by Caden K
(image from MRHS instagram account @mountainrangehs)
From third in state to consecutive playoff misses and an unfortunate 5-11 season, how did the standard of excellence experience become so poor in only two years? In their first year post COVID-19 lockdown, the Mustangs experienced a rocky season filled with exciting highs, such as defeating rival school Horizon High School, and devastating lows, such as losing to Brighton by one run in the final inning. Much of this hardship boils down to varsity inexperience, with only four participants having played in a varsity game before the season, and a year gap, caused by the COVID-19 virus, that halted player development.
Coming into the 2021 season, the players were well aware of the hardships they were to face. Mark Cusick, one of four players with at least one game of varsity baseball under their belt, acknowledged the situation as “unfortunate” and “something that would have been dealt with had there been more time to practice with less restrictions.” The players weren’t the only one’s aware of this debacle either; Max Prep's preseason power rankings placed Mountain Range High School outside the top 100 in Colorado and barely within the top 50 in the 5A division. With only four players with an understanding of varsity level competition, it proved to be quite difficult to relay to the other team members. Nathan Robison, starting center fielder, described it as “something you have to experience to understand,” which caused weariness amongst the other five line-up players.
It is unlikely anyone could have predicted a major pandemic like the one caused by the COVID-19 virus, which caused major haltages worldwide in all aspects of life, including athletic institutions. As with most athletic programs in the United States, the Mountain Range baseball program was forced to endure isolated times that put a halt to routine training and exercising that prepared participants for competition. As the 2019-20 school year halted in March, head baseball coach DJ Yeager conversed with the players, informing them that he was not allowed to be in contact with them in the slightest, and implored them to work as much as they could on their own while society endured a difficult time. Lack of access to equipment, an inability to go outside, and mandates of separation between catch partners were just some of the major difficulties baseball players experienced during the 2020 summer leading into the 2021 season. With many players left shorthanded, athletes had trouble getting back into the swing of things. A pause in stride is a step backwards in terms of development for athletes, and the deadly virus caused the biggest halt this generation of players has ever experienced.
Setbacks are a natural part of high school athletics and occasional bad seasons are inevitable. What is most important is that many more returning players this year will have varsity experience this upcoming 2022 season, and they will experience a normally scheduled off season full of exercising and practice. A meeting will be held on this Wednesday, August 25, 2021, marking the program’s first steps to climbing back to the top of 5A baseball in Colorado and fulfilling the “Standard of Excellence.”