Aspen High School winter sports taking slower approach to start of prep season
Unlike some of their downvalley counterparts, the Aspen High School winter sports teams are taking a more conservative approach to the start of the long-delayed — and then delayed again — season.
With Pitkin County having moved back into the Red Level recently because of high incidence rates related to COVID-19, the Aspen School District didn’t want to do anything that might impede bringing those numbers down, even if that meant a slight delay in sports returning.
“We want to be a good community partner,” AHS Athletic Director Martha Richards recently said. “Our goal is to keep our kids participating in some fashion that also keeps our community safe.”
Winter sports practices were officially allowed to begin last week, Jan. 18, after the Colorado High School Activities Association was given a variance from the state’s health officials. This past Monday, Jan. 25, was the first official day contests were allowed to be played. The Basalt High School basketball teams, for instance, opened their seasons Tuesday night in Glenwood Springs.
Aspen basketball, on the other hand, won’t start play until at least next week. The AHS boys are tentatively set to play Vail Mountain on Tuesday at a still to be determined location.
“It’s exciting to get back because we can get back into that pattern,” AHS boys basketball coach Alex Schrempf said. “That’s one thing so many people have been missing, and these kids especially. It’s even more important to them to have the repetition and that structure and that recurring sense of accountability.”
While AHS basketball, hockey and girls swimming likely won’t start competing until the calendar turns to February, the Alpine and Nordic ski teams will get their seasons underway this week. Being an outdoor, non-contact sport, it’s a little easier for the skiers to handle Red Level restrictions, especially considering the local ski areas remain open.
The AHS Alpine team is slated to compete Wednesday at Copper Mountain, while the Nordic team will tentatively host races on the courses near the high school this coming Saturday. The Nordic team could possibly host another event on Feb. 13.
Richards said the ASD administration was likely to meet again this week to discuss moving forward with the indoor winter sports seasons beginning next week. As of now, even practices are extremely limited with only 10 participants allowed at a time.
And basketball even has an extra hurdle as they all have to wear masks, even while playing. But, for coaches like Schrempf, it’s a hurdle they are willing to jump over in order to play the games they love.
“If that means it’s what we have to do in order for them to not be able to say we can’t play, then we’ll do it,” Schrempf said. “We got this healthy group of guys who, despite these circumstances, have kept basketball a priority in their lives and kept playing and kept that structure, and I think it’s helped them out in navigating the craziness of all this.”
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