Living the sporting life at Eagle Valley |

Living the sporting life at Eagle Valley

David L'Heureux
Daily file photoWelcome to the three lives of Eagle Valley's Andy Johnson. Johnson, left, in on the gridiron in the fall.

GYPSUM – Get up, go to school, go to practice, go home, study and go to bed. Repeat.Now try to factor in any kind of social life, along with, oh, by the way, growing up. Sound challenging? Welcome to the world of the Eagle Valley athlete.It’s a life of devotion to school and sports, where free time is often hard to come by. It’s a life that requires dedication, commitment and time management. And, for five Devils seniors who do this nine months out of the year, it’s a life they wouldn’t trade for anything.

Active all the timeLast August, seniors Alex and Brad Gamble, Kenzie Shreeve, Andy Johnson, and Whitney Beasley trotted out to begin two-a-day practices in their respective fall sports. In many ways, it was nothing new. “As far back as I can remember I was always playing sports,” said Johnson, who plays football in the fall. “When I was really young we played T-ball, soccer and basketball. In sixth grade I started playing football.”Beasley had similar memories from her childhood.”We were always doing something outside,” she said. “My favorite sport growing up was softball (which she played throughout high school). I remember playing catch with my sister (Lyndsay) and my dad (Bill).”

The old hat had some new wrinkles – this was their last season at Eagle Valley, and they moved up to the 4A Slope – but the drill was the same.Juggling actFrom the time they get up in the morning until the time they go to bed at night, these kids are moving. Time is of the essence. It’s all part of a challenging routine that, through practice and repetition, has actually become routine.”I’ve gotten used to it,” said Beasley. “Going to work, then going to school, then to practice and then going home to study. Sometimes I’m a little jealous of friends that get to go home after school and hang out. By the time I’m at practice, I’m glad to be out there, though.”

Both the Gamble brothers say that they often wonder what it would be like to just go home after school. But that’s not the life they chose.”It’s something you think about,” said Brad, a four-time state champion in track his junior year. “But I think I would get bored with it really quickly.”By the way, these student-athletes don’t just thrive on the field, they do it in the classroom, and at extra-curricular activities, too. Shreeve, the Gambles, Johnson and Beasley manage to incorporate time for study, student council and the school play, among other things, into their schedules.”It definitely keeps you busy,” said Johnson. “But we have a study period at school, and we get a lot of work done then.”With their names topping the honor roll regularly, ineligibility is not something these competitors worry about. But it is a reality of interscholastic sports.

“If you don’t have the grades, you can’t play,” said athletic director Dave Scott. “But most of them are not only all-league or all-state, they make the honor roll, too.”Scott added that the kids also work hard in the off-season. They attend camps, hit the weight room, play with friends and practice on their own.Brad Gamble is openly impressed when he steps back and looks at some of his fellow seniors.”Andy and Kenzie, they are amazing at every sport they play,” he said. “And they have time to do it in the classroom and have a life also.”For the friends

The playing ends. But something lingers from those playing days; something stronger than any number of wins or losses shared together. One word that comes up repeatedly talking with these student-athletes: camaraderie.”It’s like you have a different set of friends for each season,” said Beasley, who also works mornings as an office manager for the Headstart program in Edwards. “Most of my friends play sports so it’s like built-in time to hang out with them.”Quality time amongst friends is not hard to come by for any of these athletes. On long bus rides to outlying regions of the 4A Slope, there is always time to talk.”Last year we played a game in Hotchkiss, spent the night and then played a game against Cedaredge the next night,” said Beasley. “It was fun, but it was a long one.”The track team has team dinners before meets, as does the Nordic team in the winters. It adds up to additional bonding time.

“We hang out with the other kids on the team and we are making friends all the time,” said Alex Gamble. “We will always have the relationships we formed with our teammates.”The social life may suffer a little, but there is still time for friends.”When I’m not playing baseball, I hang out with Brian McDonough and Dave Hernandez (basketball teammates),” said Johnson. “The weekends are for games and friends.”On history’s shoulders

Three-sport athletes are not a new breed at Eagle Valley High School. These kids are literally bridging the gap between the past and the future.They stand on the shoulders of athletes like Blake Faulkner, Chris and Jeff Fedrizzi, Micah Bernhardt, Lyndsay Beasley (Whitney’s sister), Allie Toomer and Diane Basset, to name a few. Next year, it will be up to underclass three-sport athletes (John Gabriel, Cody Comerford, Chelsea Leuders, and others) to carry the torch.Andy Johnson’s father, Bill, an Eagle Valley alum, said playing three sports was different when he was in school.”We had about 120 kids when I was in high school,” said Johnson. “If you could play, you had to play. My senior year we got track, and they asked me to come out.”Bill joked that he was the fourth fastest, and they only needed the first three fastest.

“They tried to get me to run long distance, but that didn’t last,” he said.Jokes aside, it wasn’t easy back then, but it was simpler. Now athletes tend to focus on one sport – a specialty sport – or they succumb to the temptation to take a season off; or they can’t compete as juniors and seniors and get cut. Those realities make the accomplishments of these seniors more impressive. It’s not a slight to the student-athletes that play one or two sports a year. But the fact that there are just five seniors playing three sports indicates what a remarkable achievement it is.”Sometimes I wish I could take a season off, but I know I would regret it,” said Andy Johnson.

New horizonsAlthough their competitive careers in high school are coming to an end, the future is wide open for these young adults.Shreeve will attend the University of Northern Colorado on a volleyball scholarship. She will also study graphic design. Brad Gamble is following older brother Chris to compete on the track team at Hastings College in Nebraska. Alex Gamble will head north to Montana State in Bozeman to study architecture. Johnson will attend Colorado State University, where he said he might play club baseball. Beasley is off to Colorado University at Colorado Springs.”That last day of baseball practice was pretty strange,” said Johnson reflecting on the twilight of his high school sports career. “These younger guys (his teammates) won’t realize it until next year: It’s all over.”Vail, Colorado

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