| PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs High School varsity girls basketball team plays in the moment

The Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball team practice the new COVID-19 protocols including sitting 6 feet apart while on the sidelines.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Sophia Prieto is just happy to be back on the court.

A junior shooting guard on the Glenwood Springs High School girls varsity basketball team, Prieto said after all the ups and downs COVID-19 caused she’s grateful to be able to play with her team — and will do whatever it takes to be able to continue coming back to the court this season.

“I’m just very thankful that we’re able to, one, come to school and, two, be able to play in the gym with everyone…like at this point I’ll wear a whole bunch of masks, I don’t even care, like I’m happy we’re playing,” Prieto said.

“Uncertainty” is the word teammates and coaches alike agreed could best describe the past year. Maddie Moser, a senior point guard, said on multiple occasions it seemed like the team was building up their momentum and finally finished quarantining one second and the next being told someone had been exposed or they had to cancel the upcoming open gym.

“So, trying to figure out when you can go play with your friends, and when you can get in the gym and when games are going to start and just everything…once you get an idea of when something is going to start it just seems like it gets knocked down, so trying to keep a positive mindset through that unknown and that uncertainty has been the hardest part,” Moser said.

Pam Rodriguez, a junior point guard, recounted a time when she contracted COVID-19 but not showing any symptoms, still went to an open gym and ended up unknowingly exposing her whole team.

“Then throughout Thanksgiving break everyone had to quarantine and I felt like so overwhelmed and I felt like everyone was going to be like ‘why,’ you know?,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said that aside from being isolated from her team and family, there was also the challenge of rebuilding her strength once she was no longer sick. She said that being able to accept herself for catching COVID-19 was something she grappled with while stuck in her room 24/7 as life continued on without her.

“One of the worst parts was it was my brother’s 11th birthday and they had to celebrate right in the living room while I was in my room hearing them celebrate and eating cake. And I was just in my room…I felt super overwhelmed. I couldn’t accept myself for having covid and then having the whole team shut down I felt so bad for everybody,” Rodriguez said.

Teammate Ella Johnson, junior point guard, said that despite Rodriguez’s perception of others being upset with her, in reality, they were concerned for her wellbeing and just wanted to see her get better and return to the court.

The Glenwood Springs High School girls basketball team scrimmage during practice a day before the season opener.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“I wasn’t mad at all…it’s not their fault and anyone could have gotten it, it could have been anyone on the team. Because it’s so new we know nothing about it really. Everything’s so weird right now that we have to take one thing at a time, and it can’t be all put on someone else because these times are so heavy right now,” Johnson said.

Prieto also tested positive for COVID-19 during the pre-season and said it was difficult to give herself the patience to heal and for her body to build back its strength. On top of being conscious of her own actions, Prieto and her teammates have the possibility of quarantine or being exposed everyday in their classrooms, where they sit next to students they may not even know and don’t know what kind of precautions they’re taking.

“The hardest part was I got sick and then when I came back from quarantine another student in my class got it so I had to quarantine for another week… you don’t know how safe the person next to you is being versus how safe you’re trying to be,” Prieto said.

Moser said being out for the season due to an ankle injury during her sophomore year gave her some insight to what it felt like for her teammates when they needed to isolate after contracting the virus. For her, she said not being able to maintain human connection or spend time with others caused nervousness when she thought about getting better and out of a cast, finally able to rejoin her friends and teammates.

“The hardest part was just not having that ability to be close with anyone really. I was on crutches, I had a cast, I really wasn’t able to go anywhere…my biggest fear was not being able to have that connection with people when I was able to return. That definitely took a big hit on my mental health…I was pretty quiet, just sad all the time really…being lonely was the worst part,” Moser said.

Now that the team is able to compete again, with proper COVID-19 precautions, they said they’re focusing on having fun and creating their own energy that fans’ presence usually brings. Anyone can watch their games through the NFHS streaming site even after the fact. The ability to see games anywhere in the state is also a bonus their coach, Rhonda Moser, noted, since a lot of times family members won’t attend games the team travels to throughout the state.

