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CHSAA divides hockey into two classes

The Colorado High School Activities Association officially split high school hockey into two different classifications on Friday.

Battle Mountain hockey will play in the newly-formed 4A division against schools more similar in size, starting with the 2020-21 season after years of going against giants from the Front Range.

This will give Battle Mountain (at last count for athletic purposes with 955 students) a fighting chance come the postseason and a possible state championship.

Twenty schools, mostly the Front Range squads, will make up Class 5A hockey, including Valor Christian (1,094), Regis (1,800), Monarch (1,714), Cherry Creek (3,654), Ralston Valley (1,850) and Lewis-Palmer (1,065), schools which have combined to win the last 13 state championships.

Battle Mountain and 16 other schools drop down to 4A. The Huskies will play in the new Mountain Conference. It’s the same circuit as the old Peak with Aspen, Crested Butte, Glenwood Springs, Summit and Steamboat Springs, but said High Country teams will have a fighting chance come the postseason.

The two other 4A conferences are the North (Kent Denver, Colorado Academy, Mullen, Rampart, Liberty and Air Academy) and the Metro (Palmer, Coronado, Pueblo County, Cheyenne Mountain and Woodland Park.)

Last year’s rating-percentage index was quite telling as the top 12 teams in the state in the rankings were now-5A schools with the top new-4A squads Summit ranked No. 13 and Battle Mountain 14th.

The last time a small school won the state title was 2007 (Aspen with a current student body of 547). Battle Mountain’s made the finals twice in 2002 and 2008 and lost each time by one goal. In 2008, current Huskies coach Derek Byron was wearing a Battle Mountain sweater.

News and notes

• Girls’s lacrosse is also splitting from one class into 5A and 4A. Battle Mountain and Eagle Valley move down to 4A.

• CHSAA also expanded the 2A girls’ soccer playoff field from 12 to 16 teams. That should be a boon to Vail Christian.

Baseball’s return looks even more doubtful

Will baseball come back?

It’s not only a COVID-19 issue now. It’s also a labor dispute.

In theory, Major League Baseball wants to hold an 82-game season with regionalized schedules — i.e. NL West teams play each other and their counterparts from the same AL division and so on — and a 14-team playoff.

There are two issues. Is this a “real” season? And, likely more importantly, how do teams pay their players for a shortened season?

It’s a marathon

Simply put, 82 games ain’t a baseball season. Were it to take place, it would be a wonderful return to whatever is the new normal. I would sit here yelling at my television, gently instructing my team, the San Francisco Giants.

But, truthfully, it would not be a real season. Baseball has been a day-in, day-out grueling 162-game march since 1961, and 154 games before that. One of the joys of the sport is its history.

One can compare statistics from Babe Ruth’s time to those of Mike Trout. The numbers pop off the page/computer screen — .406 (Ted Williams’ batting average as the last to hit .400), 61 (Roger Maris, the true single-season home run leader) and 1.12 (Bob Gibson’s ridiculous ERA in 1968).

If you play only 82 games, someone could hit .400 or better. As impressive as that would be, it would come with an asterisk. The way starting pitchers are already treated with kid gloves with regard to innings pitched, it’s not hard to see someone making a run at a 1.12 ERA. Again, the asterisk would come.

There’s also the championship angle. Eighty-two games does not a playoff team make. The Washington Nationals were 41-41 after 82 games last year. Had the season ended, the Nats would have missed the playoffs. As it turned out, the Nationals surged, made the playoffs and won the World Series. (At least that’s what our assistant editor Ross Leonhart tells me every day.)

For the record, the Chicago Cubs were also leading the NL Central after 82 games. The St. Louis Cardinals won the division. And, yes, the San Francisco Giants had the best record in baseball in 2016 at the All-Star Break before fading to oblivion with the Cubs finally winning the World Series after 108 years. Baseball is littered with examples like these. (Ahem, the Boston Red Sox.)

Whoever wins the World Series — and with 14 teams, instead of 10, making the playoffs, there’s even more of a chance for an oddball champion — will not be regarded as a true champion. What if the Cleveland Indians break their 72-year World Series drought by winning this year?

The Tribe would not be a true champion, which would be a bitter pill for Cleveland sports fans.

