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Roaring Fork’s Lindgren signs to play college hoops at Iowa’s Coe

Roaring Fork High School senior Maya Lindgren has committed to play college basketball at Coe College in Iowa.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Maya Lindgren had always considered herself “more of a softball girl,” until she started getting some serious looks on the basketball court during her junior season at Roaring Fork High School last year.

“I’ve always played both sports … throughout high school, but when I started getting a little bit of interest from (basketball) coaches, it made me think, hey, maybe I am good enough for this,” Lindgren said.

That “this” ended up being a letter of commitment signed during the winter holiday break to play basketball for NCAA Division III Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

The dual-sport student-athlete was named to the 3A Western Slope League All-Conference first team for softball as one of two Carbondale players on the Basalt Longhorns team last fall.

And, it was her impressive stats on the hardwood during the 2019-20 basketball season — 12.8 points per game (including multiple 25+ point games), a 38% shooting percentage, and 295 total points — that earned her a first-team All-Conference selection for basketball, as well.

Maya Lindgren looks to go baseline in 2019-20 season action at Roaring Fork High School.
John Stroud/Post Independent file

Lindgren had offers from several different colleges, but she said Coe seemed to be the best fit both academically and athletics-wise.

“It’s huge, honestly,” Lindgren said. “I’ve always wanted to be able to play at the collegiate level. I just think it’s really cool to be able to pursue one of the things I love after high school … I’m just really proud of myself.”

Lindgren enters her senior basketball season as the Rams’ starting point guard and team captain, an honor she was bestowed her junior year by Roaring Fork head coach Juan Quintero.

“One of the things we always talk about is being really positive with each other as teammates, and that’s something Maya does well,” Quintero said. “She’s been a great leader for the team, and really helps the other girls out on the court and on the sideline.”

Talent-wise, “Maya is one of most skilled players I’ve seen in 3A basketball,” Quintero said. “Her skill level off the dribble is by far the best in our league, and last year she really came out of her shell and showed that leadership ability, too.”

Lindgren has played varsity most of her four years at RFHS, and has been playing basketball since elementary school in the Carbondale youth recreation league and at Carbondale Middle School.

Born and raised in Carbondale, she is the daughter of Ann and Olle Lindgren.

Maya said she’s looking forward to her senior season at Roaring Fork, even with all of the COVID-19 public health protocols that will be among the challenges.

“We lost some talented girls (to graduation) last year, but I’m excited for some of these younger girls to come in and have a chance to step up and take some of the weight for the team,” Lindgren said.

Formal practices begin Monday, but the informal practices have been going well, she said.

“We’re working really well as a team,” she said. “With COVID, we all have to make sure we’re putting ourselves in smart situations and not risking the team.”

She’s also looking forward to the opportunity to play basketball with her younger sister, Nora, who is a freshman member of the Rams this season.

“That’s really exciting,” she said.

“One of the things I need to work on is the mental game,” she added. “Basketball is a really mental sport, so part of it for me is getting mentally and physically prepared for the college level.”

jstroud@postindependent.com

Rifle High School welcomes one of its own as new athletics director

New Rifle High School Athletic Director Chris Bomba.
Ray K. Erku/Post Independent

There’s no better time than now to focus on what truly matters.

“I think with anything like this — and I try to have this attitude my whole life — is that you always have two options,” Chris Bomba said. “You can either let it beat you down and keep you down, or you can find the positives in it and try to drive the right direction.”

“What’s positive right now? We have basketball and we have wrestling,” he added. “There are states out there that are canceling.”

Bomba, a former Western State (now Western Colorado University) thrower originally from Moffat County, started this week as Rifle High School’s new athletics director, taking over for Damon Wells. He’s now at the helm of helping to navigate Garfield District Re-2 sports through some of the most unique circumstances known to modern-day athletics in Colorado.

If there’s an activities administrator out there in the U.S. who isn’t inundated with meetings with fellow athletic directors, state officials on yet another COVID-19 update or season schedule tweaks, they’re probably not doing their job.

But the 42-year-old Rifle High School head track coach and science teacher maintains a positive outlook, not just toward his new role as athletics director, but for the students recently given the opportunity to enjoy their last hurrah before graduating.

Jan. 18 — the first official practice day of Season B sports across the state — couldn’t come any sooner.

