| AspenTimes.com

Basalt High School names Clint Hunter new boys basketball coach

Roughly 1,200 miles from Chicago, Jason Santo was able to dig into his Illinois roots to find the next boys basketball coach for Basalt High School. The first-year BHS athletic director, who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley this summer from Geneva, Illinois, recently hired Clint Hunter to take over the Longhorn program.

Hunter is a native of Naperville, Illinois, which like Geneva is a Chicago suburb. The towns are only separated by about 20 miles.

“It was a total coincidence. I think it’s great. Clint is a young guy who has got a ton of energy and love for basketball,” Santo said. “It just became easy for me to say this guy is a natural fit for what I want to do with Basalt and he has the same visions I do. I think it’s that Illinois mentality of this is how we want to do things.”

Hunter, 30, replaces C.P. Martinez, who stepped down earlier this summer after leading the Basalt boys basketball program for two seasons. The hire was the first significant coaching hire for Santo as Basalt’s athletic director.

A graduate of Naperville North High School and nearby North Central College, Hunter immediately returned to his high school alma mater where he has coached the past 12 years. A school of nearly 3,000 students, he’s primarily been the boys sophomore coach for one of the better programs in Illinois. Under head coach Jeff Powers, the varsity team went a combined 74-14 from the 2015-16 season through the 2017-18 season.

“We played against his team two seasons ago in a regional championship. Their program was stacked and really good that year,” Santo said, pointing out Naperville North’s postseason win over Geneva in 2018. “The community is going to love him. I think the kids already are loving him, just being around him. My hope is that when you come see Basalt basketball you see the energy that Clint is really bringing to the program.”

Hunter moved to the Roaring Fork Valley over the summer as well. He followed his wife, who has roots in Colorado Springs, to the area after she took a job at Valley View Hospital. Hunter, who is a special education teacher at BHS, actually held open gym workouts with the Basalt players during the summer before being hired as head coach.

“We came and visited and loved it and decided it was the right fit for us. We took a leap of faith,” Hunter said of moving to Basalt. “It was nice being able to pop in and hold open gyms over the summer. Every day I was able to be with them is going to help out that much more come season time. It’s a lot easier to coach when you have a relationship to coach off of.”

Hunter takes over a program coming off back-to-back losing seasons, including a 3-17 campaign in 2018-19. However, Basalt is only three years removed from its historic 2016-17 season under coach Danny Martinez, when the Longhorns went 21-4 while being led by then-senior Michael Glen, who has become a standout player for the NCAA Division II Colorado School of Mines in Golden.

Hunter said he liked what he saw in terms of athleticism when working with the returning players over the summer.

“In order to capitalize on that, we are going to work to play very quick and with a lot of transition, especially on the offensive end,” Hunter said. “On the defensive end, we will rely on defensive transition, as well, going the other way. But I think we are going back to the basics to figure out what they know.”

Official practices get underway Nov. 18, with the first games of the 2019-20 season slated for Dec. 2 across Colorado. Hunter said Eric Vozick will return as an assistant coach this winter, and BHS has also hired Aspen High School graduate Dom Alcorta as an assistant.

“He’s going to have them do the fundamentals. He’s going to help build the program and he really cares about the kids,” Santo said of Hunter. “When we look for coaches, what we are looking for … are people who are going to be great educators of young men and young women and Clint fits that to a T.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Second-year league builds lifelong love of climbing for Colorado high schoolers

EAGLE — More than 100 cumulative years of coaching experience came together at Eagle Climbing + Fitness on Saturday to prepare for the upcoming American Scholastic Climbing League season in Colorado.

The annual coaches clinic predates the league itself, as competitive climbing in one form or another has been present in Colorado for decades, and the clinic has helped set the stage for the upcoming season.

The league was created in 2018 as a spinoff of the Colorado High School Climbing League, which was established in 2008 as a spinoff of an organized climbing effort started in the early ‘90s.

Attending the clinic on Saturday, Colorado Rocky Mountain School coach Dave Meyer thought back to those days.

“It started with Montrose High School and Gunnison High School: Both those schools had climbing programs, and they would bring their kids together to climb together,” Meyer said.

‘Not about winning’

Now serving hundreds of kids across Colorado, the American Scholastic Climbing League hopes to create a model that can be emulated all over the country.

But first, it stresses a clearly defined set of goals, most of which minimize the competitive aspect of the sport while emphasizing “community, perseverance, trust, and support,” according to the league’s philosophy statement. “The League is not about winning or preparing individual students for the Olympics.”

For that, climbers have USA Climbing, the national governing body of the sport of competitive climbing. Making the high school league significantly different than the USA Climbing circuit was important to organizers.

“The focus is on getting all the kids together who are climbers in a really positive, supportive, connected atmosphere,” Meyer said. “Because if it’s only about the individual and beating people, they can do that with USA Climbing.”

Logical location

Local climbing coach Larry Moore, who runs Eagle Climbing + Fitness, has been coaching at the USA Climbing level for years but is new to the American Scholastic Climbing League. Embracing the group’s mission, Moore offered to host the state championship this season.

“One of my main goals was to get the scheduling to be different enough from USA Climbing that kids could participate in both,” Moore said.

When it was decided that Eagle Climbing + Fitness would host the state championship in February, the new gym also became a logical location for the coaches clinic.

The American Scholastic Climbing League season runs from September to February. League executive director Theresa Morris said having all 16 high school coaches from around the state in Eagle on Saturday would allow them to see the venue where state championships will take place. Eagle Climbing + Fitness has been open for about 10 months.

“We’re getting coaching information and helpful hints, but also looking at the site,” she said.

The clinic is an important setup session for the upcoming season, Morris said.

“By being face to face and in person, conversations are more efficient, you get more done, I can catch everyone up to speed — it’s more productive, more beneficial all around,” Morris said.

Scott Dodd and Ben Rathbun instructed the coaches on competition route setting, Dr. Mark Pitcher discussed injury awareness and prevention, Moore and Lucie Hanes discussed competition training and competition strategy, and John Mark Seelig went over strength training and nutrition.

“Our goals are to get the coaches and the adult staff more training in climbing with youth, dealing with youth climbers and making sure they have an enjoyable and inclusive and safe experience,” Morris said. “So they want to climb throughout their whole life.”

jlaconte@vaildaily.com