| AspenTimes.com

Aspen boys basketball beats Basalt in regular-season finale; BHS girls also roll

The Aspen High School boys basketball team won a combined 11 games the past two seasons as head coach Alex Schrempf and assistant Cory Parker tried to rebuild a program that was once so mighty under former coach Steve Ketchum.

With 11 wins alone this season, it seems the Skiers may have finally turned a corner.

“It’s been a lot of ups and downs through the seasons,” AHS senior Aidan Ledingham said. “Coach Cory and coach Alex and all the coaches have done such a great job of building this program and getting that sense of power and sense of ‘we are going to win games’ this season.”

Aspen capped off its regular season Thursday night with a 68-41 win over rival Basalt inside the AHS gymnasium. The win secured the No. 7 seed in the district tournament for Aspen (11-8, 4-5 Western Slope League), which will likely host No. 10 Cedaredge (4-15, 1-8) on Saturday afternoon to get the postseason started.

“Now they are going out there and fighting. If they do that, in this league anybody can beat anybody,” Schrempf said. “We got ourselves a challenge ahead, but every single game is winnable for any one of these teams.”

Aspen’s win Thursday over Basalt (4-14, 3-5 WSL) won’t officially make it into the record books. The game was considered a “foundation” game due to an overscheduling error on Aspen’s part; teams are only allowed to play 19 regular-season contests. Had BHS won Thursday, the result would have replaced Aspen’s 54-48 win at Basalt from earlier in the season.

As it happened Thursday, Aspen’s first win will remain official. Basalt will enter the district tournament as the No. 8 seed and likely host No. 9 Olathe (3-16, 1-8) on Saturday afternoon. Olathe beat Cedaredge on Thursday night, 49-43, to earn the 9 seed.

“Coach always says our best basketball comes in late February, and we are there right now. It’s exciting to be here and we’re definitely playing the best we have,” AHS senior Jonathan Woodrow said. “We just kept our energy high, didn’t get down at all. We are really starting to play as a team and together and ultimately we are just having fun.”

Woodrow led all players in scoring Thursday with 24 points, while Ledingham added 20. Basalt’s Wish Moore finished with 19 to lead the Longhorns.

BASALT GIRLS 49, ASPEN 14

In the girls game Thursday night, Basalt rolled to a 49-14 win over Aspen to close out its regular season. Unlike the boys game, this game did officially count toward each team’s record.

The Longhorns (8-9, 3-6 WSL) head into the district tournament as the No. 7 seed and will once again face Aspen (3-16, 0-9), the No. 10 seed, on Saturday afternoon in Basalt. Olathe and Gunnison are the No. 8 and 9 seeds, respectively.

“Excited for the challenges that are going to come with the playoffs. I’m excited to see some teams again and hopefully play better against them,” second-year BHS coach Amy Contini said. “It’s been an up-and-down season, but what you haven’t seen is these girls have remained positive the whole way through.”

The eight wins are the most for Basalt since the team went 23-4 in 2007-08, according to the MaxPreps records.

“I would just say the big thing is our team is always keeping positive after a hard loss,” BHS senior Taylor Glen said. “Even if we lose three games in a row, we really stay positive.”

Lopez, Samuelson both move on for Basalt wrestling at state tournament

The Basalt High School wrestling team had both its athletes cruise through first-round matches on Thursday, the opening day of the Class 3A state tournament at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

Senior heavyweight Ernesto Lopez needed only 38 seconds to pin La Junta’s Ryan Metzger (8-16) to move onto Friday’s quarterfinals. Lopez (30-3), who won his regional tournament, will face Eaton’s Tanner True (39-6) in the next round.

At 170 pounds, Basalt junior Ruben Samuelson won via a 12-3 major decision over Jefferson’s Randy Duran (31-9) on Thursday. Samuelson (38-1), whose lone loss this season came in the regional final, will face Woodland Park’s Cole Gray (28-2) in Friday’s quarterfinal matchup.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Skico to offer free NASTAR racing on Ajax, Snowmass ahead of March nationals

While the return of the NASTAR National Championships to Snowmass is still a month away, Aspen Skiing Co. is ready to start the celebration a bit early. Beginning next week, there will be a brief window where guests can take to the area’s two NASTAR courses for free and see how they stand against the rest of the country.

Racing will be free for guests on Aspen Mountain beginning Monday and going through March 1. The NASTAR courses on Snowmass will be free for racers from Wednesday through Saturday, Feb. 29.

