Things were shaping up nicely in La Veta. The volleyball team had just had a successful summer tournament in Simla and appeared to be on the verge of conditioning itself for a breakout season.
Mother Nature had other ideas.
A man was charged of starting the Spring Fire down near the town of La Veta. But the impact of actions are being felt throughout the community.
La Veta High School no longer hosts summer workouts for its athletes. Instead it serves as a post for firefighting efforts. Status meetings are held in the gym. Tents are set up throughout the football field.
Coaches and athletes now have bigger concerns than trying to play their respective games at a higher level.
“We’d have open gym," athletic director and girls basketball coach Greg King said. "We’d have kids in the gym working out. We’d have teams attending camps. Volleyball would be going strong. They had a tournament planned at home.
"Our football coaches would have the weight room open, they’d be doing agilities in the gym," King added. "That gym is open from 5-9 every day with kids doing something. Now it is what it is. It’s full of concerned citizens and there are meetings every day at 6 p.m. just to give updates on the fire and the progress of the firefight.
"FEMA’s here now and it’s just something that’s almost surreal.”
As of Friday, the Spring Fire had grown to over 108,000 acres. According to the Rocky Mountain Area Coordination Center (an interagency department that includes the National Forest Service), the fire is now the second-largest in state history behind the Hayman Fire of 2002.
That means the athletic ambitions of the kids now take a back seat to the needs of helping their community.
“I haven’t seen much of the kids since this has started," King said. "We were supposed to go to another camp and I had most of my girls call and say they were helping people round their cattle up and helping people move their animals. The kids were volunteering and those kinds of things.”
The same can be said for the aforementioned volleyball team. Coach Amber Huff was happy to see the progress the team had made earlier in the summer. She was working with new setters and the overall feeling with the team is that it will be competitive in 2018.
That feeling might be more essential now. A competitive team on any court or field can play a crucial role in helping a small community move beyond such a devastating event.
“In a small community it’s all centered around the school and all activities," King said. "Athletics, plays band concerts, those things. In the fall it will be football and volleyball and hopefully we can come to a new normalcy and help the community. Those are therapeutic types of things.”
With the fire reaching full containment, it appears that things will be able to shift back to some level of normalcy.
King says the school's leadership will meet soon to plot how to move forward. Athletics will play a big role in helping the community recover, there just aren't specific plans yet on how that will happen.
But on top of volunteering with community efforts, the athletes will play a major role in helping the town recover. And in the eyes of a man like King, a coach trying to develop kids into positive young adults, this summer will certainly impact their mentality as members of a team.
“The sense of community that you try to build as a team (will be felt)," he said. "This is a community effort from the kids to the parents and the people here helping us. I think you can take that to the next level."
Support for the Spring Fire can still be made here through the Red Cross.