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Tough year had some bright moments

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Being asked to write a column for the new year usually means wrapping up the highlights from the previous year.

But 2020 was a frustrating, discouraging, disappointing, terrible year and there are many more adjectives that could be used to describe the past 12 months.

So the list of 2020 highlights for high school sports are shorter and not close to being normal, which is the word being used a lot for the hopes of 2021.

A few winter sports teams completed the 2020 seasons but the state girls and boys basketball tournaments were canceled as the coronavirus surged last March and the entire spring sports seasons were canceled.

The Colorado High School Activities Association was forced to curtail seasons and state playoff formats last fall (called Season B) but four fall sports were able to play before delays for Season C (usual winter sports, indoor teams) were announced on Dec. 7.

So here are some highlights for the 2020 season.

Valor Christian captured the 2020 state hockey title with a tense 1-0 five-overtime victory over Fort Collins that saw Lambkins goalie Sam Simon tie a national record with 84 saves in the loss. Pomona won its fourth Class 5A state wrestling title in the last five seasons. Cherry Creek was second in the girls swimming state meet while Heritage’s Anna Shaw was the 50-meter freestyle champion and was second in the 100 freestyle.

So for the 2020 fall sports highlights, Cherry Creek and Valor Christian were prominent.

Creek’s Parker Wolfe won the Class 5A state cross country individual championship with a course record time of 15:10.4 while the Bruins’ Riley Stewart captured the girls individual state crown and helped Creek win the girls state team title.

Mountain Vista won its second straight boys 5A cross country championship and its sixth overall title.

Valor Christian’s Lucas Schulte eagled the final to take medalist honors in the Class 5A state golf tournament and his finish helped the Eagles win the team title. Arapahoe finished second for the second consecutive season.

Top-seeded Rock Canyon was upset in the second round of the 5A state softball tournament and Fossil Ridge captured the crown.

In football, Cherry Creek completed an undefeated season (8-0) to win its second straight state championship with a 21-0 victory over previously unbeaten Valor Christian in the game played at CSU-Pueblo. Myles Purchase was the key player in the Bruins’ win. It was the 23rd consecutive victory for the Bruins, who were unbeaten (14-0) while winning the 2019 title.

The CHSAA has worked around the restrictions dictated by the Colorado Deportment of Public Health and Environment and has learned a lot in the months following the prescribed shutout of spring sports last March. The CHSAA has worked hard to get variances approved, like for instance to have more players on a team since it would have been difficult to field teams with regulations which were first ordered.

There will be modified seven-week schedules for teams in Season B, C and D, which isn’t great, but it is not the fault of the CHSAA in the current climate with challenging “level red” COVID-19 conditions around the state.

CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green recently conducted an Instagram session with students who asked questions. Blanford-Green said she can see the light which wasn’t visible months ago and she is optimistic that the remaining seasons can be played with alterations, which nobody will like but at least there will hopefully be sports played.

Let’s hope 2021 turns out to be a better year for all of us.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

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