The Aspen Mountain course is open daily from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., while the Snowmass course operates from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays. Racers are asked to register and create a NASTAR profile ahead of time.

“We are excited to open the NASTAR race courses for everyone to experience for free while they’re on the mountain,” Skico director of event development Deric Gunshor said in a statement. “We are excited to celebrate ski racing this spring at Aspen-Snowmass with two big events, and are looking forward to the energy it brings to our resort and the sport.”

Snowmass will host NASTAR Nationals from March 24 to 28, an event that is being paired with the return of the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships from March 28 to 31 at both Snowmass and Aspen Highlands.

NASTAR stands for National Standard Race and is a public, grassroots racing program that operates out of more than 100 resorts and clubs across the country. A handicapped system with numerous levels, it allows all kinds of different skiers to compete against each other regardless of location.

Originally founded in 1968, NASTAR’s current championship format began in 1998, with those races being held in Snowmass. Snowmass last hosted the NASTAR National Championships during a three-year stretch from 2013 to 2015.

“NASTAR is a social network,” NASTAR director Bill Madsen told The Aspen Times. “It’s a way to tie like-minded people together with a common scoring system so they can see where they stack up with their family, their friends, their peers, and then really how they are doing against people within their own ability group.”

This will be the first time in 60 years that Aspen has hosted a U.S. Alpine Tech Championship event. Aspen recently hosted the 2016 Nor-Am Cup finals, which was used as a test event for the 2017 World Cup Finals. Aspen also hosted the 1950 World Championships as well as numerous World Cup races over the decades.

Both events are free and open to the public, although a lift ticket will be required to access the race venue at Snowmass without hiking. The races at Aspen Highlands can be viewed from the base.

“When they came to us with an opportunity to bid on it, it was kind of in tandem with this discussion around the U.S. Ski Team tech championships,” Gunshor previously told The Aspen Times. “Their vision is really to bring the two sides of racing together and we were excited to be able to offer a unique combination of venues so the two events could overlap.”

Aspen-Snowmass also will be host to a few other racing opportunities next week, including the Mother of All Ascensions uphill race — a non-Skico event — on Tuesday and Skico’s annual Power of Four ski mountaineering race, which is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 29.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Clubhouse Chronicles: AVSC core values and what technology can’t teach us

Hey Siri, what is teamwork?

Alexa, what is commitment?

OK Google, what is integrity?

Simply put, these are AVSC’s core values, but they’re not merely simple values to understand and practice.

As the idea of Moore’s Law (the notion that computer processing power doubles roughly every two years) integrates its way into all aspects of our lives, we are increasingly able to connect with people whose thoughts and opinions align with our own. Unfortunately, it can also provide a means to disconnect from the immediate social circles around us. (I’ll just put my headphones in to avoid talking to the person next to me on the bus.) It also promotes a sense of immediate gratification that can turn people off to the concepts of failure and perseverance. (I posted just a moment ago, how many likes have I got?)

This might sound like a scathing rant on technology, but it’s not. It’s an observation of the fact that our world is changing. That being said, we at AVSC feel that there are some things — beyond athletic feats — that are best learned in person. It’s very important to instill values and ideals within our athletes that might not be as easily learned through technology.

Teamwork is the collaborative effort of a group to achieve a task in the most effective and efficient way, according to Siri, but what’s that like in practice? It means working together with your peers to come up with better solutions, no matter the situation. While skiing and snowboarding might seem like individualistic sports, the teammates learn to get along, “play nice,” travel together, support each other and their efforts. These are life skills that are needed “to infinity and beyond” (to quote a lovable technologically advanced toy that needed to learn to cooperate with those around him). Humans are social creatures. No one makes it out alive without the help of those around them.

Commitment is the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. (lexico.com — Siri fell short.) Not all of our athletes are going to become Olympians or medalists at the X Games, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn to commit themselves to tasks, causes, efforts and more in life. We are aiming to produce some of the best humans possible, and we want them to contribute to the world, and that doesn’t happen without commitment, a strong and positive work ethic.

Integrity is the practice of being honest and showing a consistent and uncompromising adherence to strong moral and ethical principles and values. (Again, Siri.) Personally, I want to leave this place better than I found it. I prefer to surround myself with those who feel likewise, and hope to inspire all of our athletes to do the same.

It’s not always easy; it might require the help of our friends to support us. It’s not always simple and quick; we might need to show determination and patience. It’s not something we can simply comprehend from asking our devices to define.

It’s about growth, and learning, and experience. As AVSC coaches these are the things we look to instill in our athletes, on and off the mountain, so that they can become not only the best athletes they personally can be, but the best people they personally can be.

