Plateau Valley athletes have a strong bond on, and off, the field
The memory of the results fades quicker than the memory of the team.
For the student-athletes at Plateau Valley High School, that memory will be one of a bond like few schools have.
“They have a family bond,” Cowboys track coach Steve Langley said. “You see it go both ways, where they squawk at each other, but it’s amazing because they’ll always pull each other up.”
Only 92 students attend Plateau Valley High School. Many have lived in Collbran their entire lives and attended Plateau Valley School, which houses all grades.
“Everyone knows each other, so it’s easy to get along,” junior Teddy Grundy said. “You are practicing with the same group of kids throughout the whole year in different sports.”
Langley’s son, Chase, started attending school in Collbran when he was a first-grader. Chase Langley eventually blossomed into a two-sport athlete, and is the top-ranked high jumper in Class 1A.
“It’s a big old family, basically,” Chase Langley said. “It’s a really small school, and that’s nice because you know everyone.”
Grundy and Chase Langley are members of the Cowboys’ 800-meter relay team that’s ranked sixth in the state. Steve Langley said the familiarity shows up in the race.
“Our (800-meter relay) team is fun to watch,” the coach said. “Their handoffs are beautiful, probably the best I’ve seen of all the teams.”
Langley is in his first year as coach at Plateau Valley, but has coached middle school sports in Collbran. Plateau Valley has five varsity sports: track, boys and girls basketball, volleyball and football. All the sports compete in the Class 1A level except football, which plays Class A 8-man.
Athletics are important at a school the size of Plateau Valley. Of the 17 athletes on the track team, all but four participate in at least two sports, Steve Langley said.
“I’ve always had the mindset that athletics are the backbone of the school,” said Langley, who teaches industrial technology classes at Plateau Valley. “Not because the athletes are the smartest, but they seem to have the work ethic.
“Because our athletes are strong, we have a strong school.”
Plateau Valley has its logistical problems when it comes to athletics. The school doesn’t have the means to host its own track meet, so it’s had to travel plenty this season — and sometimes the team can be overlooked.
Plateau Valley was the only team not notified that a meet in Craig in April had been canceled because of weather.
“We got up there and figured, ‘Well, at least maybe we’ll place,’ ” Steve Langley said with a smile. “We get to do a lot of traveling, but it’s not too bad because a lot of the places we go have warmer weather, and the kids like to travel.”
Plateau Valley hasn’t seen 1A competition all season in track, but the Cowboys say because their regular-season meets are with larger schools, that is an advantage for them at the state meet.
“We like competition,” senior Reina Galindo said. “We like to go against the 5A schools because it makes us push, but then we also think, ‘Oh, did you see the form on that guy?’ We can learn from them.”
The Cowboys don’t buy into being underdogs. If anything, they are out to prove they belong alongside bigger schools.
“They come in here with the attitude that ‘You have to beat me,’ ” Steve Langley said. “They are confident and think, ‘If you are going to out-jump me, good for you, but you have to earn it.’ “
Only Chase Langley qualified for last year’s state meet, but entering last weekend’s Western Slope League meet, Cowboy athletes were ranked in five events.
For the first time since 1990, there will be a Class 1A meet at this week’s state track champioships at Jeffco Stadium.
In previous years, the 1A teams were grouped in with 2A, but this year the top nine 1A athletes qualify for their own meet.
“It’s different from being 2A because now at 1A, I haven’t jumped against any of the other 1A schools,” Chase Langley said.
It’s one last chance for the seniors at Plateau Valley to compete together.
“We build a bond through the years,” Chase Langley said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we try to provide for each other.”