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Basalt basketball teams can’t hang with Coal Ridge in Western Slope openers

The Basalt High School basketball teams opened 3A Western Slope League play Tuesday, with both squads falling well short of visiting Coal Ridge inside the BHS gymnasium. For the boys, there was plenty of good early but the inexperience cost them late. The girls struggled from the start, a disappointing step back after playing one of their best games in recent memory only last week.

CR BOYS 84, BHS 48

Playing for the first time since Dec. 20 and with a slightly altered roster of younger athletes, the Longhorn boys came out swinging against the Titans. BHS led in the early moments of the game but had fallen behind 41-26 by halftime.

“We played a good first half,” first-year Basalt coach Clint Hunter told The Aspen Times. “They did a really nice job. I was really, really proud of them. They had an opportunity and I thought they took full advantage of it. Your first varsity experience is always nerve-wracking.”

Basalt hung tough well into the third quarter but a big run by Coal Ridge over the final few minutes led to the decisive final margin. Coal Ridge standout Austin Gerber led all players with 26 points, well above his already impressive 17.7 points per game the senior averaged coming in.

The Titans improved to 7-3 overall and 1-0 in WSL play. Coal Ridge has won five straight games.

“They are a very good program,” Hunter said of the team from New Castle. “It’s exciting to know that we’ll get there soon. Our guys are working hard and I’m excited for the progress we’ll continue to make.”

Sophomore Wish Moore led BHS with 14 points, while senior Brian Granados added 12 points. Basalt fell to 1-7 overall and 0-1 in WSL play. The Longhorns next head to Delta (3-5, 1-0) on Saturday.

CR GIRLS 63, BHS 30

Last week, the Basalt girls won 68-40 over Battle Mountain, their best offensive performance since scoring 72 points back in December 2016. That same firepower was nowhere to be seen, at least early, against the Titans on Tuesday.

Coal Ridge jumped out to a 20-0 lead, a bucket by Basalt’s Zoe Vozick in the final seconds of the first quarter finally getting the home team on the scoreboard. The BHS offense got things going some in the second quarter, but the Titans still took a commanding 36-13 lead into the half.

“Maybe a little too much confidence after that win against Battle Mountain and now we just have to regroup,” second-year BHS coach Amy Contini told radio announcer Jim Williams after the game. “Sometimes all you have to do is just kind of laugh one off. Obviously we played probably the most horrendous first quarter of basketball I’ve ever seen us play, which is quite the opposite of what we played against Battle Mountain.”

Coal Ridge only outscored Basalt 27-17 in the second half, but the damage had already been done by then. The Titans were led by 17 points from senior Lyanna Nevarez, who came in only averaging 7.6 points per game in eight contests.

The Titans improved to 6-4 overall and 1-0 in WSL play.

Basalt fell to 3-3 overall and 0-1 in WSL play. No Longhorn reached double figures in scoring against Coal Ridge.

With a trip to Delta (5-3) coming Saturday, Contini is hoping for a bit more consistency from her players.

“It’s not doing it when you want to do it, it’s doing it when you need to do it, and we needed this win tonight,” Contini told Williams. “And the girls have to learn that lesson. And they will. We’ll bounce back for Delta. Hopefully we’ll have a better outing against Delta.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Colbert’s Prep Playbook: AHS ski season underway, Nordic teams off to hot start

The ski season is finally here. No, I’m not talking about your personal quest for that 100-day pin — Monday was my 35th day, if you’re keeping track — but the start of the competitive high school season.

The Aspen High School alpine and Nordic ski teams both got on course for the first time over the weekend, the initial step toward another run at the state championship. The AHS boys are the two-time defending state champs, while the girls were runner up a year ago after winning it all in 2018.

First, let’s talk about Nordic. AHS opened its season Saturday at a 5K classic mass start at Spring Gulch, an event hosted by Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School with help from the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. The Skiers swept both the boys and girls team titles.

