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Spring football leagues, schedules announced for Aspen, Basalt

As one football season approaches its finish, another was shown the starting line.

The Colorado High School Activities Association on Friday announced the leagues and schedules for all the teams that opted to play in the spring, or Season C, a group that includes both Aspen and Basalt high schools.

“For the kids to actually see a schedule and know when it’s coming, I just think it makes it more real,” BHS football coach Carl Frerichs said. “And it really is coming. Now we are getting pretty close to when it’s really going to start happening.”

Along with boys soccer and girls volleyball, both traditionally fall sports, football had originally been pushed back to the spring because of concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. But after even more pushback from parents, coaches and players alike, CHSAA ultimately gave football teams and districts the option to choose between the fall (Season A) or the spring, with the vast majority of the teams in the state opting to play this fall.

Among the 54-team minority to choose the spring were Aspen and Basalt, as well as Roaring Fork and Glenwood Springs. With so few teams playing in Season C, CHSAA was forced to shuffle the leagues and even classifications around a bit to make things work in an abbreviated seven-week season.

“The steps are in place now for a spring football season,” Aspen football coach Travis Benson said. “I would say the interesting part is you kind of have mixes of Western Slope 2A and 3A. All these teams have been in the same conference at one point or the other.”

At least for this upcoming spring season, both Aspen and Basalt will play in Class 3A, a step up from 2A, where they have traditionally played in recent years. The 3A classification will include 16 teams, split into two eight-team leagues, named East and West. The 3A East includes Faith Christian, The Classical Academy, Kent Denver, Sand Creek, Littleton, Denver West, Northfield and The Academy.

The 3A West includes Aspen, Basalt, Rifle, Glenwood Springs, Steamboat Springs, Coal Ridge, Montezuma-Cortez and Salida. Roaring Fork will play in the 12-team 2A classification in the spring in a division that includes St. Mary’s, Buena Vista, Ellicott, Grand Valley and Manitou Springs.

CHSAA maintained that the alignments and schedules are subject to change should teams decide to opt out of the spring.

“Our bracket is extremely strong, which I really am excited for the kids and the coaches to be able to go up against,” Frerichs said. “To win a state championship with these teams that are in it, you are really winning a state championship. We are not going to have a ton of teams, but I think the competition level is as high as the fall.”

The 2A Western Slope League has arguably been the best league in the state the past few years, highlighted by strong runs from Basalt, Delta and Rifle. Only last season, No. 9 seed Basalt knocked off No. 1 seed Rifle in the state quarterfinals before losing to No. 4 seed Delta in the semifinals. Delta then lost to No. 2 seed Sterling in the 2A state championship game.

Delta and Moffat County — who were part of last year’s 2A WSL along with Aspen, Basalt, Rifle and Coal Ridge — opted to play football this fall and won’t be part of the equation come spring.

Even so, the new 3A set to play this spring is loaded with traditional football powers and both Benson and Frerichs agree it more than makes up for the classification’s lack of numbers.

“It was tough to know, Season A, Season C, what the right choice was,” Frerichs said. “But I did tell the kids there are a lot of the best programs all playing in the 3A league right now … you got half the best teams in the state of Colorado in 2A in this 3A bracket.”

Football teams competing in Season C can start practice on Feb. 25, with the first week of competition getting underway March 11. Teams will play through a six-game slate with the top eight teams per classification making the playoffs. Teams that don’t make the postseason will be allowed to play a seventh game after the regular season.

The state championship games are scheduled for May 7 and 8 at CSU Pueblo. CHSAA is naming separate state champions for both the fall and spring seasons.

“I’m very pleased with the announcement and super pleased, from the looks of our schedule, on travel,” Benson said. “Late February, early March will present its own challenges, but nothing different than if you are playing football late November and you are on a championship run.”

Aspen’s schedule includes a season opener at Glenwood Springs before a trip to Rifle in Week 2. Then the Skiers will have three straight home games against Montezuma-Cortez, Steamboat Springs and Basalt before closing out the regular season at Coal Ridge.

Basalt will open its season at home against Salida in Week 1 before traveling to Steamboat Springs in Week 2. The Longhorns then have back-to-back home games against Rifle and Glenwood Springs before traveling to Aspen in Week 5. BHS concludes its regular season with a road trip to Montezuma-Cortez in Week 6.

Exact dates and times have not been established. Frerichs did say he hopes to see Friday games played earlier in the day, if not moved to Saturday afternoons, to avoid the extreme cold temperatures that come after sunset that time of year.

