Vail Valley preps… Patience is the key to the spring sports schedule |

Vail Valley preps… Patience is the key to the spring sports schedule

First off, you knew this was going to happen.

I know that I come off as the cynical reporter, but with not much snow this winter, you could have set your clocks by these recent storms.

Battle Mountain at Steamboat Springs soccer is now Thursday. Eagle Valley boys lacrosse didn’t go to Glenwood Springs on Tuesday and Steamboat girls lax at Battle Mountain went by the boards.

With a pause in the action, it’s good time for a little perspective. Recently, I had an off-the-record chat with a coach who was frustrated with the progress of said coach’s team. Since we have a lot of teams in the spring that are not exactly distinguishing themselves in the wins and losses category, we’re not exactly giving away the identity here.

Spring is an interesting time for preps sports here. Not only do we have the un-spring-like weather and spring break, which makes the season so stop-and-start in nature, but we also don’t have majorly established programs. By the nature of the sport and tradition, track and field is big here and we have good teams at both Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain. As a reminder, the Eagle Valley Invite is Saturday.

I would say the same about Devils baseball. The weather is a bit more forgiving in Gypsum, and Eagle Valley baseball has stability and a feeder program. And before Huskies soccer coach David Cope gives me a call, yes, Battle Mountain girls soccer is in the mix again and has two Slope titles to its credit (2007 and 2008).

But Cope’s coaching career – in both the spring and the fall – provides a helpful lesson: Programs, regardless of the season or their history, take a while to develop, and in the meantime, it’s tough sledding, which is an apropos cliche for today.

To have a successful program in any sport during any season, you need a stable coaching situation, a feeder program and time. Just look at the successful teams of the past five years or so locally and this all bears out.

Remember when …

You can start with Cope. When I started here in the fall of 1997, his Battle Mountain boys soccer team was pretty excited to be at the .500 mark, and it had taken a while to get there. When Cope started in 1993, a lot of the good athletes in Eagle-Vail at the time played football instead of this silly soccer thing. (Yes, I just typed that.)

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, the Huskies were road kill for the Springses – Steamboat and Glenwood. Scoring a goal in a 5-1 loss to the Sailors was a glorious moral victory.

But as soccer developed in the valley with the Vail Valley Soccer Club and other organizations and Cope stuck with it, look what happened. Battle Mountain has made the postseason in 12 straight seasons at both the 3A and 4A levels, won four league titles from 2004 to 2007, and now, a first-round exit in the playoffs is considered a “disaster.”

Eagle Valley boys soccer has gone through the same thing. Jason Rittmiller has set up shop and turned around a once-hapless team into winners. The Devils were most definitely excited when they beat No. 2 Wheat Ridge last fall, but how many were genuinely surprised by that in Eagle Valley’s camp? Not many, because the foundation had been laid.

Eagle Valley volleyball? Shawn Weatherred, some tough seasons, a few very talented classes and now it has back-to-back titles and the Devils are again the favorites this fall. Eagle Valley knocked Battle Mountain off its perch. The Huskies had Brian Doyon, starting in 2002, and were dreadful early on. They were decidedly not-dreadful by the time his tenure was done (three league titles and a state championship in 2006).

Battle Mountain cross country was barely breathing when Rob Parish and Kelli Witter started in 2001. That worked out pretty well. That went from “We hope we can qualify one runner for state,” to “Will we win state this year or not?” They did three times, and I like the look of the Huskies boys this fall under Ken Long.

Huskies boys basketball won a league title in 2006, which is ultimate proof that the formula of a stable coaching situation, a feeder program and time works.

Blocks in place

Looking at the spring scene, we’ve got good, committed coaches, although it’s hard to say when a sport such as lacrosse is only in its second year at the high school level. (How can boys lax coaches Seth Jones and Ted Bodde be a John Ramunno in year No. 2?)

Francois Nanin (Eagle Valley girls soccer) and Jason Spannagel (Battle Mountain baseball) are just two examples of good leaders who have an unfailing belief that their squads will see better days, and I don’t doubt they will. Our girls lacrosse coaches, Jamie Mayne at Eagle Valley and Stacy Schapira at Battle Mountain, know what they doing.

The feeder programs are starting to produce with WECMRD lacrosse and every club soccer team around here.

The difficult variable remains time. No matter how much everyone wants to fast-forward, it just isn’t going to happen quickly enough. So once the snowdrifts clear, the building continues. There will be wins and losses, and probably more of the latter, but it makes it all the more rewarding in the end as history has shown us.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 or

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