An Olympic hero’s welcome

Clear Creek’s Haleigh Washington treated to a parade as she returns to her roots

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 8/26/21

Haleigh Washington had a homecoming welcome fit for an Olympian. The third-generation Clear Creek County resident — and Olympic volleyball gold medalist — took part in a homecoming on Saturday …

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An Olympic hero’s welcome

Clear Creek’s Haleigh Washington treated to a parade as she returns to her roots

Posted

Haleigh Washington had a homecoming welcome fit for an Olympian.

The third-generation Clear Creek County resident — and Olympic volleyball gold medalist — took part in a homecoming on Saturday complete with a parade, pedicab ride down Miner Street, speeches, waving fans and an autograph session with long lines of well-wishers. Church bells rang 22 times in honor of her jersey number at the Olympics.

This is what happens when you go to Clear Creek High School and become an Olympian.

She told the hundreds of attendees that she thought she was simply going out to dinner with her family.

“Thank you for your support while I was in Tokyo, now and when we go to Paris (for the 2024 summer Olympics)!” she said to thunderous applause and cheers.

“Once a Golddigger, always a Golddigger,” she added.

Idaho Springs Mayor Mike Hillman told Haleigh she was raised with just about everyone in attendance as Washington waved and said hi to many in the crowd.

“You have brought a gold medal to us,” Hillman said. “This is your day.”

Haleigh attended Carlson Elementary and Clear Creek Middle and High School until 2012, when her mom Danielle accepted a job in Colorado Springs. Washington graduated from Doherty High School and went on to play volleyball at Penn State.

She and the U.S. women’s volleyball team took gold for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics by beating Brazil 3-0.

At the homecoming celebration, dad Alecs thanked the crowd for being there to support his daughter, and he said of Angie Thoennes, Haleigh’s first soccer coach, “I credit this wonderful woman for all of us being right here right now.”

Haleigh brought her younger siblings, Kayden and Leilani, onto the stage before being ushered to a table for autographs and photos.

Noel Schultz, a Clear Creek Middle School eighth grader, was first to get an autograph on her volleyball even before Haleigh left the stage. Schultz is planning to be on Clear Creek’s volleyball team this year.

Shay Johnson of Highlands Ranch and Shianne Smith of Golden, who were Haleigh’s teammates at Clear Creek, stood in the crowd with Smith’s mom, Micki Zebroski of Idaho Springs. Zebroski called Haleigh down to earth with the ability to lift up a team.

“She’s amazing,” Zebroski said, “though I’m not surprised that she won a gold medal. From the first time she played, you knew she’d do great things. She’s composed, she’s professional and she’s deserving.”

U.S. women’s volleyball team won its first Olympic gold medal.

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