Mitchell: It’s time to raise the bar higher |

Mitchell: It’s time to raise the bar higher

Jon Mitchell
Jon Mitchell
Staff Photo |

I’m asked quite often about my opinions on the athletes that I cover.

I’d like to think that after doing this daily newspaper sportswriting thing for close to 15 years — close to 19 if you count all of the time I spent freelancing when I wasn’t doing this full time — that I might have an idea of what I’m talking about when it comes to critiquing a person’s, or a team’s, skill level.

Some of the kids I’ve covered here in Garfield County over the past two years have been pretty memorable. I can honestly say that the highest caliber of high school football I’ve ever covered is here. I can also say with certainty that I’ve never had a day in my career, until now, where I’ve had the opportunity to watch a high school baseball game on the same day as a national championship skiing event like this past March.

But much like the other places I’ve been — Grand Junction, Roseburg, Oregon, Greeley, and here — I’ve always been asked who the best athlete is that I cover. The variation of that has always been “Hey, is [insert athlete’s name here] really as good as people say he is?” Or it could be “How do you think [insert athlete’s name here] would do in college?”

I always give an honest opinion when it comes to a kid’s college prospects. There was once when I was in Greeley when a girl from Roosevelt High School was being heavily recruited by Division I and II college basketball programs in her senior year. Then, after seeing her play, I told people there were players in Oregon I saw who could only reach the junior college level who I thought were better.

That said, I could take on this impending end-of-the-year project involving area high school athletes myself. Instead, though, I’ve reached out to five Garfield County high school athletic directors to help me out.

At the end of the month, the Post Independent will proclaim a Male and Female Prep Athlete of the Year for Garfield County. The goal is to determine the best of the best for each school year.

One top male and one top female for all of Garfield County.

Here’s how it will work.

Coaches, teachers, athletic directors and administrators at each of Garfield County’s high schools can nominate an athlete who they feel is worthy of being named the top male or female prep athlete.

I’ll reiterate: coaches, teachers, athletic directors and administrators can make nominations. We briefly considered allowing parents to get involved in the process and quickly realized that could lead to a lot of nasty talk and hurt feelings — among other things.

The athlete also must be at least a two-year varsity letter winner. That means freshmen can’t win it but, theoretically, sophomores can.

Here’s the big one, though, that I included in an email to the five ADs: The athlete must be an upstanding citizen within their community and school, including outstanding work on the field, in the classroom or in their respective communities. Those student athletes who lost eligibility for any period of time during the school year will not be considered.

In other words, if someone broke team policy or was ineligible at any time over the course of the school year because of grades, that student athlete is no longer eligible. One example is in all-league voting for team sports, as athletes who might a total stud on the field but broke a rule during the season typically won’t even receive an honorable mention.

Why should the standard be any less here?

This is also why I’m asking the county’s ADs for help with this since they’re not only a good judge of character, but they’ve typically seen everyone out there in their sports play multiple times.

Also, notice how being a state champion, league champion, leading scorer or leading whatever isn’t a requirement. Don’t get me wrong — it’ll probably help. In the end, however, this is meant to be something that recognizes all-around character combined with superior athleticism.

I’m taking nominations until May 15, which is when I’ll be up to my eyeballs in state-track coverage at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood. The goal is to decide on who the best athletes are by the end of May. Rest assured: everyone who is nominated will be recognized, and winners will be featured on the front page of the Post Independent.

And, so far, I have nominations from Grand Valley and Coal Ridge.

So far.

Personally, being the competitive and driven person that I am, I’m hoping that this is another way we can raise the bar with our sports coverage. What better way to do that than to showcase the area’s top prep talent like this?

I’m sure there are other ways. That might just be a matter of opinion, though.

Jon Mitchell is the sports editor of the Glenwood Springs Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or by email at

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