“I’m so grateful that we get to be in the gym. I know there’ve been a lot of people complaining about the kids wearing masks, and I haven’t heard one of these kids complain…at this point I kind of feel like (everyone should) stop complaining and embrace what we’ve been given because it could be taken away at any time,” Moser said.



Mask requirement doesn’t stifle Rifle basketball teams’ excitement to be back on the court

Rifle senior Mackenzie Elizardo awaits to run a drill during practice Tuesday. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

The last stretch of a lengthy, sweaty practice was rewarded with a grueling full-court-press scrimmage.

As the players shuffled and screeched their sneakers in the backcourt, frantically trying to intercept a pass-in from the baseline, Rifle High School girls head coach Eric Caro shrieked from the sideline.

“You guys got to be ready!” he pitched during Tuesday’s practice. “Just be big, just be big!”

Though COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges conditions to ever face Colorado high school sports, it hasn’t tampered with everyone’s excitement. Just ask the seniors especially — their determination to experience just one more tipoff is unwavering.

Rifle High School girls basketball hard at it during a Tuesday night practice. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

Sporting one of the many sleek Under Armour masks the basketball program purchased for $500, senior Mackenzie Elizardo was a lot more excited about being able to play than having to wear a face cover.

“It’s definitely tough but it’s manageable,” she said. “ … You get used to it over time. You’re just going to have to keep it up. If not, you’re not going to get used to it.”

Since the mask isn’t disposable, it definitely requires upkeep, especially when the Rifle girls are already well into their second week of practice.

“I wash it every day,” Elizardo said.

But no matter — the season is back and Elizardo is just happy to be on the court again. She was asked what she looks forward to most with the upcoming season, which starts tonight with a cross-county battle against Grand Valley High School.

“Team bonding, being together with the team and just being able to play games,” she said.

There’s no arguing it’s been a wild, emotional ride for everyone involved in Western Slope athletics. The Colorado High School Activities Association has for months been heavily lobbying the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to try and get the ball rolling for Season B sports.

In fact, multiple delays and setbacks throughout the past couple months have prompted thorough discussion amongst the Garfield Re-2 school board and have created logistical nightmares for athletic directors, coaches and parents across the state.

Rifle High School girls basketball players battle down low during a Tuesday night practice. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

Right now, Re-2 programs are allowing up to 50 home fans, 24 players shared between each team as well as all the essential elements: referees, scorekeepers and coaches, among others.

But amid the misgivings and frustrations in the fight against COVID-19, it’s ultimately the student/athletes who feel the most impact.

Senior teammate Katelyn Mentink said the Bears did everything they could to prepare for when the greenlight was given. This included summer workouts, attending open gyms, running around the track and lifting weights, she said.

“It was kind of hard knowing that we might not have a season, but at the same time we were able to prepare so we were ready if we were going to have the opportunity to have a season,” she said. “So we weren’t just waiting around — we were taking action.”

As for having to wear the masks all the time?

“It kind of just adds to the difficulty,” Mentink said. “But it’s kind of like conditioning ourselves to wear the masks longer.”

After the girls finished up their final drill of the night Tuesday, it was time for Rifle High School boys basketball team to take the floor.

Rifle senior Mackenzie Elizardo shoots from beyond out of bounds during practice Tuesday. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

The electricity was so palpable that instead of leaving, the girls sat next to their gear and simply watched. Practice has never been so sweet.

During drills, senior Diego Fernandez was pulled aside and asked his thoughts on the upcoming season.

“I’m very happy actually,” he said. “I had thought we weren’t going to have a season at all, to be honest, ever since this whole pandemic thing started. I’m glad to be back.”

Like his female counterparts, Ferndandez said he also spent his off time preparing for the tentative season. This included hitting the weight room, playing pick-up games at the park and taking advantage of open gyms, he said.

Fernandez, who wears disposable masks, has already gone through six since practices began last week.

“It’s a little difficult sometimes,” he said. “It’s harder to breathe for sure, but I feel like I’m starting to get more and more used to it as time goes by.”

