Carney column: Western Slope athletics continues to get overlooked
At some point, enough is enough, right?
With the Colorado High School Activities Association’s 4A basketball state playoffs in full swing, Glenwood still has both the boys and girls teams in the hunt for the state championship, while Rifle’s girls are looking to make yet another deep state playoff run. All three teams are great in their own ways, yet once again, the Front Range continues to overlook — and most times write off — teams from this side of the Rockies.
Last week, CHSAA’s website published a story from Thomas Trotman (who goes by @BallFever_CO_Tr on Twitter), in which the author broke down each regional bracket in the 4A playoffs. When it came time to talk about the Guy Gibbs region, in which the Glenwood boys are the No. 11 overall seed (No. 3 seed in the region), Trotman wrote this about the Demon boys: “Eager, as well, to see Glenwood Springs, which only lost four games this season and went undefeated in league play. They’re out west so we confess they are an unknown who can make this interesting.”
“Out west.” Seriously, it’s not a hard drive. Plus, if a Front Range team had Glenwood or Rifle’s resume, they’d be considered favorites to come out of the region.
Too often when it comes to the state playoffs in sports like football, basketball and even baseball, the Front Range seems to simply write off any team from the Western Slope as a real contender, let alone a team deserving of a playoff spot. Trotman’s words struck a nerve with me, through no fault of his own. It’s a stale thought process from that side of the state. The Glenwood boys, and even the Glenwood and Rifle girls, are considered unknowns despite turning in great seasons here on the Western Slope. That’s on those on the Front Range not making an effort to get over here and see these teams throughout the season.
I’m just not sure how a boys team that goes 19-4, finishes undefeated in a tough Western Slope league and wins its third league title in four seasons can be labeled a relative unknown. It’s unheard of. The Rifle girls made a run to the Great Eight last season, yet I’m sure even they are getting overlooked in the 4A state playoffs.
This won’t just be limited to the 4A playoffs, either. What happens when the Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork and Grand Valley boys all possibly host 3A regional tournaments next weekend? Will they be labeled as relative unknowns and glossed over just because they’re on the Western Slope? All three are currently in the top 15 of the 3A RPI rankings. I don’t see Front Range media members saying that Front Range teams in the RPI system’s top 15 with Coal Ridge, Roaring Fork and Grand Valley are unknown.
There’s a bias there, and it’s laughable at times.
The RPI system was supposed to balance things for the playoffs, and it’s certainly done its job helping teams on this side of the Rockies get the recognition they deserve, for the most part. That seems to go out the window once the state playoffs start up.
If this was 25 years ago when technology isn’t what it is, I’d understand the perceived Front Range vs. Western Slope argument when it comes to competition, but any game and a boatload of information is available at the click of a button. In an information era, wouldn’t you want to get as much of that as possible before putting a label or taking a position on a team? One would think so.
Now, some could say this is a moot point if these Western Slope teams go out and lay eggs in their respective matchups, but I don’t look at it that way. The bias leaning heavily in favor of Front Range teams over Western Slope teams is extremely frustrating and needs to change. The athletes and coaches on this side of the mountain work entirely too hard and put in an incredible amount of time just to be brushed away as almost meaningless in the big picture that is the state playoffs level.
Anyone who’s put in the time to watch these boys and girls throughout the 2017-18 season knows just how good they are. Now’s the time to prove a point at the state level.