“These kids don’t want to play six straight in 10-degree weather,” Frerichs said. “I really think early in the season we are going to need to play earlier games.”

Along with spring football, Season C will include boys soccer and volleyball. Season B, which starts practice on Jan. 4, includes the traditional winter sports of basketball, ice hockey, skiing, girls swimming, wrestling and competitive spirit. Season D, which starts practice April 26, is the traditional spring sports lineup of lacrosse, girls soccer, baseball, girls golf, girls tennis, and track and field.

Season A, which has wrapped up outside of the fall football season, included cross country, boys golf, softball and boys tennis.

For the spring football teams, it’s been hit and miss in terms of getting to train because of COVID-19 restrictions. They were able to weight train outside during the late summer months and were eventually able to do some drills with a football, although in an extremely limited fashion.

Still, after the entire spring season was canceled earlier this year when the pandemic first broke out, any time spent together is time well spent.

“It’s pretty amazing to see them kind of brighten up when they get outside and do it safely within their peer group,” Benson said of the players getting to train. “It’s always rejuvenating to be able to hang out with kids and be outside and do something different than a 9-to-5 job.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Valley local Theo Williams to ride bike to California for the Aspen Hope Center

Theo Williams is basically committed now. Certainly he wishes he had looked up the mileage beforehand, but he’s ready to start pedaling either way, and for a worthy cause.

“I don’t know how I got to cycling from Aspen to Santa Monica. That’s a pretty long way,” Williams said. “I had no intention of raising money. I just wanted, for my whole mental health, to get away for a little bit.”

What began as a fun getaway has turned into a roughly 1,150-mile bike ride for the Glenwood Springs resident. Williams, 29, will leave Sunday for a planned two-week trek to Santa Monica, the famed beach community in Los Angeles, with the idea of raising money for the Aspen Hope Center.

Like so many, Williams has often struggled to cope with life the past handful of months, from the coronavirus pandemic to the nation’s political and civil unrest. That’s when he started to spend more time outside running and cycling, and from there one thing led to another.

He searched for a cause to attach to his planned trip, and became discouraged when he found the Aspen Hope Center and the numbers it had to share. The area’s high suicide rates, especially among teens, struck a chord with Williams and he decided to put his focus on helping as he could.

“Earlier this year I had a loss in my family and I couldn’t go home and be a part of it. I was just in a pretty crappy place,” Williams said. “I’ve always been around kids and trying to help out. And through browsing the Internet I came across Aspen Hope and what they did for kids and the numbers.”

Williams is a native of England who moved full-time to the Roaring Fork Valley in 2013. He spent about four years with the Roaring Fork Soccer Club and has plenty of experience working with children. He’s now a broker associate for Slifer Smith & Frampton Real Estate in Aspen, where most of his work is based out of Snowmass Village.

But, beginning Sunday and for the next couple of weeks, he’ll just be some guy pedaling across the Western U.S. on his bike, sleeping on the side of the road and eating whatever he has on him. He plans to make the trek to Santa Monica largely unsupported, sticking to paved roads but avoiding major highways.

And, as physically daunting as the 1,150-mile voyage may seem — where he’ll average about 100 miles per day — Williams is pretty confident he can manage. The longest bike ride he’s previously done was about 900 miles, when he rode from London to Monte Carlo, but that was with a big group of riders who had support vehicles.

This will be a little bit different.

“My legs will hurt, my butt will hurt, but I’m not worried about those things. It’s fine. It really is the two weeks by myself and trying to ride a bike and be mentally occupied,” Williams said. “It’s just hard to be alone by myself and that’s the challenge for me that I’m worried about. I was not in a great place. So if I can be alone with myself for two weeks and feel at the end positive, then for me that’s a huge thing. It’s my own personal battle.”

He picked Santa Monica for his finish line because it’s a name and location Aspenites are certainly familiar with, and he does have a few friends in the area. He plans to drive back to Aspen at the conclusion of his ride.

As for the cause, he casually set a goal of $5,000 hoping to raise at least a little money for the Aspen Hope Center. He launched the GoFundMe page on Friday and about 36 hours later had already met his goal. As of Wednesday evening, he had raised more than $10,000 before even pedaling a mile, and has set a new goal of $20,000.

Williams said he would keep the GoFundMe account open for a week after his ride is complete if anyone else wanted to donate. He said the money will largely go toward putting counselors in schools to help kids who may be going through difficult times.

