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Local athletes return to practice as another round of sports begins

No shortage of intrigue as basketball, wrestling, ice hockey and girls swimming teams get back in action

DENVER, CO - Broomfield High School's ...
Daily Camera file photo
John Beau Hostler of Broomfield wrestles during the 2020 state tournament in Denver.
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Back on the mat, the court, the snow, the ice and in the pool.

Back to the way things were — well, not exactly.

Monday marked the return to high school sports in the area with the Colorado High School Activities Association’s Season B officially underway.

For the approved sports of basketball, ice hockey, skiing, competitive spirit, girls swim and dive, and wrestling, restrictions like those that were in place to fight the advancement of COVID-19 for the state’s fall season will again be a paramount focus this winter. But for athletes and for coaches alike, Day 1 of practice was a welcome sight nonetheless as the scene drew a curtain close on a months-long balancing act of uncertainties.

“We kept telling the kids, ‘Hey, we’re just grateful you’re here. We’re grateful you’re here. Be grateful for this opportunity,” Broomfield wrestling coach Jimmy Zechmann said after practice Monday. “Kids were super excited.”

Relieved probably, too.

Expected to start the season Jan. 4, CHSAA’s second round of sports was pushed back to February last month due to restrictions around social gatherings. Then weeks later, variances were secured from state officials to push that start date back up one week.

It got stranger earlier this month as local wrestlers were shaken with the news that their season was effectively canceled after Boulder County Public Health withheld approval of variances to allow the sport to compete around town. The decision was then reversed Jan. 12 after a large outcry from coaches, parents and athletes, but it came with hefty restrictions.

Per BCPH guidelines, local wrestlers from Boulder County and St. Vrain who returned to the mat for Season B will be required to wear masks at all times during competition.

Even more difficult, though, is the fact that wrestlers competing in the season must also remain in remote learning even as most school districts have begun a hybrid model, allowing for kids to return to school a couple days a week. Meaning if families want or need their kids to return to school, they’ll have to miss the season.

“I have had to have discussions with parents and families and kids about wrestling and having to choose,” Zechmann said. “It’s hard for these kids to choose. They are truly deprived of social interaction. They want to see kids. They want to see people. They had to make hard decisions. And some of the kids academically need to be in class. And I totally supported them. I told them, ‘You are students first and athletes second.’”

Season B will look to adapt to the restrictions in place as the state’s fall sports did. Basketball players wearing masks while on the court may be among the most unusual. And hopefully with it, they’ll look to finish their seasons with minimal cancellations. The football season was hit hardest by cancellations in the fall but still concluded its season.

All sports are allowed to have their first contests starting Jan. 25. Basketball, ice hockey and swimming end their regular season in early March followed by a postseason. Wrestling is expected to have regionals March 5-6, skiing championships will look to be completed by March 13 and competitive spirit by March 27.