Despite uncertainty, Summit High School fall sports teams prep through summer
FRISCO — As the calendar turns to August, Summit High School athletes and coaches are eager to find out if, when and how sports will take place this fall amid the pandemic.
The lingering uncertainty, however, hasn’t stopped several teams from prepping and practicing for the season as if fall will be like any other.
“I’m not much for speculation, so I’ve just been waiting patiently for (the Colorado High School Activities Association) to tell us what we are doing and go from there,” Tigers boys soccer coach Tommy Gogolen said. “We are planning on playing 11 v 11, planning on our first game being the last week of August. That’s the mentality I preach to the boys — that we are prepping as if we’re playing. So don’t come in soft or underprepared.
“I think the excitement level is there. But they all know in the back of their minds something could change.”
As of Friday afternoon, CHSAA announced that boys golf will be the first high school sport in the state to begin official preseason practice starting Monday. That means Tigers golfers and new head coach Ryne Scholl can begin practice ahead of their first tournament of the season, slated for Cedaredge Golf Club on Friday, Aug 7. From there, the team has double digit tournaments scheduled, though about half of those are stipulated as “waitlisted” or “to be confirmed.”
The other two sports to which CHSAA has given the green light, softball and boys tennis, do not have fielded teams at Summit High. That means boys soccer, football, girls rugby, girls volleyball and cross-country running are the Summit fall sports awaiting word.
All of those sports except girls rugby are governed by CHSAA. That said, girls rugby head coach Karl Barth said the team will tie any resumption of competition this fall to what other Summit High sports are doing. Barth’s championship rugby program has been operating hourlong skills, strength and conditioning training sessions three times a week since mid-June at the Summit High fields with a cap of 25 athletes per session. The sessions have not involved scrimmaging, and athletes arrive wearing a face covering before having their temperature taken.
“We are cautiously optimistic for something,” Barth said. “What seems to make the most sense at this point is to be much more internal, given that increasing the number of kids (we’re) interacting with and travel and all these things (are) going to be an issue. … There’s still hope, but I think … what probably makes the most sense is something along those lines. In that sense, it’s tied more to what the school decides we are doing, especially football — another contact sport.”
On Thursday night, Summit High football coach James Wagner concluded the Tigers’ two-week summer camp. As camp wrapped up, Wagner said he and his coaching staff are elated with the interest and morale he’s seen from student athletes. He said as many as 60 kids have come out to camp, divided up into groups of 25 or fewer at different locations on the high school fields.
For the past couple of weeks of camp, Wagner said he and his staff have been able to run 11-on-11 sessions where athletes wear helmets. He said the sessions and accompanying installation of offensive and defensive plays and schemes have helped the team be “light-years ahead” of where they were at this point last season in terms of skill and understanding the Tigers’ football strategy.
“I’m super excited about the possibility to play this fall,” Wagner said. “… As a coach, I’ve had to just pretend like everything is normal and everything is full-go rather than adjust.”
It’s not just on the field where Summit High student athletes are prepping for the fall season like normal. The football team has launched its annual fundraisers, including a virtual fundraiser and the annual Tiger Card promotion. Between Thursday’s end of camp and the planned start of practice Aug. 10, players will fundraise for 12 new helmets while also getting the chance to enjoy a day out on Dillon Reservoir led by Wagner and the coaches.
As for the soccer kids, Gogolen didn’t mince words when describing what the sport means for them.
“Everything,” he said.
Through summer, the kids haven’t waited for clearance from CHSAA to revive their passion for the sport. They’ve played sandlot pick-up games with community members around the county. They’ve enjoyed watching the resumption of European soccer and Major League Soccer. To Gogolen’s Tigers, the sport has been a distraction from the turbulent past few months. And the recent 7-on-7 scrimmage sessions they’ve been able to have out on the Summit High field mean the world.
“I was expecting to see a little bit more rust,” Gogolen said. “But these kids love the game. They found a way to put a soccer ball at their feet even during quarantine.”
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