“I really do believe this can do something good for some people,” Williams said of his bike ride to help support the valley’s mental health issues. “It’s a big problem here. It’s huge. I don’t know if people really know the numbers. People aren’t paying attention to it and we can’t speak about it because it’s not with keeping up with the Joneses. We are supposed to live in a society here that glorifies how much we have and something is happening right under our nose a lot and we aren’t addressing it.”

The GoFundMe link can be found at https://gf.me/u/y37rn3. Williams said those interested can also follow along via his Facebook and through his Instagram (@theowilliams25) accounts.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Tight-knit senior group leads Aspen High School girls cross country back to state

The steady progression by this year’s senior class is easily quantifiable when looking at their regional results. There was a fourth-place finish when the current seniors were freshmen in 2017, then third their sophomore year, second as juniors and as of last week they are now regional champions.

That’s consistent growth for the Aspen High School girls cross country team.

“I don’t even know how to put it into words. The team has meant so much to me,” AHS senior Kylie Kenny said. “We always talked about and joked about going 4-3-2-1 throughout the years and we never thought it was going to be possible. And then to have it happen is really fun and kind of exciting.”

Next up for the Skier seniors is one final trip to the Class 3A state meet, which is Saturday in Colorado Springs. And, like with regionals, their progression has been steadily upward in terms of state results. The AHS girls were 12th in 2017, seventh in 2018 and fifth in 2019, and coming off their regional championship could be a dark horse contender with a top-three finish reasonably possible.

The Aspen girls have one previous state championship in cross country, winning the 3A title back in 2002.

“We’re in a good position and I think the girls are excited and more nervous than I’ve ever seen them in my four years of coaching them,” longtime AHS coach Chris Keleher said of the seniors. “They’ve just been getting better every year and a little bit more focused every year. It shows that they train in the summer and they feed off of each other and they push each other and encourage each other. They like to compete, and that’s the best part.”

Of the six runners competing Saturday for Aspen, four are seniors. Along with Kenny, there is Kendall Clark, Eva McDonough and Edie Sherlock. Not competing is Macy Hopkinson, another senior who has played a strong role on the team over the years. Rounding out Aspen’s state lineup are sophomores Elsie Weiss and Michaela Kenny, Kylie’s younger sister.

The elder Kenny has arguably been the team’s best runner since she was a freshman. Kylie Kenny finished fifth at the regional meet last week in Durango and was eighth at state last fall with a time of 19 minutes, 31.1 seconds. She’s likely a long shot to contend for the individual title, but should again be the first Skier across the finish line, unless one of those sophomores has something to say about it.

“It’s a little scary, because it’s the last time but also I know that everyone here on Saturday is going to support each other because we’ve been doing this for four years and we are a total family,” Kylie Kenny said of her final high school race. “It just makes it all the more special. We are not an individual-based program; it’s just everyone running together.”

A big part of Aspen’s consistent rise over the past four years has been just how close they are as a group. As strong as Kylie Kenny has been, she’s never overshadowed any of her teammates and they’ve always taken a team approach to racing. Them being so tight-knit has paved the way to them becoming the strong team they are today.

“We’ve become really close because of that and it’s been really fun,” Sherlock said. “It definitely boosts, at least personally, my competitiveness because I’ve known these girls for however long, most of them forever, really, so seeing them go out and try their hardest always makes me want to try even harder.”

The Class 3A girls’ race on Saturday is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. at the Norris-Penrose Event Center. Because of COVID-19, the field is a bit smaller this fall, with each race being capped at 100 runners. The race itself will take place in waves, with the top runners from each regional getting to run in the first wave.

Kylie Kenny will be Aspen’s lone runner in the first wave, joining Basalt’s talented trio of senior Sierra Bower and sophomores Ava Lane and Katelyn Maley. Bower is the reigning Class 3A state champion.

Even so, it means something to enter the state meet as the regional team champion, and that has Kylie Kenny feeling good about Aspen’s chances.

“It gives me a bit more confidence. I have immense belief in the strength of the team we have here,” she said. “But at the end of the day, I think everyone is feeling a little nervous still. It’s definitely not a sense of overconfidence — there are a lot of teams that have been running really strong and everyone is trying to go out and run their hardest on Saturday. We’ll just run together and see what happens.”

For the Basalt High School state preview, click here.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen Junior Hockey moves forward amid pandemic with new director Harlan Pratt

The kids are back on the ice and that’s about all Harlan Pratt can ask for at the moment. The new Aspen Junior Hockey executive director has had his hands full stepping into the role amid a pandemic, but somehow AJH is finding a way to keep skating forward.

“It would be nice to be in easier times, but we are fighting it,” Pratt said last week. “I want to see these kids have opportunities and being part of a sport is a big one for a lot of kids to learn. It provides outlets for them to learn how to work with others and you get a mixed bag of personalities and they have to learn that. That translates.”

