Steamboat Springs schools have one of the latest spring breaks in the state, dialing up the pressure for spring sports coaches and athletes
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Sure, she knew it was spring break, but when she was still new to coaching at Steamboat Springs High School, track and field coach Lisa Renee Tumminello didn’t really know what that meant.
She’d asked during a pre-break team meeting how many athletes would be out of town, and she’d seen the hands shoot up. Still, she was shocked when just a handful of runners were there for the first practice during the break.
“I had everyone raise their hand, but you don’t really process that until only three people are on the practice field,” she said. “I was totally caught off guard, completely and wholly.”
Steamboat schools have one of the latest spring breaks in the state, traditionally the first full week after the end of the ski season at Steamboat Ski Resort. It makes perfect sense in a town where so many parents and students work in the tourism industry, from running ski lifts to renting skis and cooking in restaurants, and Steamboat’s not unique. Eagle Valley School District schools, which include Vail and Beaver Creek resorts, have the same schedule. Summit County High School, including the town of Breckenridge, goes on break the week prior while Aspen goes in late March.
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It may work out for resort workers, but it takes some getting used to for high school sports athletes and coaches. The late-season break typically comes right at the end of the spring sports regular season and just before the start of the Colorado High School Activities Association postseason, meaning athletes often go from a week on the beach or the couch to the biggest competitions of the season in the span of a day or two.
Some programs have it worse than others. The girls tennis team, for instance, last played April 19 when it traveled for a triangular in Grand Junction. With those spring break flights just a day away, it wasn’t the squad’s finest moment, and the team was swept in both competitions.
The next time the Sailors will see the court in actual competition will be Thursday in Grand Junction to start the two-day regional tournament, where the top two entries from each bracket will advance to state.
“We’ll hit it hard and be ready for regionals,” coach Kristin Wykert said after the team’s last competition. “I actually think it’s good for them to get a break, and when they come back, they’ll be ready to prepare for regionals.”
Steamboat’s girls lacrosse team is actually the first program back in action, playing a weather-postponed game against Battle Mountain at 4 p.m. Monday against Battle Mountain.
It’ll be an important day to be sharp. Steamboat’s not in the hunt for the 20-team playoff field, but it did beat the Huskies for the first time in program history earlier this season. Plenty, from bragging rights to league positioning, will be on the line in the rematch.
The baseball team will have most of the week to get its bearings back before it closes the season with a doubleheader Friday at, weather permitting, home against Summit. The team, 9-7 now, will be playing for its first winning record in at least a decade.
The Steamboat girls golf team will play its last regular season action Tuesday with a trip down the valley to Craig before swinging into the regional tournament the following week.
The boys lacrosse team, meanwhile, returns with a tough but winnable game Thursday against Vail Mountain, 4-5 in the league this season, before playing its biggest regular season game of this season at 11 a.m. at home Saturday against Battle Mountain. The winner of that one will likely win the league.
The girls soccer team also returns to a critical stretch of games, starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at home against Eagle Valley. It will close out its league schedule Thursday at league-leading Glenwood Springs, then play its regular season finale at home Saturday against Centaurus.
The team will go from no games in 10 days to three games in six, and how it fares could determine if the team gets a spot in the 32-team Class 4A postseason tournament. The Sailors are currently ranked 27th in the RPI standings that will be used to decide the tournament field — comfortably in, but not in enough that a lethargic week couldn’t change things.
Coach Rob Bohlmann doesn’t see the late-season break as a negative, however, at least not these days.
“I’ve come to really embrace and appreciate spring break,” he said before the break. “It comes at a good time. You’re playing two games a week. Your body gets beat up, so we take it as it’s a good opportunity to get fresh and let your body rejuvenate.”
He’s one of many coaches to send his athletes away with a plan to maintain their fitness.
“They have their workouts they’ll be doing,” he said. “It’s different from going out and playing and competing. It’s a good time to stay fit, but part of fitness is getting fresh and being off the field for a little bit.”
The track team has a little longer to get back up to speed.
It heads this coming weekend to the regional championships in Grand Junction. That’s a meet Tumminello has circled as one for a good all-around team performance, an opportunity for the massive ranks of Sailors to flex their muscles as a group.
The regional meet doesn’t carry the weight in track it does in other sports or the weight it used to when it was used to decide which athletes advanced to state. Now, the field for the events at state is selected by picking those with the top 18 times or marks from throughout the season.
A late spring break still can hamstring a team. Around the state, athletes are fighting through intense workouts designed to have them in shape to record their best times of the season in the weeks leading up to state to ensure they qualify then to compete as well as possible there.
Steamboat athletes may be diligent about working out on the beach in Mexico, but is it really the same?
“It’s not,” Tumminello said, “but we tell them to do whatever they can. Do pushups on a surfboard.”
Perfect world, she said, the athletes stick around through break. She, with a laugh, offered her own house as a hostel for athletes whose families may be headed out of town. None took her up on that opportunity, but many did build their travel plans with track in mind.
Some families hit the road late, allowing for a strong contingent at a meet on the front end of the break. Others came back a little early, so once again the Sailors were well represented Friday at a meet in Craig.
The intersection of beach vacations, ski resort schedules and state-qualifying track meet times may not be a place many people around the country run into problems, but it’s an issue local coaches have learned not to ignore.
“We learned to double down and created some more intensity and volume in the weeks leading up to break knowing this week could look all different ways,” Tumminello said. “This year, we asked everyone to log their workouts because, if nothing else, there’s some accountability. Another lesson is including the family in the workouts plans.
“Bottom line, you never want anyone to not go have some wonderful family time, but it’s just tough where it is in our season.”
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