Summit High School winter sports teams hopeful to start season after the new year
With the start of the condensed eight-week winter sports season a month out, coaches of outdoor and indoor sports at Summit High School are planning for early January starts. That’s despite lingering uncertainty whether, how and when their teams will be able to resume practice and start competitions.
Summit High swimming and diving head coach Jenny Wischmeyer said Wednesday that her Tigers are currently slated to start practice Jan. 4 with their first meet just a few days later on Jan. 7. From there, the current plan is for the Tigers swimmers and divers to compete in five meets, all against fellow Western Slope League schools.
Wischmeyer said the season containment within the Western Slope League is a departure from normal for her team. Because the Tigers are the easternmost program in the league, they normally compete in several meets each year along the Eastern Plains and against Front Range schools. But with coaches within the league opting for conference-only competitions — similar to college sports — the Tigers will compete at the meets presented to them.
“Hopefully, we will be able to start up right when the season starts in January,” Wischmeyer said. “But in the league, a lot of teams are unable to have pool time yet, so we’re just trying to figure it out.”
Wischmeyer said the Tigers returned to the pool for three practices over three weeks in October before the district’s COVID-19 regulations prevented the team from taking part in any activity since. Wischmeyer said she and other athletic staff members are trying to figure out what practice will look like once it is permitted to resume. She said that could mean having 12 or fewer swimmers able to use the pool at one time. It’s a much smaller group than the 28 swimmers and divers who traditionally would be able to practice at the Summit High School pool in a very fluid, casual and social environment.
Wischmeyer said the Colorado High School Activities Association — the governing body for high school sports in the state — said in October that up to 50 people would be permitted in the pool area and on the deck. But since, the coach said, Summit County rules cut that figure substantially. As a result, it seems 12-25 athletes will be permitted in the pool area, and others will have to stage and distance in a separate room, such as the high school gymnasium.
The other thing the team will have to contend with is the logistics of morning practice when COVID-19 rules prevent the team from using locker rooms to transition from practice to school afterward.
“It’s super social. That’s what’s really hard about this,” Wischmeyer said. “‘No, girls, we can’t really sit and talk. I need you to just keep going, keep going.’”
Swimming and diving is one of five Summit High winter sports that take place indoors — the others being boys basketball, girls basketball, wrestling and hockey.
As for Summit High’s two outdoor winter sports — Alpine and Nordic skiing — Alpine head coach Karl Barth said he is hopeful the season will begin with a meet at Aspen the first week of January, though he knows field sizes might have to be reduced similar to cross-country running this fall.
Barth said the team should be able to find workarounds, such as practicing more during the day as opposed to night skiing, with Keystone limiting its weekday night skiing this winter. That should be doable, Barth said, because kids have more free time during the day.
Without his team able to start preseason practice until, at the earliest, next week at Keystone Resort and Copper Mountain Resort, Barth said he’s been encouraging downhillers to ski on their own at resorts to build up leg strength for the season.
In a perfect world, the season would take place and Summit would have the opportunity to compete at February’s state championships on home snow — Alpine at Loveland Ski Area and Nordic at the Frisco Nordic Center. But like the rest of 2020, only time will tell.
“There are still a lot of balls in the air,” Barth said. “I have optimism that, if nothing else, maybe by mid-January we’ll be racing — even if we don’t get the first week or two of racing. It’s a wait-and-see game.”
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