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Preps: Aspen High boys golf wins regional title behind individual champ Nic Pevny

From left, Aspen High School golfers senior Lucas Lee, senior Will Stiller, assistant coach Coulter Young, senior Nic Pevny and junior Sky Sosna pose with the regional championship trophy on Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Cortez. Pevny won the individual regional title.
Courtesy photo

Aspen High School senior Nic Pevny successfully defended his individual regional title on Tuesday and the AHS boys golf team will head to the state tournament as the regional champion for the 12th time in 13 seasons.

Playing at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez, Pevny shot 3-under 69 to win Tuesday’s Class 3A Region 4 tournament by a stroke over junior Thayer Plewe of host Montezuma-Cortez. Ouray senior Hayden Hart was third with even-par 72.

“Nic had a good win today. That was a great win for Nic,” longtime AHS coach Mary Woulfe said. “I was really proud of how Nic played, but we wouldn’t be here without those other three boys. We wouldn’t have made it. A lot of kudos go out to the entire group.”

Aspen junior Sky Sosna finished sixth (5-over 77) and senior Lucas Lee tied for seventh (7-over 79) to make up the Skiers’ scoring trio. Senior Will Stiller shot 81 to finish in 13th, and all four will compete in the state tournament early next month.

Aspen shot a collective 225 to win the regional title by 13 strokes over Montezuma-Cortez (238), while Basalt finished third with 240. Only the top two teams qualified as a group for state.

“I started off not too hot, but I finished off strong,” Sosna said of his round. “That course was really hard for me. I don’t like all the dog legs. You have to be really accurate off the tee.”

Aspen had won 10 straight regional titles, a streak that also included the team winning the 2018 state championship, a first for the program. The Skiers’ streak ended in 2019 when they finished second on their home course to Montezuma-Cortez, but they bounced back in 2020 by winning the regional title at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale when Basalt hosted.

Last fall was capped off by Pevny winning the school’s first individual state championship.

“It was good. Played pretty well,” Pevny said of his round Tuesday, which finished with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 17 and 18 to hold off Plewe. “I feel pretty good about states. We have a pretty good chance to contend if we all play pretty well. It will be really fun. The other boys are playing really well right now.”

While Basalt did not qualify as a team at regionals, there will still be three Longhorns competing at state, meaning the team will be able to compete for the team title. Sophomore Garrett Exelbert shot 76 to finish fifth and sophomore Alec Claassen shot 79 to finish tied with Lee for seventh. BHS senior Braden Exelbert shot 85 to tie for 18th and held on in a playoff to qualify as an individual for state. The top 13 individuals not on the top two qualifying teams also advanced.

Aspen High School senior Nic Pevny, left, stands with Montezuma's Thayer Plewe as they both watch a competitor's ball during the Skiers' home golf tournament on Monday, Aug. 16, 2021, at Aspen Golf Club.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Basalt senior Kyle Murray was the lone Longhorn left on the outside, as his 89 put him in 27th place and will leave him off the state roster.

“Just a tough day for Kyle. He’s had such a great season. He’s such a great teammate and member of our team and brought a lot of leadership,” first-year Basalt coach Travis Stewart said. “Congratulations to Nic for winning the individual tournament. They look primed and ready to go so we are happy for those guys too.”

Basalt can certainly still be seen as a state contender, as it won many of the early-season tournaments and even had Aspen’s number for much of the fall. A disadvantage they will have, however, is that the Skiers played a tournament on the state course in Elizabeth earlier this season and the Longhorns did not.

Still, Stewart likes what he sees from his state-qualified trio, especially the young Garrett Exelbert, who has been a consistent force for the team this year. Exelbert also qualified for state as a freshman, along with then-senior Tyler Sims.

“He’s just steady. He’s had a great season this year,” Stewart said. “He’s just a guy that keeps his head down and plugs along. He does a great job week in and week out. You take him for granted sometimes because he’s so dependable. But he’s an awesome player and a great teammate. He leads by what he does.”

The two-round 3A state tournament is scheduled for Oct. 4 and 5 at Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth, located on the plains just southeast of Denver.

“I’m super excited,” Sosna said. “We played that course already. Most of us feel pretty good about the misses there and how the course is laid out, so we are pretty confident.”

Aspen volleyball sweeps by Roaring Fork

The Aspen High School volleyball team made quick work of visiting Roaring Fork on Tuesday, winning 3-0 inside the AHS gymnasium. Set scores were 25-13, 25-17 and 25-19 in the non-league match.

It was the Skiers’ first home game since their five-set loss to Basalt on Aug. 26, prior to experiential education.

Roaring Fork fell to 1-11 overall, while Aspen improved to 4-1 on the season. The Skiers are 3-0 since their return from ex-ed with wins over Rifle (3-2) and Gunnison (3-0) also on the resume.

“They’re getting smarter with their game,” AHS coach Brittany Zanin said. “All 10 of them are a part of why we’ve been successful in three these past two matches.”

Next up, the Rams play Thursday at Delta, while Aspen is off until hosting Delta on Oct. 1.

Basalt (7-2) is scheduled to host Grand Junction Central on Wednesday evening.

