Saturday kicks off the scholastic winter sports season, marking the first day practices can officially begin for sports sanctioned under the Colorado High School Activities Association. The Soroco boys and girls basketball teams will kick off their seasons with practices beginning just after midnight Ã¡ la Midnight Madness in college basketball. Most other area teams will begin practice this weekend or early next week. Even the ski teams, whose seasons are the only winter sports not bound to the start date because of weather considerations, plan to declare Monday the official beginning of practices.
Steamboat Springs' ice hockey team kicks off practice at 2:30 p.m. Monday with tryouts. The final roster will be chosen Nov. 17. Based on what he's seen during this week's hockey camp, head coach Jeff Ruff is optimistic.
"For a preliminary view, I'm excited," Ruff said. "We've got a good mix of returning lettermen and guys coming up through our (Steamboat Springs) Youth Hockey Association development team."
Ruff said he has seen younger players assuming leadership roles and chemistry forming between lines. He looks ahead to Steamboat's fifth season competing in CHSAA's scholastic winter season, which will feature the addition of six new teams and a realignment from three conferences to two.
This year also marks Ruff's first season as head coach. He served as Dave Strang's assistant last season. The two have swapped positions, but Ruff said the switch will not change the pair's team-coaching philosophy.
"Every player of high school age will get a fair shot at the team," Ruff said, reiterating how even the committed fall players will have to earn their spots.
Ruff also noted the handful of football players who will be absent from tryouts, including a few key defensemen and junior goalkeeper Jeff Dawes.
The Sailors hockey season opens Dec. 1 against Summit at the Mountain Round-Robin Tournament at Vail's Dobson Arena.
Although ski season practices can start independently of other CHSAA-sanctioned activities, Steamboat Springs Alpine coach Chad Bowdre plans to set up a formal schedule of dry-land practices beginning Monday. The practices will be from 3:45 to 5 p.m. two to three days a week at the high school.
Bowdre was pleased with a turnout of 18 athletes during early, informal practices.
"That's by far the most we've ever had for dry-land," he said. Bowdre hopes at least 20 kids will come out for the Alpine team and 15 for the Nordic team.
Bowdre will begin snow practices Nov. 28 at Howelsen Hill. The Alpine team's first race is Dec. 15 at Copper Mountain, and the Nordic team's first competition is Dec. 8 at Vail.
Sailors' wrestling practice begins at 4 p.m. Monday in the high school weight room. The wrestling season runs through the regional meet Feb. 9-10 and the state championship meet Feb. 15-17. Steamboat opens its season Dec. 1 with a dual meet versus Rangely. The team hosts the Carl Ramunno Invitational at 8 a.m. Dec. 2. Coach Sean McCarthy noted that this date coincides with the 3A state football championship. He estimates that all but two of his players are on the football team, and he will have to wait for their season to end before starting practices with the bulk of the team.
The Steamboat Springs boys basketball team starts its season with two practices Saturday. Coach Kelly Meek already has had many of his returning players working hard in a preseason camp that ends this Friday. First-year girls head coach John Ameen also has had his players attending the camp, and his practices will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday. Team pictures will precede the girls' first practice.
The boys player/parent meeting is yet to be announced. The player/parent meeting for the girls team is at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in the high school commons area. Both teams begin play Dec. 1 at the Roaring Fork Tournament.
Steamboat Springs Athletics Director Richard Lee reminded all prospective athletes that they need to have all administrative paperwork, including a current, annual physical, turned in before their first practice. Students who attend other schools but want to compete for Steamboat should call 871-3687 to confirm they are cleared to play.
Danelle Rivera and Sam McLeod are wasting no time providing the Soroco girls and boys basketball teams with a jump-start on winter practices.
Rivera's and McLeod's teams will arrive at 11:55 p.m. Friday night to start a two-and-a-half hour practice right at the stroke of midnight.
Rivera said the night's "lock-in" activities, which will be followed by a movie in the band room and a booster club breakfast, are patterned after Midnight Madness practices in the NCAA.
Boys and girls player/parent meetings are at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 17. Both teams begin play Dec. 1 at the DeBeque Tournament.