In the boys race, Aspen’s Taiga Moore finished second in 17 minutes, 58.6 seconds to lead his team. Steamboat’s Sumner Cotton won, finishing about 11 seconds ahead of Moore. Aspen’s Noah Wheeless was fourth and Anders Weiss was seventh.

The girls race was won by CRMS’s Kate Oldham, an AVSC product. Aspen’s Elsie Weiss was second in 21:16.5, roughly 50 seconds behind Oldham. Aspen’s Eva McDonough finished fifth, Emma Barsness seventh — she was the runner-up at state last winter — and Jordan Miner 10th for four in the top 10.

“It was a perfect day for classic ski racing and I am proud to see so many of our skiers qualify for states this early in the season,” AHS Nordic coach Travis Moore wrote in an email. “There was a lot of positive energy within the team and it was contagious.”

Now, for alpine. Aspen competed in a giant slalom on Friday at Beaver Creek, with the boys finishing second as a team and the girls coming in third. Battle Mountain won both the boys and girls titles at Beaver Creek.

The highlight was AHS freshman Samantha Edelman, who won the girls race with a two-run combined time of 2:20.57 to win by a full second over Battle Mountain’s Berit Frischholz. The only other top 10 finisher for the AHS girls was Edie Sherlock, who was eighth. Four others finished in the top 20.

The AHS boys had nine finish in the top 13, including five in the top eight. Junior James Kelly led the way by finishing third, while Thomas Morris was fourth, Max Godomsky fifth and Connor Stephen sixth. Battle Mountain’s Jakub Pecinka and Xander Armistead finished 1-2, respectively.

The Skiers look to add to an already impressive history. The AHS boys ski team has won nine state titles, tied with Durango for second most all time. Summit’s 18 championships lead the way. The AHS girls have won eight state titles, second most behind Summit’s 21.

Aspen does have some big ski boots to fill this season, including those of Levyn Thomas, last year’s girls giant slalom state champion, and Everett Olson, last year’s boys Nordic skate champion and classic runner up. The team also graduated Nordic standout Colt Whitley and alpine standout Trey Thorpe, who was runner up last year in both GS and slalom.

Next up, the AHS alpine team heads to Loveland on Friday for another GS. The first slalom is Jan. 24 at Copper Mountain. The Skiers host their lone home event, a GS at Aspen Highlands, on Feb. 6.

The AHS Nordic team is off this week before next competing Jan. 25 at Lake County. Their home races are Feb. 8 on the trails near AVSC and the high school.

The state championship is Feb. 27 and 28 and will be hosted by both Battle Mountain and Vail Mountain School. The alpine events will be held at Beaver Creek, while the Nordic events take place at Maloit Park near Minturn. Battle Mountain High School in Edwards will host the awards banquet.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Basalt girls basketball rolls over Battle Mountain in statement win after break

The Basalt High School girls basketball team went into the holiday break somewhat disappointed. They had won a couple of games, yes, but the internal expectations were growing and not being met by the players.

Unfortunately for Battle Mountain, the Huskies found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time as BHS rolled to a 68-40 win Wednesday night in Basalt, a win that isn’t surprising to the Longhorns.

“Honestly, the girls were getting frustrated over break. They were like, ‘Why aren’t we winning by more?’ They want to keep winning,” second-year Basalt coach Amy Contini said. “They basically had a come-to-Jesus moment over break, talking about the difference of being good and being great and if we want to be a good team this year or if we want to be a great team this year. And I think today it finally clicked that they can really be a great team.”

Battle Mountain, now 2-4, is a Class 4A team that won 15 games a season ago. The Huskies never looked competitive against Basalt, with BHS jumping out to a 15-4 lead after a quarter and had a 35-18 lead at halftime.

Junior Gracie Reardon led the Longhorns with 20 points.

“A lot of good things going on right now,” Contini said. “Pressure is where they like to be. They like to be pressured — they want to be expected to win games.”

After losing its first two games, Basalt has now won three straight. Prior to the break, BHS won back-to-back overtime games over Valley (58-51) and Rifle (41-38) to reach .500.

