John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It was wet, it was cold and it was slippery.
But Steamboat Springs High School boys lacrosse coach Bob Heister said he didn’t hear one complaint from his players during the team’s practice Thursday night. It was the first time the players have been on the field for a regular practice session this season.
“Normally, we are on the field the first day of the season,” Heister said. “But the first practice was two weeks ago.”
The coach said this winter’s unpredictable weather combined with February snow and temperature fluctuations created a unique problem on the high school’s athletic field.
When the time came for spring practices to start, crews at the school had to deal with a thick sheet of ice that had formed on the surface of the field as a result of a wicked melting and freezing cycle.
The ice finally melted last week, and local high school athletes are getting back on the field.
The girls soccer team also got onto the turf for the first time Thursday.
“You’ve got to be flexible and creative,” girls soccer coach Rob Bohlmann said about the spring season.
“We didn’t used to have turf, and we only had one gym,” the longtime coach said. “Now, we’ve got the turf; we’ve got two gyms and lots of hallways. It took a little longer than we wanted to get on the turf this year, but it’s hard to complain if you take a moment and look back to what we used to have.”
The coaches agree that dealing with the challenges Mother Nature throws at them is simply part of the spring season in our town. By the time things finally warm up, the coaches hope those problems will have faded or at least will be replaced by the warm feeling that comes from making a playoff run.
But Bohlmann is right; there was a time not that long ago when spring athletes at Steamboat Springs High School spent most of the season inside.
Coaches found creative ways to get the job done. The track team practiced the hurdles and long jump in the hallways, soccer and lacrosse owned the gym, and most of the athletes venturing outside (at least in the early part of the season) were wearing skis.
But even then, the drive to get outside was alive. Some teams fled to plowed parking lots, other teams grabbed shovels to clear out small areas where they could practice.
But the track was a lonely place that spent the first part of the season under snow and the second part of the season filled with mud.
Those days are part of our past. Thanks to a community that supported local high school sports, spring has been given new life in Ski Town USA. Today, athletes and coaches still are forced to deal with the challenges of spring, but going out for a team doesn’t mean spending months in the gym anymore.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com