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Chilson named new head basketball coach of Glenwood Springs High School

Following the departure of Glenwood Springs High School basketball coach Fred Heisel in May, the school announced on Wednesday that former assistant head coach and current head girls soccer coach Matt Chilson will take over the reins. 

After serving his eighth season as an assistant coach, where Chilson appeared alongside both Heisel and former head coach Cory Hitchcock, the newly-appointed head coach said he is grateful for this new opportunity.

“I’m excited to see what this team is capable of doing next season,” Chilson said. “It’s only an added benefit that I already have a relationship with these guys, and I think we are going to have the opportunity to only add to the success that these players have had in recent years.”

Growing up in Flint, Michigan, and attending college at Grace College in Winona Lake, Indiana, his knowledge of basketball has only come about after accepting a position with Glenwood Springs High School in 2015. After a number of years under both Heisel and Hitchcock, he said his knowledge has substantially grown while under the leadership of those before him.

“Coach Hitchcock really implemented energy and dedication to your craft, which is something that I have embedded in the girls (Glenwood High girls soccer team),” Chilson said. “With coach Heisel, it was always about more than the game and making sure that these kids were on a path that would do them good outside of the sport of basketball.”

A team that will be returning key contributor Sim Wegner, who led Glenwood Springs in points, blocks and rebounds en route to a Western Slope championship in 2022, Chilson knows this year’s squad will be ready for the task at hand.

“We have some great players and leaders who graduated a few weeks ago, but I think that the next group of seniors are ready to take on this next challenge,” he said. “This group of guys returning are prepared to take on that leadership role and get the job finished come this winter.”

Returning seven players who contributed during the 2022-23 season, he said his expectations stand tall.

“We have a lot of depth on this team which I think is something that we will be able to utilize this next season,” he said. “We had a good year last year, and I think everyone on this team is motivated to exceed the expectations that others have for ourselves.”

While the official Colorado High School Activities Association season is still a ways away, Chilson said the team has already begun preparing for what he hopes to be a great year.

tcramer@postindependent.com

Aspen Cycling Club results: Maroon Bells Time Trial from June 7, 2023

MAROON BELLS TIME TRIAL
From Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Men’s A

1—0:29:38—DENNY, Steve—Sante Cycling

2—0:29:59—KOSTER, Ryan

3—0:31:51—FRACKLETON, Riley

4—0:32:33—PLETCHER, Evan

5—0:32:40—HEATH, Liam—RFC Pinnacle Junior MTB Team

6—0:32:51—JACOBI, Kevin—Culver’s Glenwood Springs/Culver’s

7—0:34:23—SMITH, Larry—Waldorf School on the Roaring Fork

8—0:34:37—GREBENCHUK, Maksim—GrebenStar

Women’s A

1—0:35:13—PERCY, Megan

2—0:39:00—BERINO, Jenya

Men’s B

1—0:30:46—BROMBERG, Mike

2—0:32:19 FUNK, Adam—Meatballs

3—0:32:36 ADAMS, Casey—Basalt Bike & Ski

4—0:33:24—PURKENAS, Algirdas—Meatballs

5—0:34:35—NEWTON, Tyler—Hub of Aspen

6—0:34:44—CIBULSKY, John—Aspen Cycling Club

7—0:35:16—DAVIS, Brad

8—0:39:20—KIERNAN, Ryan

Men’s B 50+

DNS—ELLIOT, Simon

Women’s C

1—0:43:31—WIMMER, Maria—Basalt Bike & Ski

2—0:45:57—TAYLOR, Janis

3—0:51:34—CHANG, Melissa

DNS—BLASZAK, Megan—Inspire Women’s Cycling

Men’s C 

1—0:40:02—CHANG, Sean

2—0:48:55—MURPHY, Mark—Basalt Bike & Ski

3—0:48:58—CHILSON, Chip

Women 50+ 

1—0:43:30—SHAW, Sara—Limelight Hotels

Men 50+

1—0:38:47—TUCKER, Brad—Racer X/ColoBikeLaw

2—0:47:15—COOK, Miles—Modern Market Racing p/b GR Capital Partners

DNS—BOLONA, Rudy—Spectra

DNS—COLE, Jeffrey—Hub of Aspen

Men 60+ 

1—0:38:59—GIBANS, Jon—Basalt Bike & Ski

2—0:39:13—SMITH, Wade

3—0:41:35—SLIVA, Glenn—Basalt Bike & Ski

4—0:42:10—PAUSSA, Jim—Hub of Aspen

5—0:45:06—TRANTOW, George—Valley Ortho

DNS—SIRIANNI, Phil—Basalt Bike & Ski

Men 70+

1—0:42:19—HANDWERK, Jeff

2—0:45:40—OLENICK, Bob

3—0:47:36—OVEREYNDER, Phil—Limelight Hotels

4—0:48:38—ADAMSON, John—Twisted Spokes Racing

5—0:50:27—CROSS, Ed—Limelight Hotels

6—0:50:48—FRANCIS, Peter

7—1:02:00—GRICE, John

High School Boys

1—0:39:21—KLIKA, Riggs W.

Race Marshals: Maxwell Rispoli, Steve Lyons, Phil Sirianni, Larry Jones, Dyke Shaw, Markus Dewire

Results may also be viewed at www.aspencyclingclub.org. Questions about results should be directed to results@aspencyclingclub.org.