Senior teammate Alonso Ruiz said he’s also just happy to get back to the action.

“I’m pretty excited since it’s been a long year,” he said. “I’m just grateful I have the opportunity to play, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Ruiz added: “I just want to enjoy my last year, have fun playing and just leave it all out there.”

Rifle High School boys basketball executes drills during a Tuesday night practice. Ray K. Erku / Citizen Telegram

Another senior teammate, Tyler Pierce, was also asked his thoughts on the unique season and closing out his senior year.

“Going through these four years hard as you can, you never know if you’re going to have a senior season,” he said. “It’s complicated but at the end of the day you’re just happy to be here again.”

• Rifle girls @ Grand Valley, 6 p.m. Thursday

• Rifle boys @ Grand Valley, 7 p.m. Thursday

“Basketball means everything to me. It’s just something I’ve always known,” he added. “It makes me happy, and playing with these dudes… they’re my family basically, and it’s all I want.”

Beyond all the challenges, however, one thing’s for sure: tonight’s matchups against Grand Valley couldn’t come any sooner. For Coach Caro, he said he can already see the twinkle in his players’ eyes.


Valley View offers new healthcare option with extended hours

Profile of Dr. Peery, the Medical Director for the new After Hours Urgent Care treatment option offered by Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs.

Valley View Hospital announced a hybrid care option for patients In a press release Tuesday. The hospital’s After Hours Urgent Care is now open and operating for patients seeking medical care for non-emergent illnesses and injuries after standard primary care operating hours and for a lower cost than a visit to the emergency room, the release states.

The After Hours Urgent Care is next to Valley View’s Emergency Department at 1906 Blake Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601. Hours of operation are Monday-Friday from 5-11 p.m. and from 12-8 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Dr. Ben Peery, an emergency department physician and the Medical Director for After Hours Urgent Care and Emergency Services, said this newest option will offer a more cost-effective option for patients with a shorter waiting room time.

“Valley View’s After Hours Urgent Care will be able to treat patients faster and more affordably, and since the location is linked to the hospital, patients will receive exceptional healthcare from Valley View’s comprehensive team,” Peery said.

After Hours Urgent Care will treat patients from the age of six months and older, according to the release.

The release also stated if a patient being treated at After Hours Urgent Care does not have a primary healthcare provider, then they will try to partner them with one in the valley for current and future medical needs.


Valley Visual Art Show brings local artists together for community exhibit

Carbondale Arts Launchpad Gallery Manager Brian Colley is shown in the R3 Gallery with some of the works in this year’s 42nd annual Valley Visual Art Show.
John Stroud/Post Independent


The 42nd annual Carbondale Visual Valley Art Show (VVAS) will kick off this Friday, Jan. 22, and run through Feb. 25, at the Launchpad, 76 S. Fourth St. Carbondale. The show will feature unique work from 50 different artists, the majority of them being local to the area.

Brian Colley, gallery manager at the Launchpad, said this show is one of the few venues artists in the area can have their pieces exhibited.

“So this is a great chance to see artists that you don’t know but they’re here. There are so many creative people here and you think you know everyone in the valley but you really don’t. There’s always about a third of the entrants who come in here and I don’t know who they are but their work is amazing,” Colley said.

The show also marks the 50th year of Carbondale Arts, however the gallery will not host an opening ceremony as usual due to restrictions from COVID-19.

“We won’t have an opening but we will be open later on Friday. In the past we would have a big hoopla with food and drink, and all that stuff, but we won’t have that this year,” artist Staci Dickerson said.

Dickerson is a member of Carbondale Creative District and a local painter. She said all the artwork featured in the VVAS are pieces that were created within the last 12 months. The painting she’ll have on display is titled “Blue Notes,” an abstract painting, and one of the few pieces she’s painted throughout the pandemic.

“I have to say I have not been really productive over the last three to four months. I’ve hardly painted at all,” Dickerson said.

