King of the Mountain turns 35 |

King of the Mountain turns 35

KTM Neil Rooney PU 6-18

VAIL ” The traditional gift for the 35th anniversary is jade or agate, according to Winkpedia.

With the 35th King of the Mountain Volleyball Tournament starting today, however, jade or agate may not be the most appropriate gift. Hitting a rock at somebody on the other side of a net can hurt.

“We could call it the Spalding anniversary,” tournament organizer Leon Fell joked.

There will be no shortage of volleyballs ” Spalding or otherwise ” bouncing around the grass and the sand pits for the next three days with 278 teams, a number which will grow with today’s registration, competing.

With teams ranging in ability from the weekend warrior to some of the top pros in the county, it’s Volley-palooza at the Vail Athletic Field.

“It’s absolutely incredible, especially when you’ve got a sunny day,” Fell said. “It’s a spectator’s sport and everybody’s watching. You’re watching great athleticism.”

Monty and a Tree

Today’s action starts at 8 a.m. with the Men’s Masters (35 and over), Men’s Senior (45 and over) as well as Co-ed A and BB play.

One interesting local tandem in the Co-ed BB bracket will be Monty McBride, a 14-time national champion, teaming up with Lara “Tree” Bossow, who played at the Vail Mountain School and Colorado.

The finals for all of Friday’s divisions should start at around 5 p.m.

Also today is a free junior clinic, lead by USA Volleyball’s John Kessel. Check-in is at noon, and the instruction begins at 12:30 p.m.

“It’s free. The instructors are absolutely incredible,” Fell said. “They’ll be up here teaching the basics of doubles volleyball. It’s a big difference between the outdoor and indoor game. We want the kids to get the idea of what doubles volleyball is all about.”

Open season

Saturday marks the beginning of men’s and women’s A, BB, B and Junior play, as well as the Open divisions. The Junior division should have a local flavor to it with teams from the Roaring Fork Valley as well as duos from Eagle County.

The Men’s and Women’s Open are the headliners. Neil Rooney and Jamey Martin and Deb Ponis and Krista Swartzendruber are the defending champions.

The Open division also includes players like Keith Barnett, a formal U.S. National Team player, Curtis Griffin, a four-time Mother Lode winner in Aspen, as well as Dawn Tischauser, a King of the Mountain regular.

“There are probably two or three teams who can finish seventh or ninth on the pro tour,” Fell said. “The biggest thing to understand is that with most people in the country, we’re talking barbecue volleyball. This stuff will blow their socks off.”

The preliminary matches are Saturday, followed by the playoffs on Sunday. The finals for the Open divisions should be at around 5 p.m. on Sunday. Also on Father’s Day, appropriately, the King of the Mountain will have Father-Son and Father-Daughter divisions.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or

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