Wednesday’s win is a milestone of sorts for the program, as it’s the first time BHS, now 3-2, has been over .500 at any point in a season since it started 2-1 in the 2010-11 season. According to MaxPreps, Basalt hasn’t won its season opener since the 2007-08 school year.

Also, the 68 points scored against Battle Mountain are the most by a Basalt team since a 72-46 win over Las Animas on Dec. 3, 2016.

Next up, the Longhorns will open league play with a home game against Coal Ridge (4-4) on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The Titans have a non-league game against Vail Christian on Thursday, Jan. 9. In their lone meeting against Coal Ridge last season, Basalt lost 51-35 but played without three key players.

“Really big for us, especially to show the league where we are and to show ourselves where we are,” Contini said of the importance of Tuesday’s game with Coal Ridge. “We felt like we still played a really great game against them (last season). These girls should be starting to feel some pressure and the expectation is for us to be great and not to be good.”

The Basalt boys (1-6) did not play Wednesday night and will open 2020 against Coal Ridge on Tuesday with the girls.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Colbert’s Prep Playbook: The winter grind continues as teams return from break

We are less than two months from the official start of spring sports practices for the high schools. Yes, like, in eight weeks we’ll be practicing sports such as lacrosse, girls soccer and baseball.

Why do I bring this up? Just as a reference point for how fast the rest of the winter sports season is likely to fly by. With the holidays behind us, most teams return to the grinder this week with the winter championship season right around the corner.

In the first Prep Playbook of 2020, let’s look back at the start of the season for our teams. With the chaos of the New Year, even mid-December seems like a lifetime ago.

HOCKEY

The Aspen High hockey team didn’t want to wait around like everyone else and jumped back on the ice this past weekend with two games. AHS played Friday night at No. 4 Fort Collins, losing 4-0, before playing to a 3-3 tie with Resurrection Christian a night later. Fort Collins, by the way, moved up to No. 1 in the state as of Monday’s updated CHSAANow.com rankings. At 2-3-1 overall, the Skiers certainly have work to do. They jump back into league play Friday night when they host Glenwood Springs.

BOYS BASKETBALL

A fourth of the way through the schedule and the Aspen boys basketball team is 2-3 overall with wins over Soroco and Lotus. Their final game before the holiday break — a 63-60 overtime loss to Vail Christian at home — probably stings a bit still. The Skiers’ first game of 2020 will be Friday at Ouray. They play Saturday at Telluride.

The Basalt boys are 1-6 so far this season under first-year coach Clint Hunter. That lone win came against Vail Mountain, splitting up a pair of three-game losing streaks. The Longhorns’ last game was a 41-29 loss to Rifle right before the break. The BHS boys aren’t scheduled to get 2020 underway until hosting Coal Ridge a week from now.

GIRLS BASKETBALL

The Aspen girls are 1-3 with a win over Dolores. The losses have all been by double digits, but there’s always been a good bit of fight in them. Getting to four or five wins would be a big step for this program. The AHS girls play Saturday at Ouray in their first game back from break.

The Basalt girls are 2-2 despite an 0-2 start. The Longhorns finished 2019 with back-to-back wins over Valley (58-51) and Rifle (41-38). Both of those games went to overtime, showing the team knows how to fight late. BHS will host Battle Mountain on Wednesday in a girls-only night before joining the boys against Coal Ridge next week.

WRESTLING

The Basalt wrestling team gets back on the mat Saturday at a tournament hosted by Eagle Valley. Not exactly a deep team, the Longhorns typically struggle in team duals. But, the team does have some individual talent to keep an eye on as regionals approach. Both heavyweight Ernesto Lopez and 170-pounder Ruben Samuelson look rock solid, highlighted by wins at West Grand right before the break. Based off early season results, both of those guys could make a run at the podium come state.