Big rafting season along Colorado, Roaring Fork rivers after strong winter

Following a big winter, the rafting season has shaped into prime condition for those looking to get out onto the water.

The spring season’s runoff has been among the highest some observers have seen since the 1980s.

Defiance Rafting owner Gregory Cowan said this year’s conditions are more than he could ask for. 

“It’s been a wonderful start to the season,” he said. “The weather broke at the right time when we started at the beginning of May, and it has made it possible for any level rafter to have the opportunity to enjoy the waters.”

The run-off has provided rafters and kayakers the soothing waters and fierce rapids that have made Glenwood Springs and the rest of the Roaring Fork Valley a staple for thrill-seekers and even-tempered explorers alike.

The region saw up to a 200% increase in median snowpack, according to the U.S.Natural Resources Conservation Service.

With a statewide drought that has lasted decades, Middle Colorado Watershed Council Executive Director Paula Stepp said this year’s water levels could very well be considered an anomaly.

“I have lived in this valley a long time, and I haven’t seen these types of water levels since the ’80s,” she said. “Having a great year is amazing to see, but by no means does it mean that this drought is over.”

Glenwood Adventure Company CEO Ken Murphy said that this year will be long season for those looking to indulge in whitewater rafting.

“What has made Glenwood Springs so popular for whitewater rafting is the variety that those looking to participate have been given,” he said. “With these high water levels, we are looking at having a good chance at having a longer season for people to enjoy this community’s waters, but it really depends on how the rest of the summer season shapes out.”

While this rafting season looks promising, he said, there are not promises.

“It’s a contemplating industry,” he said. “Mother Nature is our boss during the summer season, and so we have to hope everything goes in our favor for the continuation of this season.”

For more information: raftdefiance.com or glenwoodadventure.com.

Colorado sit skier Trevor Kennison finds redemption in ‘Full Circle’ documentary

In 2014, at the age of 22, Trevor Kennison hit a 40-foot jump in the backcountry near Vail Pass, went sideways and landed on his back, paralyzing him from the waist down.

He said ultimately, the accident changed his life for the better.

“You can look at an event like this negatively or positively,” said Kennison. “I took everything learned from playing sports and turned it into ‘How quick can I get into my wheelchair?’ ‘How quick can I learn how to go to the bathroom and shower?’ ‘How quick can I learn to ski again?’ I realized that if I wasn’t going to do it, no one’s going to do this for me. I really took that as motivation. This a new life. I knew that there would be challenges, and I accepted them.”

Six years later, he executed a double back flip at the exact spot of his accident. The feature length documentary film, “Full Circle: A Story of Post Traumatic Growth,” directed by Josh Berman and produced by Denver based Level 1 Production, documents that journey.

“Full Circle” is kicking off Carbondale-based 5Point Film’s Summer Film Series with two screenings: Tuesday at the Wheeler Opera House, and Wednesday at TACAW. Kennison will be at both events, which will include a Q&A after the film.

“Full Circle,” Trevor Kennison at Corbet’s Couloir.
Level 1 Production/Courtesy photo

Kennison, originally from New Hampshire, grew up a gifted all-around athlete and fell in love with Colorado when he was 12 on a family road trip across the Western states, which he called “the best experience of his life.” That trip, and the fact that his sister was living in the Roaring Fork Valley, inspired him to move to Avon when he was 21. Less than a year later, his life would change dramatically.

He said the first year after the accident was tough. After months at Denver’s Craig Hospital, he returned to New Hampshire and stayed with a friend, who took him in and let him sleep on the couch. But with the bathroom on the second floor, it wasn’t a long-term situation.

He credits his his sister and brother-in-law, Ashley and Thomas Caruso, who lived in Snowmass, for getting him to a better place.

“They took me out for my first runs and got me involved with Challenge Aspen and other organizations, which was really cool,” he said. “But the first time was hard. After trying a few times, I finally got on a run, and I’m going down and going down and I’m just gripping the outriggers so hard, I couldn’t feel my forearms. And from there I was hooked. I was living in Aspen, and I was skiing Snowmass and Highlands with my brother-in-law snowboarding behind me every single day. That is why I became the sit skier I am today, because he gave me the confidence that I can try this and if I fall, he’s going to pick me up. For him to do that and watch me progress was just the best thing ever.”

Behind the scenes of the filming of “Full Circle.”
Level 1 Production/Courtesy photo

The film has been in the works since before the lockdowns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which Kennison called a blessing in disguise. When he initially approached Director Josh Berman about the project, the idea was to produce a three-part limited docuseries leading up to his attempt at the double back flip. But the pandemic gave the filmmakers time to flesh out a more robust story and connect Kinneson’s story with one that happened 50 years earlier.

“Full Circle” follows Trevor on his path of post-traumatic growth and concurrently the story of pioneer climber and extreme skier Barry Corbet, who became a paraplegic after a 1968 helicopter crash in Aspen.

“Full Circle,” Barry Corbet filming at Craig Hospital in Denver.
Level 1 Production/Courtesy photo

Though 50 years apart, their stories mirror each other with common locations and themes — injuries in the Colorado backcountry, rehab at Craig Hospital, fame in Jackson Hole. But they also share a resiliency of spirit and refusal to let their love of life to be diminished by their injuries. It’s ultimately a film about hope and not only surviving, but thriving through life’s most difficult challenges.