Pratt was hired in June to replace Shaun Hathaway, who was let go after seven years in charge of AJH. A native of western Canada, Pratt had a long career playing professional hockey and spent time in various National Hockey League camps, although most of his playing days were spent in lower-level leagues and overseas.

He most recently worked with the Nashville Junior Predators organization. One of his brothers, Nolan Pratt, currently is an assistant coach with the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche.

Pratt moved to the Roaring Fork Valley in early July, nearly a month after Lewis Ice Arena had reopened to skaters after it was shutdown in March when the coronavirus pandemic first broke out. It’s been small step after small step from there to continue to find ways to get more and more kids on the ice as safely as possible.

“Regardless of where you are, it’s a unique time for everybody. I’d rather be here,” Pratt said. “People still want this opportunity to have some normalcy.”

FALL FUNDRAISERS

The fall is an important time for AJH, notably for fundraising. The organization’s two biggest fundraisers — the Stirling Cup and Fall Faceoff — usually take place around this time, although the Stirling Cup was canceled this year because of the pandemic.

The Fall Faceoff, a multi-week series of tournaments held each October, is set to begin Thursday, although it’ll include only half the usual teams. No spectators will be allowed, but they hope to stream games live online through LiveBarn.

“It’s better than nothing and that’s why I’m very optimistic we are still moving ahead with it,” Pratt said of the Fall Faceoff. “I wouldn’t say a full green light, but it’s trending that we are in the right spot. Everyone is on board for it and the city seems to be supporting that we get the opportunity to do it in a smaller manner. But it’s happening. That’s the biggest thing.”

The older kids, mostly those in high school, will play this weekend, with the younger kids getting to play over the following two weekends, concluding on Halloween weekend. Normally the tournament would bring in teams from across the region, and in recent years it has brought in the Mexican women’s national team to compete. Because of the pandemic, however, this year’s field will likely stick to teams from within the state of Colorado.

For many of the local Roaring Fork Valley players, this will be their first time competing since March.

“It’s kind of one step at a time. Kids are getting on the ice,” Pratt said. “Being able to only be half, that’s already a big kick to us. It sucks. But at least it seems we are going to be able to do something and it’s definitely going to help. It’s one step.”

THE PREP LOOPHOLE

In order to get the high school kids on the ice well ahead of the season, AJH has created a boys’ 18U team this fall. This allows any prospective players who want to compete for Aspen High School this coming season to get on the ice without breaking any of the Colorado High School Activities Association’s rules.

The CHSAA hockey season, which runs in the winter and would normally get going in November, has been pushed back to a January start because of the pandemic-altered sports schedule. Most club teams on the Front Range have already had plenty of opportunity for training and competition, so the AJH 18U team will allow the Aspen players the chance to keep up.

Keith Howie was named the AHS hockey coach over the summer.

“It’s an opportunity to keep these kids on the ice and provide them that outlet and let’s see what we can get to,” Pratt said. “I skated with a lot of those kids in the summer and I keep trying to plan to get out with them. I’m trying to be a part of every team and every kid as much as I can. It’s just, I don’t have 24 duplicates of myself.”

GROWING GIRLS HOCKEY

In the future, Pratt would like to provide an opportunity for the boys to compete at the national level like the girls have in recent years. The AJH girls’ AA teams have been a consistent presence at national tournaments of late, beginning with the 14U team that competed in the 2017 USA Hockey National Championships in Michigan.

Led by a deep senior class, the 19U AA team was expected to have returned to the national tournament this past winter, but had its regional tournament ultimately canceled in March because of the pandemic.

“For the girls last year, that’s got to be hard, because you had a bunch of seniors that moved on and you only get so many opportunities to play for a national title,” Pratt said. “That’s another thing that is great about the program is that’s been established and continues to keep growing, the girls’ side of hockey.”

Pratt said that, as of now, he expects the AA girls to have a season and the opportunity to again compete for a national championship this winter. AJH is fielding both a 14U and 19U AA team for the girls. While the 19U team will be very young after losing a deep senior class, Pratt sees a lot of potential for the group in the coming years.

“You’ve got this younger generation and if they are committed to it, it could be awesome and I hope they get some success this year and kind of get to build off it and keep going,” Pratt said. “They don’t realize how close they are to getting scholarships and having these opportunities. It’s right there for them.”