That’s why we work face-to-face every day on the hill, in the gym, in the classroom, to encourage teamwork, commitment and integrity.

Clubhouse Chronicles is a behind-the-scenes column written by the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club that runs periodically in the Outdoors section.

Briefs: Limited tribute scheduled for hockey coach James Bond on Saturday

Limited tribute set Saturday for late hockey coach James Bond

In cooperation with Aspen Junior Hockey, there will be a tribute to coach James Bond at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Aspen Ice Garden.

Bond arrived in Aspen in late summer of 1972 and immediately became involved in the just-starting junior hockey program. He coached his last team in the 1998-99 season. He coached Squirts until 1981 and then coached the PeeWee teams until 1999.

He was also actively involved with the Aspen Leafs hockey team and early town leagues. He eventually was the director of Aspen Junior Hockey.

If you were a “student” of coach Bond, a parent of one of his players or a team manager, please join us at the rink for this event.

We also welcome all fellow coaches, all Leaf players and anyone who was involved in any phase of Aspen hockey in these years.

There will be a scrimmage of players from his past teams from 4:15 to 5 p.m. During this time, there will be a chance to mingle with old friends and view various hockey memorabilia.

The tribute will start at 5 p.m. You can stand on the ice if you want, so dress appropriately.

No food or drinks will be available.

We would like to limit this mostly to hockey friends and family. There will be a general memorial for Bond on June 6 in Herron Park.

— from the family of James Bond

CARE’s Snowshoe Shuffle race/hike is Sunday at Sunlight Mountain

Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) will host the annual Sunlight Mountain Snowshoe Shuffle on Sunday, an 8K snowshoe race/hike at Sunlight’s Babbish Gulch trails.

Dogs are welcome for this fundraising event to support CARE’s animal shelter operation in Spring Valley, but they must be friendly and on a leash.

Registration includes a Snowshoe Shuffle T-shirt, snacks and a raffle ticket to win one of many prizes. All proceeds benefit Colorado Animal Rescue. Pre-registration is $30 and available online, and $35 the day of the race. More information at coloradoanimalrescue.org.

—Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Frisco Freeze Fat Bike Race set for Saturday at Frisco Nordic Center

The Frisco Nordic Center is hosting the fourth annual Frisco Freeze Fat Bike Race at 3 p.m. Saturday.

Racers will complete three laps over 14 kilometers of racing on groomed trails, starting and ending near the Frisco Nordic Center lodge.

The course will be open from 2 to 5 p.m. Friday and 2 to 3 p.m. Saturday. Cost is $25 Friday and free Saturday for those who have registered to compete. The event is the only chance to ride a fat bike on the Frisco Nordic Center trails.

Registration is $40 through noon Friday and $45 on the day of the event. Youths 17 and younger get a $10 discount on race fees. Online registration is available at FriscoNordic.com or by calling 970-668-2570.

— Summit Daily

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Lopez, Samuelson repping the Basalt Longhorns at state wrestling in Denver

Ruben Samuelson has only a single loss this season. Ernesto Lopez is a regional champion who’s been to the big dance before. Both will represent the Basalt High School wrestling team this weekend in the Class 3A state tournament with legitimate hopes of making it to Saturday’s championship matches at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

“I know everyone who goes to state is good and no matter what you can’t downplay anything. Just having that experience for sure helps,” Lopez said. “So no matter what, any match I just have to give it my all. I know I’m capable of making the finals and hopefully winning it.”

BHS is looking for its first state champion in quite a while. The program returned for the 2012-13 season after a 10-year hiatus and has had a good run in that span, including a fourth-place finish from 220-pounder Olmer Marquez in 2015. Marquez had been the team’s only regional champion since its return under coach Ryan Bradley until Lopez won this past weekend.

According to Bradley, Basalt’s wrestling history was quite impressive prior to the decade-long layoff, a history that includes five individual state champions.

“We are always looking for it,” Bradley said of the team’s next state champ. “We thought Olmer was going to be that first guy to wrestle on Saturday night. These two guys, they might be pretty close to getting there.”

SAMUELSON EXPLODES ONTO THE SCENE

A 170-pound junior, Samuelson goes to class at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale but wrestles for Basalt. He came up just short of making state as a sophomore, but has come a long way since then. He’s 37-1 this season, his lone loss coming via a 6-0 decision to Alamosa senior Hunter Smith in the regional final Saturday.

