KEYSTONE, Colo. - The deficit proved too big to overcome.
Aspen's boys ski team entered Friday's final day of competition at the state skiing championships trailing host Summit by 27 points. While the Skiers once again shined on the slopes at Keystone, they were outgunned in the afternoon's 5K skate and came up short in their bid for a second consecutive title - and third in four seasons.
Aspen settled for second with 598 total points, 39 off Summit's tally, and Battle Mountain (575) rounded out the top three.
On the girls side, Middle Park (658) captured the top spot, while Summit (597) and Steamboat Springs (584) finished second and third. The Skiers (552) finished fifth, snapping their streak of three consecutive top-three finishes.
"[Summit] was going to be hard to beat no matter what," Aspen alpine coach Craig Carlson said. "We were down 27 points. Basically, [alpine] was going to have to make up almost that entire deficit and the nordic team was going to have to skate just as well as Summit for us to keep up."
A strong effort Friday morning helped the alpine squad cut into the deficit - a far cry from the previous year, when the Skiers relied largely on a strong nordic contingent to cruise to a ninth state title by a resounding 73-point margin over Middle Park.
Leading the way in the slalom was Kevin Hartman, who posted a two-run time of 1 minute, 16.18 seconds to capture the state title. He was .77 seconds faster than his nearest competitor, Battle Mountain's Cooper Cartmill.
James Britvar (1:17.92) took third overall and Jonathan Woodrow (1:28.03) was 16th for Aspen, which finished first with 163 points.
Summit was second, five points back, and Steamboat (157) wound up third. The Skiers' winning margin could have been much greater; their racers were in first, second and fourth after the first run.
Micah Evonitz, who was in second position, had a large bobble on his second run down Go Devil, and wound up having to hike back up to go through a gate, Carlson said. Later, he tried to make up time by taking a more direct line down the steep course, blew right past a gate and was disqualified.
Evonitz was third in Thursday's giant slalom, when three Aspen competitors finished in the top seven.
"That first run was as good as we could've hoped," Carlson added. "The second was some tough luck."
The Skiers girls dealt with similar misfortune. All-State competitor Sarah Gregory, fifth on Thursday, was thrown off course during her first run Friday, slammed into some safety netting and lost both skis. Consequently, Aspen had to rely on all three of its remaining skiers in the field to score points.
"I told the other three to get ready to roll. ... They all had to finish, even if they had to hike six gates or the entire course. They did that," Carlson said.
"We have to work on getting some depth on the girls side."
Laura Sudmeier (1:37.15) led the way with a 20th-place finish, and teammates Isabella Woodrow (1:43.39) and Gabriella Zaharko (1:45.61) wound up 28th and 30th for the Skiers, who took seventh.
They were 53 points off the score set by Day 1 leader Middle Park, who was buoyed by Rylee Burrows' (1:23.10) second win in as many days.
While it was clearly out of the title hunt before the start of the skate race at the Frisco Nordic Center, Aspen's nordic skiers performed admirably. Ellie Parker finished ninth, Erica Heaphy 16th and Kelsey Tofany 22nd in her final high school race.
The Skiers (143) wound up fifth, 32 points behind winner Vail Mountain School, who had three competitors finish in the top four. Middle Park (150) was second.
"They rose to the occasion and had good finishes," Moore added. "Kelsey really went out with a bang, with two of her best races all season."
On the boys side, Riley Heald (15:29.3) finished 10th, Brett Gordon (16:06.3) 15th and Fritz Carpenter (16:26.2) 19th for third-place Aspen (139). Steamboat Springs (160) and Summit (156) finished first and second.
"For our guys it's a building year. They skied well today but it definitely wasn't our day Thursday," added the coach, whose boys squad was fifth Thursday, 39 points behind Summit. "We had some tired kids and one guy (Gunnar Ohlson) that's been sick. ... They skied their hearts out, but it just wasn't in the cards.
"In slalom anything can happen, and the same in nordic with a mass start. ... It would've taken a lot of things to go wrong for us to overtake Summit. ... We just sort of tried to hold our ground a little bit and [alpine] pulled us in. Next year, the kids are coming back. They're psyched and fired up to be in the top five or on the podium. We'll work on that."
If they are to return to the winner's circle in 2011, the Aspen boys will do so on home snow; the championships will be held at Aspen Highlands and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
"This is a great community that supports ski racing in general," Carlson said. "It will be a good opportunity to show others what Aspen skiing is all about."