For Kennison who is just shy of his 31st birthday, he is grateful to be where he is today and said that not being afraid to ask for and accept help, as well as taking care of his mental health, ultimately got him through the dark days.

“I don’t care if you’re disabled or able bodied, it’s just so important to work on your mental health. This injury so physical, but at the same time with a spinal cord injury, it’s also such a mental battle,” he said.

“What do I want audiences to take away? If someone is struggling or going through anything difficult, I just want to give them some hope. I went back and got redemption. And I am just so thankful for everyone that helped me get to where I am and for what’s to come. I can’t wait for people to see this movie. It’s going to change so many lives.”

“Full Circle.” Trevor Kennison Vail Pass jump.
Level 1 Production/Courtesy photo
If you go…

What: 5Point Summer Film Series Presents “Full Circle.”
Where: Wheeler Opera House and TACAW.
When: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. (Wheeler) and Wednesday 7:30 p.m. (TACAW)
More info and tickets: https://5pointfilm.org/

Aspen girls golf ties for second at 3A championship led by Persson, O’Sullivan

Playing in the final group of the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Wednesday, Lenna Persson finally discovered the nerves that had been absent two days earlier in her practice round at Aspen Golf Club.

When her final putt found the bottom of the cup on the 18th green — which was surrounded by people watching the finish — the Aspen High School sophomore felt the intensity of the day wash over her.

“I was shaking on the last green. I was just trying to focus on breathing. That’s why I kind of broke down at the end because it was just so much adrenaline,” she said. “It was terrifying, to be honest. Not playing with those girls — I’ve played with those girls my whole life, and they are both super sweet. So that wasn’t stressful. It was just so stressful realizing one putt could cause us second place, cause us the state title or something, and that was just so nerve-racking.”

Despite those nerves, she and her teammates weathered the storm that is the state championship and ended the day tied with Peak to Peak as the 3A runner-up — by far the best team finish in program history for AHS girls golf.

The Skiers entered the second and final round tied atop the leaderboard with powerhouse St. Mary’s Academy, but the Wildcats and their junior superstar Maddy Bante played near to perfection over the final 18 holes and cruised to the state title. It is the third straight championship for St. Mary’s, while Bante rolled to her second straight individual crown.

“Sometimes you can’t see what is possible without literally seeing it. She experienced it, and she hung in,” AHS coach Shannon Day said of Persson playing alongside someone like Bante. “I want to see Brooke and Lenna moving around that course like she does. And they can. And they will.”

Bante shot 2-under-par 69 on Wednesday — the only player either day to shoot under par — and 143 for the 36 holes to beat runner-up Noelle Thompson of Peak to Peak by 11 strokes. Salida’s Kyndra Johnson was third with 163, and Persson finished fourth with 164 — a full 21 strokes behind Bante. Prospect Ridge’s Hope Torres was fifth with 168, and AHS junior Brooke O’Sullivan came in sixth with 169.

O’Sullivan shot 84-85 over the two days, while Persson had rounds of 79 and 85 on their home course. AHS sophomore Audrey Woodrow was the team’s third scorer, shooting 199 (100-99) to tie for 30th, and sophomore Madison Nelson shot 227 (110-117) to tie for 57th place.

The Aspen High School girls golf team and coaches pose with the trophy after tying for second place at the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Wednesday at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“There are a lot of added pressures with having it at home and higher expectations with yourself because you know you can shoot just over par on this course and any other day of the week,” O’Sullivan said. “When you don’t do that, it’s definitely frustrating. But being in an atmosphere of this level is definitely good for us.”

Fact is, these Aspen golfers are young. Three of the four state players were sophomores, and then there is O’Sullivan, the junior. Day said she was happy the Skiers got to experience state at home this season as opposed to maybe next season, as it’s easier to focus on golf when playing on the road.

But the experience the Skiers gained this spring could be invaluable going forward.

“They did their job, and they really persevered, and that’s all you can do. It’s all about the next shot in golf. It’s all about recovery, and I saw so many amazing recovery shots,” Day said. “They had all this support, and they know how much people love them, and they know how much people want them to do well, and then they get another year. That’s fun.”

Aspen and Peak to Peak both shot a collective 532 for the two days to finish in the second-place tie. St. Mary’s Academy finished at 521, beating Aspen by 11 strokes in the second round to pull away for another state championship. Prospect Ridge finished fourth with 543.

“I was kind of hoping to play a little bit better,” O’Sullivan said. “But Lenna brings up a great point: Even if we did shoot our best scores, we are not at the level of under-par players, and that’s OK. But I think it was a successful journey the past three days. Although all of us might not have played to the level we could have, we took a lot of lessons from it.”

Simply hosting the state championship was a big deal for the Aspen program. Day said the Colorado High School Activities Association reached out to teams prior to the season about hosting state, and the Skiers, led by Athletic Director John Castrese and Day, decided to jump on the opportunity.

Coming away from the tournament with a big trophy wasn’t unfathomable for the Aspen golfers, but it was something the program had never done before. Day said she did talk to the players prior to saying yes to hosting state, as she knew there would be this added pressure of being the home team.

“You go through it in your mind over and over, ‘What’s going to happen? What’s going to happen?’ I’m overwhelmed. It’s certainly something I 100% knew we were capable of,” she said. “I don’t think they are just celebrities amongst young people; they are celebrities amongst this whole golf community, which is a big community. It’s really special.”