Bradley said Samuelson is the first BHS wrestler since the program returned — it’s in its eighth season back — to have won every one of his individual tournaments prior to regionals.

“His mental approach to it and his physical approach to it, he seems to be doing all the things right,” Bradley said. “He figured some things out. He’s a lot better than he was last year and he’s not as good as he’ll be next year.”

Samuelson credits his summer training for his improvement. He attended an intensive 14-day wrestling camp at Oregon State University and his success this winter is proof of the work he put in there.

“That pretty much taught me everything I needed to know,” Samuelson said. “I go into my matches and I think if I work my hardest and I do my best there is really nothing else I can give. That takes away the nervousness. It just helps me compete.”

Samuelson’s loss in the regional final doesn’t seem to bother him. Bradley has gone over the tape with him and they believe he’s learned from the experience. Should Samuelson have to face Smith, who is 41-6, at the state tournament this weekend, it wouldn’t be until the championship match.

“I learned a lot of moves from that match. I learned what I need to know in my next one in order to win if we meet up again,” Samuelson said. “I feel confident and then I feel a little nervous at the same time. But I just got to keep going out there thinking if I give 100%, whatever happens, happens, and there is really nothing else I can do.”

Samuelson will face Jefferson senior Randy Duran (31-8) in the first round Thursday in Denver. Duran is a returning state qualifier, having gone 0-2 in the 170-pound bracket last season. Eaton’s Ty Garnhart is the reigning 3A champ at 170 pounds, although he graduated last year.

“He’s one of the other guys that kept motivating me,” Lopez said of Samuelson. “We motivated each other all season long and I know he’s going to do big things in the future. He for sure has a good chance at placing this year and I know he will.”

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

Lopez, a senior heavyweight, credits much of his success this season to Marquez. The former regional champion returned to the mat this winter as a volunteer assistant coach and gave Lopez another big body to train against.

“Him kicking my butt is what I needed and him knowing as a big guy what works and what doesn’t work helps out so much,” Lopez said. “He’s for sure a big, strong man. It motivates me to beat him. I’ve had him a couple of times, but not that many.”

Lopez, who recently signed to play football for Western Colorado University, is 29-3 this season and has a favorable draw as one of the regional champions. All three of his losses came to the same person, Battle Mountain’s Jeremiah Vasquez, who is 36-1 this winter. Vasquez competes in Class 4A, so Lopez won’t run into him for a fourth time this weekend.

Lopez was 24-5 last season, his state championship bid ending in the first round with a loss to Alameda’s Carlos Flores (fall, 4:47). Lopez did beat Sterling’s Austin Garcia in his first playback match (fall, 1:38) before bowing out against Salida’s Juan Doyle (7-5 decision), who eventually finished fourth.

“It’s Erny’s second trip down. I think his first time down, he was super close last year,” Bradley said. “I feel pretty confident about his ability to make it to the semis on Friday night. And I feel really good about Ruben Samuelson, as well.”

Lopez will face La Junta senior Ryan Metzger (8-15) in the first round of 3A’s heavyweight bracket Thursday. University’s Emanuel Munoz-Alcala (38-1), the reigning state champion, would likely be Lopez’s challenger in the Saturday night finale should he get there.

“I’m feeling pretty good. I know every kid earned their right to be at the state tournament,” Lopez said. “We knew Olmer was going to come in and beat my butt a little bit, which I needed. So hands down he’s been one of the best coaches I’ve had in a while. He knows what I need to do.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Mikaela Shiffrin graces Sports Illustrated’s March cover, a rarity for a ski racer

VAIL — Extra, extra, read all about it.

Mikaela Shiffrin is on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s March issue and she’s dubbed “the world’s most dominant athlete.”

For readers of Sports Illustrated who do not live in a ski community, it may be controversial to call Shiffrin “the world’s most dominant athlete.”

The average American sports fan might be more inclined to focus on the likes of LeBron James, Tom Brady or Mike Trout.

It’s not the first time Shiffrin’s been on the cover of Sports Illustrated. She was the cover girl for the 2014 Olympics preview as well as after winning slalom in those games in Sochi.

She is, however, the first Olympic athlete, according to a press release from the U.S. Ski Team, to be on the cover in a non-Olympic year in recent years. The shoot for the Sports Illustrated cover took place Feb. 1 in Trentino, Italy, after Shiffrin won two World Cup speed races at the end of January in Bulgaria.

Shortly after the shoot, Mikaela got word that her father, Jeff, passed away suddenly, making this a poignant time for publication.

