Crossover kids: Athletes make the quick switch to a different sport after CHSAA’s changes
Catcher Jackson had never picked up a golf club before a week ago. Antonia Vasquez had never raced farther than 200 meters in track. The two high schoolers are joining more than a handful of local athletes making the switch this fall to a new sport due to the Colorado High School Activities Association’s postponement of their normal fall sports.
“I came out to the golf course for the first time and hit a bucket of balls two days before I joined the team,” said Jackson, a sophomore who had worked out with the Moffat County High School football team most of the summer. “I decided to go out because there really was going to be nothing else to do this fall.”
At MCHS the fall sports no longer happening until spring are football, boys soccer and volleyball. The remaining fall sports are golf and cross country for boys and only cross country for girls.
The new opportunity has almost doubled the numbers for the boys golf team. Last year the golfing Bulldogs had five members. Prior to CHSAA’s announcement the team had six or seven members. On Thursday morning there were 13 boys at Yampa Valley Golf Course practicing their chipping. Six of those were transfers from the football team.
“It’s definitely a different feel out here,” said coach Tim Adams. “My challenge is to try to get these guys opportunities because a lot of them haven’t played much golf.”
Traditionally the golf team will travel with both a varsity and junior varsity team, which is usually 10 golfers. This year CHSAA has limited team travel to five golfers each trip. In addition, Adams said that most tournaments have cancelled the JV portion so his challenge is to find opportunities.
“We’re talking with Meeker and Steamboat Springs to get some more tournaments for the guys not on varsity,” he said. “It’s no fun for those guys to just practice.”
For the most part, the dual-sport golfers are still learning the difference between a slice and a hook and will probably not see too many tournaments. For sophomore footballer Isaac Vallem, it’s all about getting on the course more.
“I’m excited to get better at something new,” he said, noting he was sore from walking nine holes the previous day.
The one footballer making an immediate impact on the golf team is junior Ryan Peck. Golf is not foreign to Peck. He has played on some junior circuits in middle school and he also started practicing with the team in early July.
“My family and I looked at all the challenges professional sports were having in early July and we thought that football might not happen,” Peck said. “So I kept practicing with football but also joined the golf team.”
Peck has been traveling with the top five, and although he admits his scores have been higher than he would like, he is helping the boys team with depth.
“I would have been bored out of my mind without a sport this fall,” he said. “It seems like the guys already on the team have been pretty happy to have us.”
Junior Dave Andujo Jr. and senior Tanner Etzler are two veterans on the golf team. On Thursday morning they were helping some of their newer teammates adjust their swings.
“There is definitely more energy at practice and we’ve taken on a role to help the new guys because coach can’t help them all at once,” Andujo said.
“(The additional golfers) provide more competition as a team and it’s been fun,” Etzler said.
As of Thursday MCHS Cross Country Head Coach Todd Trapp has welcomed three athletes he would have not had out if it was not a normal fall. Hayden High School senior Andrew Kleckler, MCHS junior Logan Hafey and the aforementioned freshmen, Antonia Vasquez.
Vasquez practiced with the volleyball team this summer with the plan to start her first sports season at MCHS in the gym. Instead, on Thursday she took to the roads for her second cross country practice.
“Cross Country definitely wasn’t a sport I ever imagined myself doing,” she said. “I’ve never really ran distance so trying this out is a huge change for me.”
Vasquez, who was a sprinter in middle school track, said that keeping occupied played an important role in her decision to lace up the distance shoes.
“Not having a fall sport is extremely boring and was a huge set back,” she said. “I decided to try something else…cross country will help me become a better runner in general and keep me in shape and give me the strength to run short distances easier.”
Trapp said he sees some potential in Vasquez and looks forward to seeing how she can progress from a middle school sprinter to a distance runner this fall.
Maybe the easiest transition will be for Hafey, who ran cross country his freshman year and then decided to go out for football his sophomore year. Despite track getting cancelled, Hafey ran track workouts for most of the spring to stay in shape. After a summer of lifting and working to
get bigger for football, he’s back on the trails.
“Logan knows what it takes and he was in pretty good shape this spring,” Trapp said. “I know he feels out of shape, but I think he can contribute to our team.”
On paper Kleckler might be the eye-opening transition. Prior to his junior year, Kleckler was primarily a thrower on the track team and a lineman for the Tigers. This summer he started running with several of his Hayden classmates who compete for Moffat County in cross country.
When football was shifted, he joined the cross country car pool to Craig.
“From what I understand, Andrew lost a lot of weight and has been training with longer runs this summer,” Trapp said. “He’s an experienced athlete and we’re glad to have him.”
Trapp acknowledged that a shortened season – seven weeks instead of nine – might make it tougher for athletes who did not put in the training over summer to be able to adjust, but that he’s willing to see if it will work.
“It’s going to take a little while for some of them to figure it out,” he said. “But we could see some other volleyball girls or even soccer guys, which would be a natural transition, still make that jump.”
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The application process for Big Game licenses through the Colorado Parks & Wildlife will open March 1, the state agency announced Thursday morning.