Vidakovich column: A time of frustration and hope
With the clock inching steadily toward midnight on the high school spring sports season, several area athletes are still clinging to the glass slipper of hope that there may somehow be a resumption of activities in early May.
Always the eternal optimist, veteran Glenwood High School track and field coach Blake Risner is in the ready mode in case the season should resume at some point in the near future, but he is not placing bets on it.
“Looking at everything that is going on across the country, I doubt that we will get started again,” Risner said. “The hopes are diminished, but the CHSAA commissioner did say they won’t make a final determination until early May.”
Risner’s assistant coach of more than 20 years, Mike Kishimoto says he never tires of being around the high school athletes. Like a fine wine, the experience of teaching and coaching just gets better with the passing of time.
“This is a passion for me. I can’t really explain it,” Kishimoto said. “It never gets boring, and seems to just get better each year.”
Kishimoto, who is also the race director for June’s Strawberry Shortcut races, which have been canceled, shares Risner’s belief that with each passing day, the flicker of hope for a spring track season gets ever closer to being extinguished.
“We’re both still hopeful, but realistic in knowing that it may not happen this year,” Kishimoto said.
Athletics director and head track and field coach at Coal Ridge, Ben Kirk, echoes much the same sentiments as his Glenwood counterparts.
“It’s super-disappointing and I’m saddened to miss track season,” Kirk said. “I think this year may have been our best overall girls’ team that we have ever had. A large group of kids are doing all they can to stay in shape and train regularly. I’m very proud of them for that, but my honest feeling is that the season will get completely canceled, and I feel just horrible for all of the kids.”
Glenwood girls’ soccer coach Matt Chilson was supposed be sailing on the Demon ship in his maiden voyage as a first-year coach. Instead, Chilson will most likely be forced to watch as a talent-laden Glenwood soccer team is sidelined for the entire season and left to ponder the what-ifs.
“This is obviously tough for the seniors, losing their payoff year,” Chilson said. “Not getting a chance to see what the kids could have done and how our senior leadership would benefit the younger players on the team is a disappointment.”
One of those Demon soccer seniors is Summer McSwain. Looking at the big picture of what is happening around our country and community, McSwain has managed to keep a perspective and an order of importance in her life in the midst of the current events unfolding around her.
“It’s disappointing and frustrating that we may not get a senior season, but what is going on right now is bigger than all of us,” stated McSwain, who will attend CU-Boulder next fall as a business major. “This team has a lot of younger players, so I’m excited to see what the future holds for them.”
Despite the gathering storm clouds of a canceled season, Demon track standout Kuba Bartnik continues to work out, following Risner’s plans that are posted each week on the Demon Track webpage.
“I was hoping that a successful season would help to showcase some of my abilities in different events,” said Bartnik, who has drawn the attention of Adams State College and a couple of schools in California for a possible track scholarship.
A couple of track and field juniors who will still have a crack at tearing up the red Demon oval next year, if this year’s campaign gets shelved, are Sophia Vigil and Taber Uyehara. They both weighed in on how they are passing the time to stay both physically and mentally ready should they get the call from Risner to report for practice in May.
“I’ve been running a lot and doing some basic hurdle work,” said Vigil, who was slated to compete in several sprint and middle distance events for Glenwood. “I just couldn’t imagine if this were my senior season and having it all end this way.”
Uyehara, who had his sights set on making the state podium in the 300-meter hurdles and qualifying for state in the 110-meter hurdles, wasn’t sure what will happen when early May rolls around, but he did have some definite feelings on the Demon track experience and the coaches he has been fortunate enough to have teach him their trade.
“I feel like those two guys (Risner and Kishimoto) are as much members of the team as the rest of us,” Uyehara said. “They have been coaches, friends and mentors to all of us.”
Kenzie Winder, a sophomore on the Glenwood tennis team, had worked her way up to the number-one singles spot for the Demon ladies. Winder was looking forward to doing well at regionals and a possible run to the state tennis tournament. Though her season’s aspirations have now been tempered, she is staying ready just in case hope becomes a reality.
“I have worked my way up on the team and was looking forward to playing different people this year,” Winder said. “I haven’t been on a court in three weeks, but I’ve been running and working out at home to stay in shape.”
It’s a sure bet that the spruce trees will tap dance and polar bears will drive in the Indianapolis 500 before spring sports coaches, especially Risner and Kishimoto, will give up on the dream of gathering their athletes together once again in May. The light at the end of the tunnel has shrunk to the size of a thimble, but sometimes just a single ray of brightness can mean good things are on the horizon.
Let’s hope so.
Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs, is a longtime youth basketball coach and is a regular sports contributor for the Post Independent.
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