Greg Bishop, the author of the Sports Illustrated piece, wrote, “None of (her fame and success) mattered when the call came, when Shiffrin, only 24, learned that her father, Jeff, had suffered a grave injury in an accident at home in Colorado. Mikaela and her mother, Eileen, immediately flew back from Europe and were able to spend Jeff’s final hours by his side.”

The article profiles the well-known story of Shiffrin growing up and her parents, Jeff and Eileen, trying to instill a sense of normalcy in her life; her first World Cup podium, her Olympic wins and the spectacular success of her 2018-19 season.

The piece then transitions into how Shiffrin was trying to deal with this season and the accompanying unrealistic expectations.

“This season’s been a bit of a struggle again. If that’s where the bar is now, it’s nearly impossible to even come close to that, let alone exceed it,” Shiffrin is quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated.

Through telling her surreal experience of being at last summer’s ESPYs and not feeling like she belonged in such star-studded company — she knew she wasn’t going to win Best Female Athlete and didn’t bother writing a speech and apparently her hands were shaking when she met the NBA’s James — Bishop writes about the constant struggle in Shiffrin’s life between being a normal person and the fame that is a part of her life, whether she wants it or not.

The issue should be on newsstands soon.

cfreud@vaildaily.com

Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Chatting with coach Keel about AHS swim at state

The Aspen High School girls swim team had a rookie head coach and only six athletes in the pool. Those swimmers were certainly talented, but the general lack of depth and experience led to a lot of unknowns for the Skiers entering the season.

The end result? A runner-up finish at the Class 3A state swim meet Saturday in Thornton.

“It was definitely a fight to the finish,” AHS coach Katherine Keel said Monday. “I hesitate to say I didn’t have expectations for our team, because I did, but I was focusing more this year on individual goals and making sure we were improving definitely our team culture, but also our individual times. I was hopeful we could shoot for the moon, but I didn’t really know what was reasonable.”

Evergreen, which had quite the numbers advantage on the Skiers, won its second straight state championship with 372.5 points. Aspen was second with 214 points, narrowly holding off third-place Salida (209), fourth-place Kent Denver (208) and fifth-place Durango (204). Glenwood Springs was sixth with 190 points.

It’s fair to say the runner-up finish establishes AHS swimming as a 3A powerhouse. The classification only made its debut in 2017, the year Aspen won its lone state championship. After dropping down to eighth in 2018, the Skiers finished fourth in 2019 before taking second this year. Not a bad four-year stretch.

“The result was better than all of us could expect,” Keel said. “Right now we are all riding high from two days ago, but I think as soon as it settles and we have a second to digest, I’m sure everyone is going to turn their attention toward next year and start setting bigger goals.”

It’s a run that’s likely far from done. Thanks to the Aspen Swim Club, which has done a great job bringing up swimmers from the youth level over the years, AHS should be able to find plenty of talent in the middle school ranks.

Not to mention, of the six varsity swimmers AHS had this season, only junior Emily Kinney was an upperclassman. The rest of Aspen’s state swimmers this past weekend included sophomores Kayla Tehrani, Laila Khan-Farooqi, Ava Cherry and freshman Lilly Huggard.

Even if it doesn’t add a single swimmer to the 2021 roster, AHS could have its entire 2020 team back in the pool next year, which certainly makes it a state title contender yet again.

“I’m just so thankful for all the parents and the coaches in my life who stuck by me in swimming, because it takes a lot of people to make a season like this happen,” Keel said. “If anything, it was just shedding light on how many moving parts there are and how great it is when it all works. It really makes me appreciate the support I’ve had.”

WRESTLING UP NEXT

The Basalt High School wrestling team will be the next to compete at state when it sends a pair to the Pepsi Center in Denver this week. The Longhorns had two qualify out of regionals this past weekend in 170-pound junior Ruben Samuelson and senior heavyweight Ernesto Lopez.

Samuelson lost in the regional final for his first loss of the season. Still, at 37-1 overall, he’s very well a contender at state. Samuelson will face Jefferson senior Randy Duran (31-8) in the first round. Samuelson is a first-time state qualifier.

Lopez is returning to state for the second year in a row. He’s 29-3 overall and coming off a regional championship and will face La Junta senior Ryan Metzger (8-15) in the first round.

Prelims start Thursday afternoon, with quarterfinals and semifinals slated for Friday. All championship matches take place Saturday.

SKIING, HOCKEY, BASKETBALL EYE POSTSEASON

The rest of the winter sports seasons are quickly coming to an end, as well.