GIRLS SWIMMING

The small but mighty Aspen girls swim team, led by first-year coach Katherine Keel, opens 2020 with a trip to the Summit Invitational on Friday. The Skiers then host their lone home meet of the season Saturday at the Aspen Recreation Center pool. With an incredibly small roster, winning meets might be out of the question this season. However, their talent-to-depth ratio might be among the best in the state, as the swimmers they do have can certainly make noise come state next month.

SKIING

The high school ski season is finally here. The AHS Alpine team gets things going Friday with a giant slalom at Beaver Creek, which also will host the Feb. 27 and 28 state championships. The AHS Nordic team first competes Saturday at nearby Spring Gulch in a meet hosted by Colorado Rocky Mountain School. Both teams will host a home meet the first week of February: Alpine on Feb. 6 and Nordic on Feb. 8. Keep in mind the AHS boys are the two-time reigning state champs in the combined Alpine-Nordic finale. The girls won it all two years ago before finishing as runner-up last winter.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Preps: Aspen hockey beats Steamboat Springs, Basalt basketball splits with Rifle

AHS hockey beats Steamboat Friday for crucial victory, 4-2

The Aspen High School hockey team came away with a critical win Friday, holding off Steamboat Springs 4-2 at Lewis Ice Arena. The Skiers led 2-0 late into the first period after goals by Eli Hunt and Jack Pevny, but the Sailors scored in the waning seconds of the period to cut it to 2-1.

SSHS tied it at 2-2 early in the second period, but Hunt gave Aspen the lead back midway through and Max Ufkes made it 4-2 entering the third period. No one scored after that, AHS allowing only the two goals after giving up a combined 15 goals through its first three games.

The Skiers now head to the winter break 2-2 overall after having split two games with Crested Butte last weekend. AHS lost at Battle Mountain in its opener earlier in the month. AHS will next play at highly-ranked Fort Collins on Jan. 3.

Basalt girls basketball rallies for overtime win at Rifle

The Basalt High School girls basketball team rallied for a big win Friday at Rifle, prevailing 41-38 in overtime in its final game before the winter break.

The Longhorns trailed 15-6 at halftime but cut it to 23-18 entering the fourth quarter. A 16-point explosion in the final frame helped send it to overtime, with BHS sneaking out the win. Junior Gracie Reardon led the team with 15 points, while senior Riley Webb had 14.

Rifle fell to 1-5 overall with Basalt improving to 2-2. It was the Longhorns’ first game since a 58-51 double overtime win over Valley on Dec. 7. BHS is off until Jan. 8 vs. Battle Mountain.

The Basalt boys basketball team came up short Friday at Rifle, losing 41-29. BHS trailed 21-14 at halftime and then was outscored 15-2 in the third quarter before making a small rally in the fourth.

Rifle improved to 5-2 while Basalt fell to 1-6. The BHS boys are off until hosting Coal Ridge on Jan. 14.

The Aspen High School girls basketball team heads into the break with a 1-3 record after Thursday’s loss to Vail Christian. The AHS boys are 2-3 after Thursday’s loss.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Vail Christian takes two from Aspen boys and girls basketball in AHS home openers

The Aspen High School basketball teams played at home for the first time this season, falling in a pair of games to Vail Christian on Thursday night inside the AHS gymnasium. The boys played a nail-biter that went to overtime, while the shorthanded girls couldn’t quite keep up with the Saints.

VC BOYS 63, ASPEN 60

This was close throughout. The Skiers trailed 18-14 at the end of the first quarter but led 27-24 at halftime behind a stellar first-half performance from sophomore Braden Korpela, who scored all 10 of his points before the break.

The Saints outscored the Skiers 20-11 in the third quarter to take a 44-38 lead into the fourth. Vail Christian had a chance to shut the door on AHS, but the home team rallied over the final five minutes. Aspen eventually took a 53-52 lead with 55 seconds to play after a drive and basket by Taylor Akin, but Vail Christian would split a pair of free throws only 20 seconds later to make it 53-53.

The Saints were called for a charge on a made basket with less than a second to play in regulation — negating what would have been the game-winner — and the teams went to overtime in the 53-all deadlock.

