The coronavirus turned out to be the only winner of the spring prep sports season in Colorado, as it successfully wiped it out completely.
When the pandemic will abate enough so that prep sports can safely return to anything resembling what it used to be is unclear, but there’s also a lot of regret as to what has been lost.
Aurora teams and individuals got in a couple of weeks of preparation for the spring season and just a tiny bit of play, just enough to hint that the potential was there for another bonanza of team and individual state championships like last spring.
Here’s a look at Rangeview’s track team, one of the things we missed.
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Colorado Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. IG: Sentinel Prep Sports
RANGEVIEW’S MASSIVE, TALENTED TRACK TEAM
raidon Nourse rushed home from school March 12, grabbed his Rangeview track uniform and spikes and dashed out the door.
He arrived at Aurora Public Schools Stadium just in time to compete at the Raider Kickoff Meet, which was held amid mounting uncertainty due to the news breaking about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nourse finished second in the triple jump and ninth in the long jump that day, which disappointed him in terms of his expectations, but proved to be the only competition he would get for a senior season in which he and his Rangeview teammates were giddy to get going.
“I wasn’t supposed to run that day; I was saving my energy for our Saturday meet (the Ivory Moore Invitational), which is one we look forward to running, but once we heard things were going to be canceled, I bolted home and got all my stuff,” Nourse recalled. “I really didn’t have any time to react or prepare, but I’m glad I got to compete. I’m grateful for that.”
Once the meet was over — Rangeview won both the boys and girls competition at the meet in which only Lutheran and Summit competed, as Gateway, Hinkley and Vista PEAK pulled out — the Raiders got the word from coach Chris Carhart that the season was suspended.
It was gut-wrenching news for a Rangeview program that was literally bursting at the seams with a combined 218 boys and girls athletes, remarkable numbers for any program at a school of any size. What truly galvanized the eclectic collection of athletes was 43 seniors, which brought a mix of experience and pent-up hunger for big things.
“Our philosophy is really just creating that safe space for kids,” said Carhart, who also drew big numbers when he coached at Hinkley — which he led to back-to-back third-place finishes in the 5A boys standings in 2016 and 2017 — before he moved over to Rangeview two years ago.
“Track is such a neat sport where every single type of kid can find a spot on the team,” he added. “We have kids from every corner of the school — band kids, theater kids, football kids — every type of kid you can think of. We also have high expectations and standards as far as conduct goes, which I’ve heard might run some kids off, but it’s done quite the opposite. It’s attracted the type of kid that helps you build a team.”
And, oh, what a team it looked to be.
The Rangeview boys believed they had what it took to challenge for the state championship thanks to a handful of elite athletes surrounded by a deep group of others with plenty of hunger and determination driving them.
For a boys program that finished 28th at last season’s 5A state meet — and made it into the top 10 at state just twice in the last decade (9th in 2011 and 10th in 2016) — that is a major leap of expectation.
Psychologically, the team was helped by the Rangeview boys basketball team winning the school’s first state team championship in a quarter century last year (and looking like they would win another before the coronavirus canceled the remainder of the state tournament), which brought a more tangible element to athletic championship hopes for the school.
Also in the boys favor were returning state point-scorers in Nourse (9th in triple jump), Jacqui Lee-Ricks (8th in 400 meters) and elements from two placing relays in seniors Davon Desmond (a football standout) and Rashid Seidu-Aroza (a soccer star who recently committed to Dayton), Tre’Vion Weddington and Jeremiah Reed, plus state qualifiers in senior hurdler Neveh Jones and junior high jumper Gabriel Kreimeyer.
“We were ranked eighth in the preseason and we looked at the point systems and they only had five of us boys coming back; they didn’t put points in for a lot of our relays,” said Lee-Ricks. “Once we put in the points in we think we could get, we were pretty close (to first).”
Carhart thought Rangeview would be particularly loaded in the hurdles, where Jones — who missed the finals in the 300 meter hurdles at state by 0.56 of a second last year — would be joined by senior Darius Wells, a state qualifier for Hinkley in 2017 who sat out last season after he transferred, along with others.
Abundant relay depth (which helped the 4×100 run a faster time in the first meet than it had all of last season), new talent in the throws and confident mindset gave the Raiders the look of at least another EMAC champion and a contender for one of the two trophies that would have been on the line at the state track meet.
The Rangeview boys have never won a state track title, while the girls team took the 1992 crown in the now-defunct 6A classification.
“We really felt like this year was going to be the culmination of the things we had built the last couple of years,” Carhart said. “To say we were excited is downplaying it.”
The Rangeview girls suffered more losses than the boys to graduation — including the departure of sprint star Dawnielle Lewis, who was fifth in the 5A 100 meters last year — but had back multiple-event placer Ayana Brown and a lot of depth, particularly on relays.
Senior sprinter Kh’Miah Vaughns felt the disappointment quite hard.
She was a relay alternate at the state track meet as a junior and very much looked forward to her senior year when she had bigger plans.
“It was very competitive, you would even see the girls trying to race the boys,” Vaughns said. “It was always competition, even at practices. It was like a meet. It was kindof intimidating sometimes. It was like ‘This freshman can outshow me if I don’t pull my weight,’ so it made everybody work 100 percent.
“We trained hard over the summer and put in a lot of energy into this season, so it was beyond disappointing when we didn’t get to do what we knew we were capable of doing.”
Vaughns was hoping to do big things in her favorite event, the open 200 meters, while she and her relay teammates put in hard work perfecting handoffs and she was eager to see how that would pay off in races.
The Rangeview boys and girls teams kept themselves in shape in whatever way they were able and were ready to go should the approval to restart the season come. The Colorado High School Activities Association revised its date of suspension a few times before eventually canceling the remainder of the season April 22.
“I had a lot of hope for them to say ‘OK next week we could have a meet,'” said Wells, who hadn’t run a varsity meet in more than year after his transfer. “To this day I’m still training and I know it’s crazy, but i have a weird feeling in the back of my mind that I’ll still get a chance to compete somehow.”
But the Rangeview team didn’t simply disband when the season came to a close.
While not together physically, they’ve been connected online as Carhart holds regular cooking “classes” — where he displays a Julia Childs impression as he makes a meal with athletes free to join along at home or just watch — and schedules time periods every day for personal Zoom calls.
The highlight so far has been an online chat with Tianna Bartoletta, a two-time Olympian and three-time gold medal winner as a long jumper and sprinter, who Carhart got to talk to his team by simply sending her an email.
WHAT WE ALSO MISSED: Senior-loaded Grandview girls soccer teams three-peat quest