’s skiing only Shiffrin has matched.
    4. Babe Didrikson Zaharias (multisport) – A star basketball player, Olympic medalist in track, and a golf champion who broke gender stereotypes is considered one of America’s greatest female athletes.
    5. Lindsey Horan (soccer) – Turned pro straight out of Golden High and didn’t look back, becoming a centerpiece on the US Women’s National team and a star in leagues here and abroad.
    6. Amy Van Dyken (swimming) – Owner of six Olympic gold medals, including four in Atlanta in 1996, as part of a prolific career that saw her inducted into the US Olympic Hall of Fame.
    7. Becky Hammon (basketball) – Starred at Colorado State before playing in the WNBA and abroad, then became the NBA’s first full-time female assistant coach; she now head coach of WNBA’s Aces.
    8. Emma Coburn (running) – A three-time national champion at CU and three-time Olympian, the Crested Butte product took bronze in the 3,000-meter steeplechase in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
    9. Ceal Barry (basketball) – The CU women’s coach from 1983 to 2005 brought the Buffs to relevance while amassing a 427–242 record and four Big Eight coach of the year awards.
    10. Fran Belibi (basketball) – Belibi became a sensation for her dunking feats while at Regis Jesuit, and is now a star at Stanford, where she won a national title.
    11. April Heinrichs (soccer) – The Denver native starred at North Carolina, captained the US team that won the first-ever Women’s World Cup in 1991, then coached the national team for five years.
    12. Mallory Pugh (soccer) – The phenom debuted for the USWNT at age 17 and later became the youngest to score a goal for the US in an Olympic contest in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
    13. Jennifer Kupcho (golf) After dominating at Jefferson Academy (two Class 4A state titles) and Wake Forest (2018 Division I champion), she turned pro and won her first LPGA major this spring.
    14. Adeline Gray (wrestling) – The first American woman to win six world championships, Gray is a two-time Olympian (silver in 2020) and the first woman to have her own signature wrestling shoe.
    15. Connie Carpenter Phinney (cycling) – A cycling icon who won gold in the road race in the 1984 Olympics and 12 national titles. She also competed in the 1972 Winter Games as a speed skater.
    16. Dorothy Mauk (sportswriting) – Became the first full-time female sportswriter at a major US daily newspaper when she was hired by The Denver Post in 1966.
    17. Caryn Jarocki (basketball) – Colorado’s all-time winningest girls basketball coach is 698-193 over 37 seasons between Highlands Ranch and Colorado Academy with seven state titles.
    18. Carol Callan (basketball) – Spent 25 years as the women’s national team director, overseeing seven gold medals. The Women’s Basketball Hall of Famer also led Fairview to a state title.
    19. Tanya Haave (basketball / volleyball) – A two-sport star at Evergreen and Tennessee, where she was an All-American in basketball before going into coaching; she currently Metro State’s head coach.
    20. Katie Uhlaender (skeleton) – Vail native has won six medals at the world championships, including two gold, while setting the American standard in the sport as a five-time Olympian.
    21. Laurice Hunter (volleyball) –The architect of the Evergreen volleyball dynasty, “Lo” led the Cougars to nine state titles, including eight in a row while also amassing a 182-match win streak.
    22. Jenny Simpson (running) – Won a national title at CU before running in three Olympics; won a bronze medal in the 1,500 in 2016 in Rio; also won the 2011 world championship.
    23. Phyllis Lockwood (multisport) – A barrier-breaker in tennis, basketball, swimming, track-and-field, and softball, the Fort Morgan native is one of the state’s most well-rounded athletes ever.
    24. Tracy Hill (basketball) – The former Ridgeway star still holds the CHSAA career scoring record (2,934); played collegiately and then in Australia, he also coached Nucla girls to the 1998 state title.
    25. Rose Namajunas (MMA) – One of the best fighters to train in Colorado, she’s ascended in the mixed martial arts world and is a two-time UFC women’s strawweight champion.
    26. Peggy Fleming (figure skating) Gold medalist in the 1968 Winter Olympics and a three-time World Champion; Denver resident then transitioned into a broadcasting career.
