Prep sports return in force after the holidays
Done are the holiday feasts and family trips. It’s back to the mat, court or pool for area high school athletes, who resumed practicing their sport of choice on Wednesday and, team by team, are trickling back into official action.As mandated by CHSAA, coaches were not permitted contact with their teams from Dec. 22 through Jan. 1, leaving athletes to fend for themselves in open gyms.Most local coaches have centered their early post-break practices on conditioning.”It’s almost as if we start with tryouts again,” Rifle boys basketball coach Chris Lowther said. “It’s not like they’re coming back in great shape, so the first thing we do is get ’em back in shape the best we can. The kids have been gone with their families, so working on getting them here is the main thing.”Lowther’s Bears jump back into action with a Class 4A Western Slope League meeting against visiting Glenwood Springs on Wednesday.Other teams, like Rifle’s wrestling squad, return to action this weekend. The Bears will be at today’s Eagle Valley Invitational. In preparation, coach John Wiesnewski has run his grapplers through two-a-day practices.”We’re working hard on getting our conditioning back,” he said, “and learning a few techniques here and there. Hopefully we taught our guys some surprises for the new year.”Wiesnewski happily found that many of his wrestlers attended open gyms.”We had a volunteer come in and open up the wrestling gym. Anybody could come in,” he said. “A lot of them showed up for that.”Just directing the kids back into a routine is the toughest part of the long layoff, Wiesnewski said.”Most of the kids are really dedicated and do running in the morning on their own,” he said. “Most of the kids were out of the school, sleeping routine. That’s what has hurt most of them so far, especially with the morning practices. They’re getting up, barely moving. Because it’s break, there’s no school structure.”By now, though, most have adjusted. Coach Bryan Derby’s Glenwood Springs girls basketball team is champing at the bit to get out there and play. The Demons return to the court Tuesday at Rifle for their league opener. Having players obsessed with once more tasting glory after making Class 4A’s Final Four, Derby hasn’t had any issues readying his squad, which made use of open gyms and the Glenwood Springs Community Center to fend off the rust during the holiday hiatus.”I think it’s their personalities,” he said. “They want to get back to where they were, so they’re working twice as hard this year for it. This is a pretty good team. They’re all focused and ready to get after it.”And that seems to be the prevailing sentiment with all local teams.
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The Coal Ridge High boys suffered their first 3A Western Slope League loss of the year Thursday night on the road at Gunnison, falling to the defending league champion Cowboys 65-45.