Vidakovich column: Seems Like Just Yesterday
It does seem like just yesterday that Post Independent sports editor Phil Sandoval stopped by my classroom at the St. Stephen’s School in Glenwood. Sandoval was in the building to promote a cheerleading clinic that he was giving over the Thanksgiving holiday, and he popped into my room to talk sports and to see if I was running in the annual Turkey Day 5K at the Glenwood Golf Course.
Of course I would be running on Thanksgiving Day. I informed him that Glenwood golf course superintendent Jim Richmond and I had started the race on a whim way back in 1986, and I hadn’t missed one yet. I proceeded to regale Sandoval with so many pleasant memories from Turkey Days gone by that I almost talked both of his ears off.
After patiently listening to my detailed stroll down amnesia lane, Sandoval asked if I would be interested in writing a race preview article for publication in the Post leading up to the day of the annual run. I was more than a bit apprehensive at first with the thought of having my writing in print for the general public to read and scrutinize. Despite the notion that I believed my writing skills to be mediocre and throwing in the fact that the only classes I could regularly pass during my school days were P.E. and recess, I told Sandoval I would do it. The article, giving readers Turkey Day 5K memories and race details, appeared in the Post Independent the day before Thanksgiving in 2007.
My scribbling must have been acceptable because Sandoval dropped by my room again the following week to ask if I would be interested in helping out with coverage of some high school basketball games during the upcoming winter sports season. I was excited and up for the challenge, so I told him I would give it a go.
That winter of 2008 I was able to reintroduce myself into the high school basketball scene. I hadn’t been to many games since I stopped coaching in 2004 and it was fun to be a small part of the excitement involved with high school sports once again. Since the first game I wrote about at Coal Ridge High School, to this past weekend’s Glenwood volleyball regional tournament, the experience has been nothing short of extremely positive and enjoyable.
I was forced to learn on the fly about sports I honestly knew very little about. Soccer, volleyball, wrestling and covering a track meet were all new experiences for me. I did not, for a minute, shy away from asking fans what was going on as things unfolded before my eyes on the soccer pitch. I quickly asked a fan at my first volleyball match why one of the girls on each side was wearing a different colored jersey. I even called Glenwood assistant wrestling coach Miles Cook a few years ago to get information on how the scoring system worked when I found out I was going to cover my first-ever match between Rifle and Green River, Wyoming.
The kids have been great to watch and most all of the coaches have been very cooperative when I have called for information or cornered them outside the locker room following a game. Having coached high school basketball, I feel like a have an insight into how and when to approach coaches following a big win, or especially, a heartbreaking loss.
There are way too many wonderful memories from my short writing career to put them all down into print in this column, but there is one day, one game, and one coach that will always stand out in my mind as an exceptional moment in time that I’m glad I got to be a part of.
It took place almost four years ago on a sunny Saturday afternoon in March. I was standing outside of the boys’ locker room at Coal Ridge High School as I watched a procession of young men walk by me with heads bowed as they fought back tears. The Titans had just dropped a double-overtime decision to Sterling in the 3A regional basketball final. The heartbreak was written all over their young faces. Seeing those boys and their emotional reaction to the game, which is still the best sporting contest I have ever covered for the Post, had me fighting back tears myself.
When Titan Coach Paul Harvey emerged from the locker room, I stared hard into his eyes. Though the disappointment of the afternoon’s outcome was clear to detect, he greeted me with a handshake and stated with a smile that it was a great game to be a part of and that he was popping buttons on his shirt at being so proud of his kids. Harvey went on to congratulate Sterling and wish them well at state. He thanked me for all of the games I had attended that year, saying he and the kids appreciated my efforts.
I’ll never forget how classy and controlled Harvey was that afternoon despite what he and his boys had just been through. Missing out on a trip to state is never easy. He handled it as well as anyone I have ever been around.
I would like to send a big thank-you to everyone — kids, coaches, athletic directors and fans — for all of the cherished sports writing memories. And yes, I will be at this year’s 33rd Turkey Day 5K. I still haven’t missed one, and I don’t ever plan to.
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Area prep basketball teams begin their 2019-20 campaigns with tournament action both home and away this weekend.