Aspen soccer loses to Roaring Fork

The Aspen High School boys soccer team played Tuesday at Roaring Fork, falling 3-1 to snap a four-game win streak.

The Rams, ranked No. 9 in Class 3A this week, improved to 5-1 overall. They travel to Palisade on Friday. The Skiers fell to 4-2 overall and host Glenwood Springs on Thursday.

The Basalt High School boys soccer team hosted Rifle on Tuesday, losing 3-1 in a league game on the BHS field. The Bears improved to 2-4 overall, while BHS fell to 1-7 on the season. Basalt is off until traveling to Glenwood Springs on Tuesday.

Basalt softball falls twice to Delta

The Basalt High School softball team played Tuesday at Delta, falling twice by scores of 13-3 and 9-5. The Longhorns dropped to 3-12 overall this season and are scheduled to host Aspen (0-9) on Thursday afternoon.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Three U.S. Olympic qualifiers announced for freeski, snowboard ahead of Games

Aspen's Alex Ferreira competes in the men's freeski halfpipe final at the U.S. Grand Prix and World Cup on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen. It was the first of the Olympic qualifiers ahead of the 2022 Winter Games.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

U.S. Ski & Snowboard on Monday announced three freeski and snowboard Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the February Winter Games in Beijing.

Steamboat Springs will kick off the season with the Visa Big Air at Steamboat Resort from Dec. 2-4. This will include snowboard big air qualifying on Dec. 2, freeski big air qualifying on Dec. 3, and finals for both events on Dec. 4. It will be the first and only big air qualifying event ahead of the Olympics; snowboard big air is making only its second appearance at the Games, while freeski big air will be new to this year’s Olympics.

“Steamboat’s Olympic heritage runs deep and we’re excited to honor our longstanding partnership with U.S. Ski & Snowboard in hosting the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota event leading up to the 2022 Olympics,” said Rob Perlman, president and COO of Steamboat Ski Resort, in a news release. “Producing Olympians is part of who we are, so this was a natural fit for Steamboat to kick off the qualifying event calendar ahead of the Winter Games.”

The U.S. Grand Prix at Copper Mountain will return from Dec. 8-11 with the first halfpipe competitions. Freeski halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 8 and the finals are Dec. 10. Snowboard halfpipe qualifications are Dec. 9 and the finals are Dec. 11. Copper Mountain also is scheduled to host Dew Tour from Dec. 16-19, although that contest hasn’t been announced as an Olympic qualifier, as it was ahead of the 2018 Games.

Finally, the U.S. Grand Prix will return to Mammoth Mountain in California from Jan. 6-8, with both halfpipe and slopestyle Olympic qualifiers. Mammoth had been scheduled to host the first Olympic qualifying events last season, but those contests were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

That’s when Aspen stepped in to host the first Olympic slopestyle and halfpipe qualifiers last March at Buttermilk Ski Area, right after it hosted the world championships.

“The Toyota U.S. Grand Prix has been the beacon of Olympic qualification fervor for more than two decades, and we are thrilled to bring this series back to Copper and Mammoth’s amazing terrain,” U.S. Ski & Snowboard Freeski and Snowboard Director Jeremy Forster said in a news release. “Those two resorts combined with the Olympic history and top-notch facilities at Steamboat Ski Resort for the Visa Big Air presented by Toyota will make for an outstanding Olympic qualifying process. We can’t wait to announce the athletes who will represent Team USA in Beijing this winter.”

All events are contingent on local and state health guidelines surrounding the pandemic. No information has yet been announced on whether or not fans will be able to attend in person.

Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck competes in the men's freeski halfpipe finals of the U.S. Grand Prix on Sunday, March 21, 2021, at Buttermilk Ski Area in Aspen.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to begin Feb. 4. According to the U.S. Ski & Snowboard press release, “additional Olympic selection events will be announced prior to the start of the 2021-22 season.”

Snowmass Ski Area had been one of the Grand Prix and Olympic qualifying stops ahead of the 2018 Winter Games. Buttermilk remains scheduled to host ESPN’s annual X Games from Jan. 21-23; X Games is not an Olympic qualifier.

Among Aspen’s top Olympic hopefuls is 2018 Olympic silver medalist Alex Ferreira. The halfpipe skier finished sixth in the first qualifying event hosted by Aspen last spring, where he was fourth among Americans. Crested Butte’s Aaron Blunck won that event, while Nevada’s David Wise — the two time reigning Olympic gold medalist — was fourth and Winter Park’s Birk Irving was fifth.

Last spring’s world championships in Aspen were not directly part of the U.S. Olympic qualifying process.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Valley Valkyries girls rugby scrums through tournament at Spring Valley

The Valley Valkyries face off against Fort Collins in a scrum during a rugby match on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus.
Ray K. Erku/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

It may be by a technicality, but the Valley Valkyries 7s rugby club was the de facto champion of its hosted tournament this weekend.

The high school girls rugby club went 2-1 with a roster of mostly rookies at Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus on Saturday and was prepared for its championship match before its would-be opponent departed before kickoff.

At the time of writing, Colorado Rugby had yet to decide if the Valkyries would be named champion by forfeit or if the whole thing would just be a wash. To the players, many of whom were in just their second competition ever in the sport, it’s a moot point.

