Three Summit High teams ‘on the fence’ |

Three Summit High teams ‘on the fence’

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Summit Daily/Mark Fox

FARMER’S KORNER ” Three of Summit High School’s varsity sports teams may soon cease to exist, according to Tigers athletic director Gretchen Nies, who recently described the wrestling, baseball and boys swimming and diving teams as being “on the fence” for next year.

“At this point, it’s about numbers,” Nies said during a phone interview Thursday. “If the interest isn’t there, it isn’t there.”

Roughly two years ago, the Summit County School District assembled a committee of parents, teachers, coaches and school board members to establish a set of criteria for additions and deletions of a sport or activity at SHS.

The official document that resulted states that a Tiger team will be eliminated if it “demonstrates lack of interest in a sport by failing to meet minimum numbers of participants for two consecutive seasons/years.”

“Wrestling and boys swimming are looking at their probationary year,” Nies said. “If it doesn’t happen next year, they will end up without a program.”

The same committee that established the official set of addition/deletion bylaws also established a minimum number of participants for each sport.

Upon crunching the numbers, the future looks dubious for each team in question.

SHS swimming and diving teams (both boys and girls) are expected to maintain a roster of at least 10, but this spring’s boys team was only eight strong when everyone was healthy. Two seniors have graduated and the county’s swim team currently has a dearth of middle school-aged males.

It takes a crew of eight to keep the SHS wrestling team afloat ” a number the Tigers exceeded by three (at least on paper) at the outset of this past winter season. The squad was decimated by injuries within a few weeks, however, and just five healthy wrestlers were still standing at regular season’s end. Although there is a middle school program in place (Jim Melvin coaches both the middle and high school teams), it’s top-heavy with sixth graders. Even when young wrestlers move up to the high school ranks, they are seldom ready to compete at the varsity level as freshmen.

Summit’s baseball team finished the season with 16 players ” one above the school minimum. Five Tigers have graduated, but of greater concern numbers-wise is the fact that there was no JV baseball team this spring.

Nies has sent out letters to the families of all current participants in order to find out if the teams in jeopardy have enough legitimate backing. The 12th-year AD said she hopes to gain a sense of the true level of interest and commitment on the part of the athletes. Nies also plans to administer student surveys in the fall. The fate of each team will likely be decided before its respective season is set to begin.

“I’m investigating the best way to save the programs if our student body indeed wants to save them,” Nies said.

Summit’s wrestling and baseball teams may both assume JV status, according to Nies. Considering their recent lack of success, such a move could effectively generate more interest in the endangered programs.

This winter’s wrestling team competed in four JV tournaments, which Melvin described as important opportunities for his nearly all-freshmen squad to have a legitimate shot at a victory.

“My stance is still trying to keep it alive,” said Melvin, who wrestled for the Tigers in the early ’80s. “I think that even if only a few kids are interested, (SHS) should still offer wrestling; but I also understand that they have to draw the line somewhere. … If we have to wrestle some JV meets to keep up the interest, so be it.”

“It’s certainly an option that should be considered,” outgoing baseball coach Gary Green, whose team won just a single game each of the last two seasons, said when asked about going JV. “It would be heartbreaking to see (SHS baseball) go away.”

Perhaps the most tragic case among the trio of Tiger teams on the fence is the boys swimming and diving team. Not only does Summit have its own pool (a rarity among Colorado schools), but the Tigers’ nucleus has already competed successfully at the varsity level. For a team with such experience, swimming a JV schedule would be counterproductive.

The Tiger swimmers, including junior-to-be Thomas Sawyer, a bona fide state championship contender, may have to compete for Conifer.

“Visiting teams can’t justify driving an hour and 20 minutes when half the events are empty,” said recently resigned coach Mike Rathgeber, who led the Tigers for four years. “I think it’s ludicrous for us to have to travel elsewhere when we have our own pooI, something other teams would beg for. … But, I would rather have (Summit’s swimmers) compete for Conifer than have them not swim at all.”

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