The money

And then there is player pay for an 82-game season. After all sports shut down on March 13 for COVID-19, the players and the owners agreed to a deal on modified compensation.

Though the players’ contracts are guaranteed, a rarity compared to other sports, the union agreed to pro-rated pay based on the number of games played in exchange for service time accrued. (Service time being credited allows players to achieve free agency and the accompanying compensation.)

On Tuesday, baseball’s owners proposed pay cuts on top of the pro-rated salaries to which the players have already agreed. The owners argue that with fans likely not being able to attend games because of COVID-19 and the ensuing loss of ticket sales, concessions and so on that they will lose money.

The only problem is that the owners have claimed they have been losing money since the Cincinnati Reds turned professional in 1869.

It’s easy to say baseball players make too much money for playing a game. Of course, we should pay doctors, nurses, police people, firefighters and teachers the millions that athletes make. That’s how the owners frame the argument to the average fans.

The truth is sports, overvalued in our society, practice true capitalism as it should be practiced. The best in the profession get the big bucks as teams bid for their services. The players get paid for their true value to the business.

Trout was scheduled to make $37 million this season because he sells tickets and merchandise and makes the Los Angeles Angels more valuable as a franchise. (According to Forbes, the team is worth $1.9 billion. Owner Arte Moreno bought the team for $183 million in 2003, so the general cry of poverty from baseball owners rings somewhat shallow.)

The players have already taken a pay cut and the owners, who are never very truthful in financial disclosure, are asking for more and the 2020 season is in jeopardy.

So what now?

The collective bargaining agreement between the players and the owners is scheduled to expire after the 2021 season and it was already shaping up to be a contentious negotiation. The players were on the offensive about the manipulation of service time — sending a player like the Cubs’ Kris Bryant to the minor leagues to start the 2015 season to keep him under club control and at a lower salary for a longer period of time.

The players also believe that the owners are not negotiating in good faith with free agents. It’s understandable that the owners don’t want to give out 10-year contracts to players like Albert Pujols anymore, but seeing pitchers like Jake Arrieta and Dallas Keuchel going unsigned for most of an offseason is fishy. Throw in proposed 2020 pay cuts and the players are not a happy bunch.

Since the outlook for an 82-game schedule is still somewhat murky with COVID-19 and the legitimacy of said season is in question, why not use the rest of the calendar year to hammer out a new CBA and come out fresh in 2021?

The sport needs to get its house in order and this is a perfect opportunity.

Questions for NHL and its Return to Play

Who would have thought that the National Hockey League of the Big Four sports would be the first one to try to come back?

After all, the NHL, more than any other North American league, has put the fun in dysfunctional. With four work stoppages, including one which wiped out an entire season (2004-05), hockey is a great sport run by a bunch of nimrods who can’t shoot straight.

So imagine the surprise when the NHL announced its Return to Play plan starting with 24 teams (instead of the usual 16) making the playoffs. This reeks of competence as the first sport to return to action will reap a financial whirlwind.

Baseball is facing a myriad of labor issues on top of COVID-19, and I doubt the sport will be back in 2020, while the NBA keeps on making noise about resuming, but can’t hammer out the dets, as the kids say. The NFL will return in September because there is simply too much money involved and the entire country will riot without football.

But if the NHL surprisingly wants to take the lead, here are some issues it must confront.

Format

Twenty-four teams are probably too many. Of course, the NHL is trying to add more games to appease television and address competitive concerns with teams that were on the playoff bubble when the regular season came to a screeching halt on March 13.

But should the No. 12-seeded Montreal Canadiens (31-31-9) really have a right to knock out the No. 5 Pittsburgh Penguins (40-23-6) by winning the best of-5 series? In theory, the regular season should mean something. (Oops, Freud forgot he was writing about the NHL. The regular season doesn’t mean jack in hockey.)

I would go with the top 10 teams in each conference for a 20-team field. (Ahem, NBA. And yes, the NBA is watching.)

By the by, the Colorado Avalanche are the No. 2 seed in the West and will have a bye through the play-in series(es). The Avs will play a round-robin with St. Louis Blues, Vegas Golden Knights and Dallas Stars with top-four seeding on the line.

