| AspenTimes.com

Spring prep season in peril after CHSAA extends suspension until at least April 18

The spring high school sports season has been pushed back even more, and there is plenty of reason to doubt it will happen at all.

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Colorado High School Activities Association announced Tuesday the current suspension of all spring activities would be extended until at least April 18. On top of this, all CHSAA music events have been canceled, as well as the CHSAA Hall of Fame event scheduled for April 14.

“It’s not the one you want to hear, but rarely are those smart decisions the ones you really want to hear,” Basalt High School athletic director Jason Santo said. “While it hurts for me as an athletic director not to have my kids out on the field or in a competition, I also know we are keeping our kids safe. That, I can realize, is the smart decision.”

CHSAA originally announced Thursday that all spring sports and activities were to be suspended until April 6. Later that same evening, the organization canceled the remainder of the state basketball tournaments, which had been slated to conclude over the weekend.

Citing updated safety recommendations made by state and federal health officials, including the closing of large gathering places and limiting large crowds, CHSAA Commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green made the decision to further delay the spring prep season. The CHSAA office has even closed with employees working remotely until at least March 30.

“Better than them just pulling the plug. At least it’s still showing that we are going to give it a chance,” Aspen High School athletic director Martha Richards said. “She’s going to try to do everything she can to make sure these kids get to play in some way, shape or form. That’s something everyone should be really appreciative of. It may ultimately end up being out of her hands.”

Spring sports practices got underway March 2, with most sports having the option to start playing games March 12. Between Aspen and Basalt, the only team to have competed before the suspension was AHS girls golf at a tournament last week in Grand Junction. Both schools had numerous teams slated to get underway this past weekend before the moratorium hit.

“Just to delay it a little bit longer is the smart thing to do,” Santo said. “With everything that is going on right now, Rhonda really had no option; CHSAA had no option. The decision had to be made in the best interest of all the student-athletes to postpone until we know more information.”

With no better than an April 18 start date, many questions remain regarding the season happening at all. Taking into account spring break, which had been scheduled for the week of March 23, neither AHS nor BHS had much on the athletic calendar until the first week of April. From there the schedules were packed with contests until the conclusion of the regular season in the second or third week of May, depending on the sport.

Assuming an April 18 return, neither athletic director had many answers on the logistics of how the schedule would be played out. Some sports, like golf and tennis, can technically go straight to regionals and state without needing a regular season. Others, like soccer, lacrosse and baseball, typically need some sort of regular season to determine postseason seeding.

“It’s still doable at this time in some fashion, I think. We just have to stick with that and control the things we can control and obviously let go of the other ones,” said Richards, who also coaches the AHS girls golf team. “I feel like the Legislative Council and our commissioner and all the assistant commissioners, they are truly trying to do everything they can to save the season. I think they will exhaust every option and idea to at least give these kids a chance to play some games. I have no idea what that would look like, but I know they will do their best.”

The current suspension includes all practices. And with school itself being closed through at least spring break due to the coronavirus threat, even accessing the playing fields for impromptu practices isn’t allowed. Some coaches, however, have been posting optional workouts for athletes to do from home in the interim.

There isn’t much coaches or players can do otherwise.

“The message I’ve sent when I’ve talked to the coaches is the season isn’t canceled yet,” Richards said. “Not knowing is the hardest for them. We are just trying to keep everyone’s spirits up and let them know CHSAA, all the ADs, we are all fighting for, how do we make sure some sort of season happens?”

Whether the season happens or not, Santo believes CHSAA’s ultimate decision should be on the same page with the rest of the country.

“I don’t think one state can be a lone wolf on this type of decision. I think every state has to fall in line with how they handle high school athletics, similar to the way colleges did,” Santo said. “There has to be a sweeping determination through all states. It’s a difficult thing to do.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Glenwood’s Kotz is invited to represent Colorado on national invite hockey team

Glenwood Springs High School hockey senior forward Ryan Kotz has been invited to join Team Colorado in the preps National Invitational Tournament scheduled to be played in Minnesota in early May.

Last year, the Coal Ridge High School student played on the second-tier team and attended America’s showcase in St. Louis. This year, he was evaluated during the CHSAA season, during which Kotz scored 23 goals and had 23 assists.

His Demons’ team finished 12-6-3 in just their second season of CHSAA varsity play, advancing to the second round of the single-classification state hockey tournament.

Kotz’s standout year led to him being chosen for the top team, joining Colorado’s best players in the NIT tournament.

Team Colorado is scheduled to compete in the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) in Minneapolis from April 29 to May 3 — barring any lingering sports and travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic at that time.

If the tournament proceeds, the Colorado team will play against the best high school players from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota and Massachusetts.