One reason Day wanted to host state was to shine a spotlight on girls golf in the Roaring Fork Valley, which suddenly has a very bright future. Persson and O’Sullivan, especially, wanted to thank a long list of people for making the event possible, from local pro Dede Cusimano, who runs her own academy through Aspen Golf Club, to parents, coaches, and the teachers.

And like Day, Persson hopes their success can not only be a springboard for the program, but also a launching pad to get more girls involved in the sport for the long haul.

“I’m so grateful for everyone who supports us. It’s so exciting to have this here because Brooke and I grew up through junior golf, and there are not that many girls who continue on to play high school golf,” Persson said. “I feel like us doing this well might be an alleyway for more female golfers in this valley, which is a really exciting thing to think we could make an impact on that.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Persson, O’Sullivan lead AHS girls golf into thick of Day 1 championship hunt

By their standards, the first round of the Class 3A state championship on Tuesday didn’t go as well as it could have for the girls of the Aspen High School golf team.

Sure, Aspen Golf Club can be challenging, but the Skiers knew that coming in and maybe had higher expectations than most, considering they are hosting the tournament in their own backyard.

So, to be tied as a team for first place at the midway point of the 36-hole affair came as a surprise. Just maybe not too surprising.

“Not totally surprising but a little surprising,” Aspen girls golf coach Shannon Day said. “They were probably a little surprised because they didn’t feel as good as it looks, but I was so proud of them. There is nothing I have other than pride.”

This is a program that was happy just to be able to field a four-person team only a few years ago. Now, it’s knocking on the door of a first state championship, and it could come on Wednesday on its home course.

After 18 holes on Tuesday, Aspen finished with a three-player score of 263 (50-over par) and is tied with two-time defending state champion St. Mary’s Academy for the top spot.

“It is really exciting,” sophomore Lenna Persson said. “It’s still really exciting because there are not that many low scores out there today, because Aspen is a hard course. There are tough greens, lots of balls lipping out and just burning the edges. Honestly, I’m really happy with how everyone played today. We know we can do better, and that’s an exciting feeling.”

Persson, the team’s two-time regional champion and burgeoning star, led the Skiers by shooting an 8-over 79 and finds herself in solo third place entering the final round. Junior Maddy Bante, the defending individual state champ from St. Mary’s Academy, shot 74 and holds a four-stroke lead over Peak to Peak senior Noelle Thompson (78) and sits five shots ahead of Persson.

Aspen High School junior Brooke O’Sullivan putts on the back nine during the first round of the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Tuesday at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Like so many on Tuesday, Bante struggled early, shooting 39 on the front nine. But she finished on a heater, going bogey-free over the final eight holes to shoot 35 on the back nine.

Persson played alongside Bante on Tuesday — Rye’s Emma Garcia (94, T18) rounded out the lead threesome — and she’ll do the same on Wednesday, where Persson said she will need to find more consistency to make up the five-stroke deficit.

“It was kind of hard on the back nine, to be honest,” Persson said, noting the fast greens and gusty winds players had to battle through on Tuesday. “I’m happy with it. It was kind of inconsistent. I had some lucky breaks, but then I also had some good shots, and then I also had some unlucky things going on. So I’m happy with how it turned out.”

Not too far back of the front group is Aspen junior Brooke O’Sullivan, who shot 84 and sits in fifth place among the 84-player field. Salida’s Kyndra Johnson shot 80 and holds down fourth place.

Aspen High School sophomore Lenna Persson hits her tee shot on the par-3 17th during the first round of the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Tuesday at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Catching Bante may be too tall of a task for Persson, but she also plays far beyond her years, and according to Day, this will give her a chance come the final round.

“She’s always been really mature. … You saw the nerves, but not in the swing,” Day said. “Maybe some putts, but the whole field was nervous. In the first four or five holes, no one was doing much special. Then she got into her groove, and that is such a skill: to be able to get through the elements and push through.”

Critical to the Skiers being in the championship mix was getting a solid third score from either Audrey Woodrow or Madison Nelson, both sophomores. And both delivered, with Woodrow shooting an even 100 to end the round tied for 30th, and Nelson shot 110 to finish tied for 53rd place.

Woodrow, especially, probably left a few strokes out there, but it was more than enough for the Skiers to stay in contention.

“She is cool and collected and just keeps it together. It’s not her best, but she did her job,” Day said of Woodrow’s round. “We really had the home-field advantage. Golf is so weird. I know a lot of them didn’t feel good during the round, but that happens so often.”

Aspen High School junior Brooke O’Sullivan hits her approach shot on the 18th fairway during the first round of the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Tuesday at Aspen Golf Club.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

In third place as a team is Peak to Peak, four strokes back of leaders Aspen and St. Mary’s Academy. Prospect Ridge is in fourth place, 10 back of the co-leaders. The metrics — found via the CHSAA Golf app — had Peak to Peak as the top-ranked team in 3A entering the state tournament, followed by No. 2 Prospect Ridge, No. 3 Berthoud, and No. 4 Aspen. Berthoud was fifth after the first round, 11 back of the co-leaders.

For Persson, who after a calm practice round on Monday finally felt the nerves on the opening tee on Tuesday, says she needs to tighten up her short game, notably her chipping, to have a chance at making a run at Bante on Wednesday.