Travel

Yes, it seems that there will be two hubs for these playoffs, one for the West (Vegas, most likely) and East (Atlantic City? … I feel bad for the teams that won’t be able to go to a casino in their spare time.)

But how do the players get to these hubs? The NHL is 17% European. The CDC frowns on nonessential travel between Europe and the states. There are flights, but if you do, you have to be quarantined for 14 days.

What about travel between Canada and the United States? (Yes, a major concern as NHL has a Great White North-tint.) Likely feasible, but the 14-day quarantine is still in play.

This means, if everyone hopped a plane this week, teams wouldn’t be at full strength likely until June 15.

Testing

The NHL’s announcement was conspicuously short on details about COVID-19 testing specifics. Given that with players, coaches, team doctors and staff, we’re looking at 50 or so people with each team, there has to be regular testing for the coronavirus.

How does this happen? Pro sports, as much as we love them, cannot be seen as taking away testing from the general public. Yes, there’s also the complicated matter of what happens if someone tests positive. But it’s going to be a PR disaster if any league is seen as putting a burden on the general testing supply.

The NHL, as well as the NBA, MLB and the NFL, need to be making large donations to public testing and/or paying for its own testing.

Timing

The regular four rounds of the NHL Playoffs take two months. Since we’re looking at five rounds with the play-in series, assume 9-10 weeks. If the games start July 1 — we need quarantining and training camps — we’re looking at the NHL season ending at the earliest in mid-September.

Meanwhile, the 2020-21 season would normally begin in October, which makes for a short offseason. Both the NHL and the NBA are going to have to figure this out. Do both leagues shorten the 2020-21 regular seasons? Do they have compressed 2020 playoff schedules?

Help us out here.

The Stanley Cup

The best part of hockey is the hoisting of the Stanley Cup. The captain gets it and passes it to teammate after teammate and everyone drinks out of it. This seems highly un-COVID-19-like behavior, people.

A truthful answer to all these questions? They’re going to have to have to figure it out on the fly. And this is not just the NHL. It’s the NBA, MLB and the NFL as well.

We are in a new era and the leagues are going to make it up as they go.

In the meantime, does anyone want to try to explain offsides and icing to Americans when the NHL returns to television?

Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley add new coaches

What does Calvin Cisneros do now?

After nearly seven years of rooting for Battle Mountain — young master Calvin turns 7 on June 1 — he’ll be rooting for Eagle Valley come girls’ basketball season.

“To be honest, he’s pretty hesitant. He grew up a Husky,” said Calvin’s dad, Vinny, Battle Mountain, Class of 2005, who is the new Eagle Valley girls’ basketball coach. “It will take him a little time to adjust. I’m sure we’ll get to that point.”

The Cisneroses are just a part of the coaching carousel of familiar faces in new places. Jim Schuppler, Battle Mountain’s football coach, is adding girls’ basketball coach to his resume.

The Devils and Huskies will also have new volleyball coaches this fall. Mike Garvey takes over in Gypsum and Shelby Crummer in Edwards. Both were the JV/assistant coaches for Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain for the last few years.

Volleyball

Welcome back, Garvey. The spiky hair is returning courtside.

“I have a few years experience back in a little school in East Vail,” he joked.

Yes, you might remember Garvey from his years as the head man at the Vail Mountain School from 1997-2015. Garvey started the program and led the Gore Rangers to the state tournament in 2001, 2002 and 2005, as well as overseeing the team’s transition from Class 1A to 2A.

He’s a walking encyclopedia of coaching experience.

Battle Mountain’s Jim Schuppler will still patrol the sidelines as the football coach, but he’s also taking over as the coach of girls’ basketball. (Jason Spannagel | Special to the Daily)
Schuppler-VDN-052320

“I’m very excited,” Garvey said. “It’s been a great change to be part of Eagle Valley’s teaching staff and an assistant coach. I’ve had time for reflection with three years out of the game and a couple of years as an assistant. It’s been an opportunity to learn and get better and come in refreshed.”

As noted, Garvey has been assisting previous head coach Jackie Rindy — the Rindy family is moving to Wisconsin; ergo the opening.