“Everyone was just super into having fun and playing good rugby,” Valkyries coach Ike Fitzgerald said. “I don’t think the players are going to care about (the de facto championship). It was just a good weekend of rugby.”

The Conifer-based Lumberjackies beat the Valkyries to open the day and went 3-0 in the tournament before leaving early. Fitzgerald said he would’ve liked another crack at them because he “didn’t like how we started the day,” but was resolute in the knowledge of his team’s rapid development.

The Valkyries are composed of 10 players, seven from Glenwood Springs High School and three from Basalt. The 7s team, named for how many players are on the field, started its first practice of the season with no subs. The majority of the roster had never touched a rugby ball before the summer.

Now, just two weeks later, the rugby club has sky-high expectations.

“I can honestly say we might not lose another game this season,” Fitzgerald said.

The Valkyries have been around since 2018 and have made their presence known in their short time as a club. In their inaugural year, they went on a 14-game winning streak as they progressed up from beginner to higher tiers, Fitzgerald said.

They didn’t have a season last year, meaning the then-sophomores and freshmen from two years ago are now the team’s upperclassmen. The team is still open to new walk-ons.

The now-juniors on the team didn’t play much as freshmen, either, Fitzgerald said. One senior, Annalise Richardson, is the seasoned veteran.

“I just got to liking the environment a lot,” Richardson said. “I get the chance to play with my teammates and just hang out with them.”

Richardson loves the sport for a few different reasons. The physical aspect is fun. It keeps her in shape.

But she was quickest to note the camaraderie the team has. The novelty, as well as the physicality, make rugby players a tight-knit group. Basalt senior Haylie Bledsaw, who joined the team mere weeks ago, has already noticed the difference between rugby and other sports.

“Compared to other sports that I’ve played, this team is definitely more about connecting and creating those bonds,” Bledsaw said.

It extends beyond the team as well. At tournaments like Saturday’s, the in-group of rugby players mingle with other teams in between matches, developing the sense of community.

For players like Bledsaw, it’s a different way to play sports in high school. But for some, it can lead to more. Women’s rugby is one of the highest in-demand scholarships at the collegiate level, Fitzgerald said. Richardson, in her conversations with colleges, is exploring staying in the sport. Two program alumnae played each other at the collegiate club level on Sunday — Angie Gonzalez for Colorado State University and Tami Islas Morales for the University of Colorado.

For the time being, it’s about playing a sport few other girls in Western Colorado are playing. The Valkyries play next at Infinity Park in Denver on Saturday.

rallen@postindependent.com

Preps: Basalt girls XC shines in big Cali meet; Rigney strong for Aspen JV golf

Basalt High School juniors Ava Lane, left, and Katelyn Maley competed on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at the Woodbridge Cross Country Classic near Los Angeles. Courtesy photo.

The Basalt High School cross country team traveled to California this past week to compete in the 2021 Woodbridge Cross Country Classic, hosted by Woodbridge High School just outside of Los Angeles. The race was held at the SilverLakes Sports Complex in Norco.

Like she does here in Colorado, Basalt High School junior Katelyn Maley raced her way to victory on Friday, winning the varsity girls A race in Division IV (the smallest of the divisions) with a time of 17 minutes, 7.1 seconds. Her BHS teammate, junior Ava Lane, was third in 18:02.5. In second was JiaLian Mackey of Viewpoint (located in nearby Calabasas) in 17:18.9.

Basalt freshman Isabella Moon was 20th overall in 19:54.2 in a race that featured 149 runners. All seven of the Longhorns’ scoring runners finished in the top 80, a list that includes Payton Barill (49th), Lacey Lindberg (54th), Emma Jeffries (61st), and Juniper Anderson (78th).

The Basalt girls narrowly finished third among 18 teams with 88 points, while Viewpoint was second with 86 points. Linfield Christian, whose top runners finished fourth and sixth, won the team title with 55 points.

Aspen competed Friday in Ridgway at the Ramble at the Reservoir, where junior Elsie Weiss continued her strong season by winning the girls race in 23:25.50. Colorado Rocky Mountain School senior Lola Villafranco was second in 23:43.10 and AHS junior Michaela Kenny was third in 23:52.50.

The Aspen girls easily won the team title with 36 points, followed in second by Coal Ridge’s 80 points and in third by Grand Junction’s 86 points.

Aspen’s top finisher in the boys race was junior Eske Roennau, who was 16th in 22:29. Ouray’s Vincent Schierenberg won the race in 20:06.6. Grand Junction won the team title with 30 points. AHS did not record a team score on the boys side.

There is still a month to go in the Colorado high school cross country season. Highlights include Aspen’s home race on Oct. 9 and the regional meet on Oct. 22, hosted by Coal Ridge. Maley is the defending Class 3A girls state champion.

Rigney leads AHS golfers at JV championship

Aspen High School freshman golfer Ryan Rigney put together an impressive performance Friday at the Western Slope JV Championships, played at Chipeta Golf Course in Grand Junction.

