Summit High graduates navigate college sports cancellations, uncertainty |

Summit High graduates navigate college sports cancellations, uncertainty

Summit High School's PK Vincze evades a tackle by a Monarch player during the State Rugby Championships at Garry Berry Stadium in Colorado Springs on Sunday, Nov. 10 2019.
Liz Copan /

The novel coronavirus pandemic has resulted in varying situations for Summit High graduates who are current college athletes. That includes some alums on the same college team.

On Friday morning, Aug. 14, Summit High 2020 graduate PK Vincze chatted during a stop in the vast, wide open farmland of Kansas. The Summit rugby star was en route along the 1,000 miles back home to Summit County from Little Rock, Arkansas.

For Vincze, the pre-pandemic plan for this time in her life was to settle into college life at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There, she’d play a role on the Crimson squad defending their 2019 national championship.

But with Harvard opting for online learning and canceling sports this fall due to concerns with the spread of the virus, Vincze decided to defer her admission to next year. She’s one of a fifth of Harvard’s 2020-21 freshmen class — 340 students in total — who decided to defer admission rather than begin their college experience by studying online. Of the six Harvard women’s rugby rookies, Vincze is one of three incoming players who decided to defer to next year.

“I was pretty bummed earlier in the spring when we started to hear the idea school may not go back,” Vincze said. “But right when Harvard made their decision in mid July I kind of expected this.”

So instead of Cambridge, Vincze has been in Little Rock this summer. It’s there where she’s trained and played at the American Rugby Pro Training Center bubble residency camp. Vincze is one of 18 young female talents who quarantined for two weeks upon arrival at the training center earlier this summer before engaging in non-contact gameplay and training on site over the ensuing weeks.

After about a month back home, Vincze will return to the training center in mid-September. After another 2-week quarantine, she’ll be able to train with a similar-sized group through December. By then, if Arkansas’ COVID regulations change, they may be able to engage in full-contact rugby.

“These are a lot of players pushing for the national team, so it’s cool to have competition there,” Vincze said.

While Vincze will be training in Arkansas, her one-time Tiger and future Harvard teammate, Cassidy Bargell, has opted to remain in school. For the All-American Bargell, one of the best returning collegiate women’s rugby players in the country, it didn’t make sense for her personally to defer enrollment. As a junior in school she’s decided to execute her education online from her home in Summit County this fall because she is taking crucial coursework en route to degrees in integrative biology and government.

“It just is not as natural of a break point for me to take a year off,” Bargell said. “I’m still excited for what our team has going on. I had a meeting with our coach and leadership group about a week ago, talking about how we can make Zoom better and more fun for everyone. We’ll keep the virtual meetings up. And I’ll be training on my own still.”

Because they’ve deferred enrollment, Vincze and other members of the Crimson rugby squad who are opting out a year from school are not able to join official team activities. Bargell said members of every class on the team, freshmen to seniors, opted out. Teammates who’ve decided to remain enrolled in school and those who do not still remain in contact personally.

“There’s nothing stopping you from being friends with teammates,” Bargell said.

For Bargell, she’s found a familiar home for her rugby spirit through the summer. She’s joined Summit High head coach Karl Barth as an assistant coach of sorts as the Tigers high school girls program has trained in a non-contact format this summer.

Bargell hasn’t been with her Harvard teammates since March, and in that time period Crimson players like her executed training plans at home. This fall she said there will be a more structured training block organized via planned Zoom conferences.

Without as much connection to the Harvard team as normal, Bargell has been by Barth’s side at many summer high school sessions. Bargell plans to continue to help the high school team at its intramural programming through the fall.

The closest thing she’s gotten to gameplay has been joining the Gentlemen of the Blue Goose Rugby club in Breckenridge for once-a-week touch rugby scrimmages at Kingdom Park.

Uncertainty lingers for Colorado School of Mines freshmen cross-country runners Jeremiah Vaille and Max Bonenberger. On Sunday, the Tigers duo will move into their dormitory floor with fellow freshmen runners.

Though the NCAA has canceled fall Division II championships, Vaille said the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, which his school is a member of, has announced cross-country running and golf competitions can take place this fall.

Vaille said half of his classes will be in person while half will be online. He said coaches have mentioned the possibility of limiting physical contact by having athletes do recovery days on their own. For harder practices, Vaille said men may convene and run together certain days of the week while women run on different days. But, he emphasized, it’s all up in the air.

“After running by myself for the past few months I’m excited to get to run with teammates,” Vaille said. “I’m excited to have fast teammates with me.”

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