Strolling down Vail Christian memory lane
It’s a sad day on the preps scene as official word came down that Vail Christian will be closing down at the end of the year.
Of course, the first concerns are for the students, getting them resettled wherever that may be, as well as the teachers and coaches who, at any of our four local high schools, have become my heroes in the 13 years I’ve worked for the Vail Daily. We hope everyone lands safely.
It’s hard to absorb that a school is disappearing, and from my perspective a set of teams is vanishing. (I know sports isn’t the most important thing at this moment, but it is my job, people.)
I’ve been struggling with how to approach this all Friday, so we’ll just go with the stream of consciousness approach. This is, by no means, a comprehensive history of Saints sports, although the photos are a hoot.
• The first thing to come to mind is always 64-52. The 2003 team and that state-playoff win against Genoa-Hugo was about the most remarkable thing I’ve ever covered. Quarterback P.J. Bevan, likely the best male athlete in the school’s history, had 500-plus yards of offense. Rex Roberts caught everything. Robbie Brgoch and Nate Simon broke ankles with wicked runs and Andreas Bauer finally ended it with a sack.
• Best Vail Christian football quote: Coach Bob Isbell after the aforementioned 64-52 win, “I’d like to think we made some defensive adjustments at the half.” And what exactly were those, Coach?
• The other real cool thing with that 2003? There was a game where the Saints were utterly pummeling Gilpin County. Isbell had all his subs in and it was still a beating. The visiting Eagles score a touchdown in what is a 70-something-6 Vail Christian win and that generates the biggest cheer of the day by Saints fans.
• I love 8-man football. Everyone’s eligible. Here comes Kieran Hurtt, running. Good luck stopping him, boys.
• Gutsiest call: Tim Pierson coaches his first game. Down in the fourth quarter and facing fourth-and-6 on the Saints’ own 14, Pierson goes for it. Jonathan Armstead runs 86 yards for the game-winning touchdown. This coaching thing isn’t that hard, right, Tim?
• Two who could play defense at any high school: Hurtt and Chase Gruber.
• Truly one of the best moments in Saints football came this year when the boys lost and fell to 0-3. Coach Pierson never said a word in postgame huddle. Hurtt and Larry Cavanaugh took over and told their teammates that this season was not going to go like that, and it didn’t.
And that moment is why high school sports are a critical part of education. It’s not the wins and losses. It’s not the press clippings, believe it or not. It’s this. How do you respond to a situation? Having seen how they did so, I’ve got no worries about how Larry and Kieran are going to be as adults.
• All Saints teams took a beating as they started up. But volleyball. OMG, as the kids would text these days. I’d only cover Vail Christian when it played Vail Mountain, whose teams in the early part of decade were powerhouses. One match, the Gore Rangers beat the Saints 15-0, 15-1. VMS’ Tiffany Allan served up 15 in a row in the first match. Ouch.
• I bring this up because look at this program now. A year after moving up to 2A and having the student-body population shrink down to 1A levels, the ladies won the Slope this year.
• The Saints had two state appearances at the 1A level, and it was not hard to imagine that they’d be going again next season with the talent coming back. This is one of the many frustrating things about this situation. What would have happened had the school not closed?
Again this is unimportant in the greater scheme of things. We’re talking about students’ educations and what the teachers will do now. But this is like leaving a novel half-read.
• Coach Cathy Alexander’s been though it all with husband, Charlie, always in the stands. It’s always a family thing in volleyball in more ways than one. Cathy would politely answer my postgame questions at St. Clare while twirling her daughter Kylie to keep her amused. Now, I’m interviewing starting setter Kylie after the game.
• OK, siblings: Parkers, Francises (The Francii), Ellsworths (Niners rule), Bauers, Bowleses, Linders, Bevans (P.J. was the youngest), Cavanaughs, Mutters, Beagleys, A.J. Burgess and Nigel Johnson. Goodness gracious, and I know I’m missing a bunch.
• There has always been an unwavering faith by this program’s coaches be they Sheldon Kuhns on the boys’ side or Patrick Beaudine, Paul Doughty or Doug Bruce. It wasn’t pretty in the early years and there were still some times recently when it didn’t look good. Everyone always believed the day would come when the Saints would climb the hill.
• An example: Beaudine left a message on my voice mail one time after a preseason tournament, saying, “We were up 4-2 early and that’s all I’ll say about that.” Final score: Plateau Valley 96, Vail Christian 14.
• The Saints did have their moments on the hardwood, say, like Jan 21, 2006. The boys finally beat DeBeque, 69-37, after going 0-10 previously – most of the time in excruciatingly-lopsided fashion – against the Dragons.
“Josh (Sibley) and were talking about even if we beat them by a 1,000 points we will not consider it even for what they have done to us in the past,” said senior point guard Jonathan Armstead at the time.
“I’m not going to say I’m getting the monkey off … I’m not saying it,” Kuhns said with a laugh.
• I still love the picture, which we’re running with this piece, of Sheldon on the sidelines when things weren’t going well in a game against Battle Mountain’s JV. (It’s also really funny because you’ve got then-freshmen Will Parker and A.J. Burgess looking like they don’t care about the actual game.)
Kuhns, like his counterparts, invested so much into making the Saints boys a competitive program and you ache at what he and others are going through. There’s got to be one more game against Hayden, Vail Christian’s current road-block team, right? Like volleyball, with all the talent coming back, there’s gotta be another year, right?
• Happy thoughts: Jason Propp, who only spent a year with the Saints, dunks against North Park and all go nuts. … Caleb Francis and Jaryd Pearson (just kidding), what a 1-2 punch. … Using Blackberry phones to surf the net for a nose guard for Will Parker. … Maty Peckham at the buzzer to beat DeBeque. … Elliot Ristow’s ‘fro.
• The scary thing is that Vail Christian was finally diving into this skiing thing. Jess Linder won the school’s first two individual state titles in 2009 in Nordic and Ian Hamina (obligatory “Hamina, Hamina, Hamina” inserted) won Skimeister as the state’s best overall skier.
• Soccer just lifted off the ground and now, goodbye?
• And then there’s track … Good golly, Miss Molly McGee. (John McGee was pretty good too.) You had Leslie Peterson and Rachel what’s-her-name. Vail Christian won a league track championship with something like all of 10 kids on the team one year.
• And, oh yes, Rachel Glandorf. I’ll make the call – she’s the best athlete to go through this school, all-everything in track, basketball and volleyball. (By the way, if Rachel somehow reads this, I hope Colt McCoy gets drafted by the 49ers, so you move to San Francisco and become part of the left-wing elite.)
Rachel’s journey has been much-documented from going from a small-town athlete, covered by only one lonely reporter (me), to going out on the big stage, and being quite the center of attention.
But you know what? She’s a Saint and always will be, as all who ever wore the blue and silver.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or email@example.com.