Aspen High School freshman Ryan Rigney poses with his haul after winning the Western Slope JV championship on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Chipeta Golf Course in Grand Junction. Courtesy photo.

Playing on a par-59 course, Rigney shot 3-over 62 to win the freshmen tournament as well as take top honors among all golfers competing, regardless of year. Aspen’s Luke Leonard shot 71 to finish fourth and Eric Pearce shot 77 to place seventh in the freshmen tournament. The AHS freshmen team finished third.

In the JV sophomore tournament, the Skiers won the team title behind Sasha Forman’s 65, which won that flight by six strokes. Tying for second was Aspen’s Aidan Tracey (71) and in 13th was Aspen’s Nik Kuhn (81).

In the JV upperclassmen tournament, Aspen finished second behind a third-place finish from junior Peter de Wetter (67). In eighth was senior Cooper Kendrick (76) and in 15th was senior Joseph Clark (86).

The JV championship was open to all players not competing at varsity regionals. Regional play is Monday and Tuesday statewide, with the state tournaments scheduled for Oct. 4 and 5.

Aspen boys soccer blanks Moffat

The Aspen High School boys soccer team won its fourth straight game on Saturday, rolling 10-0 over visiting Moffat County on the AHS turf.

It was the league opener for the Skiers, now 4-1 overall, who travel to Roaring Fork for a non-league game on Tuesday. The Rams entered the week ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, although dropped to 4-1 with their first loss on Saturday, falling 2-0 to Liberty Common.

Basalt (1-6) was off this weekend and next plays Tuesday at home against Rifle.

Aspen volleyball sweeps Gunnison

The Aspen High School volleyball team went on the road Saturday and took care of Gunnison, winning 3-0 for its first sweep of the season. Set scores were 25-15, 25-19 and 25-15.

Gunnison fell to 1-7 overall, while Aspen improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in league play. Saturday’s win was the first of the team’s four matches this season to not have gone a full five sets.

The schedule will pick up for the Skiers going forward. Next up is a non-league home match with Roaring Fork on Tuesday, followed by a visit from Coal Ridge on Thursday in a key league game.

Basalt was off this past weekend.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

DeMoor wins second Golden Leaf title while Arritola takes women’s victory

Aspen's Katy Stege runs through a cheering section toward the end of the Golden Leaf half marathon on Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Aspen. Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times.

After a year off because of the pandemic, Aspen’s popular Golden Leaf Half Marathon returned on Saturday.

Carbondale’s Joseph DeMoor won the backcountry race for the second time, his first win coming back in his first race in 2018. He finished Saturday’s half marathon with a time of 1 hour, 23 minutes, 58 seconds — about two minutes faster than his 2018 time — and a convincing 11-plus minutes ahead of runner-up Bridger Tomlin of Boulder (1:35:26).

DeMoor, 31, is a former University of Colorado runner who grew up in Buena Vista.

In third overall was Derick Williamson of Colorado Springs in 1:37:46.9, while Denver’s Conor Frantzen was fourth (1:39:51.3) and Carbondale’s TJ David was fifth (1:40:25.2).

Finishing sixth overall and taking the women’s title on Saturday was Carbondale’s Morgan Arritola in 1:41:10.4. Arritola, 35, was a 2010 Olympian and former member of the U.S. cross-country ski team who moved to the Roaring Fork Valley last winter to coach for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club.

Behind her among the women was another Olympic cross-country skier in Basalt’s Sophie Caldwell Hamilton, who was 11th overall in 1:45:42.2. She is married to Aspen native Simi Hamilton, himself a three-time Olympian, although he did not race on Saturday. Simi Hamilton recently won the Grand Traverse trail run, among a handful of local wins this summer since his retirement from ski racing.

In third among women on Saturday was Aspen’s Kristin Layne (1:47:43), who won the Power of Four trail run and the Aspen Backcountry Marathon earlier this summer.

The Golden Leaf Half Marathon began at 8 a.m. Saturday in Snowmass Village and took runners to the finish at Koch Park in Aspen via the Government Trail.

For more on the race and to find the complete results, click here.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Longhorns football makes big statement in 34-14 road win over Glenwood Springs

A mass of Basalt High School football players work together to bring down Glenwood quarterback Joaquin Sandoval during their game on Friday, Sept. 17, 2021, at Stubler Memorial Field.
Chelsea Self/Glenwood Springs Post Independent

Kade Schneider scored four touchdowns, Sam Sherry did just about everything and the Basalt High School football team earned a statement win on Friday night, beating host Glenwood Springs 34-14 on Stubler Memorial Field in what was homecoming for the Demons.

“I’m super proud of my kids and how they are buying into the team,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said. “We had so many kids step up with energy and effort. The kids are buying in together and working hard.”

Both undefeated coming into the week, Basalt entered Friday’s game ranked No. 4 in Class 2A, while Glenwood was No. 7 in 3A. Despite being separated by only 20 miles, the teams rarely play in football, with the Demons’ 21-14 win in the one-off spring season a few months back having been their first showdown since 2011.

The Demons won the spring game with a touchdown run in the final seconds when they were briefly league foes. The Longhorns didn’t let Friday’s rematch come down to a single play, instead dominating most of the second half to pull away against their Roaring Fork School District cohort.

