Sailors set sail

Teams gear up for winter season with first practices

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— At first glance, the activities taking place at Steamboat Springs High School Monday seemed to have very little in common.

In the weight room, Will Zimmerer was busy unrolling a heavy mat.

In the old gym, Baylie Stillwell focused on hitting a free throw during a conditioning drill.

Just across the hall in the new gym, Kyle Nelson listened carefully to the words of his coach as he tried to explain a complicated part of a defense.

The three athletes are all playing for different teams this winter, but on this night, they all shared a common goal making the most of the first practice.

"I'm really excited about playing a sport right now," Zimmerer said. "If I wasn't focused on wrestling I would be really depressed about football."

Zimmerer was a member of the Sailors football team this fall. The football squad's season ended Saturday with a heartbreaking 20-13 loss to Niwot in the first round of the state playoffs.

Zimmerer and a small group of athletes spent the first part of their wrestling practice moving the mats from downstairs to the upstairs weight room.

"We do it every year," Zimmerer said. "It's no big deal."

New head coach Jay Muhme said numbers for the first practice were a little lower than he had hoped, but enthusiasm is still high.

"We have some great kids out and they want to be here," Muhme said. "Hopefully we will be able to build this program and get more athletes interested by the end of the season."

The team has struggled to draw numbers the past few years.

"I think it's going to be a good year," Zimmerer said. "I know I'm going to be dying the first few weeks, but I love wrestling."

Enthusiasm was also high downstairs at the school Monday as both the boys and girls basketball teams opened their official practices. Both teams held preseason camps last week, but the atmosphere Monday was a little different.

"Every year I always look forward to the first day of camp," girls basketball player Emily Hines said. "But today, this is when we start to get down to business."

Girls basketball coach Bruce Alston said the first practice is very different from his conditioning camps. On Monday he began to focus more on teaching specific things about the Sailors offense and defense. He also said there is a huge jump in the level of intensity for the first official practice.

The same is true in Kelly Meek's camp, which left his boys basketball players gasping for air several times during Monday's opener.

But veteran Nelson said conditioning wasn't the main focus on this day.

"We worked a lot on offense and defense," Nelson said. "Things seem to be moving pretty fast this year."

With just a couple of weeks left until the winter season opens, there is little doubt that all three sports will be moving ahead at a furious pace.

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