Hang Them Up or Keep Trying?

The Consequences of Creek’s Athletic Dominance

Isabel Alley and Avery Hutchins

With thirteen years of pitching under his belt, junior Reid Johansen walked onto the varsity baseball field after tryouts last spring, confident that he made the team. To his surprise, the coaches told him he didn’t make the cut. Devastated, Johansen made his way to the junior varsity field.

Now a senior, Johansen has managed to receive an offer from a Division I university while on the JV baseball team.

Creek’s dominant athletic program sounds like a great opportunity for a high school athlete, but it doesn’t come without other consequences.

Seeing some underclassmen, even his little brother, make the team ahead of him was one of the main motivations behind Johansen’s desire to improve.

“It sucked. It’s hard,” Johansen said. “But it drove me to grind even harder, way harder, than I ever did before.”

Faced with the disappointment of seeing his name on the JV roster, Johansen took a step back to analyze his game.

“I guess they just thought that I wasn’t as special as some of the other kids,” he said.

He started pitching submarine, which is a niche style rarely found in high school, and caught the attention of St. Bonaventure University.

The pressure of tryouts can sometimes cause athletes to struggle to meet expectations. Performing at a satisfactory level requires complete focus year-round, making tryouts a time where tensions grow between athletes who are going for the same spot. The football team’s recent success makes the demand to become part of the program even more present.

“For someone to be on varsity they have to out work everyone else not only on the field, but off the field as well,” said sophomore middle linebacker Matthew Luhring, who made varsity this year.

Football is not the only sport that Creek consistently dominates. The boys’ tennis team is almost always a force to be reckoned with.

“We’ve only lost in 6 out of the 51 boys’ tennis state championships, so that dominance speaks for itself,” varsity 2 coach Ben Schlichting said.

The tennis program has always had a talented roster, with varsity teams 1 and 2 rolling past most of the competition they face annually.

“The toughest competition most of our players face is during our tryouts and at practices against other Cherry Creek players,” Schlichting said.

This legacy of success in the prestigious programs at Creek are appealing to athletes looking to be part of a more competitive team.

Ponderosa High School sophomore Alexander Dalton plans to move to Creek during senior year to be part of the football program.

“[I want to come to Creek] because they have better connections to bigger schools and they go out of state, so get more exposure,” Dalton said.

The competition at Creek prepares its athletes with daily opportunities to play at a higher level. Creeks’ varsity football team traveled to Ohio in September of this year to face St. Edward High School.

Not all programs get opportunities like this. The girls’ soccer teams at Thomas Jefferson High School compete at a lower 3A high school level.

“It is one of the easier sports to play [at TJ] because it lacks the most competition,” sophomore varsity girls’ soccer player Riley Rimkus said.

TJ only has a student body of 1,310, resulting in fewer contenders for the varsity team, making it even easier than club level to get into.

“I have played club soccer all my life, and in regards to school soccer, there is less competition overall,” Rimkus said.

Playing club soccer against the competition that most 5A schools face in the spring season helped prepare Rimkus for success at the Thomas Jefferson tryouts, due to the difference of skill level in the two different seasons.

“It was not that difficult for me to make varsity,” Rimkus said.

But here at Creek, senior Erin Mahoney found school soccer to be almost as competitive as the club team she was a part of for eight years.

“Club soccer was less competitive than Creek, however it depended on the team you made,” Mahoney said. “I made the freshman team my first year and it was about the same competitiveness.”

Competition is present in all lower levels, not just soccer. Any Creek basketball team is difficult to make with only ten available spots.

Creek sophomore Aaliyah Maze made the JV girls’ basketball team her freshman year and though it is no small feat, Maze wasn’t satisfied without varsity. She pushed herself to work harder, putting in tens of hours each week to refine her basketball skills, and get in better shape through strength and conditioning.

“I’ve done lifting and speed training at least three times a week, [along with] practicing ball handling and shooting at least five times a week,” Maze said.

Maze figured that one of the only ways to improve your game is to continue to seek out better competition and learn how to deal with adverse situations.

Her hard work and dedication paid off when her coach was approached by a George Mason University scout with an offer for Maze to continue her basketball career in college.

“I’ve learned that playing people that are better than you ultimately helps you understand the game better and strengthens your skills,” Maze said.