The high school fall season officially came to an end for area programs following Holy Family football’s loss in the Class 3A state semifinals Saturday. Let’s reflect.
From strict social distancing rules to state titles in hand, from decisions made then undone, we look back at the season that almost wasn’t, and for some, think never should have been.
This series will be broken into two parts, focusing mostly on the defining moments created by athletes and teams in the area while also hitting on the few major state decisions that altered the sports landscape.
Part I will begin with CHSAA’s initial release of the athletics schedule in August, something that would go on to morph and change at the whim of state decisions surrounding the novel coronavirus. Part II will be released Thursday.
Aug. 4 — CHSAA releases schedule broken into four seasons
Leading up to the release of the 2020-21 athletics schedule, boys golf, softball and boys tennis were greenlit for the fall. They were deemed “Season A”. Then cross country joined that group on this date, while other sports that had usually been played in the fall — football, field hockey, unified bowling, gymnastics, boys soccer, volleyball and spirit — were delayed until 2021.
Currently, Season B is scheduled to begin Jan. 4 but is in jeopardy with rising COVID-19 numbers across the state. CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green commented on the situation last week, saying things were fluid.
Aug. 6 — Monarch’s Caleb Michaels shines in golf tournament as high school sports come out from the dark after five long months
The Coyotes sophomore claimed he was nervous at the Broomfield-hosted two-man best ball tournament at Broadlands Golf Course. So jittery, in fact, he told his partner he didn’t have it as they warmed up. But that wasn’t true. His shots were. Michaels, one of the most exciting young players in the state, shot 2-under 70, highlighting a strange but exciting return to high school play. The day also served as the first glimpse at how competition and social distancing could survive as one. At least in golf. Rules included no touching the pin, no raking the sand and players were instructed to keep distance from others.
Aug. 20 — Holy Family beats defending champ Erie in softball opener
Erie knocked out Holy Family in the semifinals en route to winning the 2019 state title, the program’s 12th. The year before, Holy Family kicked Erie in the quarterfinals and won the 2018 title. Perhaps today’s best state rivalry in the sport was among softball’s opening week highlights. Behind Jenna Pfenning’s home run and four RBIs, Holy Family’s championship season began with a 13-8 victory.
Aug. 27 — Frederick’s Jake Chesler ties his own school record in golf tournament win
Chesler sizzled at Coyote Creek Golf Course in Fort Lupton, shooting a 4-under 67 to duplicate the best score in school history. On the day, he had four birdies, no bogeys and won by seven strokes. The junior would go on to win the Longs Peak League title and lead the Warriors to an overall league victory before heading to state.
Sept. 9 — Unanimous vote downs idea of fall football
In the days leading up to a big fat ‘pass’ by the CHSAA Board of Directors, commissioner Blanford-Green and Gov. Jared Polis said there was interest in discussing the possibility of a return to other fall sports — cough, football! However, at the vote, each of 16 CHSAA board members from around the state felt there was no way with the current variances to push the start date up for another sport. Football was headed to the spring.
Sept. 12 — Top runners shine at Fairview Cross Country Invitational
Cross country looked strange in 2020. Peeled back of its taken-for-granted norms, the state’s strict guidelines forced the sport to finagle from things concerning the start and finish of a race to the size of an event. Like the Fairview Invite, all of the longstanding meets in Colorado were forced to limit the number of runners and were either overhauled or canceled altogether. But leave it to an endurance sport to keep going anyway. At this meet, Niwot freshman phenom Mia Prok, who went on to take second at 4A state, won the girls race by a landslide. Teammates Lucca Fulkerson, who’ll run at Princeton, and Eva Klingbeil were third and fourth and followed closely by Centaurus’ Maggie McCleskey and Broomfield’s Sierra Parks. In the boys race, James Overberg, a brilliant senior runner at Centaurus, won by .20 seconds over Niwot’s Zane Bergen, who went on to win a state title of his own. Boulder’s Lukas Haug, Fairview’s Henry Murphy and Broomfield’s James Thomas weren’t far behind.
Sept. 15 — Broomfield beats Fossil Ridge in extras to avenge 2019 quarterfinals loss
Sophomore Breana Fiala allowed just one run in a complete-game performance while Bryna Kapelke and Kenzi Garner hit solo shots in a 2-1 victory in eight innings. The Eagles went 16-2 on the season, led by a talented senior crew that included three first-team BoCoPreps.com players in Garner, Kapelke and 5A Front Range League player of the year Hadlee Reichert.
Sept. 16 — Just kidding, football is on for the fall, and so is sideline cheer
Round and round, we go. In the days in between a unanimous vote to stand pat, and a revote eight days later, those hoping for a football season got their miracle finish. Their Polis Pivot. What happened, and what can’t be underestimated, was the strong push back from parents and administrators across the state days following the initial vote. Fact here. Opinion there. It was loud. Then, Gov. Polis tweeted he was disappointed with the first vote, which left many like, huh, retweet question mark? Meanwhile, CHSAA sent out a survey to hear from schools statewide. Board members did the same. And eventually new variances came out leading to the return of fall football as well as field hockey and sideline cheer by a vote of 12-3. Field hockey later revealed it would stick to spring play.
Sept. 26 — Niwot wins first ever team title in boys tennis as Fairview closes out Chad Tsuda era
Neil Wilcox won his second straight No. 1 singles title in the Class 4A tournament, No. 3 Luke Weber also was victorious and the Cougars snuck past Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen for their first-ever team title. A bit later, Wilcox went on to claim the BoCoPreps.com player of the year award for a third straight year. At the 5A tournament, meanwhile, Fairview struggled on Day 2 in Denver but still finished fifth. BoCoPreps found out a few days later that it marked the end for longtime coach Chad Tsuda as he chose to step down. Under Tsuda, the Knights won 13 straight Front Range League titles and produced the program’s first state championship in 2017.
Oct. 1 — Silver Creek’s MacKenzie Hunt delivers game-winning grand slam after pitching duel between area standouts Maddie Kuehl and Joselyn Veltien
Kuehl, who along with Veltien combined for 27 strikeouts, was intentionally walked by the latter to load the bases in the seventh. (It’s something the part ace, part slugger and eventual BoCoPreps.com player of the year was accustomed to all season). Hunt, down to the team’s last strike, then ripped a shot over the left field wall to give Silver Creek the 7-5 win. It forced a winner-takes-league matchup with Holy Family, to which …
Oct. 3 — Holy Family wins Northern Colorado Athletic Conference title in 10 innings over the Raptors
Another pitching duel featuring Kuehl and 4A CHSAA player of the year Cassidy Chvatal ended with a walk-off hit. After Carly Eldredge’s two-run home run in the ninth kept the Tigers alive, Toni Schafer had a pinch-hit RBI single to win things in the 10th.
Part II of this series will begin with the hectic first week in October that included the golf state tournaments, the entire softball postseason and the start of football.