— The AHS skiing teams, both alpine and nordic, are off this week before heading to the state championships Feb. 27 and 28, where they’ll contend for another state title.

— AHS hockey has one more game to go, a Saturday trip to Glenwood Springs, before finding out if it makes the state playoffs. It’ll be close.

— The basketball season is down to one regular-season game, which will be Thursday night when Aspen hosts Basalt. At this point, it looks like all four teams will end up competing in a district play-in game Saturday, with Thursday’s results determining the matchups.

Regardless of who wins Thursday (game times are 5:30 and 7 p.m.), it looks like both the AHS and BHS boys basketball teams will host their play-in game against either Cedaredge or Olathe. The AHS girls are certainly going on the road, while the BHS girls should also host, regardless of Thursday’s outcome.

The Aspen girls had previously been scheduled to play at Summit this week as well in a non-league game, but that game is officially scratched off the books.

TIME FOR A HOOTENANNY

This Saturday, the Basalt High School athletic department is hosting its fourth annual Wild West Night at the Homestead Bar and Grill at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. It’s a fundraiser that supports the BHS athletes, notably the tennis teams.

It’s a 21-and-over event that will include plenty of dancing and poker (with complimentary game chips) all set to a Wild West theme. The event goes from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, with single tickets starting at $35 (or $60 for a couple).

For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.longhornstennis.org or call coach Diana Elliott at 970-927-4693.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Basalt’s Faulhaber, Lakewood’s Ladd win ski halfpipe titles at Aspen freeski open

Hanna Faulhaber could have gone to the World Cup in Calgary this week, but there is something to be said for staying close to home for a few extra days. It’s doubtful her competition felt the same way, however, after the 15-year-old Basalt High School student ran away with the women’s halfpipe contest at the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open on Saturday at Buttermilk Ski Area.

“It’s a nice feeling,” Faulhaber said. “Just to be able to win a decently big event at home is pretty great. Just super hyped to compete up against all these girls in my hometown. It’s nice to sleep in my own bed.”

It was Faulhaber’s second time competing in the local Nor-Am Cup event. She took third last winter, her first season competing at the FIS level, behind winner Zoe Atkin of Great Britain and Utah’s Jeanee Crane-Mauzy. This time around, Faulhaber left little to doubt, topping 90 in each of her three runs in the finals to win by a landslide.

Her third and final run of 95.60 was far more than she needed for the win. Pennsylvania’s Jenna Riccomini, who trains out of Summit County, was second with 71.80 and Vail’s Ava Surridge was third with 69.40. There was no qualifier for the women’s halfpipe skiers as only eight entered the contest.

“Not as much as that, for sure. Not even close,” Faulhaber said of feeling little to no pressure Saturday compared to her recent World Cup events. “I landed my run several times before practice. Had some difficulty a few times, but it didn’t really mess me up. So yeah, I felt pretty good about the whole thing.”

Faulhaber’s run Saturday at Buttermilk was almost identical to the one she put down two weeks ago at a World Cup in Mammoth. The U.S. rookie team member finished seventh in what was her first World Cup final appearance in only three career World Cup starts.

One reason Faulhaber chose to compete this week in Aspen opposed to go to Calgary for the final World Cup of the season was to chase down the season-long halfpipe crown in the North American Cup. With only next weekend’s Nor-Am contest to go, which happens to be back in Calgary, Faulhaber holds a slight edge over Atkin in the standings. Atkin was 10th in the Calgary World Cup and did not compete in the Aspen Nor-Am.

DYLAN LADD HOLDS ON FOR MEN’S PIPE TITLE

Lakewood’s Dylan Ladd had a similar decision to make as Faulhaber. He did choose to go to the Calgary World Cup, but did not make it out of Wednesday’s qualifying so hurried back to Aspen in time for Saturday’s Nor-Am. That decision paid off after he won the men’s halfpipe contest at Buttermilk, the second career Nor-Am Cup win for the 18-year-old U.S. rookie team athlete.

“It means a lot,” Ladd said. “I’ve been doing this comp for three or four years now, maybe five, and to finally take the top spot is amazing. It feels great.”

Ladd scored 89.40 on the first of his two runs in finals to beat Aspen’s Tristan Feinberg, who scored 86.80 on his second run, a slight hand drag derailing what was arguably the best run of the contest. Finland’s Jon Sallinen, who trains with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, was third with 82.80.

Just missing the podium was 16-year-old Connor Ladd, Dylan’s younger brother. He was fourth with 81.40, scored on his second run.