“They capitalized on our mistakes and did a fine job of closing out a football game,” Glenwood coach Pat Engle said. “We didn’t protect our quarterback very well. We found ourselves in a lot of second and 15s and third and 15s. I don’t know if there is any offense that is going to do well with that type of down and distance. They did a great job. They pressured our quarterback well.”

Scoreless after a quarter, Basalt took a 7-0 lead when Schneider, the team’s junior quarterback, found senior receiver Wilson Maytham for a 27-yard touchdown. After Jamie Dolan jumped on a Glenwood fumble soon after, Sherry broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0.

The Demons did answer, with sophomore quarterback Joaquin Sandoval scoring on a 5-yard keeper, leading to a 14-7 halftime score.

Schneider, who entered the game with seven TD passes and no interceptions, threw his first pick of the season right before the half, but no harm came of it.

“We got a little greedy at the end of the half. We probably should have just went into halftime,” Frerichs said, letting the coaches take the blame for Schneider’s turnover. “We were trying to be aggressive and in these big games it’s important to be aggressive. Which I give a lot of credit to coach (Mitch) Levy and coach (Clayton) Peetz for doing that, because I think it helps the offense by being aggressive.”

A quick defensive stop to open the second half led to Schneider and Maytham connecting for another score, this time from 52 yards out, to make it 21-7 BHS midway through the third quarter.

The Demons had one more answer, a nice drive ending with a short touchdown pass from Sandoval to Marcos Aragon that made it 21-14 after three quarters.

The Longhorns dropped the hammer from there.

“We came into the game thinking that our best shot to defend them would be in a man situation,” Engle said. “For a while there it was working really nicely. They figured it out pretty quickly, made some nice adjustments and started getting the ball in the flats to No. 1 (Sherry) and No. 7 (Maytham). As coaches, we should have done a better job of adjusting and we just did not.”

Schneider scored on a 5-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 28-14. With about six minutes to play, he then connected with junior receiver Dylan Madden on a 30-yard score to put an end to the game.

Unofficially, Schneider finished 11 of 18 passing for 248 yards with three touchdowns and the one interception, not to mention his rushing touchdown. Sherry, the team’s standout senior receiver and linebacker, had more than 100 combined yards rushing and receiving to go with nine solo tackles.

“Sam Sherry just had a phenomenal night,” Frerichs said. “He’s a special, special player. The level he is playing at right now is special.”

Glenwood, now 3-1, heads into a bye week before it will close out non-league play at home on Oct. 1 against Roosevelt, which came into this week as the top-ranked team in 3A. For Engle, he’d rather jump back into it to get the taste of Friday’s defeat out of the mouth.

“This loss is completely on me. I called a very bad game and I take full responsibility for it,” Engle said. “We’ve got to regroup. The hard part is, especially after a loss, you normally like to get right back in play, but we got a bye week. So we’ve got to think about this one for two weeks and then we have a pretty good football team that is going to be coming in here.”

Basalt (4-0) also enters a bye week after finishing non-league play with a perfect mark. Frerichs likes the timing of the bye, with BHS set to begin 2A Western Slope League play on Oct. 1 at home against rising Moffat County.

“We need to get healthy,” Frerichs said. “We had some more kids out tonight. We need to get healthy and get ready for homecoming. I know Moffat is going to be a tough team.”

Aspen loses another thriller

Over in Edwards on Friday night, Aspen lost 43-34 to Battle Mountain in another wild offensive game. It was a relatively low scoring game at the half — the Huskies leading 15-13 — before the intensity picked up after the break. Battle Mountain led 28-20 after three quarters and held on in the fourth quarter.

It was the first win of the season for the 3A Huskies (1-3), while 2A Aspen dropped to 1-2 overall. The Skiers will close out non-league play next Friday at Steamboat Springs.

Elsewhere on Friday night, Rifle beat Faith Christian 42-10 to reach 2-2 overall after dropping its first two games. The Bears won the one-off 3A state championship in the spring and are off until traveling to Aspen on Oct. 1 to open 2A WSL play.

Delta played Friday at Montezuma-Cortez, winning 49-8 to improve to 3-1 entering league play. Coal Ridge lost 24-6 to Steamboat to stay winless, while Moffat County (3-0) had a bye.

In Class 1A on Friday, Roaring Fork lost 35-14 to Grand Valley.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Steamboat’s Malacinski steps into role as the face of US women’s Nordic combined

Annika Malacinski of Steamboat Springs was the sole representative of the United States at the women's Nordic combined Summer Grand Prix events in Europe. She earned three top-10 finishes, giving her a lot of confidence for this winter's World Cup season.
Sandra Volk/Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Last weekend, Annika Malacinski of Steamboat Springs won the women’s Nordic combined competition at Finnish Nationals. The victory was her most recent result in a string of successes in Europe this summer. She finished in the top 10 at three of the four summer Grand Prix events.

Malacinski traveled to Europe in early August to take part in the women’s Nordic combined Summer Grand Prix. She was at her second home in Rovaniemi, Finland, for a few weeks before traveling to Slovenia to meet up with the U.S. women’s national team head coach Tomas Matura.

