So much for parity
Basalt head volleyball coach Dave Drozd paced in the hallways underneath Denver Coliseum on Saturday. The young coach was chagrined and outspoken when I approached him for some postgame comments following the Longhorns’ loss to 3A powerhouse Colorado Springs Christian in the state tournament.”Something should be done about this,” he muttered, shaking his head. “Something’s got to change.”The feeling is one public schools in Colorado and across the nation know all too well. Private schools have the luxury of picking and choosing their student-athletes with little, if any, restrictions. And public schools, which draw from one district in most cases, can do little to keep pace.These private institutions no doubt lure athletes under the guise of academics. But are they really fooling anyone? I’m sure 6-foot-3 freshman Morgan Broekhius enrolled at CSCS because she was adept at calculus and recites Chaucer, not because her kills are capable of denting hardwood. In this age of great disparity, there’s no such thing as parity.How does a Western Slope school like Basalt have any chance to compete with the likes of the Lions, who recruit their talent? CSCS entered 2006 with a 61-match win streak and have won 90 of their last 92 matches. They haven’t dropped a game to a 3A opponent all year and were the subject of a Sports Illustrated feature in early November. Other teams this past weekend couldn’t even compete. The Lions outscored opponents 375-205 In five less-than-dramatic matches. Four of the six players on the all-tournament team were from CSCS. It was hardly a surprise given that three Lions players – seniors Marissa Hornbaker, Lauren Rosenthal and tournament MVP Lisa Meeter – will play at Division I schools next year. All three have started since they were freshman.Tournament officials could’ve shipped the trophy to Colorado Springs and saved 3A’s other teams the discomfort – and the mileage. The Lions dispatched Valley in a rematch of last year’s final, 25-12, 25-15, 25-16. It was almsot comical to watch from the front row as opponents gawked at the Lions during warmups. You could see all optimism and hope drain from their faces as CSCS players pelted all corners of the court with heat-seeking volleyballs. Drozd admitted that his team was intimidated by the Lions long before they took the court Saturday. Can you blame them? Seeing the Longhorns line up at the net opposite the Lions was like watching Muggsy Bogues try to guard Manute Bol on the low block. CSCS has six players taller than 5-foot-9. Basalt has just one.Senior Liz Nemiec, no doubt aware of the odds against her and her teammates, mustered a slight grin in the moments before Basalt’s match against CSCS. When the Longhorns jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Game 1, Nemiec and her teammates cheered sarcastically. Reality sunk in, however, as CSCS methodically dominated the Longhorns. It was over quickly.”You’ll never see a better team than that,” Drozd said. “Because of the fact we lost to a private school, I don’t feel that bad. I still feel we’re the best team in the state [among public schools].”How was Basalt honored for arguably its greatest season in school history? CHSAA put the Longhorns in a pool with three private schools. Following two losses on Day 1, Basalt was effectively out of the championship discussion. By Day 2, the Longhorns, who posted a 25-2 regular-season record, won the Western Slope and district titles outright, then swept their way to a regional crown, was playing for respect. Basalt’s first trip to state since 1978 was complete with both disappointment and frustration. “This [system] is unfair,” Drozd said.Drozd is not alone. Recently, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association introduced a measure to make public schools more competitive by penalizing student-athletes for jumping to a private school for ninth grade, according to an Oct. 20 article in the Louisville Courier-Journal. Under the new rule, which will be under review this winter, an athlete who makes a switch would lose one year of eligibility. The KHSAA voted to create separate playoffs for public and private schools earlier this year, a measure the commonwealth rebuffed. Critics said the move was too drastic. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has mandated that the state’s sections evaluate its private high schools, according to a March article in the Times Herald-Record. Such a measure would move some athletic powerhouses to a higher division in an effort to create parity. Evidence suggests other states are exploring some variation of the measure.Let’s hope CHSAA thoroughly considers a change. Watching CSCS roll through tournament play Friday and Saturday, albeit impressive, was hardly captivating. What unfolded was as anticlimactic as watching Tiger Woods with a lead on Sunday. Making the state tournament is an experience players will remember for the duration of their lives. It’s the culmination of a season filled with successes. It should be a reward, not an unfair embarrassment.Jon Maletz (a.k.a. “The Hammer,” can be reached at email@example.comThe Aspen Times, Aspen, Colo.
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