A quick basket only seconds into the extra period gave the Saints a 55-53 lead. AHS would retake the lead at 58-57 after a Jon Haisfield free throw, but other missed opportunities, including from the line, allowed Vail Christian to build a 62-58 lead with only 15 seconds to play.

Down 63-60, Aspen had the ball in the final seconds but a missed 3-pointer by Korpela at the buzzer allowed the Saints to sneak away with the win.

Aspen’s Jonathan Woodrow led the team with 23 points.

Vail Christian stayed unbeaten, moving to 4-0 overall as it heads into winter break. The Saints are ranked No. 9 in Class 2A this week.

Aspen fell to 2-3 overall in its final game before the winter break. The loss snapped a two-game win streak for the Skiers.

VC GIRLS 48, ASPEN 26

The Aspen girls played without some key players who were out with injury and couldn’t keep up with Vail Christian in a 48-26 loss. The Saints, while not ranked, have finished with double-digit wins each of the past five seasons.

“It was what it was. They had a good ball handler and they had a couple of people that could put up quick shots, accurate shots,” AHS coach James Aldridge said. “That’s what I always tell the girls, is you have to do that dirty work to win these games.”

The Saints improved to 2-2 overall with the win, while Aspen fell to 1-3. AHS hadn’t played since a 35-21 loss to Lotus on Dec. 7 in Meeker. Last week’s game with Hotchkiss had been cancelled because of the weather.

Aldridge likes where the team is heading into the break, especially with so many players expected back in the lineup come January. He pointed out their 37-35 comeback win over Dolores on Dec. 6 as reason to be excited.

“They know what it feels like to fight,” Aldridge said. “They go out there and they try hard and that’s all I can truthfully ask.”

Both teams are now off until the second week of January.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Preps: Aspen hockey tops Crested Butte for first win; AHS boys basketball wins

The good part was the Aspen High School hockey team won its first game Saturday. The bad part was it took a lot of goals to get it done.

Hosting Crested Butte for the second time in less than 24 hours, the Skiers won 5-4 at Lewis Ice Arena to get victory No. 1 on the season. Friday night, AHS lost 5-3 to the Titans, resulting in a split of the two-game homestand.

“They found a way to win,” Aspen coach Dru Lucchesi said after Saturday’s game. “They know they need to take care of business. They know this shouldn’t have been this close, but once again we can’t take care of the puck on our end. We are just giving them freebie goals, and that can’t happen. Our team can score goals, it’s just we have to keep the puck out of our net right now.”

Aspen’s season opener was a 6-1 loss at Battle Mountain on Wednesday. Meaning, through a 1-2 start, the Skiers have allowed a combined 15 goals, Lucchesi pointing out a sloppy zone defense as the culprit. The AHS offense has tallied nine goals of its own in that span.

“When they get into the offensive zone they make really good plays and they are using their bodies really well. They are getting opportunities. It wasn’t a ton of shots, we wanted more, but they are making the most out of them right now,” Lucchesi said. “We have a lot of speed, they just need to realize how to use it and the biggest part of it is getting out of our ‘D’ zone.”

Saturday against the Titans, Aspen’s offense came out firing with goals from Robbie Fitzgerald and Jack Pevny, but a pair of goals by Crested Butte that straddled the first two periods made it 2-2. A goal by Eli Hunt midway through the second period briefly gave Aspen the lead back, but it was 3-3 going into the third.

The Titans’ Graham Barrett scored his second goal of the game less than a minute into the final period, putting the Skiers in a 4-3 hole. About five minutes later, Aspen’s Connor Chesner scored the equalizer and it was Pevny’s goal with less than five minutes to play that won it.

With only four official practices under their belt to go with three games, Lucchesi said the team just needs more ice time and it can all come together.

“That really is our biggest hindrance right now is just taking care of our ‘D’ zone, getting the puck out. We have bodies in front of the net we still aren’t taking care of,” Lucchesi said. “Once again, the base of what we have is really exciting. It’s just getting everything together, getting all the glue and eventually it’s going to gum and it’ll be buzzing, it’ll be fun.”

