Winter sports: Five things we’re excited to see

Practice began on Monday for five sports

Erie High School junior Grace Moyers ...
Daily Camera file photo
Erie High School junior Grace Moyers (3) pushes down-court past Roosevelt High School senior Skylar Keller (22) on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Erie, Colo.
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Winter sports are live again. We know it true by the flutterings of social media, where high school coaches took to Twitter — some logging-in for the first time in months to remind their players about the start of practice.

Monday’s opening day was a reconvening for student-athletes participating in basketball, hockey, skiing, girls swimming and wrestling. The initial meet was night-and-day from a year ago.

Last Thanksgiving, the challenges with the pandemic were magnified by a dramatic spike in positive cases across the state. For high school sports, it meant a long unprecedented delay on the start of their season as state officials supposedly worked on a plan.

Fears arose that all in the winter would be lost — ultimately, wrestling in Boulder County nearly was. And only after months of rumors, anger and stiff new restrictions, would winter sports finally get greenlit again.

It’s smoother a year later. (Though due to the number of COVID cases in the state reportedly on the rise, that can only be said as of now.)

The current plan for the sports of basketball, hockey, skiing, girls swimming and wrestling is to have two weeks of practice ahead of the opening week of games starting Nov. 29. Seasons are scheduled to last until the middle of February into the start of March.

Here are five things we’re excited to see.

Mead trying to defend its basketball title

The impact of Mavericks’ 2021 state title is far-reaching.

With Mead’s 68-44 4A finals victory over Montrose, it was a tip of the hat to the school’s 1957 team — which had been its last basketball champs. Its 2020 team — which looked on the verge of gold after reaching the Final Four right before the tournament was canceled due to the pandemic. As well as current guard Nick Basson, who had suffered a stroke before the team’s Great Eight game.

At the front of it, undersized guard Elijah Knudsen was sensational. The then-junior was named the CHSAA 4A and BoCoPreps player of the year. That postseason he averaged 26 points per game as he led the Mavs to five consecutive double-digit wins. He had 45 points against Holy Family in Round 2 and finished with 30 in the finals.

Girls wrestling takes another step forward in the state

After a two-year pilot program, the girls wrestling’s inaugural season saw more than 400 girls across 54 schools take part last season.

The sport’s second official go-around hopes to build off that.

Around town, U.S. women’s wrestling star Katherine Shai took over the Broomfield program, which will serve as the Boulder Valley School District team. Shai was one of the early pioneers in lifting the sport into relevance in California. She hopes she can be a part of the women’s wrestling boom in Colorado as well.

Niwot’s Mary Codevilla going for more gold in swimming

Even with stricter qualification requirements last season, the Niwot senior qualified for every event except for dive for a third straight year.  The star swimmer went on to win the fourth and fifth individual golds of her high school career, winning the 4A 200 and 500 freestyle events … both in school record times.

This is expected to be Codevilla’s last high school season before she head on to swim at Notre Dame.

Girl hoopers taking the next step

Erie’s Grace Moyers is electric.

The Wyoming commit scored 20.7 points per game as she led her team to the Great Eight last year. The question now is ‘How much better can she be?’

Then there’s Monarch’s Natalie Guanella. Scoring 16.5 points per game to go along with 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 steals, she was a Front Range League co-player of the year as a sophomore. She could have two years left to help lead an awoken Monarch program.

Mead’s Edie Morrow is also eligible to return after she helped lead the Mavs to a nice run last season. So is Centaurus’ Laura Gensert and Longmont’s Christine D’Epagnier. All of them are difference-makers on programs that could make noise come late February into March.

Old guard, new face make up area hockey scene

Monarch is a longtime hockey power. Centaurus is the newbie.

Both programs had mixed results in last year’s pandemic season. With the 5A postseason field shrunk to just four, both missed qualifying. The 5A postseason is up to 10 teams this fall.

The Coyotes went 5-5, their only non-winning season in more than a decade.

Centaurus, meanwhile, played in its first year at the varsity level. Among the struggles that go into starting a new program in a pandemic, it even had trouble getting new jerseys for its players.

It’ll be a new beginning for each of them this winter.