“I lived through track last year when it got canceled,” Bomba said. “For the seniors, that was their last chance at state. And the crying? That was so hard. So for us to be able to have a season … I’m beside myself.”

“It’s awesome.”

Bomba’s story takes place just about 90 miles up the road, in Craig. It was then, growing up a Bulldog, he was instilled with the inspiration to pursue a life of physical competition.

“I had a teacher in middle school that told me I needed to stick with sports,” he said. “It was one of the best things anybody could tell me. Sports have just been a mainstay in myself because of the positive things that I’ve gotten out of it.”

A 1997 graduate of Moffat County High School, Bomba would spend his time in high school learning to overcome adversity in varsity Bulldogs track and football.

“We had great coaches, we had great teammates at that time” he said. “We pushed ourselves to be the best. And if you weren’t — if you were slacking? It wasn’t like people were jerks about it, they were just like, C’mon, man … let’s go.’”

“We built ourselves up and worked our tails off to do the things we did.”

Bomba went on to represent Moffat County for Western State, throwing two years for the Mountaineers. But it was right after graduation when he got his first taste of coaching.

Bomba said he’d coach two years at Western before deciding the $2,000-a-year paycheck wasn’t going to cut it, so he took up a full-time position in Cedaredge, coaching middle school basketball and football. He also helped coach high school track and football.

Then, around 2010, Bomba moved to Garfield County, where he began teaching at Rifle Middle School. He’d also start coaching volleyball, basketball and football.

And, for the past five years, Bomba has been head coach of Rifle High School Track and Field.

Rifle High School Principal John Arledge said he was excited to announce Bomba’s new position as athletic director.

“Chris comes to us with experience as a successful head track coach and someone that has experience at both the middle and high school level athletics,” he recently wrote to RHS staff. “Chris was a college track athlete at Western State and was also a successful high school athlete coming from Moffat County.

Arledge also described Bomba as an outstanding science teacher who had served as a special education teacher at the Rifle Middle School.

“We are lucky to have such a qualified candidate that was here internally, and it is our hope that RHS welcomes Chris in his new capacity,” Arledge wrote.

Bomba said such an undertaking during such weird times is something he’s ready for; that the challenges ahead will be tough now, but will make life a lot easier in the future.

“I think it’s going to make me — for me, personally — a stronger person,” he said. “And I think it’s gonna make our kids — even though they don’t see it yet — stronger. It’s going to be a great story and it’s going to be a great story for your kids later on in life.”

“And next year, if it’s a normal year? Next year’s going to be easy.”

rerku@postindependent.com

Winter high school sports to officially begin in Garfield County on Jan. 18

Coal Ridge’s Moises Contreras glides to the basket during a boys game against Grand Valley in late January 2020.Kyle Mills / Post Independent

Ben Kirk already has a plan for tip-off time.

The Coal Ridge High School athletic director will climb to the top of the bleachers, take a seat and simply soak it all in.

“These kids have been waiting for a long time,” the Coal Ridge High School athletics director said. “I’m ready to get our gyms full and kids in there doing their stuff and getting back to action.”

In late December, high schools across Garfield County and Colorado were given some great news. The Colorado High School Activities Association announced that, by securing a variance with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the winter sports season could officially commence on Jan. 18.

Operations section chief for Garfield County’s COVID-19 response team Zac Sutherland said all schools returning to winter sports must follow guidelines put in place by the CDPHE. Those guidelines are determined by the specific COVID-19 dial metric in which any county falls under.

For example, up to 50 participants will be allowed at one time during boys swimming meets and 25 participants for wrestling meets, Sutherland said. High school basketball games, meanwhile, should allow 24 players, including coaches and trainers, in a gym at one time.

As for spectators?

“It really depends on the sport and what the setup is,” Sutherland said. “If it’s indoors, obviously having spectators makes things more difficult. Then we need to look at the social distancing calculator, make sure that we’re starting within capacity, in that respect.”

Nevertheless, after a number of delays and tedious season schedule tweaks, high school coaches across the state will be happily inundated with hockey, skiing, girls swimming, wrestling, competitive spirit and of course basketball practices.

“I am so pumped to start basketball and just hear the kids and their squeaky shoes on the floor and basketballs bouncing and wrestlers in there getting after it,” Kirk said.