Aspen will play once more before the holiday break when it hosts Steamboat Springs at 7:45 pm. Friday at Lewis Ice Arena.

Aspen boys basketball starts winning streak, beats Lotus

The Aspen High School boys basketball team wrapped up play in Meeker on Saturday with a 58-39 win over the Lotus School of Excellence. The victory came a day after Aspen rolled over Soroco for its first win of the season, 65-35. Now 2-2 overall with losses to Rifle and Mancos, Aspen is scheduled to play Vail Christian on Thursday in its home opener and final game before the holiday break.

The AHS girls basketball team’s game Saturday at Hotchkiss was canceled. They will also host Vail Christian on Thursday.

Basalt basketball falls to Riverdale Ridge on Saturday

The Basalt High School boys basketball team closed out play at the Weld Central tournament on Saturday with a 77-70 loss to Riverdale Ridge. BHS lost 67-51 to Weld Central on Friday, but got its first win of the season on Thursday, a 57-48 victory over Vail Mountain. The Longhorns, now 1-5, will play Friday at Rifle in their final game before the holiday break.

The Basalt girls (1-2) did not play this weekend after Friday’s game against South Park was canceled due to the weather. They also play Friday at Rifle to close out the early-season schedule.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High hockey team hopes a deep senior class will lead to rebound season

Led by a deep senior class two seasons ago, the Aspen High School hockey team finished 14-5-3 in arguably its best season since winning the 2007 state championship. While last year’s senior class had some great individual talent, it didn’t have the numbers and AHS slipped back to an unsatisfying 6-8-4 mark.

With a senior class back in the double digits, coach Dru Lucchesi is hoping for a bounce back season this winter.

“That was an interesting year in terms of we just couldn’t get over the hump and win against the teams we needed to kind of win against,” Lucchesi said of the 2018-19 season. “It definitely helps (having a lot of seniors): size factor, speed factor, knowledge factor. And just being able to throw the stuff at them we need to. They are going to be able to take it a lot quicker and easier fresh out of the gate, because it’s not going to be so unfamiliar to them.”

The Skiers opened their season Wednesday night, losing 6-1 to Battle Mountain at Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. It was a tough situation for Aspen considering it only had about four practices under its belt. On the flip side, the Huskies (2-1) were playing for the third time and coming off an extensive fall season. Battle Mountain was an 11-win team last winter.

“They got a good amount of ice under their feet. It showed yesterday. They were moving pretty well yesterday and their system is pretty set in stone,” Lucchesi said Thursday of the Huskies, who are one spot outside of being ranked in the top 10 through CHSAANow.com this week. “There is a lot of stuff we still need to get through. But the potential is there. It’s just getting rid of a lot of weird habits these kids kind of have. It’s step one. We saw what they can do and now it’s just fixing stuff.”

The biggest loss from last year’s team was Dominic Lanese, who led the team in goals (14) and points (23) during the regular season. He was tied alongside Matthew Rigney and Max Ufkes for the team lead with nine assists.

Also gone is Henry Morrison, who joined Lanese as the two players to score in Aspen’s 5-2 opening-round playoff loss to Kent Denver. AHS also said goodbye to key defenders in Jackson Holmbeck and Ryan Sovich.

“We have a lot of people who are going to step up and fill that role. We are going to have to get points through the whole team, versus just one kid. Which is good, because that’s how it should be,” Lucchesi said of replacing Lanese. “We have a lot of depth this year, which is really exciting.”

Aspen’s list of key returners is a long one with no real standouts. Players like Jack Pevny, Connor Chesner and Rigney were among the first for Lucchesi to point out. But it continued with the likes of Robbie Fitzgerald, Ethan Hunt, Brady Hornburg and Ufkes, among even more. Then there is Logan Soderberg back in net, as well.

This was the sort of depth and seniority the team lacked a season ago.