FUTURE OF AJH

Amid an ongoing pandemic, Pratt hasn’t had much time to ponder the future of Aspen Junior Hockey. He’s mostly been trying to get programs started up again and keep it all afloat with limited fundraising opportunities.

But the most obvious goal for Pratt going forward will be to continue to find ways to get the younger kids involved in the sport, and this can include finding a way to make hockey part of the general physical education curriculum at the local schools.

“That’s obviously always the lifeline of the program,” Pratt said. “It would be great to see if we can start implementing those opportunities. Again, it opens up doors and maybe kids like it and want to keep doing it. The big grand picture would be we are back to normal and growing the program and developing kids. As our program grows, maybe we have more opportunity for them as far as level of competition.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Photos: Color-fall Colorado comes to the Roaring Fork Valley

Golds, yellows, reds and oranges pop all over the Roaring Fork Valley as one of the most breathtaking times of the year falls into place.

Kelly, Mosher lead Aspen High boys tennis to the 4A state tournament one final time

Expectations? Nobody has time for that. For Aspen High School boys tennis coach Steve Sand, what happens this weekend at state happens and you move on from there.

“I’m not going in with expectations. Just play hard, have fun,” Sand said. “Kind of let the chips fall where they may. We’ve been kind of around that sixth-place, seventh-place spot the last several years. But I really don’t want to have expectations. Just kind of let them go have fun and do their best.”

The Class 4A state tennis tournament gets underway Friday in Pueblo, with the championship matches scheduled for Saturday. After winning their regional title for the fourth straight year, the Skiers are again sending all 11 players to the big finale. The last time AHS did not send its entire team to state was back in 2014.

“It’s super exciting,” senior Alex Mosher said. “I’m glad we are all going to be there as a team again this year. And I’m pretty confident everybody will play well and do well as a team overall.”

Aspen again is led by senior Christian Kelly at No. 1 singles and Mosher at No. 2 singles. The pair held down those same spots last season, when the Skiers finished sixth as a team with 21 points. Cheyenne Mountain cruised to the 4A state title with 85 points.

Kelly was one-and-done as a junior, losing in the first round at state to Pueblo Central senior Dario Alcala, 6-0, 6-2. He was the team’s No. 2 singles player his sophomore year, going 1-1, and played alongside Georges Ghali at No. 2 doubles as a freshman, the pair going 1-1.

Kelly, who also competes on the AHS cross country team this season, will face Palmer Ridge junior Alan Davis in the first round on Friday morning.

“You got to play the matches, but they are going in with confidence,” Sand said of his top two players. “Christian has been playing well and he’s definitely a stronger player than last year. But we all know that No. 1 is the best of the best from every school. He’s just got to go in with a good attitude and grind away and see what he can do.”

Mosher made the state semifinals at No. 2 singles last fall, losing to Mullen’s George Henry Hanzel, 7-6, 6-3, to eventually finish fourth. He played No. 3 singles as a sophomore, losing in the first round in three sets. He did not live in the area prior to his sophomore year.

Mosher will play Pueblo Central junior Jordan Rittgers in the first round on Friday morning.

“Overall, my draw is a lot easier than last season,” Mosher said. “I think I’ve had a pretty good season with only one loss. We’ve all been practicing a lot, so hopefully I can top myself this year.”

Aspen’s wildcard could be freshman Chase Kelly at No. 3 singles. The younger brother of Christian, Chase has yet to lose in his young high school career but will be facing the big stage that is state for the first time this weekend. He’ll face another freshman in the first round on Friday in Air Academy’s Noah Hellem.

“He’s had a great year. He had to battle really hard to earn that No. 3 spot,” Sand said of Chase. “Some really tough challenge matches early in the year, and he’s just really built on those close victories. He’s really consistent. Just a consistent player and smart player.”

Aspen’s No. 1 doubles team enters with a lot of experience as well with seniors Lukee Tralins and Bryce Cordts-Pearce. The duo played together at No. 4 doubles as freshmen, losing in the quarterfinals. They went their separate ways the next two seasons before reuniting in the top doubles spot this fall as seniors.

They will play the Riverdale Ridge pair of Peyton Miller and David DiGiorgio in the first round on Friday morning.

“Both have a lot of experience and have been to state pretty much their whole career,” Sand said of his No. 1 doubles team. “They are going in with some confidence. They played really well at regionals.”

After that, the experience drops off in a hurry for the Skiers. At No. 2 doubles, senior Dyer Hunting is paired with freshman Josh Ward. Hunting played at No. 4 doubles last fall, alongside Quinn McKie.

