Remembering Reid

Cedaredge's Reid Gates a great athlete and an even better person

Reid Gates was an exceptional athlete at Cedaredge High School — winning the Class 3A state high jump title last spring — but athletics didn’t define him. He was competitive, but also kind, say those who knew him best, and he would do whatever he could to make sure everyone felt included.

Ken Gates hugs his son, Reid, after Reid won the Class 3A state high jump title in May. Four months later, Reid was dead of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning and Ken and the Cedaredge community where the Gates live are mourning the loss of Reid.

Reid Gates helped Cedaredge High School win the Class 1A football title last year, but his athletic ability took a backseat to his relationships with the people he came into contact with on a day-to-day basis.



Brandon Milholland

Cedaredge High School football coach

On not needing to coach up
Reid like other players:

“Reid was gonna be Reid regardless of me. He didn’t need me. He was phenomenal.

“He and I had a discussion about that after we lost to Eagle Valley, about our team, and we had a discussion about how I didn’t have to coach him up like I did the other guys because you already had that natural ability. But not only did he have that natural ability, he has a great foundation at home. His family, his parents, are some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. And he was going to be OK in life without the extra. He understood that.”

About Gates in general:

“What a leader he was, just a heckuva young man, great character. I can’t say enough nice things about him. I can’t.”

On Gates’ likability and
how he treated others:

“He looked out for the other kids, too. That’s important, because not everybody’s a Reid Gates. Not everybody is a trackster and a football player and a basketball player. … He would treat everybody with greatness, with greatness and respect. He was a funny kid. He’s the kind of kid that you like, that you coach for. You know? He’s that kid. I’ve been fortunate to have quite a few kids like that up here, but he was very, very special.”

Kirby Henderson

Cedaredge High School
track and field coach

On Gates perhaps being one of the state’s best all-around high school athletes:

“He was up there. … There’s no doubt in my mind he’s one of those elite athletes. He’s an athlete that elevated my coaching staff’s coaching level. I mean, in the classroom you have the gifted and talented, and you have Reid Gates, in and out of the classroom that way. You get some that come through every once in a while, and Reid’s one of them, and it’s an honor to have been his coach and to be around an athlete like that, because you respect the fact that he can elevate your level.”

Kevin Dunbar

Cedaredge High School
boys basketball coach

About Gates in general:

“We always talk about character as doing the right thing when nobody’s looking, and he always did that. He had character, a true example of somebody who had character. And I think that’s the best trait, best quality that anyone can have, and he had true character.”

About Gates as a basketball player:

“You don’t find many like Reid Gates. That’s just all there is to it. As far as coaching, extremely coachable, a ‘Yes sir, no sir’ type of kid, very level-headed. He was one that you could go to and ask an opinion — you know, ‘What do you think about this?’ — get a feel for the team type of thing, and he’d be honest and tell you, and he would work with you. He was on his way to that true understanding of how not just games worked, but how life worked as well.”

Carter Wasser

Friend and former teammate of Gates

On Gates’ interaction with
and acceptance of others:

“Reid had the best reputation out of everyone in that school. Just everyone loved him. … If you didn’t get along with Reid, that was their problem, because Reid didn’t do anything to them. Anyone would know that for a fact. ... He could have fun with everyone, he was a fun guy. It didn’t matter who he was with, he didn’t have to have much in common with that person, they could go have a good time, and he had a lot of friends because of that.”

Scott Rienks

Paonia High School assistant football coach, former head coach

About Gates’ all-around athleticism:

“Football, he was very good, and on that state championship team he was a huge part of that team. Then you throw the basketball and the track into it. If you really wanted to see the athletic ability, watching him on the track was pretty special.”

On the respect Paonia athletes had for him despite being rivals:

“Some of my kids, some of the comments they made about Reid were, ‘Coach, he’s the one that would always talk to us.’ That says a lot. … The way our school acted (upon news of Gates’ death), you could tell what kind of kid this guy was because of the way our kids felt. That says a lot about a kid when rivalry schools or other schools are in support — all our school wore blue pretty much that day. Our kids were pretty crushed. That tells you what kind of kid he is.”

Dante Markley

Friend and former teammate of Gates

On what stood out about Gates:

“Other than just being a great athlete, because everyone knows that, he’s a great person, too. People who don’t know him, they just see him as the athlete, but that’s not who Reid was. He’s just a great person to be around. People just enjoyed his presence.”

On Gates being competitive:

“Reid hated losing. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but sometimes it seemed that he hated losing more than he liked winning, because he just despised losing. That was what he hated. That’s why in practice and stuff he would work so hard, because he did not want to lose. He wanted to be the best.”

