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The Vail Christian Saints will keep marching along

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As Johnny Carson would say, while playing with a pencil at his desk, “And we are back.”

Ed McMahon: “Hee-Yoooooo!”

Now if we can just get Vail Christian boys basketball coach Sheldon Kuhns to wear a Doc Sevrinsen jacket.



Vail Christian is back, as the school and its bond holders negotiated a new deal, thanks to an anonymous donor and some fundraising, and will keep the doors open. Thus, the show goes on.

With the caveat that the most important things involved with the possible closing of Vail Christian were the future academic careers of the students and the school’s teachers and staff finding jobs, what upset me about this was the abrupt ending of something that’s become a part of the community.



Due to my lengthy tenure here, when I walk along the south side of the Saints gym and look at all the plaques on the Wall of Fame, I have covered every single athlete with the possible exception of Kim Graef. (I probably covered her. I just don’t remember her specifically. I’m 38 and the memory is shot.)

One of the great joys of my job is to see the kids come through any of the four local high school and grow as people. Likely, the Saints would have landed at Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley and the Vail Mountain School, but it wouldn’t have been the same.

For heaven’s sake, everyone worked so hard to get the new gym. The Saints should be using it. The same goes for the amount of time and effort Tim Pierson (football and track), Cathy Alexander (volleyball), Kuhns, Doug Bruce (girls basketball), Barbara Wilson (soccer) have put into their programs. For it just to stop would have been awful for this crew.



Vail Christian is a special place for me just Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain are and – believe it or not – Eagle Valley is becoming. (Go Devils baseball and beat Delta Saturday.) The thought of Saints sports just ending was incomprehensible.

Another of the joys of my job is that as honestly ground-down (and I think understandably so) as I am with high school sports, there’s always a next year.

And now as Scarlett O’Hara says in “Gone with the Wind,” “Tomorrow is another day.” There is a 2010-11 school year, and sports calendar about which to talk for the Saints, so let’s go.

Football

I’m so glad we’re not losing 8-man football. Football of any form is, of course, wonderful – Pierson just interrupted his pre-NFL Draft preparation to agree there – but 8-man is fantastic with all the things you can do. As a Niners fan who grew up with the West Coast offense – Bill Walsh rocks – this is fun to watch.

And the future – and yes, there is one – is bright for the Saints. We saw glimpses of it last fall. The current freshman boys are class to watch. (The same goes for basketball, as Kuhns jumps up and down with excitement.) We’ve got Austin Ellsworth, Nigel Johnson and Mack Cooper just to name a few. Heck, Cooper ran for 500 yards in about three games last year.

As I wrote in wrapping the football season in the fall, hit the weights, boys.

Goal: Time to beat a Plains League team in cross-overs.

Volleyball

Probably nowhere would the disappearance of Vail Christian been more painful than here. The Saints are the defending 2A Slope champs, and now get to defend their title. (In fact, Charlie Alexander just sent me an e-mail that said, “LET’S GO SAINTS! LET’S GO SAINTS!” Hard to believe that guy can generate enthusiasm.)

Just as Vail Christian has a brilliant crop of freshman boys, the current sophomore ladies are outstanding. The Saints will miss the Killer Bs – Brooke Bowles and Beri Dwyer – with graduation. (But hey, it’s not going to be the last graduation. That would have been just terrible there, as well.)

Two things here: One, we keep the Vail Christian-Vail Mountain rivalry going. Go Vail. Go blue. (You wanna be a little more specific, people.) Yes, the Devils and Huskies have their thing and it gets a lot of the ink, but Saints and Gore Rangers, especially in volleyball, is a lively one. As we saw in districts and regionals, when both teams were at full strength last fall, these matches are epics.

Then there’s the fact that the Saints will continue to compete at the 2A level in volleyball and basketball for that matter, but drop down to 1A for the postseason (just like DeBeque and North Park) next year. While I think the Saints can make state at 2A, the regional road is admittedly easier at 1A.

Goal: Time to make it to the Denver Coliseum. I haven’t been there in a while.

Basketball

We get to see Robby Bowles, Zach Linder, Ellsworth, Johnson, Teller Emmer and Fernando Hernandez develop. (You think Kuhns is now going nuts about this? That would be a yes.)

Quite frankly, I was wondering when Bowles was going to get a start last year. The kid was averaging double-digits off the bench. Hernandez gives the Saints a returning honorable-mention all-league point guard as a junior next winter. And Granger Moch is a returning all-leaguer. (OK, Sheldon just had to be sedated.)

On the girls’ side, Doug Bruce has been doing a superb job under the radar here. He’s one of the most-unsung coaches in the valley. As the super sophs develop, patience will be rewarded.

And then there are the Ethans (Kuhns and Ellwsworth). I am looking forward to seeing both play. Wow, we’re going to have another coach-child combo or two in Edwards. (Ethans, if you need advice, just talk to Kylie.)

Goals: Time to get over .500 for the girls and, guys, beat Hayden.

Soccer, skiing, track

In skiing, who knows? It’s been pretty darn amazing to see a school with not much tradition in the sport produce state champs the last two years in Jess Linder (two Nordic titles) and Ian Hamina (Skimeister).

And the cloud has just lifted for soccer and track. The track team heads to Glenwood Saturday and Wilson’s squad is at Aspen Monday. This is no longer the end. It’s now just the beginning.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or cfreud@vaildaily.com.


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