“It was really nerve-racking. There were so many people behind us. I was like, ‘OK, nice and easy right in the fairway.’ And I was happy. Starting on a par was a good way to start the day,” she said. “My chipping is usually a lot better than it was today. I had no up and downs, which I usually do, and chips I’m usually super confident on were either way too long or way too short. That wasn’t really like me.”

Cleaning up the small things will be key for all of Aspen’s players but so will handling the nerves. As the day wears on Wednesday, the intensity will likely ramp up, as well.

And for the Skiers, this is uncharted territory, although the boys golf team has made it commonplace in recent years, winning state titles in 2018 and 2021.

Now, the Aspen girls are 18 holes away from possibly adding to that legacy.

“You can’t change that,” Day said of the nerves. “That is not something you can control. The pressure is going to be there. But yeah, now I also think they and I have more confidence they can play under pressure. So, I don’t want to worry about it too much. We are there and we prepared, and it’s going to be fun.”

The Round 2 pairings, released late on Tuesday, have Nelson teeing off at 9:30 a.m. from the 10th hole. The other three Skiers will start from hole No. 1, beginning with Woodrow, also at 9:30. O’Sullivan will tee off at 11 a.m. in the second-to-last group to get on course, alongside Prospect Ridge’s Hope Torres and Salida’s Johnson.

The leaders will be the final to tee off from the first hole around 11:10 a.m., a threesome that includes Persson, Bante, and Thompson.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Rivers unforgiving during run-off; second death in only two weeks for the region

A week after a rafter from Vail died in Glenwood Canyon, the body of longtime Aspen and Snowmass resident Tony Welgos, 73, was found Monday in the Roaring Fork River near Basalt’s Lazy Glen neighborhood.

“We got the 911 call of a person in the water with jeans and sweatshirt,” said Scott Thompson, chief of Roaring Fork Fire Rescue. “All we got from the beginning was there were sightings of him in the water, so we set up to do a contact rescue near the bridge on Highway 82 and Lazy Glen.”

The Roaring Fork Fire Rescue team was able to recover the body with the assistance of Aspen Fire, Aspen Ambulance, and Carbondale Fire. 

“We tried CPR for a considerable amount of time, especially in cold water scenarios, but we were unsuccessful.” Thompson added, “People need to be very careful this time of year. Rivers are full and moving swiftly. The river is unforgiving, and unless you are prepared to be in the swift water, you should not be out there. Do anything possible to not be on the water.” 

He suggested using a professional guide service with noted rafting experience.

“No one should be there in river in a tube or a small inflatable raft that is not made for handling swift water. Right now is a dangerous time of the year. People need to make informed decisions.” 

Close call for a waterman

Paul Meyers knows well the dangers of spring runoff. He nearly died rafting through Shoshone Rapids on the Colorado River.

Paul Meyers doing what he loves: fly-fishing via boat in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

He has been rafting and fly-fishing in the Roaring Fork Valley since 1992. For over three decades, he has typically used a 12-foot raft, solo paddling, often with family and friends aboard. He’ll usually complete 25 to 30 raft trips a year on the Colorado, Green, and Roaring Fork rivers.

However, it was his first trip on the Colorado River in a raft in Class III rapids that nearly took his life in spring 2004.

“I was overconfident. I missed a paddle stroke on Shoshone Rapids and got flipped by a wave. I missed the stroke because I hit air and not water and didn’t get the boat turned into the wave and over,” said Meyers.

First, he swam for the boat. Then he changed his mind and swam for his wife, Joy, who was also in the water. She made it 100 yards down the river and was able to climb out. Meyers and his wife were luckily both in approved personal flotation devices, which aided in their survival, thus far. 

“Where I landed, there are pretty big rocks for erosion control, and it took me a few tries to get the correct rock to grab myself and get out of the water,” he said. “We gathered up what gear we could and had approximately a mile walk on the bike path back to Grizzly Creek park-and-ride.”

Before the he got to the parking lot, he started having chest pains. And then it got worse. 

“Somebody who saw the accident was also parked at Grizzly Creek and helped me to her pickup truck. She was trying to keep me calm and telling me to breathe.”

Another person near the accident saw the Meyer’s boat floating downriver upside down and had called 911, who dispatched an ambulance.

“Without that very quick response, I would not have made it,” said Meyers.

The rescue responders arrived, and he ended up going into cardiac arrest and had to be resuscitated in the ambulance — and a couple more times en route to the hospital. 

“Contributing to my survival was the fact that Valley View Hospital has just opened a cardiac catheterization lab with more high-tech instruments to diagnose patients,” he said. “They immediately started a stint.”

A year before the incident, Meyers had a mild heart attack and stent inserted. This stint would later fail because of a blood clot caused by the cold river water. 

Their raft was recovered in West Glenwood Springs, about six miles down the river.

Oh, he also broke his knee in the snowmelt-swelled rapids that spring day.

Today, he is much more vigilant and cautious about spring runoff. He’s been out five times thus far this year but only the Green River, as well and the Roaring Fork River between Carbondale and Glenwood — not through Glenwood Canyon, certainly not Shoshone Rapids.

“I’m not doing that rapid anymore. I’ve only done it once since the accident,” said Meyers.

On Tuesday, at the Roaring Fork River put-in at the Carbondale Bridge.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

How fast are the rivers moving?