On Gates being gracious and humble:

“In track, Reid was always better than us, but he never acted that way. That’s just who he was.”

Wasser: Gates felt fear, but conquered it


Carter Wasser played football with Reid Gates at Cedaredge High School for three years and got to know him well.

He said there’s a common misconception about Gates, who died Monday of accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning: Some people like to characterize Gates as fearless.

Wasser said Gates felt fear like anyone else. He just didn’t let it paralyze him or prevent him from living life.

“I think a lot of people would describe Reid as fearless because he would do all these crazy things, and that’s what helped him out in a lot of situations on the football field, basketball, whatever,” Wasser said. “But just being around him and stuff, you realize that he wasn’t fearless.

“If we’re going to jump off a bridge (into water below), I’m like, ‘I don’t know, I can’t do it.’ And he would be thinking the same thing, and he’d look even more scared than me. I’m like, ‘OK, if I can’t do it, I mean, Reid can’t do it. Look, he’s shaking over there, and I’m not even shaking, but I’m not going to do it.’ And then there he’d go, he jumped in.

“That happened a lot.”

On the football field, Wasser’s most vivid recollection of Gates conquering fear came when Wasser was a sophomore starting at linebacker on the varsity, and Gates was a skinny freshman backing him up at the position.

“He wasn’t built for a linebacker position,” Wasser said. “He was just that good of an athlete, they’re like, ‘You know, he’s the best freshman player, he’s going to play linebacker.’ In 1A football, that’s where you need the athletes, kind of.”

Wasser said he got injured during the last game of the season, and what ensued amazed him.

“I mean, Reid just was not ready to play linebacker, but he did it. And it was awesome,” Wasser said, likening it to the story of Gates jumping off the bridge. “It’s that same thing. I could tell he was scared, but he went out there and gave it his all, and it was just awesome.

“I’m like, ‘Reid, I don’t know how you do this stuff, because I think I would probably fake an injury.’ I’m not going out there with those seniors if I’m a freshman. I’m not playing linebacker; I might play corner, I don’t know.”

Wasser added he never understood how Gates could put his fear aside, but because he could, “He could do whatever he wanted, and he had all the talent, and he could just ignore any fear like that.

“I mean, he is one of those people, and I’m not just saying this, he’s one of those people that you know he can do anything he puts his mind to, anything he wanted. That was crazy; I just witnessed him doing that for a couple of years.”

Reid Gates was going to be so much more than he already was in an impressive first 17 years of life.

But he only got 17.

Accidental carbon-monoxide poisoning claimed the life of the Cedaredge High School senior Monday and left the usual family and friends shell-shocked, but the grieving went beyond them. Subsequent days revealed he’d touched the lives of many more people in his community and nearby communities.

He was an outstanding all-around athlete, but the common thread in the postmortem words of people who knew him is: Reid Gates was an even better person.

But athletics were prominent in his life and frequently served as the vehicle through which people got to know him and understand there was more to the young man.

He was an all-state defensive back and excellent No. 2 running back for the Bruins when they won the Class 1A football state championship last fall, along the way infusing Cedaredge with an enthusiasm for football unseen in the community in years.

He was an intense yet graceful forward on the basketball court who led the 3A Western Slope League in scoring last winter.

Then, in the spring, in the sport where his all-around ability really came to the fore, Gates qualified for the Class 3A state track and field meet in seven events. CHSAA limits competitors to four events at state, though, and among the four he chose, Gates won a state high jump title and placed third in the long jump.

His junior year was supposed to be merely a glimpse of what was to come athletically. A great senior year was in the offing, then it would be off to compete in NCAA Division I track and field, possibly at the Air Force Academy or the Naval Academy. Or, he hadn’t ruled out playing Division II football.

Instead, his junior season and a month of his senior year were the last best look at a special athlete and person.

What follows is a hodgepodge of anecdotes about Reid and the Gates family that his father, Ken Gates, shared in a 45-minute interview he graciously granted The Daily Sentinel on Thursday afternoon. They give some sense of who Reid Gates was and why he was special, but in no way does it come remotely close to encapsulating his totality.

The athlete emerges early

As a baby when Reid was in that stage before crawling where he was strong enough to roll over from his back to his stomach, Ken and Cheryl Gates hadn’t seen him actually crawl yet. So, they thought nothing of putting up gates by the set of stairs that went a few steps up from the sunken living area to the next level of their home in Colorado Springs.

After briefly leaving him alone on that living room floor one day, Cheryl returned to the room to find no baby. She looked all around the main floor and didn’t find him, so as impossible as it seemed, she headed to the second level to look for him, and there he was.

