Sometimes real life gets in the way.

That fact was hammered home on a couple of occasions last week, a strange and emotionally draining period that left the BoCo area reeling after it was hit with three separate tragedies.

It started with the bus crash on Sept. 11 involving the Legacy football team, an accident that claimed the life of the driver, Kari Chopper, and sent 15 players and three coaches to the hospital.

The outpouring of support for the Lightning by the neighboring community and other schools around the state was truly inspiring, and the football team made the choice to play last Friday even while head coach Wayne Voorhees remained at home recovering from his injuries and another coach remained hospitalized.

As a news organization, we were wrestling with how to do the story properly while also being respectful of the limitations being set forth by the school and the district, which was being extremely cautious and protective.

Around the same time that people started filing in to the Adams 12 North Stadium for Legacy's game last Friday, word started to come into the newsroom that a runner from Peak to Peak had collapsed on the course during a cross country meet at Broomfield.

We learned later that Brandon Ries, an 18-year-old senior co-captain for the Pumas, was taken to the hospital and "fought hard" but later passed away with his family at his side.


Also on Friday night, Jared Sommervold, a teacher and assistant wrestling coach at Longmont High, and his wife Genevieve died in a single-vehicle rollover near mile marker 256 of Interstate 25.

Three unimaginable tragedies affecting three different communities in the area in a short amount of time. Three people, people who had an impact on their schools and the communities around them, who lost their lives before they should have.

The sad reality is that tragedy, although not necessarily common, is also not particularly rare in people's journey through their school years. It's just a fact of life — sometimes bad things, heartbreaking things, happen.

It's an unfortunate, but inevitable, part of growing up.

One of the great things about sports is that it teaches you how to deal with adversity and pain and disappointment, how to take your lumps, to bounce back and keep fighting.

The Legacy football team showed that last Friday night, beating Prairie View in an emotional homecoming game. And it was embodied in a quote interim coach Matt Craddock passed on from senior center Seth Hill in response to whether or not the team should play: "Coach V has always talked to us about reloading, not about who we lost or what we couldn't do. Coach, there's no way you're going to keep us off that field."

The Peak to Peak golf team showed that on Monday at the Class 3A Region 3 tournament, qualifying four members for next week's state championship while wearing a blue ribbon to honor the memory of their classmate Brandon Ries.

And the Longmont soccer team showed that on Monday night, coming together with rival Skyline to honor Jared Sommervold before taking to the pitch with heavy hearts.

Kids are tough. Kids are resilient when you allow them to be. Nobody wants to see them in pain, but it's unrealistic to think they'll skate through life unscathed.

Sometimes, in our desire to keep them safe, we do them a disservice. They need to learn how to deal with things, how to work through adversity and battle on.

And that's something that sports teaches.

News and notes

• It's going to be a struggle for the Boulder football team this year, with less than 10 seniors on the roster, but I think if Panther nation can be patient, they're headed in the right direction under new coach Vincent Smith.

He seems to have the proper disposition to rebuild, saying that "I'm here to coach a program and not a team." And he has some pieces to build around with a lot of young guys receiving major playing time.

In last Friday's loss to Arvada West, both sophomore Cade Travis and freshman Drew Maier saw time under center and both showed off strong arms. The decision making will get better as they get more experience, and that can only mean good things for Boulder.

• That said, it's shocking to see a school the size of Boulder have less than 40 players on the roster. Getting more kids out for the sport will be crucial in turning around the Panthers.

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