River flow is measured in cubic feet per second (cfs). That is how river enthusiasts determine the level of hazard and speed of the river.

“We haven’t hit peak flows in most rivers yet this summer,” said Ken Murphy, owner of Glenwood Adventure Company in Glenwood Springs.

He also owns Lakota Guides, a commercial whitewater rafting company based out of Vail and Colorado Rafting Adventures in Buena Vista. Murphy, although an Ireland native, has been on the rivers of Colorado since 1996 and has owned Glenwood Adventure Company for 13 years.

“Mother Nature is going to dictate when we hit peak, and we haven’t had the warm evenings combined with the warm days to really send the flows into higher numbers,” he said.

The Roaring Fork River and Crystal River aren’t controlled as much as many other rivers. The Roaring Fork upstream of Aspen does have the Lincoln Creek Connection Canal southeast that diverts water from Lost Man Tunnel No. 2 to Grizzly Reservoir. The Crystal River is largely free flowing and the subject of possible wild and scenic river designation.

“Vegetation is now an obstacle, the banks are more unstable, the river can take items from the banks and push them into the river and downstream. Every day can be different as the water rises and falls during this time of the year,” Murphy said.

He recommended that if private boaters have questions or concerns on river conditions, they should call commercial outfitters and ask about the conditions, as the pros are out there daily.

“Some of these commercial outfitters have guides with years of experience on certain stretches of the river with plenty of history and knowledge they can pass on,” he said.

He said the water’s been higher than it is now.

“I’ve seen higher flows in lower snow years due to a quick warmup with warm evenings. It’s all how it melts, and what’s released. If we have plenty of sun with warm nights, it can come down faster.”

Murphy recalled years when Shoshone Rapids in Glenwood Canyon was running at 16,000 to 17,000 cfs in lesser snowpack years. On Tuesday, Shoshone Rapids was at 6,700 cfs. 

“We don’t run certain areas when it gets over a certain cfs, and we always factor in the guests’ age, weight, and physical ability when deciding on the best adventure that suits their group’s wide range of abilities. Outfitters have staff on hand to help you choose the best trip for your group. When one area may get too high, there are always other options here, and that’s what makes this area such a popular rafting destination both privately and commercially,” he said.

Hypothermia can easily consume river enthusiasts, as Meyers can attest. River water is snowmelt — and so cold, very cold.

“You need to be wearing the proper attire for the conditions and an approved personal flotation device,” Murphy said. 

Multiple families enjoy a warm and much calmer Labor Day in 2022.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

The rise in private boats on the river

River traffic has surged over the past decade with private boat ownership, and many new owners who hadn’t experienced high run-off like this.

“We now have many more private craft on the water, and many of these water recreationists haven’t seen flows this high before. Things are moving so much faster, and you have to make decisions much faster. The set-up needs to be earlier as you prepare for the obstacle ahead much earlier than in years past,” said Murphy.

“There’s absolutely a rise in private boats,” Meyers said. “It’s crazy. The parking at the boat ramps is tight, and they are in terrible shape.”

Parking lots and boat launches along the Roaring Fork can feel a bit like frat parties on the weekends throughout summer with pressure to get loaded and unloaded quickly with boat congestion.

“Fortunately, everyone cooperates and helps each other, preventing it from being chaos,” he said. 

“It’s a bigger water year. It’s a great year, and those who love the water and are experienced are going to have a blast. I’m afraid there are some people that shouldn’t be on the water,” Chief Thompson said.

Aspen City Councilman Sam Rose last week noted the danger upstream from the city: “Devil’s Punchbowl is a swimming hole up by Independence Pass, and it feels like every year someone dies from going in it while the water level is too high,” he said. “I mentioned it because it is a high-water year, and someone just died in Glenwood Canyon rafting, so I believe vigilance is important as we get excited about summer.”

Vail resident Nick Courtens, 34, died Sunday, May 21, in a paddling accident in Glenwood Canyon. Garfield County authorities said he was wearing a personal flotation device and a helmet while rafting with a group of five people, in two rafts. Between the Shoshone power plant and Grizzly Creek, two people went into the river from one of the rafts while navigating a rapid. Other members of the group were able to get both of them to shore and begin CPR. Unfortunately, only one of the men responded.

Everyone, including Fido, needs a certified PFD on the water, authorities say.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

Colleen Pennington, Glenwood Canyon manager for the White River National Forest, said: “Hazards can change day-by-day, including debris and tree snags that can trap people underwater and puncture rafts, dangerous currents, and cold-water temperatures that can create dangerous situations for even strong swimmers.”

Garfield County Emergency Manager Chris Bornholdt said: “Water levels are predicted to come up even more in the next couple weeks and stay at a high level for over a month. River safety should be our biggest concern right now. Navigating the river is tricky under normal conditions, and when you add three-four times the amount of water and speed, things can happen really fast.”

Hours later on the Roaring Fork, rescuers had a happier outcome with a rescue downstream at Willits near the Basalt Business Center.

Albert Blanc to lead Roaring Fork High School girls basketball program

Early last week, Roaring Fork High School Athletics Director Crista Barlow announced that the Rams have hired veteran Front Range coach Albert Blanc to guide the girls basketball team at the school. He replaces Juan Quintero, who coached the Rams the past four seasons.

Though he amassed most of his 650-plus wins at Eastern Slope schools such as Falcon, Pueblo East, Discovery Canyon and Swink, Blanc is no stranger to the Western Slope of Colorado, having made coaching stops at Delta and Rifle, also.