McKie, a junior, is at 3 doubles this fall, alongside sophomore Micky Terkun. At 4 doubles, it’s sophomore Alex Schlosser playing with senior Sebastian Pedinielly. Terkun, Schlosser and Pedinielly are all newcomers to the state tournament.

The complete brackets can be found at CHSAANow.com.

The Skiers enter state having won five of seven possible regional titles, so they have plenty of swag to lean on, not to mention six seniors. But, as most of those players know, the state tournament is a different animal.

“It’s nice to do well at regionals,” Sand said. “But we all know states is a bigger field and it’s the best teams.”

Basalt did not have any players qualify for the state tournament.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

New indoor, year-round, multi-sport academy is ready to open its doors

The turf is down. The weights are here. Even the website and Instagram are up and running. About the only thing left for Elite Performance Academy owners Tommy Cox and Amanda Trendell to do is get athletes inside their new facility and start grinding.

“We are excited to finally put it to use and get out on the field with athletes. We are pretty much itching to get behind the passion of the project,” Trendell said. “We can’t wait to get all the kids out on the field and work with them and provide them with a high level of training they maybe haven’t seen before.”

Cox and Trendell are both former Division I athletes from the East Coast who currently coach the Aspen High School boys and girls lacrosse teams, respectively. On Oct. 1, they will officially open the doors of Elite Performance Academy, a year-round, indoor sports training facility located just off Highway 82 near Carbondale.

With 5,000-square feet of turf, EPA will cater primarily to lacrosse and soccer at the start, but with hopes of expanding to other sports in the future.

“Right now lacrosse and soccer are kind of the heartbeat of what we know we can offer and deliver really high-level training on,” Trendell said. “We have partnerships in the works right now that we are really excited to move forward with. I think it’s just going to be an inclusive community space.”

On top of the turf space, which is surrounded by safety netting, EPA has a full compliment of equipment for weight training and cardio. They have everything a coach would need for practice, from balls to cones, can offer up nutrition advice for athletes and even have the ability to record practice sessions for technical analysis and to help students with recruiting videos.

The space is available for rent, whether for private training sessions, group practices or independent leagues.

“We are trying to make this elite,” Cox said. “The community really came together to help us build this. It showed us that what we are doing is meaningful to the community.”

The idea for the facility came from the mind of the late Michael Goerne, who founded the Aspen Lacrosse Club as well as the AHS boys lacrosse program, leading them to the 2015 state championship as its head coach.

Goerne died Feb. 16, 2019, in an avalanche while training for a backcountry ski race. Cox and Trendell inherited the idea of creating an indoor training facility, something sorely lacking in the Roaring Fork Valley, and set out to complete Goerne’s unrealized project.

One inside wall of the EPA facility has the phrase, “Do what you love, and do it often,” with a dedication to Goerne below.

EPA will have its grand opening this weekend. From 5 to 9 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, those who RSVP can tour the facility, win prizes and enjoy complimentary food and drink. The indoor turf will officially get its first athletes Oct. 1. All COVID-19 guidelines will be followed.

“The biggest thing we can say is, ‘We did it!’” Trendell said. “We sat down in June and decided to pull the trigger. We’ve had a lot of people in the community help us and we’re really thankful for that. Because without all of the people who have been here helping and putting in hours with us, this definitely wouldn’t be an Oct. 1 opening. So we are definitely excited that it was just a big team effort.”

For more on EPA and to RSVP for the grand opening, visit eliteperformanceacademyco.com. They can also be reached by phone at 970-963-5535 or email info@eliteperformanceacademyco.com and found on Instagram @epa970.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Pevny leads Aspen boys golf to regional championship, Basalt sends two to state

Last season, the Aspen High School boys golf team saw its 10-year reign as regional champion end when it finished as runner-up on its home course. Tuesday, the Skiers returned to the top when they took down host Basalt at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale to make it 11 regional titles in 12 years.

“Really great outcome. I feel terrible for the Basalt team. They had a very good season and they really struggled to come in on their home course. I know what that feels like,” AHS coach Mary Woulfe said. “Surprise isn’t the right word, because these kids have worked so hard. It’s just it was literally a team effort.”

Aspen junior Nic Pevny led the way, as he has all season, by shooting 1-over-par 73 to win the individual regional title by two strokes over Vail Christian’s Ross Anderson. Holy Family’s Jackson Grace was third with 76, followed by Vail Christian’s Connor Downey in fourth with 77.

Pevny is Aspen’s first regional champion since 2018, when Jack Hughes won it as a senior at Dos Rios in Gunnison. The Skiers won the Class 3A state championship that season at Boulder Country Club, the program’s lone team title. That team included then-junior Jack Pevny, Nic’s older brother.

