Notebook: Hailstorms roll through spring championships

The lead group was two holes away from finishing at the Class 5A girls golf championship Tuesday when some violent weather rolled through Raccoon Creek Golf Course in Littleton.

First, a nearby lightning strike pulled the golfers off the course. Roughly 10 minutes later, marble-sized hail pounded the area. Check out this comparison to a golf ball:

(Tom Robinson/CHSAANow.com)

(Tom Robinson/CHSAANow.com)

Here's what it looked like from inside the tent where players were gathered:

Following an hour-and-15-minute delay, players returned to the course. The greens were cleared of all hail with blowers and there was no visible damage to the course.

Eventually, Rock Canyon senior Michelle Romano won the tournament in a playoff.

Up until the storm, Raccoon Creek was an absolutely gorgeous setting for the championship:

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

But as it turned out, Tuesday was a mere glimpse of what was to come this week.

Wednesday, a set of fierce storms rolled through the Denver metro area and produced multiple tornadoes, as well as hail and rain. Girls soccer's 4A and 5A championship matches were scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City -- but playing those games seemed increasingly unlikely as the evening drew near.

That's because the field looked like this around 2:45 p.m.:

(Courtesy Paul Evans)

(Courtesy Paul Evans)

The playing surface was coated with nearly four inches of hail. Almost immediately, CHSAA assistant commissioner Bud Ozzello and DSGP staff met to determine if either of the games could be played that night. The grounds crew was confident it could clear the field because DSGP has a fancy suction system which whisks moisture away from the field.

But about a half an hour later, the power to the stadium -- and that suction system with it -- went out. The 4A game was pushed back to 6 p.m., and the grounds crew brought out snowplows to clear the field manually. As that work went on, the 4A game was pushed back to 7 p.m. -- and 5A, after some discussion, was moved to 5 p.m. Thursday to avoid a start after 9 p.m.

A half-hour prior to kickoff of the 4A game on Wednesday, the teams came out to warm up on a field wiped free of any hail. Even on field level, the surface looked immaculate. True to their word, the grounds crew had done a great job.

Had the field not been ready, the 4A game was set to move to 1 p.m. or 7 p.m. Thursday. Looking at Thursday's forecast, however, the 5A game may again be fighting severe weather -- so it's a good thing 4A is in the books.

Here are a few more photos from Dick's Sporting Goods Park on Wednesday:

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

(Ryan Casey/CHSAANow.com)

Cheyenne Mountain Broomfield girls soccer

(Ray Chen/ArrayPhoto.com)

Cheyenne Mountain Broomfield girls soccer

(Ray Chen/ArrayPhoto.com)

About 15 miles to the south Wednesday night on the campus of the University of Denver, girls lacrosse's title game had a relatively quiet evening in comparison. There was slight concern in the second half when lightning struck a few miles away, but it wasn't close enough to cause a delay and the storm quickly moved out of the area.

Don't be shocked if severe weather also affects the weekend's baseball championships.

According to the National Weather Service, thunderstorms are very likely in the Denver metro area Friday and Saturday after 1 p.m. -- which could wipe out play in 5A and 4A. All-City Field is hosting 5A in Denver; 4A is at Lakewood's All-Star Park. Those fields need time to dry out from this week's moisture, as well.

Likewise, thunderstorms are also likely in Greeley (site of 3A) Friday and Saturday afternoon; and it's the same story in Pueblo (2A's host) on Saturday.

Short stuff

  • Hockey's state championship game will have to find a new venue next season. The title game and semifinals are set for March 6-7, 2015, but the dates conflicts with the Denver Coliseum, which has hosted the championship the past few seasons. Among possibilities are the Pepsi Center, the University of Denver and the Air Force Academy, as well as other venues.
  • Sedgwick County's Chase Dunker struck out 21 batters in a win over Lutheran during the 2A baseball quarterfinals last weekend. Yes, there are 21 outs in a seven-inning game -- but two of those strikeouts reached base on dropped third strikes. Dunker also had two groundouts. He allowed just two hits, and had two walks. Dunker now leads the entire state, regardless of classification, with 129 Ks.
  • Grandview's boys basketball opening has been filled. The school hired former George Washington coach Michael Rogers last week. Rogers led the Patriots to the 5A title game in the 2008-09 season, where they lost to Regis Jesuit. "We look forward to the future of boys’ basketball under the leadership of coach Rogers," Grandview AD Jamee Ulitzky said in a statement. The Wolves originally hired Arapahoe coach Dan Snyder in April before he changed his mind nine days later to step away from coaching for a bit.
  • Eaglecrest has an opening for a boys lacrosse coach. Contact AD Vince Orlando for more info: vorlando@cherrycreekschools.org.
  • I spent much of my time at the girls lacrosse championship Wednesday with former Denver Christian boys basketball coach Dick Katte, who volunteers at many CHSAA events. Katte could not be more enthusiastic about the sport, and drew many parallels with basketball. He spent much of the final minute of a tense game hooting and hollering along the rail at the edge of the field. It was neat to see.