Mar 12, 2021 | SPORTS | By Zeke Lloyd | Illustration by Patil Khakhamian
The draw of Colorado College is not rooted in normalcy. From the school’s intense academic rigor, to its focus on the outdoors, to its peculiar class schedule, CC is quite far from the ordinary.
Even so, students from around the country come to learn at the college. They do not come simply for an education, but instead for the unique opportunity to grow within the eccentricity.
Colorado College’s athletics are no exception. Sports have to adapt to a calendar comprised of three-hour classes and block breaks. Outside of the time constraints, athletes are forced also to reckon with the great amount of distance between CC and their divisional opponents.
Certainly the starkest feature that separates Colorado from the rest of the world, though, is altitude. Tigers have to reconcile with all these factors throughout the season; each can act as a formidable obstacle or a critical advantage.
Gray Cullen ’23, a swimmer who specializes in the 200-meter butterfly, has found an appreciation for how CC organizes their athletics.
“It’s been an amazing experience over the past three years now, just because I really like how the Block Plan molds with swimming,” said Cullen. “[I’ve] never have a meet the same day as class.”
The traveling itself is made easier, as he rarely has away meets outside of block breaks. As a passionate student and an enthusiastic swimmer, this system seems ideal for Cullen. “I’m either doing swimming or school, I never have to sacrifice one for the other.”
That being said, CC’s setting can also make traveling hard. According to 2015 Census Data, the Mountain Time Zone only contains 6.7% of the country’s population.
“We’re the only D3 school in our time zone and so what that means is a lot of traveling, a lot of plane rides,” Cullen said.
These long-distance trips to places like Texas, where many CC teams play multiple opponents for weekends or even longer, can be taxing for players.
“It makes it more difficult to play away games when you have to fly,” said soccer player Matthew Simons ’21. “I also think just being in a hotel room for most of the day, especially because it’s so hot out, and not having much to do can also contribute to making it more difficult to play while down in Texas.”
Now, because of the pandemic, traveling in general has become much more difficult. A major COVID-19 impact has been teams playing in local matches with schools from other divisions.
“We compete with a lot of schools that are not D3. We’ve been known to compete with Airforce, which is D1,” Cullen said.
Already in the 2021 season, the Men’s Lacrosse team and Women’s Tennis team have competed against the Division 2 CU Pueblo, a university only an hour south of Colorado Springs.
While this does reduce the hassle of traveling, games against Mountain Time Zone teams mean CC loses a key advantage: the visitor’s forced adjustment to the altitude. Being at 6,035 feet, visiting athletes from sea level find themselves less comfortable.
Simons notes how this impacts the way teams play. “I think when team come to play against us, they play differently. Which is sometimes frustrating, because teams have a tendency to sit back and only play on the counterattack against us as they’re not accustomed to the altitude.”
Whether the visiting team is from elevation or not, though, playing at home is the preferred location for almost all athletes.
“I feel like during the game you’ll see people on sidelines and that will be a bit of a motivator,” Simons said. “I do think it plays an important factor in how we play. I also think we take a lot of pride in being able to defend and play well on our homefield.”
At 6,035 feet of elevation in the least populated region of the country, Washburn remains a bastion of the Tigers.