And Garvey will be facing a newcomer in the rivalry games against Battle Mountain. With the Huskies’ Jason Fitzgerald (Douglas County; still coaching a set of Huskies) moving down to the Front Range, his assistant Crummer will head up Battle Mountain this fall.

The upcoming season will be Crummer’s fifth season of coaching. She’s had stints with club, Homestake Peak School and then with Battle Mountain, and has seen the players of the current squad grow and advance in the sport.

“It’s great to understand where the kids come from,” Crummer said. “It’s not just push-push-push. You can see  how far they’ve come and that their potential is so much greater and help them get there.”

Girls basketball

Eagle Valley-Battle Mountain games this season will be coached by a son of Battle Mountain and one of the school’s adopted sons.

Cisneros who played for the Huskies and then was an assistant coach for Battle Mountain boys’ coach Philip Tronsrue will take over at Eagle Valley. He ostensibly replaces Beth Raitt.

Vinny Cisneros, left, has long been Battle Mountain boys’ basketball coach Philip Tronsrue’s right-hand man. Now, Cisneros is off to coach Eagle Valley girls’ basketball. (Jason Spannagel | Special to the Daily)
Cisneros-VDN-052320

“I feel like this program has a ton of talent,” Cisneros said. “Especially with Glenwood Springs graduating a bunch of seniors, I feel the Western Slope is wide open and competitive.”

Meanwhile, Battle Mountain will have a familiar face. Schuppler, who runs the football team in the fall, will coach girls basketball during the winter.

“I am humbled by the opportunity to connect with more athletes, and grow myself and our school,” Schuppler said. “This will be a great challenge that I am so excited about. Coaching is unlike any other thing my life, and it makes me whole.”

Battle Mountain Husky logo gets a tweak

It’s not a major overhaul, but Battle Mountain’s teams will have new look.

Fear not, it’s not like the Denver Broncos going from their powder blue helmets and orange jerseys to their blues, which, in fairness coincided with back-to-back Super Bowl titles.

According to a press release sent out on Wednesday, the old Husky was a little too much like the University of Washington’s Huskies, so the school’s hockey coach Derek Byron, also an alum, touched up the new logo.

Of course, the Huskies are still black and gold because as the cheer goes, “We say black, you say gold.” The new Husky is faces left, instead of right, and has a more angular look than the current circular one.

The typeface around the mascot is also changed.

“The new logo turned out well, and we’re happy the design came from Coach Byron,” said Superintendent Philip Qualman in the release. “We look forward to seeing the new Husky throughout the Battle Mountain community next school year.”

As assorted teams in their respective seasons get new uniforms, fans will see the new logo. Changes to the Husky in the gym and on the field of the school’s main outdoor stadium “will happen as those items are scheduled for refreshing.”

Baseball is back … Maybe? … Maybe not

ESPN reported Monday that Major League Baseball hopes to launch an 82-game season, starting in July.

The National-American League format would be dissolved for the season with three 10-team divisions based on geography. The Giants, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, and Diamondbacks of the NL West would merge with the Mariners, A’s Angels, Rangers and Astros of the AL West, and so on.

There’d be a 14-team playoff field, instead of the usual 10, and the designated hitter would be universal.

“So they’re bastardizing the game for money,” said a fan upon hearing the news. That fan is my mom and she was reacting to NL teams having to use the DH. (A belated Happy Mother’s Day to her and don’t you love the fact that Mom hates the DH? She’s an American hero. Freud did not fall far from the tree and clearly is not adopted.)

While we would never contravene the word of the Maternal Unit Who Is To Be Obeyed At All Times, there are some other salient details like where would these games be played in this time of COVID-19?

Apparently, Major League Baseball would like to play these games in the team’s home park, but has commissioner Rob Manfred looked at the map recently?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has been quite plain about his thoughts of large gatherings in the Golden State, as has his counterpart in Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee. And with that, 60% of the newly formed Western Division (Mariners, Giants, A’s, Dodgers, Angels, and Padres) is homeless.

Looking at any map of coronavirus cases in the country — we’re using “The New York Times'” for this opus — or a simple glance at the news, baseball will not be played this calendar year in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C., Detroit and Chicago, COVID-19 hot spots, with little relief in sight.

