There was a time when Alex McAfee could think of nothing else but winning a boys' lacrosse championship at Air Academy. The Liberty senior had big plans with the Kadets coming into his senior season, and he was just begging to get another chance at a title after Air Academy fell in the program's first finals appearance the year before.
It was some time in 2013, shortly after Air Academy's lacrosse team wrapped up a 17-2 season, when McAfee learned that wasn't going to happen.
"That was tough," McAfee said. "I wanted to stay at Air Academy and do what we set out to do."
Instead, McAfee and nearly half of the Kadets' 2013 roster will skip across Interstate 25 and play for Pine Creek, which begins its inaugural varsity campaign this season.
As of 2014, athletes who attend class at Liberty, The Classical Academy, Rampart and Pine Creek will suit up for the newest team in District 20. The other surrounding-school athletes, which include players from the likes of Discovery Canyon and Air Academy, will stay and play for Ron Garcia and the Kadets.
For picked-over Air Academy, the transition won't be easy. On top of losing 14 seniors from their 2013 runner-up team, the Kadets lost three of their best players to Pine Creek - including Will Derek, Alex Chang and McAfee.
And while six all-area players and one all-state player in Mitchell Miller keep the Kadets a top-tier team, the loss of personnel will be noticed, says Garcia.
"We used to have 100 or more kids come out for lacrosse. This year we have 42 kids," Garcia said.
"I love that our sport is growing, and that's what you want. But, for us, we'll have to work hard during this transition period to stay where we want to be."
Pine Creek, meanwhile, should have an influx of talent - something most new programs could only dream of getting on day one of practice.
First-year coach Kenny Rausch is looking beyond that, however. He hopes the addition of another D-20 team - along with the talent the Eagles should have thanks to 75 players on the roster - can help the continual growth of the sport in the Colorado Springs area.
"The growth part is huge," says Rausch, who will have his wife, Melissa Rausch, help coach the team this season as well. "We were expecting about 50 players or so to come out for us - and then we got 75, which is about double the number from last season."
As for McAfee, he admits the transition process is still ongoing. But while part of him wishes he could have finished his career at Air Academy, he's already starting to embrace his leadership role at Pine Creek.
"I'm excited to start the legacy here at Pine Creek," said McAfee, who will play lacrosse at Adams State next year. "I'll always cherish my days as a Kadet, but I'm happy to see lacrosse getting bigger and bigger. And while I'm here, I'm up for a new challenge and hope we can do some good things right out of the gate here."