Liz Caris, a tile muralist who moved to the valley around 2018, described the art she creates as “painting with glass.” It is the first time Caris will have work in the VVAS and she said she’s ecstatic to attend the gallery and see all the work on display from other local neighboring artists as well. She said it has been hard to find an “immersive community” during COVID-19 and echoed Dickerson’s sentiment about struggling to create over the past months of lockdown and isolation.

“At the beginning I just couldn’t focus…I had a hard time focusing, I just couldn’t think. Everything was shutting down one thing after another…it was very hard for me,” Caris said.

There will be a way to view the gallery online if individuals don’t feel comfortable attending the show in person. Per safety precautions, the gallery will only allow eight people at a time so guests can keep their distance from each other while enjoying the art. VVAS will have the option for visitors to vote on pieces in the People’s Choice Award for the one they enjoy the most. The top three artists will receive a cash prize courtesy of Carbondale Arts.

“A Man Who Sees a Forest, and a Man Who Sees Lumber” by Joy Joseph and William Laemmel is one of the many works in the 42nd Annual Valley Visual Art Show in Carbondale.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“We keep the numbers limited to eight people inside the rooms here. That’s what we did throughout our whole holiday show and it worked really well. There might be a little line but people know that other people are behind them so they usually move through really well,” Colley said.

To further the celebration of Carbondale Arts’ 50th year, there will be 10 golden tickets hidden randomly behind art pieces on display. Colley said they did this to encourage visitors to purchase local art.

“If you purchase (a piece with a golden ticket behind it) you’ll get a ticket and a chance to draw out of a jar for a raffle. We’re (giving away) gift cards to our gift shop here,” Colley said.

VVAS also teamed up with the Carbondale Chamber and First Bank to host a coloring contest for children who visit the gallery. Colley said he’ll put together some line drawings that families can pick up when visiting the Launchpad and then drop off at First Bank.

“A fun coloring page full of … four different pieces that people can color in. Those will be able to pick up on First Friday in February. People can color them in and put their name on it and enter in a raffle at First Bank,” Colley said.

The artwork featured will also be available for purchase at the online store on the Launchpad’s website. Colley and Caris both have pieces that will be featured — Colley will have a watercolor self-portrait on display and Caris has a piece titled “Cone Flowers.”

Caris’ piece is the unique assembly of Italian tile to illustrate an element from the natural landscape of Colorado. She said she is used to creating work from the perspective of the outdoor setting around her, but since moving from Tucson, Arizona, the subjects of her work have changed quite a bit.

“Of course in the desert my medium was desert animals, cactus, flowers that grow there, landscapes. When I came here everything changed, you know? Now I have files of moose, deer, coneflowers and columbine…mountains and stuff like that. It’s good for me because it’s a whole new thing for me to draw,” Caris said.

For folks who would like to attend the art show in person, the gallery will be open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The gallery will have a catalog of artist bios which will also be available online so those interested can view their works and learn more about the people behind the art pieces.

“To me, it makes me feel better, physically better to see art … it’s just something that will give your soul some love, a different thing to go do,” Caris said.


Roaring Fork schools graduation rate exceeds state average

– 81.9% es la tasa de graduación para las escuelas secundarias en Colorado. Esta es la tasa más alta en los últimos diez años. También es un aumento de 9.5% desde 2010.

– 84.5% es la tasa de graduación de RFSD en 2020.

– 2.4% es la tasa de deserción escolar para RFSD en 2020. Esta tasa es un aumento de 2% en 2019, pero ya que es dentro la gama ha visto durante los cinco últimos años.

– 85.4% es la tasa de graduación para mujeres en todo de Colorado. Esta tasa es un aumento de 0.6% desde el año pasado.

– 78.5% es la tasa de graduación para hombres en todo de Colorado. Esta tasa es un aumento de 0.9% desde el año pasado.

– 1.5% es la tasa de deserción escolar para mujeres en todo de Colorado.

– 2.1% es la tasa de deserción para hombres en todo de Colorado.

Roaring Fork schools are outpacing Colorado’s 10-year high graduation rate.