Blanc, a 1966 Glenwood Springs High School graduate, was a two-year all-conference and all-state player for coach Bob Chavez. Following high school, he went on to play collegiately at then Western State College in Gunnison. He served as a student teacher and freshman basketball coach at Glenwood in 1976.

Blanc won a state championship at 2A Swink in 1996 and was inducted into the Colorado High School Activities Association Hall of Fame in 2018. He ranks fourth on the list of all-time coaching victories in Colorado behind only Rudy Carey (Denver East), Dick Katte (Denver Christian), and Ken Shaw (Regis Jesuit).

Blanc will inherit a team coming off a 6-14 campaign in 2022-23, but he sees a great deal of potential in the many young players the Rams currently have on the roster, as well as a talented group of incoming freshmen.

“This job means a lot to me,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Colorado Springs. “I get an opportunity to work with a group of quality young people and to try and bring back the hope and spirit of the Roaring Fork girls basketball program. It all starts with hard work, defense, rebounding and the classroom. That’s what it’s all about.”

Blanc will be introduced to the Roaring Fork basketball community at a meet-and-greet this Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the school gymnasium. Parents and prospective players are encouraged to attend.

With state golf in Aspen, AHS girls see opportunity to showcase rising program

Arguably the two most important rounds in the history of the Aspen High School girls golf program have arrived and it feels as if the Skiers have already won.

Long a team that was nothing more than an afterthought during the spring, AHS girls golf is suddenly thriving and now is set to host the Class 3A girls golf state championship on Tuesday and Wednesday at Aspen Golf Club.

“I think I’m feeling it. I don’t know if I am completely aware of how big a thing this is,” coach Shannon Day said after Monday’s official practice round. “Something happens at some age with junior golf where boys just keep playing and not a lot of girls do. I think for young girls who are in junior golf or even just thinking about golf or their dads golf or their moms golf, to see some high school girls competing at state at this level, I think it’s huge for the program. I haven’t made this program what it is. Brooke and Lenna have.”

Day (formerly Worth) is in her third season as the team’s head coach, having previously served as an assistant under Martha Richards, the former athletic director who returned to college coaching at the University of Denver.

In Day’s short tenure, AHS girls golf has undergone a complete transformation. That journey began under Richards, who in 2019 qualified three players — Zoe Guthrie, Avery Hirsch and Hailey Higdon — allowing the Skiers to compete as a team at state for the first time in program history.

And key to the Skiers’ most recent jump forward has been the emergence of junior Brooke O’Sullivan and sophomore Lenna Persson, who could have Aspen in the mix this week in the state tournament.

“I don’t feel it now, either, but there will be a lot of nerves tomorrow,” Persson said after Monday’s practice round, mirroring a feeling felt by O’Sullivan. “We qualified as a team and we qualified first as a team, so we already did something amazing this season. If that’s how it will end up, that’s really exciting, too. But, obviously, I’m going to go out there and play to the best of my ability, and I’m really excited for the next couple of days.”

Two years ago, it was O’Sullivan who emerged as a freshman and gave the program a young star to build around. She ultimately finished 10th at the 3A tournament that spring at Elmwood Golf Course.

However, she would miss the entirety of her sophomore golf season after a knee injury suffered playing basketball during the winter. She did heal in time for a busy summer of playing golf, but has battled through an up-and-down junior campaign.

O’Sullivan shot 84 and tied for fifth place at the regional tournament last week at Yampa Valley Golf Course.

Aspen High School’s Brooke O’Sullivan lines up a putt during a practice round on Monday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“This season honestly hasn’t been that great for me. I definitely haven’t been shooting the scores I know I’m capable of shooting,” O’Sullivan admitted. “I don’t think the nerves have hit me yet. It doesn’t feel like I’m practicing for state. When you travel somewhere else, it’s definitely more surreal because it took time to get there.”

Monday’s practice round certainly didn’t have that championship vibe, but that should change Tuesday when the full fanfare of the tournament kicks in. For the Aspen golfers, Monday felt oddly normal as they were able to casually roll out of bed and onto the course for a rather calm round of golf.

Tuesday morning will be about turning on that competitive fire, something that may naturally come easier for golfers when they are playing on a course far from home.

“I get a little superstitious and I try to keep things consistent, for the most part, just in morning routines and night routines. Sometimes it gets a little bit excessive,” Persson said, to O’Sullivan’s amusement. “I’m happy with how I’m playing. I spent a lot of time on the range this past weekend and I feel confident in what I’m doing. That makes me feel a sense of calmness.”

With O’Sullivan out with injury last spring, it was Persson, then a freshman, who filled the void. She surprised many by winning the regional tournament in Alamosa, then finished 12th in the state tournament at The Broadlands.

Last week, Persson repeated as regional champion by winning at Yampa Valley and now eyes a top-10 finish, if not better, this week in Aspen.

“She is so locked in right now. She has the potential to do anything she wants,” Day said of Persson. “She is a player and has her priorities straight. She makes it work. There are no excuses. She is just a straight shooter and a student-athlete, truly.”

This week at Aspen Golf Club will be the first time the team’s star duo will play together at the state championship. Persson is part of the very first group off of the No. 1 tee at 9 a.m. Tuesday, alongside Rye’s Emma Garcia and St. Mary’s Academy superstar Maddy Bante.

