Not taking normal for granted: Rifle senior athletes get to experience one more regular season after pandemic disruptions
Sage Allen was preparing for the worst this season.
She was a sophomore when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled her track and field season entirely.
She was a junior when the COVID-19 pandemic pushed back her track and field season to the sweaty heat of summer.
So, it wasn’t unreasonable for the Rifle High School senior to think her final chance to compete would be once again tainted by the nasty COVID-19 bug.
But on March 17, running shoes pattered across the rubber track at RHS. Cleats booted soccer balls through open air.
Bears Stadium was abuzz with extracurricular activity.
High school sports in Colorado has once again started at its normal, ideal time.
“It means a lot to me,” Allen said. “Just getting back to normal and getting our groove in, it feels a lot better.”
Last season, in particular, saw track and field athletes endure Western Slope heat waves. The Colorado High School Activities Association set the first practice for Season D sports for April 26. This meant Bears athletes were competing well into June.
Allen still appreciates the fact she was even afforded a season.
“I love our whole track, and I love our programs and our coaches, and it went really well for me,” Allen said. “I thought it was great, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Rifle High School Head Track Coach Chris Bomba said the Bears haven’t had a home track meet in three years.
COVID-19 shattered any hopes of hosting the Rifle Invitational in 2020. The next season, poor conditions at Rifle’s track prompted a switch to Coal Ridge High School.
“It’s been a rough two years, having a year canceled and then a year for a weird spring/summer season,” he said. “We’re really excited the kids are excited to have a normal season.”
A LONG WAIT
Bailey Braun walked out of the field house flanking the east side of Rife’s soccer field.
The senior starting goalie for Rifle High School girls soccer was frustrated. Braun waited two whole years to play a normal season only to give up two goals to Colorado Rocky Mountain School.
“I’m mostly frustrated with myself,” she said. “Not really my team.”
As a senior, this is Braun’s final chance to help push her team toward a state tournament appearance.
But as it was with so many of her peers, COVID-19 robbed her of having at least two full, normal years to prove any legitimate contention.
She said she didn’t enjoy having to play into summer 2021.
The year prior, however, was even worse.
“Our COVID year was my sophomore year,” she said. “I felt like that was going to be our best year.”
Rifle High School girls soccer head coach Jeremy Harrison said March 18’s game against the Oysters was a tough loss.
But looking back on the past two years and where his team has come since then, Harrison is incredibly proud of his girls.
“We’ve been building this program for a few years now, and every year and every week, we get better and better,” he said. “My kids were absolutely gassed at the end of that game. They gave everything they had.”
“It’s a beautiful day, it’s a beautiful sport, it’s a beautiful game.”
Harrison also said his team finally gets to return to normalcy, especially when it comes to last season’s summertime heat.
“I think they appreciate that,” he said. “I think they’re just happy to be out here.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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