This past school year will be remembered as the time people were driven apart.
Over the past year and a half, the world’s fight against the coronavirus pandemic created boundaries.
Some of it at the commission of the elected officials above. They indeed shut down schools, extended quarantines and strengthened social distancing restrictions in response to growing case numbers.
The other kind of separation went more personal.
Differing opinions on how to handle the virus sprouted into debates, which morphed into closed-minded arguments. The points were faith, race, science and politics. It might have well been gibberish.
And in the height of all of it, high school sports returned.
In the fall, boys tennis, boys golf and softball were greenlit to come back. Then cross country was OK’d. And finally — after votes, revotes and some political pressure — football came back, too.
Along with their return came more divisive topics in the form of wearing a mask, limits on games and postseason fields, and the number of fans allowed in the stands. Among the few things people could agree on, social media seemed to be the place to vent.
Things were far less dizzying on the courts, fields and courses. Coaches finally rejoined their teams and kids were again teammates. Without knowing what lay ahead, they went forward.
Here are the moments that helped define those journeys in the BoCoPreps.com coverage area during the 2020-2021 school year, offered in two installments. In the first, we comb through the fall and winter seasons.
Aug. 6, 2020 — High school sports return with Monarch Caleb Michaels’ masterful win at Broomfield golf tournament
For five months, high school sports were left out in the dark. Alas, its return was marked with spotless skies and warm temps. Michaels, for his part, shot 2-under 70 at Broadlands Golf Course as players did their best to balance competition and the new social distancing rules.
Sept. 16, 2020 — Football returns to the fall
On Sept. 9, the state board had just voted to keep football in the spring. There’d been groans about the sport getting pushed back ever since CHSAA’s initial decision in August. But decisions by leadership seemed concrete, for a while …
In a turn of events earlier in the month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green made it clear that they were interested in bringing back the sport in the fall. That was quickly quashed by a unanimous ‘No’ vote during the board meeting.
But the drama carried on, and another vote was set after a week of strong pushback from parents, administrators, coaches, and even Polis himself. Before the reversal, surveys were sent out to schools across the state and new variances were approved by state officials. As part of the wild change of course, sideline cheer and field hockey were also allowed back in the fall. Field hockey later decided to stay in the spring.
Sept. 26 — Niwot wins first tennis team title as Fairview’s Chad Tsuda hangs it up
Three-time BoCoPreps.com player of the year Neil Wilcox won his second straight No. 1 singles title and No. 3 player Luke Weber also won, leading the Cougars past Cheyenne Mountain and Mullen in the Class 4A race in winning their first team title in boys tennis.
In 5A, Fairview finished fifth, and BoCoPreps found out a few days later that it would mark the end for longtime Knights coach Chad Tsuda, who stepped down. Under him, Fairview won 13 straight Front Range League titles and won the program’s first state title in 2017.
Oct. 9 — Football officially returns to the area
The opening week of the football season was highlighted by virtual coin tosses, limited fans in the stands and masks on the sidelines. Even more intriguing perhaps were the young faces that shined in spite of those restrictions.
In Week 1, Erie freshman quarterback Blake Barnett accounted for 256 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. Broomfield sophomore Cole LaCrue came off the bench and had four TDs in a win over Monarch. Skyline’s Logan Miller scored by fumble, interception, throw and reception in the Falcons’ win over Silver Creek at Everly-Montgomery Field.
Oct. 10 — Holy Family beats Mead to win softball title
A first-inning grand slam by Boise State commit Abby Edwards paved the way for Holy Family’s 9-6 win. Pitcher Cassidy Chvatal was named the 4A state player of the year and Moriah Nguyen was awarded coach of the year by CHSAA and BoCoPreps. Mead’s softball team, led by a strong lineup and a rotation headed by sophomore sensation Joslynn Veltien, had been the first program from the modern Mead High School to reach a championship game.
Oct. 17 — Niwot boys and girls win 4A XC titles
Zane Bergen won for the boys, which repeated from its 2019 title. Mia Prok took second for the girls, which claimed gold for a third straight season. In the boys’ race, Bergen was ruled to be knocked down in the final meters of the 4A race in Colorado Springs and was awarded the individual title. His time of 15 minutes, 29.5 seconds surpassed former teammate Cruz Culpepper for the 4A course record.
Nov. 16 — Mead football out of the postseason due to COVID-19 exposure
The Mavericks weren’t the first team to lose games due to an exposure, and they certainly wouldn’t be the last. But just hours after they’d been plugged into the 3A postseason field, they had to forfeit their place.
The ill-timed removal came months after the school’s basketball team was in the 4A Final Four as sports were shut down.
Dec. 21 — Winter sports gets a clear start date
COVID-19 case numbers shot up during Thanksgiving break, muddying the waters for the return of winter sports. That cleared a bit the Monday before Christmas as CHSAA announced that its ‘Season B’ sports could return to practice Jan. 18.
Further discussions later arose about local wrestling, which was ruled off by Boulder County Public Health before getting reinstated a short while afterward. Among other restrictions for winter sports, basketball players were forced to wear masks on the court and swim teams had to limit their number of participants.
Jan 25 — Winter competition begins with mixed expectations
High school sports were able to conclude each season in the fall, albeit not without hundreds of game cancellations and program quarantines. Now, they’d test their fate with indoor sports.
With more questions than answers, the winter season got underway with basketball, ice hockey, skiing, spirit, girls swim and dive and wrestling.
Feb. 10 — Few fans allowed inside Longmont’s gymnasium
In most places, fans hadn’t been allowed in gyms due to capacity restrictions.
Week-by-week, things changed.
On this night, a few fans were allowed back into Longmont for the first time during the year.
Said Trojans coach Wade Kingsbury that night: “Having fans here, of course we want them. Especially their parents, we want their parents to come watch them. That’s important. That’s part of the experience. On the flip side, the continued changes that keep coming are tough on everybody, too.”
March 12 — Niwot’s Mary Codevilla continues her dominance at the 4A state meet
In a meet that was spread out over 12 hours due to capacity restrictions, the Notre Dame swimming commit won the fourth and fifth individual titles of her career.
First, she won the 200-yard freestyle, besting her state-winning time from the year before. She followed by setting the 4A record in the 500 free some four hours later.
Codevilla swam in four events that day. All four were All-American times and school records.
March 13 — Monarch’s Vince Cornella wins historic fourth wrestling title
Cornella’s chase for history was a mess. But it ended victoriously.
The Monarch senior didn’t know how things would shape out when wrestling was originally nixed in the area. And who knew quite what to expect when he came into regionals after having not wrestled a single high school match.
Turns out, Cornella was again dominant, and later he pinned all his state foes in the Class 5A 138-pound bracket to become the 29th high school wrestler in Colorado to win four titles.
Elsewhere, Lyons’ Oran Huff won his third title and Broomfield’s Ryan Vigil won his first.
March 21 — Mead’s basketball redemption
After having the curtain prematurely closed on their Final Four appearance the year before, Elijah Knudsen led the Mavericks to their school’s first championship.
Knudsen averaged 26 points per game in the postseason, leading his team to five double-digit wins.
The title was dedicated to fellow-guard Nick Basson, who suffered a stroke before the team’s Great Eight game. The sophomore was strong enough to make it to Colorado Springs to watch his team beat Montrose in the 4A finals.
The second part of this series will be published next week with the defining moments from season’s C and D.