“We have a lot of good players and a lot of good pieces,” Lucchesi said. “So there is not really one kid that is above all the rest. We just have a solid two, three, three and a half, four lines of good forwards and we have good defense.”

Aspen’s next chance to play will be this weekend when it hosts Crested Butte twice at Lewis Ice Arena. Assuming the Titans can make the trek through the winter storm set to hit the state, varsity games are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 11:15 a.m. Saturday. There will be junior varsity games prior to both contests.

Crested Butte went 14-6-1 last season and won a playoff game, but did split two late-season contests against Aspen. The Titans are 1-1 this season after splitting two games with Steamboat Springs last week.

“It’s just bringing everybody up to speed and seeing what they kind of do in games,” Lucchesi said. “We really can’t start doing that process until we have a game or a couple of games under our belt and seeing what their tendencies are. And this is a great week for that, playing Battle, which is obviously a good team, and Crested Butte is going to be no pushover either. They played us really tough last year and they are a physical team, so it should be pretty interesting games this weekend.”

After Saturday, Aspen has only one more game before the winter break, a Dec. 20 home matchup with Steamboat Springs at Lewis Ice Arena.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High girls swimming season gets going with new coach Katherine Keel

As a relatively late hire, Katherine Keel was somewhat thrown into the fire. The new Aspen High School girls swim coach didn’t have much time to prepare nor does she have much of a roster to work with, but she’s ready to lay the foundation for the future.

Not that the program hasn’t been anything but elite in recent years.

“When you get to high school age a lot of these girls have already committed. Even if it’s just to be a high school swimmer, they want to do this and they are all in,” Keel said. “I feel really capable and competent as far as writing workouts and leading the girls and creating a positive culture of acceptance and hard work. It’s just been a lot of figuring out logistics and connecting all the dots behind the scenes. But it’s starting to make sense.”

The Skiers opened their season Wednesday in a tri-meet hosted by Glenwood Springs, taking third despite having only four swimmers compete. Glenwood, which won, had 26 swimmers and Summit had 34. AHS finished only three points back of the Tigers and won five individual events and two relays.

The numbers are lacking in terms of physical swimmers for Aspen, meaning winning meets or competing for a state championship might be too tall of a task. But the individual talent is not of question for the first-year coach, despite the youth.

“Just from a numbers game, this is definitely a rebuilding year,” Keel said. “We can definitely put up some impressive times and score some points, but I think my biggest focus is at the micro level and kind of building those foundational blocks for the future.”

Keel took over for Kathleen Callahan, who stepped aside for family reasons but has helped Keel transition into her role as coach. Callahan guided Aspen to the inaugural Class 3A state championship in 2017, a first for the program. The team followed by finishing eighth in 2018 and fourth last winter.

The Skiers said goodbye to a deep senior class that included Davy Brown, who won a pair of individual state titles in 2019. They had no juniors a season ago; therefore, the Skiers have no seniors on this year’s roster.

However, returning are some key contributors from a year ago such as Ava Cherry, Emily Kinney, Kayla Tehrani and Laila Khan-Farooqi. The latter three, along with Brown, won the 200-yard freestyle relay at state last season.

“We have a really young team,” Keel said. “Although I wish we had bigger numbers, I think having a younger team is great because you can kind of set the tone and the intention and the expectation and these girls are going to continue to swim for years to come.”

Keel, 29, is a native of Tennessee who swam for the University of North Carolina, where she specialized in the breaststroke. She’s lived in Colorado for about seven years, the past two and a half here in the Roaring Fork Valley. She has some coaching background, including as an assistant high school coach on the Front Range.

“I was looking for a way to get back to being on deck and back to swimming,” Keel said. “I liked working with the high school girls because I feel like it’s a really impressionable age and there is a lot they can learn. … They all care about it. They are passionate about it. The desire is there. I don’t have to create the excitement.”