Colorado high schools’ overall graduation rate for 2020 is 81.9%, the highest ever rate for the past 10 years, according to the Colorado Department of Education (CDE). However, a press release from Jan. 14 stated that the graduation rate for the Roaring Fork School District exceeds this average at 84.5%.

Rob Stein, Superintendent for RFSD, said the numbers don’t mean very much unless one looks at the different student populations for each school or district in order to best evaluate them.

“The rate being higher than the state actually doesn’t mean very much at all, and the reason is that what matters is you have to look at the populations of our school district versus the populations of the state,” Stein said.

The important thing for the RFSD board to see is that graduation rates did not drop drastically, something that was cause for concern since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“It’s a relief to me that we didn’t see more kids drop out, we didn’t see fewer kids graduate given what happened mid-year last year,” Stein said.

The press release also stated that the RFSD student dropout rate shifted from 2% in 2019 to 2.4% in 2020. Although there is a slight increase, this number is still within the 2-2.5% range RFSD saw over the past five years.

“If kids didn’t graduate in time we want to hang onto them until they’re ready to graduate…so a (graduation that takes) 6-7 years is still awesome for us,” Stein said.

Stein said RFSD’s main priority is to keep students on track and help them when they can. He provided examples of “universal built-in support” for all students, but particularly those who fall into the economically disadvantaged subgroup.

“Also being more flexible with students like giving them asynchronous opportunities to participate if things like work or competition for bandwidth in the household for the internet become complete dealbreakers.”

– 81.9% is the Colorado high school graduation rate and the highest rate the state has seen in the past decade. It is an increase by percentage of 9.5% since 2010.

– 84.5% is the RFSD graduation rate in 2020.

– 2.4% is the RFSD dropout rate in 2020. It is an increase from 2% in 2019 but still within the 2-2.5% range seen over the last 5 years.

– 85.4% is the graduation rate for females state-wide. It is a percentage increase of 0.6% from last year.

– 78.5% is the graduation rate for males state-wide. It is a percentage increase of 0.9% from last year.

– 1.5% is the dropout rate for females in Colorado.

– 2.1% is the dropout rate for males in Colorado.

Stein said he thinks RFSD stands apart from other school districts across the state due to their strong commitment to student engagement. He mentioned the district’s crew system that helps keep track of groups of about 15-20 students so that needs can be met with more precise attention when challenging circumstances present themselves to students, or situations they do not have control over.

“We’re watching eagerly to see what happens for the rest of this year and to see that all of our students graduate, and we continue to provide lots of support for every student. Next year’s numbers when they come out in the fall around graduation rates will be really telling about how we did.”



PHOTOS/VIDEO: Leadership in the outdoors

Students Nicole A, Jackie B. and Joshua T. get instructions from Desert Mountain Medical instructor Korinne Krieger during a wilderness first aid training scenario where students practiced what to do when coming up on an injured person in the field.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Students and mentors in the LEAD Outdoor Leadership Program took part in a 2-day, 16 hour wilderness first aid training course last weekend at the Rifle CMC Campus. Outdoor Leadership is a year-long, school-day course designed and taught by Buddy Program LEAD staff members at Basalt High School and Roaring Fork High School.

LEAD stands for: Leadership through Exploration, Action, and Development at both middle and high school levels and is designed to introduce students to the outdoors before teaching them in depth about wilderness ethics, orienteering, backpacking, climbing, hiking, wilderness first aid and many other outdoor skills.

Outdoor Leadership was designed in hopes of attracting middle and high school aged students to the Buddy Program’s offerings in a unique way creating an opportunity to mentor youth through the lens of backcountry travel.

The wilderness first aid training course was lead by Desert Mountain Medicine Instructor Korrine Kreiger and took place both indoors and out. Students trained and were instructed in real life wilderness scenarios in which injured victims were found in the field.