No doubt, Colorado high school sports have experienced an unprecedented rollercoaster ride of emotions since the pandemic began.. The spring 2020 season was of course canceled. By fall, a confusing, disharmonious start to high school seasons were also burdened by what team, in what particular county, could actually play.

“I am so pumped to start basketball and just hear the kids and their squeaky shoes on the floor and basketballs bouncing and wrestlers in there getting after it,” Ben Kirk

For instance, cross country programs across Garfield County ran their tails off this fall. Local volleyball was sidelined.

To add more fuel to the fire, the winter sports season was originally slated to begin Jan. 4. Then earlier in December, that start date got pushed back to Feb. 1.

This means an abrupt switch to Jan.18. Although the earlier date was welcomed with open arms by high school athletics directors and coaches, it poses somewhat of a logistical labyrinth for everyone behind the scenes.

“When it moved to Jan 18, it was like, ‘heck yeah,’” Kirk said. “One kid texted me and said, ‘It’s a Christmas miracle.’”

Grand Valley High School Athletic Director Dave Walck is also looking forward to living out this miracle.

“I think it’s been a long coming,” he said. “It’s just been hard to sit and wait and watch kids not get to do what kids need to do.”

For Walck, some of the more challenging aspects of navigating his way through a COVID-19 sports season has been simply trying to encourage student athletes to stay on top of things. “I’ve learned to be patient through this process and just remembering everything we’re doing is for the kids,” he said.

Kirk said Coal Ridge should see practices being conducted in pods of 10 people or less. This should include one coach and nine athletes. Any more would violate the COVID-19 dial implemented by the state.

And with the first set of games and meets scheduled for Jan. 25, that leaves about a week for training and preparation. Still, Kirk said his student athletes have already been hard at it anyway.

“Right now our gyms and our weight room are pretty much busy all day long, with 10 kids at a time for an hour,” he said.

As for the seasons themselves, they’ve essentially been sliced by more than a quarter. For Coal Ridge, a typical 23-game season has now dropped down to 14 games. Grand Valley boys basketball amassed 20 games last season. The new switch abbreviated that to 12 games.

In addition, local sports fans will have to cheer their favorite athletes on via live stream.

“Bottom line is, I just want to see kids get into a uniform, get out on the field of competition and give it their best, and I will be a happy, happy soul,” Walck said.

In other words, people are starving for sports right now.

“I bet the number of people that are following sports and watching sports is going to skyrocket because of this,” Kirk said of sports coming back. “Unfortunately, we are not going to be able to pack our gyms because I think right now we would.”

But despite the hurdles, excitement for the season is palpable.

“This is going to sound cliche, but I’m a fan of kids,” he said. “I get a little emotional just thinking about it. This is why I’m here, so I can be part of these kids’ experiences.”

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Glenwood Springs High’s basketball success top sports story of 2020

Demons boys, girls score dual undefeated 4A WSL hoops seasons, sweep league honors

Before the impacts of a global pandemic rocked the sports world with canceled prep and college seasons and student-athlete heartbreaks, there was a great story told by the Glenwood Springs High School basketball teams.

Both the Demons boys and girls dominated the Class 4A Western Slope League, going undefeated in league play during January and February, en route to respective deep runs in the state playoffs.

Glenwood Springs Demon Hadley Yellico dribbles the ball down the court with other teammates during a Jan. 14 home against against the Summit Tigers.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

The Lady Demons ultimately bowed out in the Sweet 16 to finish 21-4 overall, while the boys, ranked No. 2 in the 4A state tournament, made it all the way to the Great 8.

Led by a septet of seniors and under the guidance of second-year head coach Fred Heisel, the Demon boys went 22-4 on the season, falling to Pueblo West on the home court at Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium March 7.

Incidentally, had they won that game, the 2019-20 Demons still never would have seen the court again. The state basketball championships were called off that following week — the first of many coronavirus shutdowns.

Glenwood Springs Demons Patrick Young and AJ Adams celebrate after defeating the Green Mountain Rams during a playoff game on March 4.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

For their efforts, the Demons program was awarded with several All-Conference selections, including Players of the Year Mitchell Burt and Natalya Taylor, and Coaches of the Year honors for Heisel and Lady Demons coach Rhonda Moser.

Demon divers, swimmers, wrestler, cross runners claim state medals

Several other Demons athletes also shined bright on the high school state championships stage during 2020.

