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Winter sports return but restrictions abound

High school athletes face a tough and short season.
Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday means a day off from classwork, but student-athletes across Colorado will still be beating down the doors to get into their high schools. Monday is the first day of practice for winter sports, after months of delays aimed at mitigating the spread of COVID-19. 

Unlike fall sports such as football and tennis, winter sports are primarily indoors and may present a greater risk to the players and coaches involved. Under the guidance of Boulder County Public Health, basketball players and wrestlers have to wear masks during competitions and practices. Spirit athletes, or cheer athletes, can only remove face-coverings during their three-minute performances while girl’s swimmers and divers will have to adhere to all local guidelines on indoor activities.

For now, no one will be allowed to attend games or matches in-person except essential personal. The order banning spectators from high school sporting events will be reassessed once Boulder County meets all the metrics for Level: Orange, High Risk and has two weeks of stable or declining cases of the coronavirus.

“If you would have told me in a normal year that we wouldn’t have any fans, I would have been shocked,” said Niwot High School Athletic Director Joe Brown. “We’re going to livestream games. While we’re disappointed that parents are not there to be able to support their kids, in-person, our focus is being able to provide an opportunity for kids to compete.”

Niwot already captured state titles in boys and girls cross country and boys tennis this past fall. Now their decorated girls swim team is ready to test the waters, led by junior Mary Codevilla, who won two 4A state titles in the 200 and 500 freestyle last year. 

“I think it’s a testament to the amazing kids in the community we have,” Brown said. “And the outstanding coaches that are a part of our program. They’re the ones that are always in the trenches and working hard and when you have great kids and great coaches, it’s an opportunity to have a lot of success. It’s exciting times and I think our girls swimming program is set up to have a very good year. Our long-time head coach, Sarah Stamp, retired last year. She did an amazing job and we’re so thankful for her. But we have a new head coach this year and I think he brings that same positivity and energy that we’ve had in the past.” 

New swimming head coach Kyle Bachrodt will only have a maximum of seven meets to get his team ready for the state finals –currently scheduled for March 11-13 – but no venue has been selected to host yet.

In two months or less, all Season B teams expect to complete a regular season and playoff schedule. Right behind them will be 15 more boys and girls sports playing condensed two-month schedules in Season C and Season D. Many state finals aren’t scheduled until the last week of June this year.

Both the Longmont and Skyline boys basketball teams are anxious to get back on the court. They were each eliminated by The Classical Academy in back-to-back rounds of the 2020 4A state tournament last March. Both schools saw their season end in narrow three point losses.

Silver Creek was ousted by Mead in the third round of the playoffs last season and Mead made it all the way to the state's final four. Both Mead and The Classical Academy never got to play in those semifinals or subsequent finals however, after COVID-19 suddenly wiped away live sports last spring.

Students who want to play high school hockey and  live in Longmont,  have to head to a neighboring town to lace up their skates. That’s what Silver Creek senior Ben Tutkowski is doing. He will travel up to Loveland several nights a week to practice and play for Resurrection Christian School’s 5A hockey team this winter.

“I would say it’s probably going to be the toughest season I’ve played,” he said. 

Tutkowski has played club hockey and on the Longmont teams that compete in the High Plains Hockey League in March through May. He thinks that the talent pool is growing in Longmont and one of their high schools could eventually support a hockey team. Efforts to build a full size rink in town have failed thus far, so the High Plains teams play in Lafayette, Superior or Westminster.  

“Throughout the high school years I’ve played we’ve definitely shown a great improvement as a team,” Tutkowski said. “A lot of the incoming sophomores and freshmen who are starting to play hockey with the Longmont team, their skill level has risen a lot.”