The tradition continues in East Vail
EAST VAIL ” Despite a big new campus, the Vail Mountain School is still a very small place in many ways.
The hallways are airy, The Commons spacious and the new gym lighter, but there are still reminders. The school’s old log cabin sits by the new soccer pitch, and the pictures of graduated classes past are full of familiar faces.
Sports have always been a big part of VMS, but it’s very much of a family thing ” literally. When the Gore Rangers soccer team takes on Aspen at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by volleyball against Plateau Valley at 3:30 p.m., you’ll find younger siblings of those who have worn VMS blue and white (and orange) in years past.
In soccer, there’s Blake Armstrong (Haleigh, 2005), Zach Smith (Josh, 2004), Jens Kjesbo (Tyler, 2005), Kevin Eno (Sean, 2004), Rob Wear (2005), Carder Lamb (Colin, 2000) and Jackson Higgins (Blake, 2004). In volleyball, Molly Etters’ family is no stranger VMS’ athletic circle. She was preceded by her brothers, Pepper (1998) and Jon (2002).
“They were just really big inspirations,” she said. “When I saw them play, I got excited and I couldn’t wait until they could watch me. It flip-flops like that. That always makes me excited. I just picked up a lot of the game from them. I don’t think I’d be where I was today without watching them also.”
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Whether they’re directly following in their siblings’ footsteps or not, a lot of the current Gore Rangers have been influenced by their brothers or sisters.
Colin and Carder Lamb are eight years apart, but Carder remembers his older brother playing soccer at VMS. Since Colin was a senior, Carder got to hang out with the seniors, a very heady thing for the then-lower schooler.
Carder also got the day off from school in the fall of 2000 to head down to Denver to see VMS take on No. 1-ranked Colorado Academy in the 3A state quarterfinals.
“I was ‘sick,’ so I went down to watch. It was C.A. It was crazy. Everyone was wearing orange People had orange ski masks on. I didn’t know what a big deal it was because I was so young.
“(Colin) was really excited. He’s not that emotional of a guy, but that was one of those times.”
Even head coach Bob Bandoni was nearly doing cartwheels that fall day. In one of the most memorable days in the soccer program’s history, the Gore Rangers stunned C.A., 3-1. While Carder had already played soccer, that was one of those moments that convinced him that he wanted to follow in his brother’s footsteps athletically.
“It seems like I was supposed to,” Lamb said. “It feels a lot different than I imagined it. I’m now my brother basically. Little kids look up at me and it seems weird. It doesn’t seem real.”
In the middle
It seems like an Etters has been in a VMS uniform forever, or at least since the mid-1990s. And it shouldn’t be shocking that the third Etters, Molly, is a standout. She’s on the volleyball, telemarking and soccer teams.
What is interesting is that she’s found a middle ground between her two older brothers. Let’s just say that Pepper wore his emotions on his sleeve during his high school days, while Jon redefined the quiet type.
“I’d say I’m a mix,” Molly said. “I’d say they’re a lot more similar than people think they are. They both like the same things. They both are raft guides. They both like the same sports. They both love to travel. I guess I’m a mix.”
While the youngest Etters did follow in her brothers’ path with soccer and playing hockey through her freshman year, she’s gone on her own in volleyball. While she says she doesn’t consider any one activity her No. 1 sport, her resume on the hardwood is impressive.
“It’s really exciting because this is one of the things I did without my brothers’ influence,” she said. “I always used to watch (volleyball) when I was younger, and now playing, I can see why everyone thinks it’s an amazing program. It’s such a good program for not only making athletes but building character.”
A different legacy
Haleigh Armstrong was a regular at the Vail Nordic Center, and Blake tried it for two years.
“It was fun to watch her, just to see her enjoying the sport so much,” he said. “I guess it’s something I never enjoyed so much.”
A tyke when the Colorado Avalanche moved to Denver, hockey became his passion. And with hockey and soccer being similar, he’s in the midfield for Saturday’s game.
Now a senior, Blake not only enjoys the tradition of sports at VMS ” wearing orange remains the goal ” but he enjoys the not-so conventional style of spotlight it brings.
“As far as the sport goes, nothing changes, but you have a different variety of fans out there,” he said. “It’s good to see the little kids cheering.
“You look forward to the pep rallies every year. You see all the little kids getting excited. We all look forward to wearing orange. There’s definitely a feeling of being part of a bigger team outside of you own.”
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 748-2934 or firstname.lastname@example.org.