“I have been jumping a lot, skiing really hard,” Malacinski said. “I think all my results have come from really hard work and hard training. I think it’s finally paying off.”

Malacinski was admittedly surprised at how well the work paid off.

“We were thinking together that a top 15 would be something good to strive for,” Malacinski said. “And I remember taking some of my first jumps in Oberhof, and I was in the top 10 easily, even with (provisional) jumps. It was super shocking. I was like wait, ‘Are these results even right?’”

During the provisional round of the first Summer Grand Prix in Oberhof, Germany, she was seventh. In the official round, she finished ninth. A few days later, in Oberwiesenthal, Germany, Malacinski proved the top-10 finish wasn’t a fluke. She took seventh.

At the final two Grand Prix events in Villach, Austria, she continued to perform well, earning seventh and 11th.

Steamboat Springs Nordic combined skier Annika Malacinski has been training in Europe with U.S. women's national team head coach Tomas Matura. She's been getting one-on-one training, and it's paid off. She's earned three top-10 finishes in the four Summer Grand Prix events she's competed in.
Annika Malacinski/Courtesy photo

“The training, she’s following the plan a little bit better than in the past,” Matura said. “She’s finally getting a little bit more base because she’s still kind of new in the sport. It’s all together, small steps, but she’s improving a lot. It’s awesome.”

Malacinski has been training alone with Matura all summer.

Vermonter Tara Geraghty-Moats switched from Nordic combined to biathlon after winning the inaugural women’s Nordic combined World Cup last year. Malacinski’s teammates and fellow Steamboat Springs skiers Tess Arnone and Alexa Brabec are still in high school and spent the summer training in the Yampa Valley with Karl Denney, their coach at the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club.

“I can focus on her and her needs. It’s special to her,” Matura said. “But other times, it’s a little bit boring for her. It’s just one athlete, just two of us. She has to train most of the time by herself. … It’s challenging for everyone, but it looks like it works.”

Annika Malacinski of Steamboat Springs is half Finnish and recently competed in the Finnish Nordic Combined Nationals. She won the event, adding to a growing list of recent successes.
Flawia Karwczyk/Courtesy photo

To break up the one-on-one time, Matura and Malacinski have been spending some time with the U.S. men’s Nordic combined team.

“It’s been super hard without Tara,” Malacinski said. “I love her so much, and she was such an inspiration and such an amazing role model to train and ski with. Honestly, I think this is the next best thing for me, training with the boys. They’re all super awesome. All of them have such a positive energy. Basically, I get a private coach right now, so I’m really not complaining too much.”

The success is giving Malacinski a lot of confidence moving into the upcoming World Cup season, just the second for women’s Nordic combined. She will likely be the best performing American woman.

Between Geraghty-Moats’ move to biathlon and the top-10 results, Malacinski has firmly taken the spot as the face of U.S. women’s Nordic combined. She doesn’t look at it that way, though.

“I don’t think I’ve thought about it that way at all,” she said. “I have been doing super well with not putting too much pressure on myself and just doing my best and having fun with it. I was definitely struggling with that last season, especially with the other girls competing and wanting to be the best American behind Tara.

“Right now I’m really focusing on the mental side,” Malacinski explained. “What I’ve been doing has been working amazingly. Right now, I’m trying to have fun in a sport that I love.”

Reuniting the U.S. women’s team

Soon enough, the entire U.S. women’s Nordic combined team will be reunited. At 20, Malacinski has more time and opportunity to spend abroad and training with the national team. Meanwhile, Arnone and Brabec have been in Steamboat training with Denney this summer.

Arnone is enrolled at Steamboat Springs High School again after taking online classes in previous years. She’ll graduate from her hometown high school in December, freeing her up to focus on the Nordic combined season.

Brabec has been incorporating soccer into her training, and the pair have been doing a lot of hiking and running with Denney.

“There’s that one road that takes off to the west as you’re going through Phippsburg, and it’s our new favorite spot for distance workouts because there’s no traffic, and we can roller ski to our hearts’ content,” Denney said.

Arnone and Brabec haven’t finalized their schedules yet but will definitely travel to Europe for Junior Worlds and the World Cup event in Val di Fiemme, Italy, where there will be a combined male and female Nordic combined event. They will also travel to Lake Placid in New York around the holidays in late December and early January to compete in a Junior Worlds tryout.

“They’ve been on the up and up for quite a while now,” Denney said. “And they’ve gotten so much recognition for that — that’s sometimes easy to forget that they’re still high schoolers.”

sreardon@steamboatpilot.com

Schneider’s quick release has him thriving early on as Basalt’s starting quarterback

Basalt High School junior quarterback Kade Schneider tosses around the football prior to team practice on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, on the BHS campus.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Somewhat vanilla on the outside, relying on a heavy dose of the power run, the Basalt High School football team’s offense has always had its share of wrinkles under coach Carl Frerichs. The latest involves the twitchy arm of junior Kade Schneider, who is in his first season as the Longhorns’ starting quarterback.

“We knew going into the season he was a super talented passer and a really smart kid, so we have all the confidence in the world in him,” Frerichs said. “We really like his quick release on our boots, which I think adds something to our passing game on those boots that is a huge advantage to us.”

