Class of 2020: Steamboat athlete embraces opportunities, excels at Yampa Valley High School
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yampa Valley High School’s Caleb Cuevas was stoked about this year’s track and field season, then the COVID-19 pandemic shattered his dream of going to state.
“I was really, really bummed and still am a little bummed about it,” said the shot put athlete.
For coaches who watched Caleb hit the weight room with ferocious intent during the last two years, it was almost as painful.
“He would have had an exceptional year this year,” said track and football coach Terry Tracy. “I believe he would have been at the top of his conference and would have been at the state meet this year.”
Last year when Caleb was still at 170 pounds, he was competing against 200-pound shot putters. Former teacher and football coach Eric Bender watched as Caleb lived in the weight room.
“He really shaped his body in the weight room, and he’s going to try to walk on as a shot putter in college,” Bender said.
Now at 185 pounds, Caleb said he’s throwing the shot put as far as the heavier competitors from last year. And now that high school competitions have been canceled, he’s not giving up on his dream of competing in college. He will attend Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction.
“With no school this semester, I can’t show them what I have, but there’ll be some recreational competitions this summer,” Caleb said.
While the track and field student is confident going into college this fall, it might not have happened without Yampa Valley High School on Seventh Street in downtown Steamboat Springs.
“At the main high school, I fell into kind of partying, and I wasn’t very motivated about school,” Caleb said
It all came to a head when the then-sophomore found himself in legal trouble.
“I saw the look of disappointment on my parents’ face,” Caleb said. “I felt so bad.”
But Caleb’s parents and grandparents rallied around him while still holding him accountable.
“Like a lot of kids starting high school, you’re trying to find your place and where you fit in,” said Caleb’s dad, Marco Cuevas, an educator himself. “He wasn’t finding that and acted out. We gave him hard talks but good talks, and he was confronted with consequences.”
That’s when Caleb decided to make the move to Yampa Valley High School, which encourages students to learn at their own pace and where they’re offered more face time with teachers.
“When I got to Yampa Valley High School, I had to face what my future was going to look like and needed to start doing something about it,” Caleb said.
Bender said Caleb began to tackle math, his least favorite subject, like he tackled the weight room.
“He embraced all the opportunities we had and became an incredibly hard worker with a determination to be better at math,” Bender said.
Caleb eventually took concurrent college classes and even did a welding program through the Hayden School District.
“Once he moved there (Yampa Valley High School), his GPA flourished, and he learned how to be a leader and more focused in class,” Marco said.
Like other seniors, Caleb is bummed he’s missing out on Steamboat’s typical senior rituals like prom and skip day, but he’s spending his extra time in the weight room, working to keep his car insured and learning a new hobby: rifle shooting.
Caleb plans to study kinesiology and health and wellness at Grand Mesa, with an eye on becoming a personal trainer.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.
Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for the Steamboat Pilot & Today. She can be reached through the editor.
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