While the season is still young, here’s an outlook on what to expect from Colorado Academy student-athletes and teams in the winter months.
Although the winter sports season officially opened November 12, the Boys Varsity Basketball Team has been working out up to three times weekly since the end of last season. The team has a promising outlook—CHSAA gave CA its top ranking in 3A for preseason. Coach Steve Hyatt is looking forward to an exciting year, led by Seniors DeAnte Dennis, Alex Mushkin, and Spencer Wootten, who, in addition to their starting roles, mentor younger players and set an example at every practice. Hyatt names two match-ups—against Faith Christian on January 17 and Lutheran High School on February 8—as the ones to watch, because each team is so well coached. “We want to play the best teams in the toughest leagues,” he says, “which helps players get better every day.” For preseason, the 3A team generally plays up to 4A and 5A for the extra challenge. Going into his sixth year as Head Coach at CA, Hyatt gives a lot of credit to the culture. “We have great kids and great parents,” he says. “Every kid says thank you after each practice. And coaches say something positive to each player.” He is also pumped for the opening of the new Athletic Center early next year. “CA will have the best facility in Colorado. Bar none.”
Head Coach Cyndi Graziano and the Girls Varsity Basketball Team work hard each day to establish a team mentality based on positive communication, growth on and off of the court, and appreciation for the opportunity to play the game they love. Led by a group of tremendous upperclassmen and two returning captains, Seniors Story Wolf-Tinsman and Mia Cravitz, these experienced leaders contribute positive attitudes, excitement, and high standards that are a cornerstone of the CA program, Graziano says. CA Director of Athletics Bill Hall attributes that outlook to the strength of coaching. “Cyndi has an uncanny ability to teach fundamentals, not outcomes,” he says. “The outcomes take care of themselves.” The team has worked hard since last spring, developing skills and gaining experience together and is really just looking forward to playing basketball this season. “We like to face challenging competition that allows us to become a stronger team and better players and coaches,” Graziano says.
Building on the program that was resurrected last year after more than a decade, Head Coach Chris Delaney has high expectations for the CA Hockey Team. “I’m really excited to be a part of the rebirth of Hockey at CA and to develop the program into a perennial contender for the State title,” Delaney says. Delaney takes over for Nathan Oystrick, who left the team last summer, and he will shepherd the move to a Varsity program for the first time in almost 30 years—last year the team played a JV schedule. The young team—almost half of the players are Freshmen—has demonstrated its commitment to and love for the game of hockey, showing up regularly at 6 a.m. voluntary preseason skates. Delaney expects the upperclassmen to lead by example and to help guide the younger players, both in practice and through their first game against Kent, a 9-1 loss, and future matches. The players’ passion and enthusiasm are evident with this group. “The most important thing is to compete and get better every time the players are on the ice,” Delaney says. “We continually work on the little things, skating, passing, and skill development.”
In her eighth season as CA Head Swim Coach, Beckie Mutz has grown very attached to her swimmers and assistant coaches. “It’s amazing to watch them grow and see the payback for all the effort they put in,” she says. She is confident that with this group of swimmers and divers, it will be an exciting and successful year. There are four Freshmen that Mutz feels strongly will earn trips to the state tournament. Seniors Aly Gallagher and Gretchen Carpenter are the team’s leaders, blending their personalities to bring camaraderie and bonding to the group. “Aly is a verbal force with nonstop energy and enthusiasm, while Gretchen delivers a calm, quiet, and steady voice,” Mutz says. The team’s goal is always to do well at League, a group of nine schools, both public and independent, with many strong swimmers. It’s a highly competitive meet, but Mutz believes this team is likely to place very, very well. “Swimming is an individual sport—just you and the water,” she says. “But if the team works together, you’ve done your job.”
The CA Rock Climbing Team puts its primary focus on gaining skills in the gym to ultimately transition to climbing in the great outdoors. Only about 30 percent of the climbers choose to take those skills and participate in actual competitions. Head Coach Alex Penny says for those who do, he expects a strong season, despite some top CA climbers choosing to compete for USA Climbing this year. In competitions, boys and girls climb the same routes, but compete against their gender. For now, the climbers meet at Denver Bouldering Club and Earth Treks to practice their climbs, but the team is looking forward to CA’s state-of-the-art climbing facility opening in the new Athletic Center early next year. Penny foresees that organizers of a number of climbing competitions will be eager to bring their events to the new space.