2021-2022 winter sports preview

After a thrilling fall sports season that saw Colorado Academy student-athletes compete, achieve, and learn so many valuable lessons through sport, we turn our attention to the winter season and the challenges ahead. Official CHSAA winter practices began on Monday, November 15 for Basketball, Ice Hockey, and Swimming, and the eagerness of Mustang athletes to impress coaches was palpable. A robust number of players tried out for all Mustang teams. Program heads were challenged to put together the most competitive team possible and to give students opportunities to compete at a level appropriate for them.

Boys Basketball, coached by veteran head of program, Steve Hyatt, who has compiled 330 wins as a head coach, welcomes back a number of Seniors, along with some talented underclass players who provide depth and skill. An early season non-league trip to Steamboat will give the group an opportunity to bond and get experience against some top schools in the state. Hyatt comments, “The Colorado Academy Boys Basketball Team is coming off a strong performance from last year. They were 10-2 last season and remained undefeated on their home court. The Mustangs lost in a close Elite 8 game last year and aspire to make a deeper run in the state tournament this year. Expectations are extremely high with eight returning players.” Metro League play starts after the New Year, and Hyatt’s team should be a delight to watch.

Girls Basketball saw more 32 players try out on the first day of preseason. Many of them are standouts in other sports and brought their athleticism to the court. Assistant Head Coach Hunter Worthley, who is also a Lower School P.E. teacher and Middle School coach, can be partly credited with turning the program around and helping bolster numbers. Worthley often chats with student-athletes, encouraging them to play basketball, and her persuasive approach has paid off. Leading the team this year will be Seniors Erishai Okra, Brooke and Sabrina Wachuta, and Barrett Trigg. Worthley adds, “The Girls Basketball coaching staff is incredibly excited for the season to get underway. We are a young team with a lot still to learn, but the progress that we have seen in the offseason has shown us that our girls are eager to compete at a high level.” Head of program Reggie Morton is fortunate to have so many strong assistants, who can connect with the players and demonstrate skills necessary for high-level competition. The girls also start the season in Steamboat, where they will be tested against non-league opponents.

The Swim Team, who has had the benefit of Beckie Mutz leading the program for the past 11 seasons, also has a large group competing this winter. Thirty-five swimmers and divers are ready to listen to Mutz’s incredible stroke instruction, and they look to cut individual times and compete as one of the strongest programs in 3A. Seniors Maude Tetzeli and Lucy Rakowski lead the team, with the strong work ethic necessary to persevere through demanding practices and meets. One of Mutz’s able assistants, Pari Bradley, states, “This year we field one of our largest teams, and that translates into determination to excel in the pool. We are very excited to have a full season this year, with a group of young ladies that are ready to put in some work!” The Mustang swimmers have some early challenges, including a duel with Arapahoe on December 7 and the Angel Invite on December 12. The season concludes with the league and state meets in February. CA should have many representatives at both!

Climbing, led by Coach Emmett Cookson, has evolved into a competitive program with focused individual climbers, a consistent training program, and collective work ethic. As well as providing training on the wall, Cookson collaborates with Strength and Conditioning Coach Wes Kirk to schedule time in the Bansbach Strength & Conditioning Center that will pay dividends, as the team competes in events throughout the winter. Although not a CHSAA-sanctioned sport, CA Climbing coaches and athletes have embraced a no-nonsense approach and strive to be among the best climbing programs in the state. We are fortunate to have such a fine facility on campus and will host a league climbing event on January 22. Cookson states, “Our goal is to use climbing to expand our comfort zone and by extension, our self confidence. We use climbing to build physical as well as mental strength. Training as a team, we are constantly learning from and challenging each other, thereby creating a space of inclusion, encouragement, and positivity. This allows each athlete the freedom to take risks and push themselves to be the best they can be on and off the wall.”

Ice Hockey, after really pushing through and becoming a team to be reckoned with last season, hopes to compete for some postseason hardware, while playing the most aggressive schedule in program history. Returning All-League players, Seniors Jack Pashel, Will and Charlie Whalen, and Jack Gerber lead the way for the Mustangs and head of program Richie Nelson, who led many of the boys through a CPHL fall season that provided critical ice time in games and practices. Nelson has played and coached at a variety of levels during his career, and he connects well with the players, while holding them accountable to high expectations. Nelson says, “This hockey season will be my first official season as head of program at Colorado Academy, and saying I am excited would be an understatement. I firmly believe we have some of the best kids on and off the ice. With the talent and potential we have, Colorado Academy Hockey is in a great position to build a solid foundation not only for the next three to four years, but far beyond that. We will do this one shift at a time.”

I look forward to watching our athletes compete. Check the CA website for upcoming games, and come out to witness the teamwork, passion, and skill of CA student-athletes. Go Mustangs!