O’Sullivan is in the next group, teeing off at 9:10 a.m., alongside Rye’s Olivia Donlon and St. Mary’s Academy’s Reese Brown. Tee times and pairings for the second and final round on Wednesday are dependent on results from Tuesday.

“She has all the same potential,” Day said of O’Sullivan, comparing her to Persson. “She does have high expectations for herself, and I think she should. That’s a good thing. She has one of the best swings you’ve ever seen. They all can do it.”

Aspen High School sophomore Lenna Persson looks back toward her teammates after finishing a practice round on Monday at Aspen Golf Club. She’ll be in the first group to tee off at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

For winning the regional tournament in Craig, the Skiers do have a full foursome teeing off this week in Aspen. Sophomore Audrey Woodrow tees off in the third group off the first hole at 9:20 a.m., while sophomore Madison Nelson is in the fourth group that tees off at 9:30 a.m.

The team score comes from the combined scores of the top three players — meaning team’s with a roster of four can drop their lowest score — so key to Aspen’s success as a group could be how Woodrow and Nelson shoot behind O’Sullivan and Persson.

While Nelson is a first-time state qualifier, Woodrow is returning for the second time. She finished 54th at The Broadlands last spring as a freshman.

“She is so consistent and also mentally very mature and makes really good decisions on the course and knows how to score. We need her, and we need Madison,” Day said of Woodrow. “(Nelson) could be the third score. She has that potential, too. That’s why it’s so fun. It’s really a team effort.”

According to the CHSAA Golf rankings through iWanamaker, the Skiers enter the state tournament ranked No. 4 in 3A behind No. 3 Berthoud, No. 2 Prospect Ridge and No. 1 Peak to Peak. Individually, Persson comes in ranked No. 5 and O’Sullivan No. 7, with St. Mary’s Bante at the top of the list.

St. Mary’s Academy won the 3A title last spring — they also won it all in 2021 — cruising by 43 strokes over runner-up Prospect Ridge. With only two golfers, Aspen High School did not record a team score last season. Bante is the reigning individual 3A state champion, having shot 71-73 to win by two strokes over Peak to Peak’s Noelle Thompson last spring at The Broadlands.

Regardless of where Aspen ends up on the scoreboard this week, even the younger players like Persson realize that by hosting state golf for the first time, it really puts the program on the map and has the potential to elevate girls golf in the Roaring Fork Valley.

So, it’s kind of a no-lose situation for the Skiers.

“I’m sure it felt a little different, and they feel what is happening,” Day said of the growing championship vibe after Monday’s practice round. “It is a big deal. But they are also loose and relaxed and they are ready. It’s fun. We are in the mix, which is fun. We are not expected to do something crazy, and we could. We’ll see what happens.”

The public is allowed to walk the golf course during both rounds Tuesday and Wednesday. Talking to players during play, which may be construed as giving advice, is not allowed.

The two-day, 36-hole tournament is scheduled to conclude Wednesday late afternoon with the awards ceremony.

“It seems like in girls sports and in smaller sports, we don’t get as much attention and not enough people care about us,” Persson said of Aspen hosting the state championship. “But this makes it seem like more people care.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Coal Ridge baseball knocked out of state tournament following bracket play

Following a 25-0 season that saw the Coal Ridge High baseball team earn the No. 4 seed in the Class 3A state playoffs, the team dropped two of three games during the course of the weekend to conclude its season.

In a matchup against No. 5 Montezuma-Cortez on Friday, the Titans tallied their first loss of the season following an 11-2 defeat. Watching the game slip away early, Montezuma-Cortez scored eight runs in the first three innings to maintain a lead that Coal Ridge didn’t recover from. 

Sophomore Ben Simons led Coal Ridge during Friday’s bout with two hits in three at bats.

Following a number of lightning delays throughout the course of the weekend, the Titans returned to the field Saturday in the tournament’s consolation bracket with another chance to keep their title hopes alive. In a matchup against No. 25-ranked Peak to Peak, Coal Ridge was able to re-spark the winning flame that saw them outscore opponents 313-59 during the course of their undefeated regular season.

Raking in eight runs in the first inning, senior Brandon Short and junior Logan Simpson led the titans with two hits each. Junior Alexis Serna found home plate twice during the matchup as the Titans advanced to the second round of consolation play following a 14-4 victory.

With play originally slated for Saturday afternoon but postponed till Sunday morning due to weather conditions, the Titans looked to keep the momentum in a win-or-go-home matchup against University.

Only tallying two hits throughout the course of the game, University’s pitching was too much for the Titans, who collected their second loss in three days in what ended in a 10-0 loss for Coal Ridge. 

University scored seven runs in the first three innings and never looked back, eliminating Coal Ridge from contention and putting an end to the school’s impressive season.

Finishing with a 26-2 record and only graduating senior Brandon Short, the Otero Junior College pledge knows what the team is capable of doing come next season.

“We’re a young team that was able to walk away with a lot of positives this year,” Short said. “We weren’t able to reach our end goal this year, but I know these guys are going to continue to grow and improve and they will be a dangerous team next season.”

With Serna, Simpson and Cameron Austin slated for their senior years, Coal Ridge will also be returning nine players who contributed as underclassmen this season as the team will look to make their third tournament appearance in three years.

tcramer@postindependent.com