“His first crawling,” Ken said, “he went straight up those stairs. So, it wasn’t, ‘Well, I’ll crawl around a little bit. There’s something going up; I’m going up.’ So, from that point it was, ‘OK, the kid’s looking for a challenge.’ “

Tempering the competitive streak

Cedaredge track and field coach Kirby Henderson said last spring Reid Gates was the most competitive high school athlete he’d ever seen.

When asked to recall how far back he could remember being competitive, Reid said he wasn’t sure, so he turned to his parents and asked them. Then he responded, “They said they could tell that when I was 2.”

A great example of it, Ken Gates said, was when Reid was 3 to 4 years old and learning to play board games. If he wasn’t winning as the game’s end was nearing, he would make sure nobody won.

“Instead of risking not winning the game, he’d turn the whole board over,” Ken said. “And at that point — you know, Cheryl and I were competitors ourselves — we realized we were going to have to nurture that streak of his. I mean, just very deliberately we realized, ‘OK, we’re going to have to nurture this competitive streak of his, so he doesn’t grow up to be rude and mean and arrogant.’ “

Raised to value relationships

Ken Gates loves to talk about Reid’s athletic ability, but he emphasized the most important thing to him and Cheryl in the raising of their children — daughter Jheri, who is 21, recently got married and now lives in Kansas; Reid; and younger brother Shane, now a sophomore — is developing character and healthy relationships with people.

“What we really talked about at the dinner table,” Ken said, “was the character issue, and the No. 1 thing in your life is your relationships.

“And what we’re seeing over the last several days is it’s not about (Reid) being a great athlete; it’s about the people that he touched. And that’s what’s most humbling for Cheryl and I is just, ‘Wow, all these stories of the people that he touched.’ “

Ken said they talked a lot about relationships with their children because that’s the ultimate measure of who you are.

“When your time is done,” he said, “that’s what people are going to remember. And (Reid) did that really good.”

Experience taught acceptance

Ken and Cheryl Gates were Air Force Academy graduates and commissioned officers in the Air Force. Ken stayed in the Air Force as a pilot for 21 years before retiring, and once he and Cheryl became parents, she left the military to stay at home to raise the children.

As military families do, the Gateses moved many times. One of their stays was in La Paz, Bolivia.

Having to re-establish himself in a new city every few years, Reid learned the value of being accepted by others and why he should do the same.

“He was the new kid an awful lot,” Ken said, “and he even knew in Bolivia what it was to be the minority, so he knew what it was to be the different kid, the new kid, the minority kid, and I think that gave him a heart for everybody. He could relate to all kids because he’d been in a lot of different shoes.

“And he kind of had this athletic thing that gave him the confidence to be able to reach out and talk to people. The athletic piece gave him that platform to be gregarious and confident with other people and know that he could make positive impacts.”

Making a home in Cedaredge

That Reid Gates ended up in this neck of the woods was a deliberate decision by his parents, who moved the family to Cedaredge in 2008, when Reid was in the seventh grade. When Ken was faced with staying in the military, taking an excellent job with the Pentagon but sacrificing time with his family, or retiring, he chose to retire.

“I wanted to spend some more time with my kids before they all left the house,” Ken said. “And now I just look back at that decision, and, ‘Wow, that sure worked out good.’ “

Ken became a geometry teacher at the high school, but even then he admits he made it to a mere two of Jheri’s basketball games and one of her track meets. He realized he needed to do better than that.

So, when Reid was a freshman, Ken was his geometry teacher, youth group leader and freshman basketball coach.

“I went from, ‘I saw one track meet of my daughter’s,’ to, ‘Reid, you and I are going to spend some time together. I hope you’re ready for this.’ “

Christian foundation
helps family cope

The Gates family consider themselves nondenominational Christians, Ken said, and, “That’s a huge part of our family story is our Christian foundation.”

Wherever the family lived, they would find good church families to join, and now in Cedaredge, they go to The Father’s House. Their church family has helped them cope with Reid’s death, said Ken, who served as a guest speaker at The Father’s House in recent weeks while the pastor was away. What he shared with the church members came back to him this week.

“My subject was: What does the Bible say and what does our community say about depression and getting through tough times?” Ken said. “So, I said a few things over the last couple of weeks, and some of the people that were sitting in the audience have been cheering us through this these last few days.”

And Ken and Cheryl have been steadfast in telling others not to mourn the loss of Reid. Rather, celebrate what a wonder it was to have him for the time they did.

“I’m really surprised that God allowed this to happen,” Ken said. “But my faith in Him is solid, and someday I will find out the reasons. For now, I just trust He remains all-powerful, all-loving.”


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