Jackie B. watches closely while other students perform CPR to a dummy during an outdoor wilderness first aid training course.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Korinne Krieger, a Desert Mountain Medical instructor, shows the class how to approach and assess an injured person in the field.
Students and mentors took part in a 16 hour wilderness first aid training course over the weekend at the Rifle CMC campus.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Nicole A. assess her partner Jackie B. during a learning exercise in which an injured victim is found in the field.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
A student does chest compressions on a dummy during a wilderness first aid training scenario.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Rifle High School Anatomy and Physiology teacher Anthony Rossilli plays the injured victim during a training exercise.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent
Korinne Krieger, a Desert Mountain Medical instructor, gives instructions during an outdoor training exercise where students trained in real life first aid scenarios.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

All aboard the Rocky Mountaineer

Preview photos of a scenic Glenwood Springs landscape in autumn and the interior of the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train coming soon to come to Glenwood Springs in August this year.

This August, the Rocky Mountaineer luxury train will begin its debut season for the first American route. The vacation experience is called “Rockies to the Red Rocks,” and passengers can choose to board either in Denver or Moab, Utah for their two day voyage, with an overnight in Glenwood Springs.

“This journey will appeal to people looking for a comfortable, enjoyable way to experience the unique landscapes of Colorado and Utah,” Tessa Day, Communications Manager for Rocky Mountaineer, said.

The train will be stopping in Glenwood four nights a week. If passengers boarded in Denver, they’ll arrive around 5 p.m. but if they got on in Moab, it would be closer to 7 p.m. when they get to Glenwood. Lisa Langer, Director of Tourism Promotion, said she is thrilled to welcome the Rocky Mountaineer and its passengers to Glenwood Springs and hopefully make a good impression on them so they’ll want to return.

“You’ll have people with expendable income, walking around town trying to experience a place and whether they eat and drink, or whether they soak or whatever they do, they’re going to be those extra bodies on nights when there might not otherwise be people just walking around,” Langer said.

Plans for the train’s stop in Glenwood Springs started back in 2019 when the company reached out to the board of tourism to see if they’d be interested in being a part of the vacation experience. Initially the route was going to launch in 2022 or 2023, but because of COVID-19 the plans were able to be accelerated to the end of summer and fall of 2021. Langer said she was told The addition of a route through Colorado and Utah was meant to be what would “bring back tourism,” according to the Rocky Mountaineer team. The closest route to this new one is in Canada and due to the stricter COVID-19 restrictions there, train journeys as well as other attractions are currently closed.

Preview photos of a scenic Glenwood Springs landscape in autumn and the interior of the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train coming soon to come to Glenwood Springs in August this year.

“We have extensive health screening and disinfecting protocols in place, so guests can be confident and comfortable during their journey. This includes health screening prior to boarding each day and use of electrostatic disinfecting of the train. Our trains are also equipped with high-end air filtration systems that ensure a steady intake and circulation of fresh air and have filters that capture 99.9% of airborne particles,” Day said.

The train will only have observation cars for passengers to sit back and take in the scenic beauty of the route. While the drive up Interestate 70 from Denver into Glenwood offers breathtaking, natural views, the train will showcase parts of Glenwood Canyon and the mountains that can’t be seen by car. There will be gourmet cuisine served for breakfast and lunch, and tour guides telling stories about the history of the area so passengers can learn more about the sights they’re experiencing.

“More money will come into the community by way of taxes that will help improve other areas of the town… and think about the environment. It’s people not traveling on the highway, not using their vehicles…they’re going to see amazing scenery and they’re not going to be in their vehicle,” Langer said.

Langer also said she has plans to speak with business owners downtown and within walking distance of the train station so that when passengers arrive they can eat and shop locally in downtown Glenwood.

“We believe our guests will benefit the local tourism industry as they will be looking to experience local shops and restaurants during their stay,” Day said.

Tickets for the experience went on sale Nov. 19, 2020 andmany already have been purchased. Due to the one-way nature of the train route, individuals will not be able to board in Glenwood Springs, however it’s still expected to benefit the local tourist economy greatly.

“We’re hoping they end up coming back to Glenwood Springs and whether they do it right after this trip or right before this trip, at least they have seen Glenwood Springs, they have a taste for Glenwood Springs and they go, ‘wow this is a community that is really neat I want to come back here and spend more time.’”