Glenwood Springs dive team members Juliet McGill, Abby Scruton, Libby Claasen and Celia Scruton.
John Stroud/Post Independent

• The Glenwood girls swimming and diving team got things going on Feb. 15, taking sixth-place out of 32 Class 3A teams at the Colorado State Swim and Dive Championships.

Abby Scruton was the top Glenwood medalist, taking third place in the 1-Meter Diving competition. Teammates Juliet McGill and Libby Claassen were fifth and eighth, respectively.

Among the swimmers, Amy Madsen took fifth at state in the 100 Freestyle and seventh in the 200 Freestyle; Kylee Smith was ninth in the 200 Freestyle and eighth in the 100 Fly; and the 400 Freestyle Relay team of Amy Madsen, Haley Diemar, Sally McDonnell and Kylee Smith was sixth.

Glenwood Springs’ Amos Wilson is declared the 3A state bronze medalist in February.

• Glenwood High School senior Amos Wilson battled back through the consolation rounds of the 3A State Wrestling Championships on Feb. 22 to take third place.

After a tough loss in the championship semifinal, Wilson pinned Colby Runner from Severance and dominated his third-place matchup with Weld Central’s Braden Baumgartner to claim the 9-5 decision.

Glenwood junior Ella Johnson competes in the 4A girls' state cross country championships at the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado., on Saturday Oct. 17, 2020. Johnson finished 3rd place.
Chancey Bush/The Gazette

• The COVID-altered fall cross country running season didn’t deter Glenwood Springs harriers Ella Johnson and Sophia Connerton-Nevin from improving their previous year’s showing at the 4A State Cross Country Championships. Johnson took fourth place overall with a 5K time of 18:24 and Connerton-Nevin was eighth in 19:07.

• Finally, Glenwood High’s boys hockey team, playing just their second season at the varsity level, went 12-6-3 on the season, advancing to the second round of the single-classification state playoffs. Glenwood was well-represented in the Peak League All-Conference selections as a result, with senior co-captain Ryan Kotz, a Coal Ridge High student who played for the Demons, and senior goalie Hunter Hadsock earning first-team honors.

Canceled spring sports season upends athlete goals

Following weeks of uncertainty about the fate of the high school spring sports seasons, the Colorado High School Activities Association on April 21 formally announced it was canceling sports and other activities for the remainder of the school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news hit hard for senior athletes in particular who were looking to improve, or possibly even earn athletic scholarships in baseball, track and field, girls soccer and lacrosse.

Among them was Glenwood Springs High School senior Cole Houston, a pitcher on the Demons baseball team.

With his 90-mph pitching arm, Houston was set to receive multiple offers to play on scholarship, but needed to prove himself for one more season on the mound.

“Coming out of last year, I knew this was a really important season because a lot of people didn’t think the best of me,” he commented as the news of the lost season sank in. “I knew I could do a lot better.”

After committing to go to California Polytechnic State University, Houston still was hoping to make the baseball team as a walk-on.

The impacts of the pandemic have lingered into the 2020-21 high school sports seasons, with CHSAA scrambling to create a modified four-season schedule. Even that’s still been subject to delays and shortened playing seasons and a split football season that has seen some schools opt to play this fall, and others choosing to wait until Season C come March.

Football career sets roadmap for former Rifle back; brother follows in footsteps

Football shaped former Rifle High School standout Brooks Pressler after many years of injuries and setbacks at the high school and college level.

Ailments limited him to just six games in his career as a hybrid safety/linebacker at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Still, he was able to be part of three Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference championships.

In early 2020, though, Pressler was honored by the collegiate football world for his academic accomplishments, being named to the National Football Foundation’s Hampshire Honor Society.

“Football was secondary, and school is what allowed me to play football,” Pressler commented in an April interview with the Post Independent. “If there was no school, there was no football. What you’re taking out of school is what’s going to provide you with tools to be successful in life.”

In May, younger brother Carter Pressler agreed to follow the family bloodline to CMU, committing to play for the Mavericks and keep the Pressler tradition alive.

jstroud@postindependent.com

CHSAA offers student mental health webinars this week

The Colorado High School Activities Association plans to offer three student-based mental health web-based seminars this week to address student mental health concerns related to the COVID-disrupted sports seasons and activities.

