AURORA | Softball will be played on the Overland High School campus for the first time in the upcoming 2018 fall season.
Given that the school opened in 1978, that’s a really long time to wait for a first pitch.
But the Trailblazers — who have played on various diamonds across the street from the school in Utah Park since softball became a Colorado High School Activities Association sanctioned sport in 1987 — have a sparkling new field on the corner of South Peoria Street and East Jewell Avenue.
“It’s been a long time coming; our girls have deserved a field that we can call their own for many years,” third-year Overland athletic director Ryan Knorr said.
“We are incredibly happy with what the district has done to help us get here…At no point did anybody balk at the idea that our girls deserve a field.”
The Overland softball field is really the only large athletic facilities improvement for the Cherry Creek School District as a whole ahead of the 2018-19 prep season, which begins with practice Aug. 6 in a variety of sports.
Knorr said discussions had taken place in the last few years between Overland and the City of Aurora to enhance the field at adjacent Utah Park — which is part of a long-standing Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) between the two entities — but a consensus developed to build a field on school grounds.
The practice football and lacrosse field on the northwest corner of the campus became the logical site for the softball field and construction began in the spring.
The project was headed by Doug Blue, the district’s longtime manager of grounds and irrigation.
Work ramped up in May just before school let out, continued through the summer and needs just a few more finishing touches, such as bleachers and the installation of a scoreboard that Knorr feels will bring the whole project together. The field also has an enclosed hitting cage next to it that Utah Park did not.
Overland’s first game on the new field is currently scheduled for Aug. 18, but that may change as Knorr attempts to put together more of an opening ceremony.
“I’m extremely excited for the Overland community and for the girls softball players to have a place to call their own,” CCSD athletic director Larry Bull said.
Last year, CCSD finished a similar project for the Cherry Creek softball team at the Village Greens Park near the school’s campus. The district has an IGA with the City of Greenwood Village as well.
Though softball is now finished at Utah Park, it remains very much a part of Overland’s athletic base. The baseball team continues to use the recently refurbished Tony Schenbeck Field, while the boys and girls swim teams and boys and girls tennis squads also use the facilities at the park.
Other than the Overland softball field and new bleachers for Eaglecrest in “The Nest,” the theme for CCSD athletically is continuity.
Bull is pleased to have the same group of high school athletic directors in Steve Carpenter (Cherokee Trail), Vince Orlando (Eaglecrest), Wesly Smock (Grandview), Knorr (Overland) and John Thompson (Smoky Hill) plus Jason Wilkins (Cherry Creek), while the activities directors at each school also stayed the same.
That should allow the district to pick up the momentum it had last season when athletes and teams won a slew of Class 5A state team and individual championships.
There are a few differences Bull noted, including the new calendar (on which athletic practices begin Aug. 6, while school doesn’t begin until Aug. 13) and a new superintendent, as Scott Siegfried — a great supporter of athletics — has replaced Bull’s brother, Harry.
One exciting change comes in football, where the Colorado High School Activities Association’s latest realignment plan has brought district teams into the same conference again after a two-year hiatus.
The new Metro East Conference again mirrors the Centennial League with district teams Cherokee Trail, Cherry Creek, Eaglecrest, Grandview and Overland joined by Arapahoe.
Smoky Hill — now under the direction of highly successful veteran Colorado coach Tom Thenell — is part of the 10-team Metro 10 conference.
“I think getting the league rivalries back in the district is very exciting,” Bull said.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the upcoming season around here.”
Courtney Oakes is Sentinel Sports Editor. Reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected] Twitter: @aurorasports. FB: Sentinel Prep Sports