LONGMONT — From the day he arrived at Longmont High School, multi-sport standout Avery Peterson appeared destined to be one of the best athletes in his class — and he has been.
The Trojans senior hasn't exactly had an easy go of it along the way, though.
Four surgeries and constantly playing injured throughout his prep career have limited Peterson's availability for both football and baseball, particularly baseball. But just in time for spring of his senior year, Peterson is finally back to full strength for possibly the first time since he has been in high school and he is leading the Longmont baseball team on a meteoric rise through the statewide standings.
The Trojans are obviously thrilled to have him back on the diamond. Peterson, however, is downright giddy at simply being able to play unhindered baseball with his teammates and contribute to something special.
"It's one of the most amazing things ever just being able to be out there with all my friends I came up with," Peterson said. "Being able to be on the field with them instead of just watching is something else. Especially with how the team's playing, it's great to be part of the excitement and be able to play with all my friends."
Peterson's injury timeline, and its ostensible design to prevent him from playing baseball, is something to behold.
Peterson broke his right wrist playing football as a freshman and, though injured, finished the season. He had surgery to repair wrist and missed baseball that spring. As a sophomore, he found out that the injury likely hadn't healed correctly post-surgery and ended up re-breaking the same wrist during football season. Again, Peterson missed baseball in the spring after a second surgery to repair the wrist.
Returning to the football field as a junior, Peterson led the Trojans with 114 tackles and was also the team's kicker. He made nine of 11 field-goal attempts with a long of 45 yards and made 19 of 20 point-after touchdown tries. In the Trojans' final regular-season game of 2016, however, Peterson dislocated his shoulder against Fort Morgan. He finished the season and was limited during baseball season but eventually, the shoulder finally gave out and the frontal labrum tore badly enough to where it would pop out and back in every time he swung a bat or made a tackle. During football preseason camp his senior year, Peterson attempted a tackle and the shoulder popped out so badly that he couldn't lift his arm at all. Around the same time, he broke his other wrist as a result of a hairline fracture he had been playing with for the past six months.
"I mean, he was getting ready to be a varsity starter as a freshman in baseball and football," Fobes said of how Peterson has dealt with his injury woes. "He's really handled it really well. He didn't get frustrated or depressed. He just kind of went through rehab and got back out there as quickly as he could. Really, it was just unfortunate for us that we couldn't have him out there."
Peterson finally decided to have both the shoulder and the wrist surgically repaired, which forced him to sit out his senior season of football. It killed him to sit on the sidelines for the Trojans' run to the Class 3A state semifinals. But for the first time in his high school career, Peterson is getting in a healthy baseball season as a result and he's making the most of it.
The Trojans baseball team wasn't counted among the top 10 teams in 4A by the CHSAANow.com preseason rankings poll. They have since gone 11-1 overall and 10-1 in the Northern League to skyrocket into the No. 3 spot in the rankings. Peterson has been at the heart of the team's run with a .500 caught stealing percentage while playing catcher and batting .439 with 11 RBIs.
"It's pretty insane," Peterson said. "Just the fact that basketball season was so crazy (state champions), we really feel like we're building on that momentum. We have two kids from the basketball team and they were bringing the excitement right away when we started and that caught on with everybody. We're really just bought-in to getting the job done and now we're confident that we can do it no matter who we're playing."
More than the typical high school athlete, Peterson has had many times when he had to entertain terrible thoughts about whether or not he would be able to play again. He always found a way to get back on the field and it has paid off, as he will play baseball at Western Nebraska Junior College next season with the hope of moving on the University of Northern Colorado at some point.
"You know, coaches talk to each other and we've been putting his name out there," Fobes said. "Not just me, but other coaches that know him. Avery went to some camps and kind of got himself shown there last summer. Specifically, he went to a UNC camp and they were impressed enough with him but just a little weary of his injuries so they suggested he go to a JC for a while so they can watch him there and see how he does.
"He's determined, most definitely."