PREP RESULTS

The Basalt High School wrestling team competed Wednesday at Moffat County, losing 54-18 but going 2-2 in contested matches. Ruben Samuelson (170 pounds) and Jose Castorena (182 pounds) earned the wins for the Longhorns. Basalt’s losses came at 152 pounds and 160 pounds. BHS next is scheduled to compete Thursday at Grand Valley.

The Aspen High School hockey team started its season Wednesday, losing 6-1 at Battle Mountain. The Skiers will try and rebound on Friday night and Saturday morning when Crested Butte visits Lewis Ice Arena for the team’s home openers.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen boys basketball continues to lay the foundation in Year 4 under Schrempf

Former coach Steve Ketchum once told Alex Schrempf it would take about four seasons to get the program going. Now entering his fourth season as the coach of the Aspen High School boys basketball team, Schrempf realizes the truth in that and is hoping the Skiers can take that next step in getting back to the greatness it showed under Ketchum not that long ago.

“This is the first year where I haven’t felt like I was starting from square one again,” Schrempf said. “There is never a knock on years past. We’ve loved our groups and we’ve taken steps every year to keep growing from an organizational standpoint. It’s just finding what more can we do to provide value to this experience? What more can we do as a staff each year to improve on what we are emphasizing?”

Aspen opened its season Tuesday night at Rifle, losing 52-33. The Skiers haven’t had a winning season since going 19-5 in Ketchum’s final season in 2013-14. They went 7-14 last winter in Schrempf’s third season.

But there may be something to this team that could help turn the tide once again.

“We got kids that are stoked about basketball and want to get better at it,” Schrempf said. “You can feel it in the gym. All three coaching staffs have said it. These kids are together, they are listening, they are running to everything, working hard and they are making each other better.”

The Skiers said goodbye to a solid senior class last season, led by longtime starting point guard Noah Hollander. But the senior class back for the 2019-20 season isn’t too shabby, either. Jonathan Woodrow leads that group, along with big man Aidan Ledingham. Those two are likely to be the centerpieces for the team as the season goes along.

“He’s put in a lot of work. He’s led by example for four years,” Schrempf said of Woodrow, a football standout who has played varsity basketball since his freshman season. “He’s always been a kid that does it, plus some. He gives us that plus 5%, which is something we talk about all the time. He always goes a little bit more. He deserves a great, fun year.”

Sloan Hamill, Jon Haisfield and Jack Seamans are other seniors expected to play a big role for the Skiers this winter. Juniors Liam Farrey and Luke Hollander, Noah’s younger brother, will see a bigger role. And watch out for sophomore Braden Korpela, who Schrempf highlighted as being one of the younger players who could emerge over the coming months.

The key, as always, will be getting the team to play together as one.

“At the end of the day, I’ve never really been a heavy X’s and O’s coach. We want to teach them how to play basketball, not how to run plays. And they are getting there,” Schrempf said. “We have a great group of seniors who are really leading by example, and that makes it a whole lot easier.”

With Tuesday’s loss against Rifle starting things off, the Skiers next are scheduled to play Thursday at Meeker’s annual tournament. AHS is slated to play Mancos at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, and will play either Soroco or potentially Rifle again Friday. Aspen has one home game on tap before the holiday break, that being a Dec. 19 game against Vail Christian.

“They are really about each other and there is not a selfish bone in their bodies, which is something we are actually trying to improve on,” Schrempf joked of his players. “We need them to be a little selfish at times. But they are great leaders and having a head on some shoulders of a group of underclassmen that are just really enthused about basketball is really exciting. These kids are putting in a lot of extra time.”

BASALT GIRLS BASKETBALL GAME FRIDAY CANCELED

The Basalt High School girls basketball team’s home opener against South Park on Friday night has been canceled due to a winter storm expected to hit the state later in the week.

The Longhorns (1-2) aren’t scheduled to compete again until going to Rifle on Dec. 20, their final game before the holiday break.

The Basalt boys basketball team is scheduled to play at a tournament hosted by Weld Central starting Thursday.

acolbert@aspentimes.com