John Russell's sports column appears Mondays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs As I stood along the sidelines of Gardner Field on Friday afternoon photographing the Steamboat Springs High School girls lacrosse team playing its first game of the season, it hit me how impossible this moment would have been just a few years ago.
The idea that a Steamboat team would be playing a home game in the Northwest Colorado mountains in early March would have been crazier than a spring break weekend in Cancun, Mexico.
In most places, March marks the start of spring. The snow gives way to green grass, and by the end of the month, the flowers have started to bloom. But that’s not the case in mountain towns like Steamboat Springs. Here, we typically are treated to mild weather, but there usually is more than enough snow to go around. Winter is winding down, but we are sure to see at least a few more snowstorms before the door starts to slam shut on the ski season.
When I first arrived on scene in Steamboat, the spring sports season was a toss-up. Teams opened the season in the hallways of the high school and rarely had the chance to compete at home. Spring sports were limited to track in my early days, but girl’s soccer, baseball and a few other sports soon came onto the scene.
Cancellations were the norm, and preparation was creative to say the least. Teams practiced in the gym and in parking lots — anyplace where the snow could be pushed back and Mother Nature's warm touch revealed a playing surface.
The idea that a team from Steamboat could play at home during the spring — or would have a chance to open the season at home — would have seemed nearly impossible.
But that was then, and this is now.
Games still get canceled, and this weekend is a perfect example of that. But thanks to an all-weather track and field, the spring season has become relevant in Steamboat. These days, spring sports teams not only play, they compete at a high level. There still are plenty of challenges, but it’s hard to say things have not improved.
Teams now practice outside and are more competitive, and teams can play games at home, which makes them a bigger part of the school spirit that drives student involvement and community support.
Sure, the idea that Steamboat Springs High School could field competitive teams in the spring might have seemed impossible just a few years ago, but the times have changed. These days Steamboat has become a place where spring sports not only exist but also have blossomed thanks to a community that can look past the cold and snow that are the norm in this mountain valley in the spring.
To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com