Just look at the Eastern Seaboard. How are the powers going to lower caseloads much less allow large crowds to gather? Looking at that same map, Cook County, which is in Chicago, has 53,000 cases, while roughly 2,300 people have perished. The picture is equally grim in Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, which make up the Detroit metropolitan area.

So the Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, Phillies, Orioles, Nationals, Tigers, Cubs and White Sox will not play true home games.

Then, there’s Ohio, home of the Reds and Indians. Gov. Mike DeWine was one of the first to shut down sporting events and the state still has 24,000 cases. Both Wisconsin and Minnesota (Brewers and Twins) have more than 10,000 cases. How do the Toronto Blue Jays play as well? Nonessential travel between the U.S. and Canada is still banned and can baseball be considered essential?

So far we’ve got 20 of 30 Major League teams not playing in their home parks were baseball to start in July. And let’s be honest, some teams are simply more equal than others like the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers, Phillies and Cubs. These marquee franchises are expected to play without their home gate?

This opens the financial can of worms, which is not inconsiderable. Yes, baseball has big television contracts which it would like to fulfill, but tickets, beer, hot dogs and peanuts are a considerable amount of revenue, not to mention how to pay the players for this 82-game season, another unresolved point of contention.

Of course, if you can’t play at home, the idea is to play in your spring training site, except that COVID-19’s there as well. One of the attractive aspects of spring training in Arizona is that all the stadia are close to each other in Maricopa County. That’s great, except that the county has 6,000 cases of the virus.

Meanwhile, Florida, aka The Grapefruit League, has been “opening” and has 40,000-plus cases.

We desperately want some sense of normalcy in our lives and, for a lot of us, that’s sports. Yes, we want baseball back — I would even be looking forward to watching the Giants go something like 25-57 and battling the Rockies to stay out of the cellar.

But Major League Baseball’s plan smacks of financial desperation and an utter lack of practicality.

While every sport wants to be the first back in action to lift the nation’s spirit and reap the financial whirlwind, America’s pastime should do the right thing and bag it for 2020 and come back in 2021 … without the DH in the NL.

Because, of course, Mom is right.

Senior spotlight: Eagle Valley soccer

Depending on how one looks at it, Eagle Valley soccer has six or seven graduates.

Adie Schumacher, Elena Maldonado, Emma Uribe, Maya Wilde, Uma Nanin and Valeria Duarte-Munoz are all receiving their diplomas from Eagle Valley.

Meanwhile, coach Maggie Sherman got her master’s from Ohio University — officially a recreation and sport pedagogy coaching education master’s degree in soccer coaching.

That’s a mouthful.

Uma Nanin and Eagle Valley soccer’s Class of 2020 were ready for an exciting season.
Special to the Daily

Of course, there was no congregation in Athens, Ohio, as there will be no in-person ceremonies in Gypsum.

However, Vlatko Andonovski, an Ohio University alumnus and the current U.S. Women’s Soccer Team coach, spoke at Sherman’s ceremony.

“He was big on continuing to be who you are both on the soccer field — for coaches, that’s on the sideline — and off the field,” Sherman said. “That’s what’s going to get you through the hard times and whatever you chose to do.”

That would seem to be an appropriate message for these times of COVID-19 whether you’re coach Sherman — excuse us, coach Sherman, M.S. — or members of the Eagle Valley soccer team.

Everyone’s always ready to get going at the beginning of a season and the Devils were no exception. Eagle Valley soccer was hoping to build off a 5-10 season in 2019. Was this going to be the year that the Devils took the next step in moving up the Slope table?

Eagle Valley lost both of its games to Palisade by one goal last spring, and those Bulldogs were just above the Devils in the standings.

Of course, we’ll never know. It’s frustrating, both for the players and the coach.

“I felt like we had a great mindset,” Sherman said. “I had all this stuff planned. The girls were into it. We had a big team meeting after the tryouts and then it was like a bomb obliterated everything.”

But that’s where Andonovski comes in — be who you are — and the Devils soccer Class of 2020 continues to do so.

Schumacher:  “She’s going to figure out a way to get it done no matter what.”

Maldonado: “She is kind of the calm cucumber of the whole group.”

Uribe: “She loves coming to find me during our study hall and we do origami with Post-it notes.”