Basalt likes to let Schneider roll out of the pocket on pass attempts, where he has a plethora of talented receiving targets to choose from, including seniors Sam Sherry, Wilson Maytham and Ryan Garcia, and junior tight end Ben Limongelli. Complimenting the air attack is that ever consistent BHS ground game, this year led by the 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior Cooper Crawford.

This has meant a 37.3 points per game average for Basalt through its 3-0 start this fall, which continues Friday night with a big non-league game at Glenwood Springs.

“I was really excited this year to play and it’s been a really good experience playing with all these guys,” Schneider said. “My expectations were kind of low going in, so just to play like we have been is pretty cool. But there is definitely a learning curve with playing varsity for your first year. I’m impressed with how we’ve been playing and it’s been really fun. I’ve surprised myself, too.”

Schneider barely touched the varsity field as a sophomore during the pandemic-delayed spring season. Out of precaution due to the coronavirus, Frerichs kept his varsity and junior varsity sides separate in the spring, in case there was an outbreak among either group. This meant JV players who may have at least practiced or even been on the sideline for varsity games in the past didn’t get that experience earlier this year, at least until the JV season had concluded.

Schneider did see some varsity action in the postseason, but never at quarterback. He took over this fall for recent graduate Matty Gillis, a well-respected leader for the Longhorns the past two seasons.

Basalt High School junior quarterback Kade Schneider poses prior to team practice on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, on the BHS campus.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

“Matty was a great player and a great leader and Kade has really just filled in those shoes and is playing really good right now. Good arm, just making all the right calls,” said Sherry, who like Frerichs enjoys Schneider’s ability to get the ball out in a hurry. “It really just opens up a lot more pass plays, because last year we were running more. But this year we are able to pass it more. We have more receivers, so that seems to be working well for us right now.”

According to MaxPreps, Schneider has completed just shy of 50% of his passes for 402 yards through three games this fall. What stands out is the fact that he’s thrown seven touchdown passes without an interception this season. Sherry has been on the receiving end of four of those scores, with a team-high nine catches for 145 yards.

Schneider said he worked with local baseball coach Frank Markoya over the summer in preparation for the football season. He credits Markoya with helping him develop that quick-release arm the Longhorns’ offense sees as a valuable asset.

“I worked with him a lot and he really helped me with a lot of the quarterbacking stuff we don’t really get to do in practice. That quick release, the footwork, all that stuff. He really helped me out with that,” Schneider said. “Just getting the ball out quick, especially on that roll out when you got the whole D-line coming at you and there is not a lot of time, that quick release really helps.”

Basalt High School junior quarterback Kade Schneider tosses around the football prior to team practice on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021, on the BHS campus.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Schneider will certainly continue to develop as a leader and a playmaker for the Longhorns. For Frerichs, the main point he wants his QB to focus on is avoiding turnovers, something he’s been incredibly efficient at so far.

Having run this same offense since elementary school, Schneider hasn’t had any issues with the X’s and O’s. It’s been more about adjusting to the varsity level and getting comfortable under those Friday night lights.

“We run the same offensive system from third grade all the way through high school, so he knows the plays, he knows what he’s doing. But again, that quick release is something that is really to his advantage and is really helping our offense,” Frerichs said. “To have seven touchdown passes to zero interceptions going into Week 4 is pretty special for a first-year starter. If he keeps taking care of the ball like that, we are going to have an opportunity in every game.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen football looks to bounce back from first loss with winless Battle Mountain

Aspen High School football hosts Colorado Springs Christian on Aug. 27, 2021, on the AHS turf.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Travis Benson doesn’t expect his players to stew too long after last week’s loss to Summit. The Aspen High School football coach has a lot of veteran leadership to work with, which comes with the ability to see beyond the short-term failures and stay focused on the long-term possibilities.

“When you have a strong senior class like we do and strong leadership, their vision is still very much intact on where they want to go and what they want to do,” Benson said. “It’s taking the small steps forward each week to be able to execute on that long-term vision.”

Aspen (1-1) is back on the road this week and will play Class 3A Battle Mountain (0-3) at 7 p.m. Friday in Edwards. The Skiers started the season with a wild, come-from-behind 42-21 home win over Colorado Springs Christian on Aug. 27, but in their return from experiential education last week lost 37-20 at Summit to drop to .500 this fall.

“It’s been a good week,” Benson said. “A lot of good practices. Getting back to the grinding stone, trying to find some rhythm to ourselves so we can put together some consistency.”

Benson said finding consistency will be key for the Skiers going forward. Aspen has shown signs of being a strong team on both sides of the ball, but has had trouble maintaining that level of play for longer stretches. The injury-riddled Huskies offer up a chance for the Skiers to build on the positives.

“The consistency part is the big one,” Benson said. “It all comes down to us as coaches getting the team prepared. That was a lot of the focus here this week was making sure we are prepared for all three phases of the game and being able to execute a game plan no matter what adversity comes across.”