“He’s just a joy to watch. He is just a steady kid. He knows the game. He is methodical. You can see him thinking through each shot,” BHS coach Joe Fries said of Nic Pevny. “I want to congratulate Aspen. What a gritty bunch of boys. Mary did a wonderful job with that team this year.”

Aspen shot a collective 236, while Vail Mountain School finished second with 241. Both teams qualified for the 3A state tournament, which is Oct. 5 and 6 at Dos Rios, meaning they’ll get to send all four players to Gunnison.

Just missing out as a team was Vail Christian, which finished third and only a shot back of VMS. Basalt, one of the pre-tournament favorites playing on its home course, shot 246 to finish fourth, a shot ahead of Holy Family in fifth. Gunnison and Moffat County tied for sixth.

The Longhorns still had two players qualify for state as individuals in freshman Garrett Exelbert and senior Tyler Sims. Exelbert tied for fifth with 78, while Sims tied for ninth with 81. Juniors Braden Exelbert and Kyle Murray both shot 87 to tie for 23rd, finishing just outside the qualifying cutoff.

Without a third golfer, this means BHS can’t compete for the team title in Gunnison.

“I’m so proud of Kyle and Braden, specifically, because they got better this year,” Fries said. “It just caught up to them. And I’m hoping they learned from this experience just the importance of one shot so that will help them next year.”

Aspen senior Jake Doyle shot 81 to tie for ninth, while senior teammate Andrew Vallone shot 82 to tie for 12th. Vallone was the team’s biggest surprise on the day, providing a strong third score that put the Skiers over the top. Senior Cole Kennedy was Aspen’s fourth player, shooting 86 to tie for 19th.

“That was amazing,” Doyle said of winning the regional title. “I don’t feel like anyone thought it was going to be us. Everyone thought it was going to be Basalt. But Nic played really well, and so did Andrew and even Cole.”

Despite being the youngest of the four, Pevny is the only AHS player among the regional squad who has been to state. As a sophomore last season, he tied for fourth at 8-over (75-77). He was the team’s sixth golfer and did not compete at state as a freshman when it won the state championship.

Pevny had another strong showing Tuesday, playing on a course he shot 65 at during a practice round last week. He had a handful of putts lip out on him at the regional, keeping him over par for the round, but was steady enough to hold off any challengers. He’s finished no worse than in a tie for first at each of his tournaments this season.

“Today was pretty good. The front nine, I just missed a couple of short putts, but hung in there and ended up getting the win, so that was good,” Pevny said. “It felt good to beat Basalt. They beat us in most tournaments this year, but we put together three pretty solid scores today, so that was good.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High football to stick with spring season, joining Basalt and Glenwood

The Aspen High School football team will stick with Season C, choosing to play in the spring despite a recent decision by the Colorado High School Activities Association to allow for fall play. AHS athletic director Martha Richards confirmed the decision late Sunday, ahead of CHSAA’s Monday morning deadline to declare.

The Skiers join a handful of other regional teams that also decided to play in the spring, such as Basalt, Roaring Fork, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Coal Ridge. Of the six Class 2A Western Slope League teams — a league that includes Aspen and Basalt — only Delta and Moffat County have opted to play this fall.

According to coloradopreps.com, “about 50 teams statewide have decided to play in the spring.”

CHSAA had previously said leagues — and possibly classifications — will be adjusted as needed to make each of the two seasons work, depending on what season teams opt for. For example, Colorado Preps’ Kevin Shaffer is predicting Delta and Moffat will join Alamosa, Bayfield and Pagosa Springs in a fall league.

In the six-team Class 3A Central West league, only Glenwood and Steamboat Springs opted for the spring. This leaves Battle Mountain, Eagle Valley, Palisade and Summit all playing in the fall.

A situation exists where 3A schools like Glenwood and Steamboat could join 2A schools like Aspen and Basalt in a spring league. Roaring Fork had planned to play in 1A this fall, before the coronavirus pandemic derailed the season.

For the majority of teams statewide planning to play this fall, practice will begin this coming Thursday and the first games can be played Oct. 8.

Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11. CHSAA has said it will have a state champion for both fall and spring seasons, and that teams can only play in one season or the other.

As of Monday night, CHSAA had not released the new schedule, further details on what either season’s new alignment will look like, or which schools had officially opted in or out for what season.

According to a report by The Denver Post, the “vast majority” of schools in the state opted to play this fall.

The new spring season, or Season C, will include boys soccer and girls volleyball, both traditional fall sports. Neither sport was given permission to play this fall.

