‘The season actually starts now’: Prep sports return after lengthy holiday break
The holiday season has passed, and, for better or for worse, typical work schedules, school and responsibility are all back. Games were sprinkled into the schedule this week, but Routt County fully gets back into the swing of winter sports this weekend and into next week.
It feels like forever since Soroco High School wrestlers, Hayden Valley High School basketball players or Steamboat Springs High School hockey players competed, so let’s catch up. How did the early season go for Routt County teams? Are teams meeting their goals? Here’s a small recap and a preview of what’s next for area prep sports.
The Routt County team with the highest expectations and the highest odds of meeting them is the Soroco girls basketball team. Most of the team was on the volleyball team, which made its first-ever state appearance, and they want to do the same on the basketball court.
So far, the Rams are on the right track, jumping out to a 6-1 record through three tournaments. Soroco’s only loss came at the hands of Coal Ridge in the Meeker tournament finale. The Rams lost by six points to the No. 7 team in 3A. Soroco went on to win tournaments at Colorado Springs and Center, and are ranked No. 7 in 2A.
The break allowed some players to heal up but also stalled the team’s momentum.
“I think it hurts you a little bit, especially a team like us when conditioning is a huge factor in what we do,” said coach David Bruner. “When you have to take some time off, … I think it hurts you a little bit.”
League play begins Friday, Jan. 7, at Olathe, an always athletic team that should play similarly to Soroco.
“Speedwise, they match up with us very well,” Bruner said. “It’s one of the teams we might be taller than, which is not many. They’re not real big, but they’re fast. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
The boys team is still finding its way after an 0-3 start. The Rams face 1-4 Olathe on Friday and could very well come away with their first win. The Soroco home opener will be Tuesday, Jan. 11, against North Park.
As for wrestling, the Rams have been led by senior Austin Little, who is 10-0 to start the season at 182 pounds. Gavyn Salberg and Tim Bedell are also off to strong starts, looking to improve as the season continues at the Tournament of Champions in Utah this weekend.
Sophomore Larhae Whaley is leading the female team with a 10-0 record, while McKenzie Clark and Makala Simpson are 8-4.
It’s still too early to say how the Hayden basketball teams will do. Both teams have new coaches, the boys have an all-new roster, and the girls have many new leaders after losing a large senior class.
So far, the boys are 1-4, having beaten rival Soroco in a tournament for the first win of the season. Head coach Bryan Richards isn’t reading into the victory or the losses too much, though.
“I don’t think the win meant anything,” he said. “I don’t think any of the losses we’ve had so far mean anything. That’s kind of the way we’re looking at the season. The season actually starts now.”
Going into league play, Richards just wants to see improvement working toward a peak at the end of the season.
The girls, under Jeff Schlim, started the season 2-3 and travel to Cedaredge on Friday. The Tigers have shown they can score when they need to but need to find more consistency on offense, as they’ve scored 34 points or fewer in their three losses.
The wrestling Tigers mean business and, to no surprise, are being led by senior Dylan Zimmerman, who is 14-1 on the year. Chase Preston, Kalob More, Ethan Silva, Kale Johnson and Cody Hawn have all been trying to turn a good start into a great year.
The Steamboat boys basketball team started the 2022 season in the shadow of 2021, in which the Sailors made it to the great eight. With a mix of returners and newbies, it was hard to guess how the team would do. A couple weeks into the season, it’s still up in the air how the 3-4 Sailors will do. They won 58-33 against Niwot on Tuesday, Jan. 4, and have three more non-league games in the next week. Next, Steamboat plays 3A team Coal Ridge on Thursday, Jan. 6. Steamboat hosts Palisade on Jan. 14 to begin league play, which is what really counts.
Steamboat’s girls team has a whole new attitude under interim head coach Maggie Crouch. The team is 1-8, having lost some close games as of late. The Sailors next play at Coal Ridge on Thursday, Jan. 6, then host Palisade on the 14th to open Western Slope competition.
Steamboat wrestling is gearing up to host a triangular on Thursday, Jan. 13, but first will compete at the Eagle Valley Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 8.
Cole Muhme, Finn Rodgers and Kaleb Young have established themselves as dominant wrestlers. Muhme is 9-3, while Rodgers is 8-3 through the early tournaments. Henry Dismuke has also had an excellent start to the 2022 season, going 9-4 at 170 pounds.
Steamboat’s female wrestler, Adalia George, is on the right track to meet her goal of getting back to state and placing. She’s 7-2 so far this year.
The hockey team looks to be having one of its best seasons in a long time. The Sailors are 3-2 and have had some high-scoring games. The team has been hot on the power play and is working hard to avoid the penalty kill, a couple things that have plagued the squad in the past.
Steamboat hosts Mullen in its home opener Friday, Jan. 7, at 6:15 p.m.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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The Hayden Valley High School boys basketball team had two near misses this week, starting with a 49-40 loss in Rangely on Thursday, Jan. 13.