Winter Sports Preview 2022-2023

The winter sports season is upon us. Colorado Academy teams have found their footing and are headed into league play and the second half of the season schedule as we return from holiday break. CA has many quality coaches, and the winter program leaders are prime examples of that excellence: Beckie Mutz, Swimming; Steve Hyatt, Boys Basketball; Reggie Morton, Girls Basketball; Richie Nelson, Hockey; and Brian List, Climbing—all have the credentials and experience of college-level coaches, and we are lucky to have them on campus.

All of our winter sports teams compete against much larger schools. Boys and Girls Basketball have been placed by CHSAA in Class 4A (enrollment 412-938), making CA one of the smallest schools in the class, with an enrollment of approximately 415 in the Upper School. Ice Hockey also competes at the 4A level and is the smallest high school, by enrollment, in the 4A division. Swimming competes at the 3A level, but because of our size, CA is still in the lower half by school size and often plays against schools that are much larger. We embrace the competition and value the effort put forth by our athletes and coaches. 

Coach Richie Nelson, in his third year at CA, and the Mustang Ice Hockey Team look to return to the upper echelon this season after representing the CA community in the State Championship at Ball Arena last year. They hope to make a second run at State, this time returning to that championship game with experience, plus hard work on the ice in practice and in the weight room with CA strength and conditioning coach Wes Kirk. Last year’s Seniors helped pave the way for this team, but it will not be easy, and the group knows what it takes to get back to the pinnacle. The upperclassmen are providing a great example for the underclassmen, who are transitioning quickly to the high school-level of play. Seniors Brogan Andrus, Davis Frankum, Buzz Oertel, Hudson Parks, Elliot Rutherford, and Asher Stull will be called upon to lead. Newcomers Rex Burstein, David Kimball, Kevin King, and Will McCandless will provide depth in front of returning First Team All-State goalie, Junior Fraser Smith. CA Ice Hockey will be a fun-to-watch, hard-hitting team with electric offensive capabilities. At the holiday break, the team sat at 4-1, with wins over Battle Mountain (2021 State Champion), Rampart, and Liberty.

Boys Basketball Coach Steve Hyatt, in his tenth year coaching the Mustangs, is enthusiastic about his young team. Andrew Koclanes, the team’s only Senior, will be responsible for setting the tone and leading the group. Koclanes, who is committed to play basketball next year at California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, receives high praise from Coach Hyatt: “In my 35-plus years of coaching basketball, I have never had a better leader than Andrew Koclanes.” Of his team, Hyatt says, “I love our team’s energy and intensity! These boys really want to compete and win at the varsity level.” What excites Coach Hyatt most about his young team is the prospect of their developing into one of the best teams in the state by the end of their season. “I would not want to play CA in the postseason,” he says. “We have the potential to be an extremely good team by late February. Junior George Buyers is the team’s leading scorer at 14.3 points per game; he’s followed by Sophomore Clyde Love, who is averaging 11.2 ppg. This year’s team works incredibly hard and improves on a daily basis.” The annual early-season tournament in Steamboat provided an opportunity for the team to bond, as well as to compete. The team has done well so far and posts a 4-4 record, including victories over local rivals Denver Christian, D’Evelyn, and Golden. League play begins in early January with games vs. 4A Jefferson Academy and 3A Faith Christian. 

Girls Basketball, also extremely young—but deep in experience—is led by fourth-year Head Coach Reggie Morton. Morton’s cerebral and quiet, yet fun, coaching style resonates with his team and has them improving on a daily basis. With only three Seniors in the program—Claire Arney, Olivia Harris, and Annie LeClair—Morton will start five underclassmen, four of whom started last year. Juniors Winnie Fenton, Alex May, Skylar May, and Naomi Wolff will see the bulk of the minutes, with Sophomore Anna Johnson completing the starting five. Morton says, “This past summer, the team went to its first summer basketball camp and had a blast! This is a very hard-working team, talented and athletic—very deep and exciting to watch play.” Certainly the off-season work that the girls put in will pay dividends when it comes to league play. Championship and winning experiences that many of the girls bring from other CA sports will benefit the team as it looks to break through at playoff time. The girls program has grown in the past few years under Morton’s watchful eye; he and assistant Hunter Worthley have stressed to the girls in the Middle School that playing for the Mustangs in the Upper School is a fun, challenging, and rewarding experience. This year there are two full teams, one each at the JV and Varsity levels, and there is a great group of eight at the C level.

Beckie Mutz, who has coached CA swimming for 12 years, has done a masterful job growing her program over the years. Mutz says, “This year is going to be amazing! We have the largest number of girls that CA Swim and Dive has ever had! There are a total of 35 girls this year—33 swimmers and 3 divers (one of the girls is doing diving and swimming). We already have state qualifiers from our first meet, and the second meet provided a few more state times! Swimming captains Dori Beck, Emma Carpenter, Kate McKean, Jojo Rydberg, and Charlotte Sovka, along with Diving captain Sawyer Risch, are doing a wonderful job in helping to make this a positive and successful team.” The team opened the season at the Legacy Lightning Invitational held at the VMAC Natatorium and came away with a respectable result against many larger 4A and 5A schools. Coach Mutz always does a wonderful job welcoming swimming neophytes, while also challenging her seasoned swimmers. She can teach finer stroke techniques to those who are looking to shave off a fraction of a second; she can teach flip turns to those who have never been taught that skill. I’m thankful for Coach Mutz’s guidance and care for her girls. Swimming post-season ends earlier than most winter sports, with league competition taking place the first week of February and State occurring a week later. 

Finally, the Climbing Team, led by first-year Head Coach Brian List and his assistant Corey Lans, has competed well early in the season. Although climbing is not a CHSAA-sanctioned sport, the CA team competes in the American Scholastic Climbing League against large schools like Golden, Cherry Creek, and Boulder. Coaches List and Lans have done a remarkable job fitting into the CA community and working with a variety of climbers who tried out for the Varsity and JV Climbing Teams. Meets normally occur once a week on the weekends, and practices take place daily in the CA climbing facility. The team also coordinates with Coach Kirk to better improve their strength and flexibility. Captain Sydney Leach, a Junior, and Senior Harris May have proven outstanding competitors and leaders of this group. In early competitions, both the boys and girls have placed well as teams and as individuals. Look for a home regular-season climbing meet on January 21, regionals in Louisville on February 18 at The Spot, and State at G1 in Broomfield on February 28. There is no doubt that, as climbing grows in the state, and with our coaches and climbers continuing to trust, grow, and learn, CA will be a leader in the sport.

With the arrival of the new year, be sure to check the CA website for upcoming contests, and come out and support CA’s winter athletes. If you get a chance to introduce yourself to one of our coaches, do so, and please extend your thanks for their guidance and leadership. In the CA Athletic Department, we feel fortunate to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and our teams. We are part of a CA community that works hard and takes nothing for granted, and we are truly humbled by the opportunity to play and compete with some very talented athletes and coaches. Here’s hoping 2023 is a positive and healthy one for all. Go Mustangs!