Post Independent Sports Editor
PEACH VALLEY — Six athletes at Coal Ridge High School have found an obvious perk to playing sports at a small Class 3A school. They’re more than happy to tell you all about it, too.
“Because our school is so small, that gives us the opportunity to do both [track and field and girls soccer],”Coal Ridge senior Becca Mitchell said. “We’re kind of the group of girls who figure that if we can do it, why not? Why would we want to waste that opportunity?”
These six athletes have taken full advantage of the opportunity to participate on the girls soccer and track and field teams in the spring. Mitchell, along with fellow senior Kelsey Fauser, are joined by sophomore Mariela Martinez, and juniors Amanda Wenzel, Alicia Hampton and Paige Ryan, each of whom participate in both sports.
Not that it’s uncommon for student athletes to participate in both sports in the spring. What makes this unique, first-year Coal Ridge athletic director Mike Aragon said, is how many girls are doing both and how great their contributions have been to both programs.
“These kids are special,” Aragon said. “They’re big time. I remember the first question I was asked by Alicia when I first got here. She asked ‘Are you the new AD?’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She asked, ‘Do you believe in dual sports?’
“That’s how I found out this was important,” he continued. “That came before, ‘Hi, how are you?’ Instead, it was, ‘Do you believe in dual sports?’”
The impact the girls have made for both teams has been substantial. Coal Ridge’s girls soccer team is the No. 3 seed in the Class 3A State Championships, and the Titans (16-1-0 overall) will host sixth-seeded Kent Denver at 4 p.m. today in the state quarterfinals. Those six have also qualified for multiple events in the Class 3A State Track and Field Meet, which runs Thursday through Saturday at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood.
All total, the six have combined for 56 of the 83 goals the Titans have scored this season, with Fauser (23) and Ryan (21) leading the way. And in the upcoming state meet, Ryan and Mitchell have qualified in the 100 meters, Hampton has qualified in the 400, and each of them have run legs of the 4×100 and 4×400 relays, which have also qualified for the state meet.
That kind of grinding athletic schedule might seem intimidating for most high school athletes. But, these athletes look at it differently.
“We think of this as a challenge,” Fauser said. “I don’t think we groan after running a 400 in track and then having to go play soccer. Instead, our stance is more that it’s more of a competition and a challenge that we embrace and we’re ready for.”
It was a major challenge for some of them on Saturday, when the Titans hosted Faith Christian in the second round of the 3A playoffs while the 3A Western Slope League Regional meet was 75 miles away in Grand Junction. Some members of the team ran races in the morning, then hopped in the car and came back to the high school for the soccer match, which the Titans won, 4-0. And after that match, they headed back down to Grand Junction to run the 4×400 relay.
“This is a special group of girls, and not every athlete is able to do this,” Coal Ridge girls soccer coach Micah Herron said. “We’ve planned ahead at times and tried to taper practices when we know a big week is coming up.”
The hectic schedule hasn’t taken a thing away from their grade point average, as each athlete boasts a GPA greater than 3.7.
They’ve also heard from coaches, classmates and teammates how much better they could be if they focused on one sport as opposed to juggling two. Coaches for both programs, however, have left that decision up to the athletes.
“We’ve heard that before,” Hampton said. “We’ve heard coaches tell us, ‘Oh, you’d be so much better if you stuck with soccer,’ or, ‘Oh, you’d take this many seconds off if you just did track.’ But I think that both coaches understand that we contribute so much to both teams that it wouldn’t be fair to either program.”
That said, Coal Ridge potentially faces a super-tight schedule if the Titans beat Kent Denver today. The 3A girls soccer semifinal is at All City Stadium, which is close to a 15-minute drive from Jefferson County Stadium, the site of the state track meet. If Hampton reached the final of the 400 meters, which could be run just before noon, she’d run her race, then run outside the stadium to a car waiting to take her to the state semifinal, which is scheduled for 12:30 p.m.
Aragon, Herron, track coach Ben Kirk, the six athletes and their parents had a meeting Monday to plan for that possible scenario. Each athlete and parent has a long list of cell phone numbers they’ll carry with them to ensure everyone communicates and no one is left behind.
There’s plenty of other people who would likely step up to help in the event there would be numerous dropped calls or bad reception, however, and each of the six athletes has seen that support all season.
“We have people coming up to us all the time asking how we did in track and how we did in soccer,” Ryan said. “They keep telling us how awesome it is that we can do so much. I think it’s awesome that we can do so much for our school.”
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