Wilde: “Our resident thespian. A great personality on two stages — on the soccer field and inside the building.”

Nanin: “Most likely to nutmeg you.”

Duarte-Munoz: “Our goalie and the megaphone of the team.”

The schedule is out and the Broncos go …

Give the Denver Broncos some credit. With the NFL releasing its schedule on Thursday, the team put a video on Twitter setting its slate to the “Full House” theme.

Is “You got it, dude,” still a thing? How old are the Olsen twins? Aren’t they 50? (Freud Googles and Mary-Kate and Ashley are 33 each, thank you.)

Setting aside the concern/worry/panic that there will be no NFL season, I think the Broncos are improved. (There. Must. Be. Football.) They’re giving Drew Lock a lot of toys like Melvin Gordon to an already good backfield and Jerry Jeudy, who seems a promising draft pick at wide receiver.

Denver still hasn’t shot left-tackle Garett Bolles out of a cannon, something I will insist upon until I expire. I do not forget the team added to the line LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry.

Have they caught the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC West? Nope. Even assuming a Super Bowl hangover, the Chiefs are light years ahead of the Broncos. Patrick Mahomes would have to be struck by lightning and a few more unlikely circumstances would have to happen.

The better question is, “Are the Broncos catching up with the rest of the AFC?” The playoff teams last season were the Ravens, Chiefs, Texans, Patriots, Titans and Bills. With Tom Brady leaving the Pats, does anyone really worry you beside the Ravens and Chiefs? Nah.

Maybe the Steelers rally with the return of Ben Roethlisberger? I can see that. Pittsburgh is a competent organization. Will the Browns get it together? This would be the example of a completely incompetent organization.

The AFC is top-heavy, but not deep. So let’s run through the schedule and play our game of what will the Broncos’ record be.

• Titans: The Broncos open for the second year in a row as the nightcap on “Monday Night Football.” Tennessee had a great playoff run, but I don’t care. WIN.

• At Steelers: Nope. LOSS.

• Buccaneers: This will be the first time ever that Broncos fans are excited that their team will be playing Tampa Bay. Here comes Brady, and there go the Broncos. For the record, I don’t think this Brady thing is going to work, but this is Week 3. LOSS.

• At Jets: Two years ago, the Broncos laid a turd in New York/New Jersey, but they’re still playing the J-E-T-S, Jets, Jets, Jets. WIN.

• At Patriots: This is a Sunday nighter, and I am aware that Brady is now Tampa Tom Brady, but the evil Bill Belichick will still find a way to beat the Broncos with Jarrett Stidham. LOSS.

• Dolphins: Will Tua Tagovailoa be starting by this point? It doesn’t matter. WIN.

• Chiefs: Ruh-roh. LOSS.

• At Falcons: This is a trap game. The Falcons aren’t good, but it’s in the ATL. Giving the Broncos the benefit of the doubt … WIN.

• At Raiders: The Las Vegas Raiders, hmm. This should be a popular road trip for Broncos fans. A little golf, a lot of gambling and some football makes for a nice weekend. For no particular reason … LOSS.

• Chargers: Apparently they play in Los Angeles. How much do you miss Philip Rivers, Broncos fans? WIN.

• Saints: It’s a home game. That makes a huge difference with New Orleans, says the Niners fan, who’s hacked we have to go to the Big Easy again this year. WIN.

• At Chiefs: It doesn’t matter if this game’s on Mars. LOSS.

• At Panthers: No Cam? No problem. WIN.

• Bills: Nobody circles the wagons … WIN.

• At Chargers … This also will likely become a popular road trip for Broncos fans. Someone has to fill the seats in Los Angeles. WIN.

• Raiders … Will Derek Carr still be the QB? WIN.

That’s 10-6, kids, with losses to the Raiders and Bucs. No one should have delusions of grandeur, but 10-6 is likely a wild card. Let’s just hope they play.

Senior Spotlight: Battle Mountain track and field

We’ve got it, folks. Battle Mountain alumnus John O’Neill started the coronavirus.

Yes, O’Neill, Class of 2008 with the Huskies, didn’t want his school record — 4 minutes, 24 seconds — in the 1,600 meters to fall to Nico Piliero this spring, so well, it’s all on John.

