John F. Russell: Spring sports sprung

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After weeks of snowstorms, canceled games, shuffled schedules and far too many hours on the road, live sports finally returned to the Yampa Valley on Tuesday.

Just as Steamboat Springs High School Athletics Director Richard Lee was about to start pulling his hair out, the sky cleared, the fields dried, and high school sports returned.

A big crowd of Steamboat and Moffat County soccer fans came out Tuesday and witnessed a dominating performance by the Steamboat Springs girls soccer team in the first high school game played outside since the fall.

The athletic field at the high school still bears the scars from football season, but the worn patches of grass along the sideline, where the football players stood last October, didn't seem to bother the girls playing on the field in April.

The girls soccer game was as welcome in Steamboat as the first tulip poking through the melting snow.

The bad news is that, right after the first full week of sports at home, the teams are off for spring break this week.

It's not fair, but it's the price that we pay for living in a mountain town.

After years of covering spring sports here, I've learned not to blink -- or I'll miss the season.

But the snow, cancellations and other annoying aspects of playing high school sports in the spring are outweighed by the dedication of the players and the joy they express when they finally get to play at home.

I'm amazed each year when hundreds of young athletes show up to play baseball, soccer, lacrosse, tennis and run track in the spring.

They all know that the first part of the season will be spent in a gym or out of town, but it doesn't seem to discourage them.

They all understand that playing in the spring means the first part of the year will be spent on the road and that home games will be crammed into the week before and the weeks after spring break.

When they came out to start playing, the fields were covered with snow. The teams had to hide inside packed gyms from the weather, and most of the area's top athletes were trying to figure out how to juggle their ski-racing schedules and high school practices.

Now that the snow has melted from the local playing fields, these athletes soon will make us forget about those freezing days in January or waking up to snow piled on the driveway by a passing plow truck.

But if you're one of those folks who doesn't like spring and would prefer to spend your time sliding down the slopes, don't worry too much.

Just enjoy the high school season, because before we know it, athletes will be trading their soccer cleats for ski boots, and it will be winter again.

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