The webinars, titled “Taking Care of You When Your World Has Been Turned Upside Down,” are slated to take place Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, according to a CHSAA press release.

The sessions are to be conducted by JC Pohl, an award-winning author and producer of “Teen Truth,” and Caleb Campbell, West Point graduate and former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker, who is nationally known for his work around student mental health and resilience.

Sessions are being offered statewide at no-charge to all students. They will focus on providing students with strategies for self-care and ownership in their social, physical and mental well-being amid the academic, interscholastic and general life disruptions due to the pandemic, according to the release.

“It has been nine months since the pandemic initially shut down schools, activities and the traditional norms our students have known that have shaped their world,” CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green said in the release. “The on-going uncertainty of when things are going to return normal produces anxiety in us all but more so for our kids where disruptions have left them questioning their place and identity during the pandemic.

“We, as educational leaders, need to provide our students with coping strategies and resilience in navigating their current world that has been turned upside down by decisions out of their control as a result of the negative impacts of COVID-19.”

Students should check with their school for registration information, which was sent out last week.

CHSAA, state health officials delay winter high school sports season

The next season of high school sports that was to begin Jan. 4 is being delayed by nearly a month, according to a Monday press release from the Colorado High School Activities Association.

A Feb. 1 start date has been proposed by CHSAA for the realigned Season B, which is to include boys and girls basketball, ice hockey, skiing, spirit, girls swimming and wrestling.

CHSAA explained in the release that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) sent a letter to CHSAA indicating that Season B would not be permitted to start as planned on Jan. 4. State Health also indicated no variances will be given to CHSAA sports to start at the time.

In the letter, CDPHE Executive Director Jill Hunsaker Ryan wrote that the department is “very concerned” the COVID-19 transmission rate will continue to increase and does not have enough information about what disease incidence and hospital capacity will look like in January.

Hunsaker Ryan said high school sports will operate based on each county’s dial level restrictions and that no indoor group sports are authorized for counties in level red.

“Season B sports are conducted mainly indoors during the colder months, which reduces the ability to assure social distancing,” Hunsaker Ryan wrote.

CHSAA, state health officials and Gov. Jared Polis’ COVID Response Team plan to meet in mid-January to discuss variances for Season B and reassess COVID-19 data, according to the release.

Superintendents of the three Garfield County school districts were on the line with county commissioners during the weekly public health update Monday morning. They’ve been meeting weekly with area medical and public health officials to discuss a coordinated plan of action regarding school sports.

Based on the current conditions, no spectators would be allowed to attend any sporting events in any case, the group advised the commissioners.

“We have come to a consensus that we’d like to move ahead with Season B, but prohibit spectators from attending games and practices,” Garfield Re-2 Superintendent Heather Grumley said during the meeting, which took place before CHSAA’s announcement.

Once school sports do resume, student-athletes will be discouraged from car-pooling to events and to take the buses, which will be operated under strict COVID-19 protocols, Grumley said.

Ride-sharing between non-related people has been linked by public health officials to the increase in disease spread.

Added Garfield District 16 Superintendent Brad Ray, “Athletics are a huge part of student life and the community. We will follow the guidance from CHSAA,” he said.

When it comes to both sports and the ability to continue with in-person learning, “It’s really the community that needs to do its part,” Roaring Fork District Superintendent Rob Stein said.

The delay of prep sports Season B also will push back Seasons C and D, slated now for seven instead of eight weeks, to run from March 15-May 8 and May 3-June 26, respectively.

Season C is to include football for those schools that opted for the spring season instead of fall, which includes all three local districts, as well as Aspen. That season would now run from March 15 – May 15, along with boys soccer and girls volleyball.

Season D is slated to include baseball, boys and girls lacrosse, coed track and field, boys swimming and diving, and girls soccer, golf and tennis.

“With the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Garfield County, the three districts wanted to bring a consistent approach to athletics and provide every opportunity for the county’s student-athletes to compete,” reads a news releases issued by Garfield Re-2 schools.

Regarding the prohibition on spectators, “Parents are excellent supports for their children/student-athletes, and we know that they want to be there to share in the victories and defeats,” the statement reads. “All three districts are working on providing opportunities that will allow not only parents but family members from wherever they may live, to watch Garfield County’s student-athletes perform.”