Battle Mountain, which plays in a classification higher than Aspen, has had a rough go so far. The Huskies lost their opener 35-6 to Evergreen (No. 9 in 3A this week) before taking Basalt (No. 4 in 2A this week) to double overtime on Sept. 2 before losing, 40-34. Last week, BMHS lost 61-0 to Lutheran, which is No. 3 in 3A this week.

The Huskies were a feisty group in their visit to the Roaring Fork Valley a few weeks back, moving the ball well against a usually stout Longhorns’ defense but a few special teams miscues late let the upset bid slip away from them.

“They may be the best 0-3 team in the state of Colorado,” Benson said. “They are well coached. They run the double-wing offense. A little bit more of a wrinkle than Glenwood with doing it out of the gun. They provide a good amount of balance within their offense between run and pass. Defensively, they definitely get after it.”

Friday’s game in Edwards will be the “10th Mountain Game” according to Benson, which is meant to honor the 10th Mountain Division veterans who have strong historical ties to both the Aspen and Vail areas. The Skiers will wear special jerseys for the game and the winning team will earn a wooden ski as a trophy.

Elsewhere in the 2A Western Slope League this week, Basalt (3-0) plays at Glenwood Springs (3-0); Rifle (1-2) hosts Faith Christian (1-1); Delta (2-1) is at Montezuma-Cortez (1-1); Coal Ridge (0-2) hosts Steamboat Springs; and Moffat County (3-0) has a bye.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Basalt-Glenwood football rivalry returns after spring’s one-off league showdown

Glenwood’s Blake Nieslanik runs during their game against Basalt on April 9, 2021, on the BHS field.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

The teams aren’t vying to one up the other in the rankings or looking to get a leg up in the league standings this fall, but that will hardly make the stakes any less meaningful for Basalt and Glenwood Springs high schools when they meet on the football field Friday night.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Glenwood.

“We are very excited to play Basalt,” Demons’ coach Pat Engle said Thursday. “A ton of respect for their program. Their head football coach is a fantastic football coach and probably even a better human being. He coaches his kids well. Their kids play really hard. I’m sure we’ll just pick up right where we left off from the spring.”

It’s a rematch from the one-off pandemic spring season, when the teams both played in a 16-team Class 3A and were, at least for that season, league foes. That game was the first between the schools, which are only separated by about 20 miles, since the Demons won 33-7 in a non-league game in 2011.

The spring’s game in Basalt was won 21-14 by Glenwood Springs on a touchdown run in the final seconds. It was one of the biggest games of the regular season in the one-off 3A classification, as Basalt entered that game No. 1 in the state with Glenwood coming in at No. 3.

Rifle eventually went on to win the spring’s 3A state title, knocking off the Demons in the playoffs after losing to the Longhorns in the regular season.

“We know it’s their homecoming, we know it’s going to be a special atmosphere. And that’s all I want for my kids, is to get down there and have a lot of fun and get to play in a special atmosphere,” Basalt coach Carl Frerichs said Wednesday of this week’s rematch with the Demons. “We don’t feel like we coached very well or played very well last year, so we’ve been working on a lot of things this week at practice because when we watched the film from last year, we are not happy with the way we coached or played.”

Both teams are off to strong starts this fall. Glenwood is 3-0 and ranked No. 7 in Class 3A this week, with wins over Harrison (41-14), Rifle (14-6) and Conifer (35-27). Sophomore Joaquin Sandoval is back under center for the Demons, completing about 60% of his passes for 378 yards with two touchdowns and a lone interception. The team relies heavily on the run, with either Ray Rosenmerkel or Blake Nieslanik having topped 100 yards rushing in each game.

“We’ve got great senior leadership. Those kids, they learned a lot from the kids who graduated. They learned how to lead a group,” Engle said of his team’s 3-0 start. “They know what the standard is and they hold our kids to that standard. That’s the first thing. Secondly, our assistant coaches are putting in a ton of time just trying to help the kids be as good as they can be. And third, we are just trying to be on one heartbeat. I don’t really care who gets the credit. We all have to do our job and by doing that it just makes the team that much better.”

Basalt High School wide receiver Rulbe Alvarado avoids a tackle by Glenwood Springs’ Stephen Morris during the first half of the spring homecoming game on Friday, April 9, 2021.
Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times

Engle expects more of the same out of Basalt, which is a heavy dose of running behind BHS junior Cooper Crawford and a handful of shots from BHS junior quarterback Kade Schneider. The Longhorns, playing back in their traditional Class 2A this fall, are ranked No. 4 in the state and have tallied wins over Woodland Park (35-6), Battle Mountain (40-34 in 2OT) and Faith Christian (37-0).

Basalt’s defense showed a lot of improvement between the overtime win over the Huskies — one of Glenwood’s league foes — and a shutout of a proud Faith Christian program last week. Offensively, BHS has avoided major mistakes and continues to put up points.

“Last year we came out with the loss, but it just gives us more motivation for us this year to come back and play harder,” Basalt senior receiver and linebacker Sam Sherry said Wednesday of the Glenwood game. “I definitely think we should have won that game. We came out with the wrong mentality and we just came out slow and made a lot of mistakes early, which let them stay in the game longer than they should have, which let them win. I think they were just more aggressive last year, but this year we are going to come out better than we have.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com