While we’re kidding about O’Neill causing a global pandemic, we do not kid about what could have been for Huskies track and field in 2020.

Piliero ended 2019 at 4:29 in the mile and was likely the first Battle Mountain athlete to go below 4:20 in the mile by this spring.

That’s only one of many likely stellar performances in which the Huskies would be engaged by the time that the state meet rolled around in a few weeks.

“For me personally, it’s embarrassing how much I miss track and field,” said Huskies coach Rob Parish.

Special to the Daily

Not only is Parish the school’s coach in cross-country and track, but he’s the principal. After saying the above quote, he said all the right things about the so-called importance of sports in relation to COVID-19. He gets it.

But allowing for our passion for sports, it’s easy to sit back and wonder what could have been.

The 3,200

Battle Mountain’s ladies have made an art form of the 3,200-meter relay the last three years. The Huskies are the three-time 4A Colorado state champions.

• 2017: Sofia Piliero, Alex Raichart, Lizzy Harding, and Naomi Harding.

• 2018: Gabby Trueblood, Raichart, and the Hardings.

• 2019: Grace Johnson, Elliott Pribramsky and, wait for it, the Hardings.

“We would have loved to have had the chance,” Parish said. “All you want is the chance to defend it. I realize we’re well-fed and can’t play the poor-me card. We’re very fortunate to win it three times in a row. I don’t think we would have been the favorite, but we’d put a good team together.”

When the coach said, “I don’t think we would have been the favorite,” that is what we call bull-hooey, a technical sporting term. Nothing was guaranteed, but the three-time champions being underdogs?

Yes, of course, with the Hardings at the University of North Carolina it would have been hard, but here are three factors for your consideration.

One, when Johnson and Pribramsky are the “third” and/or “fourth” runners on a relay team, holy cow, are you deep. That duo is Nos. 1 and 1a at every other school in the state except for Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley (Joslin and Samantha Blair) and Niwot, which is the U.S. Track and Field Team disguised as a Front Range high school.

Two, while Parish would have tinkered, it’s not hard to see fresh-people Lily Whelan and Milaina Almonte joining Johnson and Pribramsky for this relay. Yeah, they’re first years, but they’re the fastest froshes in school history. In a program whose history ain’t exactly chopped liver, that’s saying something.

Third, Parish knows how to build a 4-by-8.

All this 3,200 relay madness started with Tony Crisofulli, Connor Tedstrom, Jonny Stevens and, yes, O’Neill running the relay in 7 minutes, 52 seconds for a school record and a state title in 2008. (Please no COVID-21, John.)

We bring this up because Jake Allen, Davis Krueger, Deagan Fahrney and Piliero finished eighth in the state last spring with an 8:09. They were all juniors and returning.

Yes, that would have been cool to watch.

Hook ’em Horns

Also cool to watch would have been Johnson’s senior year on the oval. Johnson first caught everyone’s attention at the 2016 state cross-country meet when Lizzy Harding (ear infection) went down in a heap.

Then a frosh-person, Johnson stepped up to help the Huskies to the first of two consecutive state titles. Johnson’s been at it ever since.

She’s been on four regional title teams in cross-country and three league champions in track and field. Johnson holds the 5K school record in the fall and the 3,200-meter record in the spring. Johnson and the Hardings took up Nordic skiing in the winter of 2019, and the Huskies won a state title on the snow.

That’s three state titles team-wise and a fourth as part of last year’s 4-by-8.

She is in the regal line of Huskies running legends of the Amelia and Mandy Ortiz, Val and Liz Constien, Raichart, and, yes, ye olde Hardings.

“Ashley (Johnson) said to me when Patrick was still running for us, ‘You’re going to love Grace,’” Parish said of Grace’s mother and older brother. “Boy, was Ashley right. Grace is so tough. At the same time, she’s really about the team. She doesn’t seek the spotlight. She’d rather be a part of the group.”

Johnson’s next stop will be Austin and the University of Texas.

The Battle Mountain track and field Class of 2020 includes Maddy Couch, Johnson, Jo Trueblood, Arath Mendoza, Piliero, Krueger, Fahrney, Jake Allen, Tom Allen, Andrew Shoun and T.J. Guercio.