    27. Joan Birkland (tennis, golf) – Won more than a dozen state titles on the women’s tennis circuit and was one of the state’s top golfers for a decade; she executive director of Sportswomen of Colorado.
    28. Ann Strother (basketball) – The 2002 Gatorade national player of the year out of Highlands Ranch, Strother won two NCAA titles with UConn before playing in the WNBA and overseas.
    29. Abby Waner (basketball) – Former ThunderRidge star (2005 Gatorade national player of the year) built on the hype Strother established; Waner played at Duke and then briefly in the WNBA.
    30. Caryl Gilbert Smith (track) – The George Washington sprinter was a five-time state champion and former indoor national record holder; three-time All-American at UCLA, now USC’s head coach.
    31. Valarie Allman (discus) – The Silver Creek High alum won the gold medal in discus at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and was a seven-time All-American at Stanford.
    32. Shelly Sheetz (basketball) – CU’s point guard from 1991-95 was the first Buffs player to be named a Kodak All-American (1995); he went on to career in coaching.
    33. Nicole Hensley (hockey) – Lakewood native won a gold medal at the Olympics in 2018 and then a silver medal in 2022; he has also played in various professional leagues / circuits.
    34. Arielle Gold (snowboarding) – Steamboat Springs native is a two-time Olympian, debuting in Sochi in 2014 before earning bronze in the halfpipe in 2018 in PyeongChang.
    35. Shelly Pennefather (basketball) – An All-American basketball player for Machebeuf in the early 1980s, and then a college All-American at Villanova; she went on to become a nun.
    36. Wendy Koenig (running) – Middle-distance runner who competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics after graduating from Estes Park High; All-American in the 800 and 1,500 at CSU.
    37. Judy Bell (golf) – The Colorado Springs resident was the first woman elected president of the United States Golf Association in 1996; that was preceded by an accomplished pro career.
    38. Carol Baily (tennis) – The Colorado tennis legend and Phyllis Lockwood’s protegee won a combined 41 singles and doubles titles across Colorado’s three major tournaments.
    39. Rhonda Blanford-Green (track / CHSAA) – Starred at Aurora Central in sprints and hurdles and was an All-American at Nebraska before becoming CHSAA’s first female commissioner in 2017.
    40. Janine Beckie (soccer) – Valor Christian alum won Olympic gold with Team Canada in Tokyo after starring at Texas Tech and has played in leagues in the US and abroad.
    41. Barbara McIntire (golf) – Won the US Women’s Amateur title in 1959 and 1964; the six-time Curtis Cup player captained the winning 1976 US Curtis Cup team.
    42. Patty Childress (volleyball) – Longtime volleyball coach at Otis, Palisade and Grandview amassed a 493-169 record and five Class 5A state titles with Grandview.
    43. TR Ellis (volleyball) – Longtime volleyball coach at Olathe, Douglas County and Chaparral, where she won Class 5A state championships in 2010 and 2011.
    44. Michaela Onyenwere (basketball) – Grandview alum and UCLA standout was the No. 6 overall pick by the New York Liberty in 2021, and was WNBA Rookie of the Year in her debut season.
    45. Haleigh Washington (volleyball) – The Doherty product played middle on the gold medal team in Tokyo in 2020, after starring at Penn State, and also played professionally in Italy.
    46. Jordyn Poulter (volleyball) – The Eaglecrest product was a setter on the gold medal team in Tokyo after starring at Illinois, and has won an array of other international team titles.
    47. Jaelin Howell (soccer) – Fossil Ridge High product was a two-time Hermann Trophy winner at Florida State; No. 2 overall pick in 2022 NWSL Draft and an up-and-coming USWNT member.
    48. Erin Popovich (swimming) – The CSU alum has competed in three Paralympics, winning three gold medals, three silver medals and setting four world records at the 2000 Paralympic Games.
    49. Sophia Smith (soccer) – The Fossil Ridge alum played for Real Colorado before winning the 2019 national title at Stanford and being selected No. 1 overall in the 2020 NWSL Draft.
    50. Allison Dunlap (mountain biking) – Won the world cross-country mountain bike championship in 2001, is a three-time national cross-country champion, and competed at the 1996 Olympics.

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