Colorado Academy athletes benefit from expert coaching at all levels within programs, and coaches are fortunate to work with eager student-athletes that are hungry to compete, regardless of level. As the CA Director of Athletics, with the help of Jon Hill and Elizabeth Drazdowski, Upper and Middle School Athletic Directors, respectively, I strive to hire the coaches who best fit into our program staff: those who are teachers first, as well as up-to-date on current coaching strategies and grounded in fundamental theory. It’s not enough to have competed at a very high level, a coach must be comfortable with the CA athletic culture, which stresses constant fundamental work; competing against the best opponents in the state; and focusing on the process, not the outcome. Strong competition forces individuals to learn how to prepare, respond to failure, self-reflect, and be humble. Noted sports psychologist, Jerry Lynch, who spoke to CA athletes in 2016, expresses it this way, “Sports is our perfect vehicle to help us cope with failure. After all, all that you’ve learned in life has been the result of failure. I call this the ‘success of failure’.”
Our winter athletes, who are in the midst of their season, are no strangers to the rigors of top caliber opponents, and they have responded well to competition. Attendees at the boys basketball game vs. perennial power (then ranked #3 in the state) Faith Christian on January 12, witnessed CA student athletes bond, rise to the challenge, deal with momentum changes, respond to masterful coaching, and defeat FCA in double OT, 62-58. After the game, CA Boys Basketball Head Coach Steve Hyatt described the chess match-like strategy he employed. “We changed up our defenses constantly and even ran a half-court defense 1-2-2 on their last possession, which we hadn’t run all game, and our kids responded beautifully.” On that play, CA junior forward (and baseball standout) Graham Osman blocked a potential game-ending layup, with the Eagles up by one and under 10 seconds to go in the 2nd OT, that created a turnover and gave our Mustangs the ball and the opportunity to win.
Hyatt says, “The Boys Basketball Team is off to an excellent start in their season with a record of 8-3 and 2-0 in the Metro league. The Mustangs are led by juniors Alex Mushkin and DeAnte Dennis, both of whom were selected to the 2017 Steamboat Springs Shootout All-Tournament Team in early December. Dennis is averaging 21.2 points per game, and Mushkin is averaging 14.6 points per game and 5.4 assists. The remaining starters include junior sharpshooter Spencer Wootten, junior Graham Osman, and sophomore big man, Chase Allen.”
Ice Hockey, led by coach Nathan Oystrick, notched their first win on the road vs. Cheyenne Mountain just before the winter break. Players report that they are being pushed appropriately, enjoy the challenge of playing at a high level, and embrace being the first Mustangs on ice in a very long time. Coach Oystrick says, “After much anticipation of Colorado Academy’s new ice hockey program, I couldn’t be more proud of our players. We started off with some players who haven’t skated in more than 10 years. In our first game against Aspen, we came out flying….We had chance after chance to score, led by seniors Sebastian Skipwith and Jordan Wagner. When we were on a delayed penalty call, and Aspen pulled their goalie for an extra skater, we scored our first goal. An errant pass by an Aspen player caused the puck to go into their own net, which led to sophomore Simon Lammens (our goalie) getting credit for CA’s first goal in decades. From day one, we set out to be the hardest working team in Colorado high school hockey…and the players have shown up at every practice and every game with that exact attitude. The seniors on our team have paved the way and shown the underclassmen what it takes to be successful and to be a team. In the new year we are looking to get back in the win column while continuing to stress work ethic, culture, and doing the little things that make the team better.”
Cyndi Graziano, Head Coach of Girls Basketball, has again done a masterful job galvanizing a strong group of girls. (See story Page XX) She has implemented off-season work, camps, and a conditioning program that will pay dividends for years to come. Graziano says, “The Girls Basketball Team is off to a fantastic start, with a record of 7-3 overall and a 2-0 start in the very competitive Metro league. The team has worked very hard to develop our offensive chemistry and an intense team defense. Leading the team is senior Kyra Kurtz, 12 points and 8 rebounds per game, junior Story Wolf-Tinsman with 9.8 ppg, junior Mia Cravitz with 6 ppg and junior Maggie Silliman with an average of 5 steals per game. We have continued to establish a positive, hard-working environment in our program with a focus on learning, leadership, and communication. In addition, this is the first time in several years we have been able to field a full C-Team with a competitive schedule, bringing more excitement to the future of CA Girls Basketball”.
New head of CA Climbing, Alex Penney, has done a professional job in leading the program: Communicating expectations, valuable skills, and training techniques has benefited the most seasoned climber to the neophyte. Penney says, “Things are going well in the program; the team is working hard, trying to improve every practice and having lots of fun along the way. The students are pushing each other hard by climbing together, and setting their own boulder problems to stretch both their physical and creative talents. In competition, our CA students are doing great, with junior Alena Holbert and senior Ann-Claire Lin placing in the top 10 for girls, as well as junior Hagen Hall and senior Jack Prall placing in the top 10 for boys in our last few outings. Regionals are on February 17, and state competition is on February 24. We expect to be traveling competitors to BOTH events!”
Girls swimming, currently ranked 7th in the state, has seen an influx of athletes, with 29 swimmers and three divers competing for the Mustangs this season. (See story Page XX). Head Coach Beckie Mutz, who is in her seventh season, is excited because the depth will help garner points at meets. The girls swim in the challenging Tri Peaks League vs. the likes of Manitou Springs, St. Mary’s Academy, and Fountain Valley School. To date, the team has qualified a number of swimmers and divers for the state meet on February 8-10 at VMAC. Coach Mutz says, “CA’s swim program is growing and doing very well this year. In December, we placed Second at the Coaches Invite for 3A, which has never happened in the past. With Lise Kafka returning for the third year as our diving coach, our divers are doing very well, too. We have an amazing coaching staff with MS math teacher Jason Koza coaching his fourth year and US math teacher Paul Augustus coaching his second year. Our league championships are coming up February 1 and 2 at Colorado College, and I expect nothing but good things from the girls. They will have to fight hard, but our girls know how to compete and they always come through in a pinch. I see our program growing because of the positivity we have for our swimmers and because of the outstanding coaching staff.”
Working at Colorado Academy, where highly competitive athletics and P.E. are valued as a critical segment of education, is thrilling and sustaining. CA athletic programs have benefited from quality coaching, exemplary leadership, intense effort by focused student-athletes, and participation rates that provide program depth. Current success breeds future success, a cycle we hope to perpetuate. My staff and I are dedicated to creating exceptional experiences for student-athletes and to excelling at the league and state levels. Certainly the new facilities are a game changer and will benefit all students and our community, and for that I am grateful. If you are on campus to witness the efforts put forth by CA student-athletes this month, please stop in to say hello; I will give you a peek into Phase 1 of the renovation/construction. Thank you for your support, and Go Mustangs!