“It’s fun. It’s also very competitive,” Dylan Ladd said of competing against his brother in finals. “We are staring at each other being like, ‘Hey, you are going to do good. But, I wouldn’t be mad if you slightly screwed up.’ But I always want to see him land a good run and he put a good one down today.”

FEINBERG CONTINUES RISE

Feinberg, 16, likely is the next star in Aspen’s heralded ski pipe dynasty, which currently includes two-time reigning X Games Aspen gold medalist Alex Ferreira and 20-year-old Cassidy Jarrell, who finished sixth in Friday’s World Cup in Calgary.

Feinberg also competed in that World Cup, but did not make it past Wednesday’s qualifying. It was only his fourth career World Cup start, his first coming last March in Mammoth. Saturday’s runner-up finish in the halfpipe was his best career Nor-Am Cup finish, besting the third-place he had in the Copper Nor-Am back in December.

“Good to come back here and put down a run and get second. Really cool,” Feinberg said. “I’ve been wanting to do well in this competition for a while and it felt really good to come back and do well.”

Feinberg currently sits in third in the season-long Nor-Am Cup standings in halfpipe, behind leader Andrew Longino of Canada and Sallinen. Dylan Ladd is currently fifth and Aspen’s Kai Morris is seventh with only next weekend’s Nor-Am in Calgary to go. Morris did not make finals during Saturday’s competition in Aspen, finishing 13th overall.

With the competition season all but over, Feinberg will soon return to the classroom — he attends high school in Park City, Utah, over the spring and summer months — while squeezing in as much skiing and filming as he can over the next couple of months.

The experience he’s gained on the World Cup the past two seasons certainly has him eyeing bigger prizes down the line.

“It’s definitely really cool competing with all those big dogs and then cool competing with Cass,” Feinberg said. “Trying to get up there one day and win those competitions. So it’s really cool to start dipping my toes into those competitions. It’s super cool. Good experience competing with everyone I was watching when I was younger at X Games.”

BIG AIR AND SLOPESTYLE

In Saturday’s big air contests at the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open, it was Utah teen Troy Podmilsak who took the men’s title, followed by veteran Quinn Wolferman of Montana and Rodney Koford, also of Utah.

The women’s big air crown went to Canada’s Skye Clarke, who also had won Friday’s slopestyle contest. Riccomini finished second, giving her the silver sweep of all three events at Buttermilk, while Canada’s Megan Cressey was third in both big air and slopestyle to complete the identical podiums in both events.

Minnesota’s Richard Thomas, a U.S. rookie team member, won Friday’s men’s ski slopestyle contest, beating Montana’s Konnor Ralph and Canada’s Dylan Deschamps. Koford was fourth.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Preps: Aspen girls swim finishes second at state, BHS wrestling qualifies two

Aspen High School girls swimming team finishes second at 3A state championship

The Aspen High School girls swim team finished as state runner-up Saturday in the Class 3A state swim meet held at the Veterans Memorial Aquatic Center in Thornton. The Skiers, with only five swimmers competing, finished with 214 points, while Evergreen ran away with its second straight state championship with 372.5 points.

Salida came in third as a team with 209 points, followed by Kent Denver (208), Durango (204) and Glenwood Springs (190).

This was Aspen’s second-best finish at state, its best coming when it won the inaugural 3A state championship in 2017. AHS was eighth in 2018 and fourth in 2019.

Aspen’s best result Saturday came from the 200-yard medley relay team, which came second to Evergreen. That relay was made of freshman Lilly Huggard, sophomores Kayla Tehrani and Laila Khan-Farooqi, and junior Emily Kinney.

The 200 free relay, made of the same foursome, finished third. Individual third-place finishes included Huggard in the 200 IM and Tehrani in the 100 fly. Tehrani also finished fifth in the 50 free.

Other notable finishes include Khan-Farooqi in the 200 free (sixth) and the 100 free (eighth), Huggard in the 100 back (eighth), and Kinney in the 100 breast (ninth) and 200 IM (10th).

Basalt wrestling will send Lopez, Samuelson to state tournament

The Basalt High School wrestling team competed Friday and Saturday at its Class 3A, Region 1 tournament in Montrose, where it qualified two to the state tournament next weekend in Denver.

Senior heavyweight Ernesto Lopez will return to state for the second straight year after going 3-0 in contested matches to win the regional championship. He pinned all three of his opponents.

Also heading to state will be junior Ruben Samuelson, who was second at 170 pounds. He lost to Alamosa’s Hunter Smith via a 6-0 decision in the final.

