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I think it's safe to say that no one is sad to see 2020 come to an end. But we can't let that stop us from looking back on the high school sports stories that kept us going through a grueling year. 

Here's our list of the most-read Gazette Preps stories of 2020, and a few of my editor's picks to help us ring in the new year. 

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PHOTOS: St. Mary’s Pirates (72) Eagle Ridge Academy Warriors (19)
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COVID-19

The Colorado High School Activities Association issued its first statement about the coronavirus pandemic on March 4, and it has been a twisting, pothole-ridden journey from there. 

Here's a timeline of the complicated events from March 2020, when the virus began to impact Colorado high school sports. 

Due to the cancellation of the state basketball tournament, we crowned our own Co-Champions as the TCA boys' basketball program, and St. Mary's girls' were still in the hunt for a state championship as the state shut down. 

Crowning co-champions in Colorado

Through all of the anxiety and uncertainty, local schools kept the light on as a reminder that better days were ahead. 

The 2020 spring sports season was officially canceled in April

And questions loomed in the the summer about the fate of fall sports across the nation. 

The Rush to Reopen: How Colorado’s reopening plan for high school sports compares to other states after COVID-19 shutdowns

Football, volleyball, boys' soccer and other fall sports were moved as a part of CHSAA's reopening plan. 

CHSAA moves football, volleyball, soccer seasons in condensed schedules as part of reopening plan amid coronavirus pandemic

And the state association received pushback from athletes, parents and coaches to reinstate all fall sports. 

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Student athletes gather together outside the El Paso County Commissioners building during the Let Co Play rally urging Colorado High School Activities Association, state lawmakers and health officials to reconsider postponement of most fall sports in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic on Friday, Sept. 11, 2020. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

Athletes withstand rain, sleet and winter wind chill at Pueblo fall sports protest
Colorado athletes consider lawsuit against CHSAA, Gov. Polis regarding fall sports decision

Finally, in mid-September CHSAA board announced schools may choose to compete in football, field hockey and spirit in either the fall or spring. 

CHSAA board approves new season structure, schools may choose to compete in fall or spring

After the completion of the fall season, in which more than 200 football programs competed across the state, student-athletes, coaches and parents continue their fight into winter sports. 

CHSAA gains approval to start winter sports, known as Season B, for high schools in January

As of Dec. 31, 2020 CHSAA has not provided additional updates or details regarding high school sports in 2021. Stay with Gazette Preps through the new year for the latest.

Coaching updates

The biggest Gazette Preps story of the year was longtime girls' basketball coach Patrick McKiernan's removal from his position at Doherty High School. He spent 10 years with the program and coached the Spartans to a 153-72 record. 

About four months later, however, McKiernan accepted a coaching position at Sand Creek High School, inheriting the girls' basketball program which in 2019-20 earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A state tournament. 

Here's some of the other coaching changes we saw around the Pikes Peak region: 

St. Mary's girls' basketball coach Mike Burkett retires after 21 seasons
TCA boys’ basketball coach Leo Swiontek retires
Harrison football coach Al Melo steps down
Nic Olney returns to the gridiron, becomes first football coach for Banning Lewis Prep
Phil Roiko resigns as Air Academy girls' basketball coach, ending successful run

Colorado Springs also lost legendary football coach Jim Hartman in December. The former Mitchell, Widefield and Doherty coach is a member of the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame, and the most winningest football coach in city history. 

Columns by Paul Klee

Here are some of my favorite high school stories of 2020 by our sports columnist Paul Klee.

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Fountain-Fort Carson senior running back Q Jones (20) dodges Ponderosa senior Cael Porter (31) and continues for a touchdown during 4A football playoff game against Ponderosa High School at EchoPark Stadium in Parker, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. The Trojans won the game against Ponderosa by a score of 41 to 38. (Chancey Bush/ The Gazette)

Paul Klee: His name is 'Q,' and he's the answer to why Colorado needed fall high school football
H-O-R-S-E with the Howerys: Siblings Josephine and Sam Howery lead St. Mary's | Paul Klee

Signing Day

Nearly 250 student athletes in the Class of 2020 signed National Letters of Intent. 

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TCA football player Cole Palmer signed a letter of intent to play football at the Air Force Academy on Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. Friends, family and TCA faculty break into applause after Palmer signs. (Photo by Jerilee Bennett, The Gazette)

SIGNING DAY LIST: A look at the Class of 2020 National Letter of Intent signees in the Pikes Peak region

Due to COVID-19 related closures, some athletes did not have the chance to celebrate signing day with their coaches and teammates. So Liberty High School brought the signing day celebration to them. 

Here's the most recent list of 2020 signees among the Class of 2021. 

Signing Day List: Pikes Peak region athletes sign National Letters of Intent
Rampart's Anjelina Starck, Riley Simpson sign DI National Letters of Intent, earn All-American honors
Palmer Ridge brotherhood will live on, even as Kaden Dudley, Luke McAllister become Mountain West rivals

We also had a big-time college football commitment from the Class of 2022 as Palmer Ridge junior Connor Jones announced his verbal commitment to the University of Michigan. 

Palmer Ridge lineman Connor Jones announces commitment to Michigan football

Game Stories

Here are a few of the most-read game stories from 2020.

Micah Lamberth leads The Classical Academy boys' basketball past Longmont, into state semifinals
Loveland runs through Palmer Ridge in lopsided 4A championship game in Pueblo
Fountain-Fort Carson claims spot in state semis behind another big game from back Q Jones
Palmer Ridge football dethrones defending 4A champions in first win over Pine Creek
Harrison's Tayzhean Archuleta pays tribute to Kobe Bryant, Donta Dawson scores career-high
Doherty's Tyson Beauperthuy is no joke at Colorado Springs Metro Wrestling Championships

Features

Finally, here's a look at a few of our features taking a deeper dive into the evolution of high school sports with youth and club programs, controversial mascots and the race to reopen high school sports in the midst of a pandemic.

Mascot Debate 

Mascot debate: Use of Native American mascots in Colorado, schools facilitating discussion
Looking at the most popular, most unique high school mascots in Colorado

Reopening high school sports

The Rush to Reopen: Our take on state associations reactions and reopening plans

Introducing Colorado Prep

What is Colorado Prep? Non-CHSAA high school basketball program to debut this year
Paul Klee: Time will tell, but college basketball coaches 'intrigued' by start-up Colorado Prep

Hillside Connection

Hillside Connection offers a unique opportunity for Colorado Springs youth sports amid dwindling numbers across America
Forging the connection: Terrell Brown’s journey from Hillside to nonprofit

Be sure to continue following Gazette Preps for more in 2021!