Season D, which begins practice April 26, will be the traditional spring season. Season B, or the traditional winter season, begins practice Jan. 4.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen Country Day School reaches 50th year teaching students from Castle Creek campus

Had Tim Willoughby not grown up skiing in the Roaring Fork Valley, he may never have latched on with Aspen Country Day School. A newly licensed teacher, he didn’t exactly have much of a resume yet.

But, he could rip, and that actually meant a lot to the avant-garde institution.

“The best feature for me and for a lot of people in Country Day was the ski program, which was the other reason I got hired, because they needed a skier,” Willoughby said last week. “Because we didn’t have a gym or really any indoor space where you could even bounce a ball; P.E. in the winter was skiing. So two afternoons a week we skied at Aspen Highlands. I got in a lot of ski days, and so did the students.”

Willoughby, who now lives in California and continues to write a column for The Aspen Times, was there for the school’s early days. Aspen Country Day School opened its doors Sept. 8, 1970, making this year its 50th anniversary. Willoughby started working for the school midway through its second year of existence, the start of a 13-year run that saw him become assistant headmaster before he left.

When Country Day opened its doors that first year, it had 53 students from K-12. This fall, a half-century later, it has an official enrollment of 284 students from K-8.

“So much credit to those before me and others on campus,” said Josh Wolman, Country Day’s current head of school. “It started as a very small, family-run school and it’s become just a thriving, independent school. We feel we are in a good place right now.”

Aspen Country Day School, which is located off Castle Creek Road and shares a campus with the Aspen Music School, was founded by Carter Hall and his wife, Jamie, in 1969. Hall, who came to Aspen from New Orleans, died in 2011 at age 90. He also was Country Day’s first headmaster.

Hall’s original plan, according to Willoughby, had been to create several boarding schools near ski resorts. But after talking to the Aspen community, he found out the locals were more interested in a new elementary and middle school, so Aspen Country Day School opened its doors for everyone from kindergarten through high school. Today, the school only goes through eighth grade.

Among the school’s founding board members was Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins.

In the Sept. 8, 1970 dedication, Hall said the school was there “to provide a stable and understanding academic atmosphere,” according to a Sept. 10, 1970 article in The Aspen Times. “We are interested,” Hall continued, “in the development of a total person who will be able to fit productively and happily into any society.”

Willoughby said the school grew rapidly in its early days, beginning with those first 53 students. By the time Willoughby left Aspen Country Day School 13 years after his start, he said they had about 150 students.

While turnover among teachers was high at the time, the school also had many “wonderful characters,” according to Willoughby, such as longtime music teacher Al Moore, who presumably never owned a car and spent his summers hiking the Appalachian Trail.

“It’s wonderful to think it survived all those years and grew and got better and better,” Willoughby said. “You are starting fresh. You can create the atmosphere and the tenor and the traditions and all those things. You get to be a part of starting all of that, and that’s exciting.”

Today’s group of teachers includes many who have multiple decades at the school, including drama teacher Marci Sketch, who is in her 26th year at Country Day. Sketch, who was from Michigan, followed her then-boyfriend to Aspen for what was only to be a short visit before landing a job at the school and remains there to this day.

Her son, Tristan Niskanen, went to school at Country Day before graduating from Aspen High School in 2016. After graduating from Colgate this past spring, he landed his first full-time teaching job this fall at Country Day, where he teaches Spanish.

“You are going to leave there being pretty well-rounded. I sound like an ad, but it is an amazing, magical place. It really is,” Sketch said of what makes the school special. “There is going to be something to hook you in, no matter what kind of child you are. If you are into academics, the school definitely offers challenging academics. If you are into the outdoors, we have an abundance of outdoor opportunities. Even now in the pandemic, the kids have been out and about hiking, biking, climbing. And the arts are unparalleled, as well, because we work with amazing professionals.”

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been big plans to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary. As it stands, those celebrations are on hold until the situation improves and local health guidelines are relaxed.

Still, the current staff is finding joy enough in simply having the students back in the classroom. Prior to their first day Aug. 31, students hadn’t had in-person learning on campus since March 12. They’ve made it work this fall by keeping the age groups mostly separate and having the students remain in one classroom while having the teachers move between cohorts.

“We all hope for that,” Wolman said of being able to celebrate the school’s 50th anniversary sometime this year. “The two main goals of the year are the health and safety of our faculty and students, and in-person learning. We are in a good position right now and watching kids come back to school after being out for six months, ready to be on campus, was such a joy for all of us who work here.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com