Basalt’s Jose Castorena finished sixth, with only the top four per weight class making state.

Aspen boys basketball beats Delta, girls fall

The Aspen High School boys basketball team snapped a four-game losing streak Saturday with a 60-51 league win at Delta, which fell to 7-10 overall. AHS improved to 11-8 overall and 4-5 in Western Slope League play.

The Aspen girls lost 71-12 at Delta (14-3) on Saturday to fall to 3-14 overall.

Aspen has one final league game remaining, a Thursday home date against Basalt to close out the regular season. The AHS girls also are scheduled to play Wednesday at Summit.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Basalt teen Hanna Faulhaber continues rapid rise up the skiing pipeline

The wild ride continues for Hanna Faulhaber. In only her second season competing at the FIS level, the 15-year-old sophomore at Basalt High School is building quite the resume as a halfpipe skier.

“It’s been a great season,” Faulhaber said Wednesday. “The past two seasons have been such a fun time and super progressive. I don’t even know how to explain it.”

Faulhaber is set to compete Saturday in the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open, a Nor-Am Cup competition that she took third in last winter behind Utah’s Jeanee Crane-Mauzy and Great Britain’s Zoe Atkin. Of course, she’s been in some much bigger competitions since then.

Faulhaber, who is on the U.S. rookie team, made her World Cup debut back in August, finishing 14th at the season-opening contest in New Zealand. Her second World Cup start came at the Copper Grand Prix in December, where she finished 15th.

Then she had somewhat of a breakthrough at the Mammoth Grand Prix, taking sixth in the Jan. 29 qualifier to make her first final in a World Cup. She finished seventh in the Feb. 1 final, a contest won by reigning Olympic gold medalist Cassie Sharpe.

“I honestly didn’t expect for such a great result at a World Cup this year,” Faulhaber said. “I don’t think my coaches even expected it, either. It was just a lot of fun to be able to make the final with all the older girls and be able to have that experience.”

The other highlight to her season came earlier in January when she was one of two American girls — the other being Steamboat’s Riley Jacobs — to compete at the Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland. Faulhaber won bronze, with China’s Eileen Gu taking gold and Fanghui Li silver.

“Youth Olympics was such a great experience, like I expected it to be,” Faulhaber said. “I don’t even know how to explain how great it was, especially being able to get bronze was amazing and I never really thought that would happen.”

Faulhaber sat out the final World Cup contest of the season, which wrapped up Friday night in Calgary. The 16-year-old Gu, who is from San Francisco but has dual citizenship and competes under the Chinese flag, held off Canada’s Rachael Karker and Russia’s Valeriya Demidova for the win. Demidova clinched the season-long crystal globe in women’s halfpipe skiing.

While Saturday’s Nor-Am here in Aspen is a slight step down from the World Cups for Faulhaber, her trajectory has her headed in a good direction. On top of more World Cups, bigger comps like X Games and Dew Tour are well within her reach next season. She was a Dew Tour alternate this winter.

Then, of course, there is the elephant in the room with the 2022 Winter Olympics fast approaching. There is a world championship to ponder in 2021, as well.

“She is starting to be competitive with a lot of those pro girls. My focus with her is far more about improving that run and specific tricks than really, is she going to qualify for the next Olympics?” said Greg Ruppel, who coaches Faulhaber through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. “It’s looking good. That alternate invite to Dew Tour is a good sign. Probably going forward she’ll be looking at at least alternate invites if not full invites for X and Dew next year.”

The women’s superpipe finals of the Aspen Snowmass Freeskiing Open are tentatively scheduled to start at 11:15 a.m. on the X Games venue at Buttermilk Ski Area. The men’s superpipe finals are slated for 1:45 p.m. with a handful of Roaring Fork Valley local athletes expected to compete in the noon qualifier.

The men’s and women’s big air finals also are scheduled for Saturday.

Spectating is free.

FRIDAY SLOPESTYLE

The slopestyle finals were held Friday, with Canadian teen Skye Clarke winning the women’s contest with a score of 79.50 points, holding off Pennsylvania’s Jenna Riccomini (73.33) and Canadian Megan Cressey (70.33). Clarke took home a $3,000 payday for the win.

In the men’s slopestyle contest Friday, Minnesota’s Richard Thomas, a U.S. rookie team member, won with a best score of 89.50 to take home the $5,000 paycheck. Montana’s Konnor Ralph was second (86.16) and Canada’s Dylan Deschamps was third (85.66).

acolbert@aspentimes.com