Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Here are some notes from the first half of the prep season:
■ It’s hard not to argue that the two most impressive teams in the early parts of the winter high school season were the Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team and boys hockey team. For the girls basketball team, several years of playing together and taking their lumps have made the difference. The team still disappears for stretches, but overall, the group is deep, talented and should have every chance to win a Western Slope League championship. Plus, the holiday break should allow them to get healthier. As for the hockey team, there is depth at all three levels on the ice. The offense was supposed to be the strength at the beginning of the season, and it’s been good, but the goal tending and defense have been the most impressive. If the team can continue to get scoring from all three lines, it’ll be tough to beat. In fact, this Sailors squad has a Final Four feel.
■ The Steamboat, Hayden and Soroco boys basketball teams have had their ups and downs early in the season. But that’s to be expected with the teams’ tough schedules to open their seasons. Hayden and Soroco should get more consistent during the break, and Steamboat should finally get healthy. The Rams and Tigers both will be players in their districts, and the Sailors should have a relatively easy time in the Western Slope League.
■ I haven’t seen any of the wrestling teams, but from what I can gather, all three schools look to have decent numbers with a legitimate shot at qualifying multiple wrestlers for the state tournament. Pre-holiday wrestling is always a funny thing, with wrestlers still unsettled on weight brackets. A better feel will come after the break, when wrestlers settle in to their weights.
■ The Colorado High School Activities Association just made it OK to practice more during the holiday break. There are two sides to this. One is that it allows teams to stay sharp and compete in holiday tournaments. But the other side is, the allowable schedule is getting a little out of control. True, the practices mostly are voluntary, but allowing practices on every day except Christmas Day and New Year’s Day seems a little ludicrous. I could go either way with this argument, and I know coaches in the area that could also.
■ The U.S. Olympic Trials should bring a great atmosphere to Steamboat on Wednesday and Thursday. The Nordic combined event should be fun to watch, but it will really have little bearing on the actual Olympic squad. The aerials and moguls, however, should be wonderful competitions. Remember a few years ago, when Travis Mayer was a little-known skier who used the trials as a springboard to an Olympic medal? Look for a special section on the Olympic Trials, with all the information you need, in Tuesday’s Steamboat Today.