This is the first year ever that Colorado has been invited to compete in the NIT, according to Glenwood hockey coach Tim Cota.

“This prestigious and highly competitive event receives huge exposure from the NHL, NCAA and Junior A scouts and has changed the future for many of the players that have participated,” Cota said. “Team Colorado will compete against players who are moving on to Junior A, are committed to NCAA Division I and III schools and some who will be drafted in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft next June.”

Kotz is known to his coaches and teammates as “Pony.”

“Pony had the type of senior year that he needed to have to be selected for this type of team,” Cota said. “He plays at both ends of the ice very well and is always around the puck. He’s going to be an asset to this team and will represent the Western Slope very well on Team Colorado.”

Ryan earned Peak League All-Conference honors along with his front line teammate Colter Strautman, who also earned All-State honors, and league honorable mention pick Sean Mooney.

“Demon hockey in general had the type of year where many of our players got noticed on the Front Range and beyond,” Cota said. “This just goes to show that Grizzly Hockey as a youth program and Demon Hockey as a high school program can compete with the larger Front Range teams and programs.”

He added that Kotz’s work ethic on the ice embodies that.

“I’ve been coaching for 28 years now and haven’t had many players that have had the type of work ethic on the ice that Ryan has,” Cota said.

jstroud@postindependent.com

U.S. tech nationals and NASTAR finals canceled; prep sports on hold until April 6

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, U.S. Ski and Snowboard has canceled all remaining domestic events this season. This includes the NASTAR National Championships, scheduled for March 24-28 in Snowmass, and the U.S. Alpine Tech Championships, scheduled for March 28-31 at both Snowmass and Aspen Highlands.

This was set to be the first time Aspen-Snowmass had hosted the tech nationals in 60 years. NASTAR nationals was slated to return for the first time since 2015 before the cancellation.

Aspen Skiing Co. also announced Thursday the March 20 KickAspen Big Air contest was canceled, as is the Hi-Fi concert series.

Other events that have been canceled include the cross-country World Cup ski races in Minnesota; the Moguls U.S. Freestyle National Championships in Squaw Valley, California; the SuperTour Finals in Vernon, British Columbia; and the NorAm Alpine Finals in Panorama, British Columbia.

The cancellation of the races in Minnesota were particularly of note, as it was set to be the first cross-country World Cup held in the United States in 19 years.

The final men’s Alpine World Cup races of the season, scheduled for this weekend in Slovenia, were also canceled, officially putting an end to the Alpine World Cup season for both men and women.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS ON HOLD

The Colorado High School Activities Association announced Thursday that all spring sports and activities have been suspended until April 6 because of the coronavirus. This includes Aspen and Basalt high schools, which had many teams scheduled to begin play this weekend. The suspension includes all practices and spring break trips.

“I want to thank the Board of Directors, membership and CHSAA staff for their support and guidance,” CHSAA commissioner Rhonda Blanford-Green wrote on the organization’s website. “The collaborate decision-making has been in the best interest of our students and school communities, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Glenwood’s historic hoops season comes to a close with QF loss to Pueblo West

The Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball team saw an 18-game winning streak — and its season — come to an abrupt halt on Saturday night at Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, as the Cyclones from Pueblo West High School blew into town and extinguished Glenwood’s Final Four hopes with a nail-biting 44-40 Great Eight Class 4A state playoff win.

It was a tale of two very different halves for the second-seeded Demons, who took a slim 12-11 lead after one quarter of play, only to be outscored by the No. 10 Cyclones 19-4 in the second period to trail at the game’s midway point, 30-16.

Seniors A.J. Adams, John Iuele and Mitchell Burt scored to get the Demons out of the starting gates quickly. Cyclone senior forward Nic Hanenberg, Pueblo West’s eventual second-half hero, got the initial score for his team before a standing room-only gathering in the Demons’ gym.

Pueblo West senior Jimmy Wardle caught fire briefly to hit two 3-pointers, but Demon Adam Schrader leaped high for a rebound and a put back score which was followed by senior forward Patrick Young connecting on a 3-pointer from deep in the right corner to give Glenwood the lead by a single point after 8 minutes had elapsed.

The second quarter was a turning point in the game that would come back to haunt the host Demons for the rest of the evening.

Wardle started off the Cyclone onslaught with his third 3-ball of the game, giving the Cyclones a 14-12 advantage. Then it was Hanenberg, Alex Reid and Taylor Harris all dropping in baskets for Pueblo West to push the lead to 20-12.

Adams scored on a layup for Glenwood on an assist from Iuele to break the Demon dry spell, but it was then time for little-used Cyclone sophomore guard Danny Spence to step to the plate.

Spence hit a jump shot and then cashed in on a pair of 3-pointers, the latter coming as the intermission horn sounded and Pueblo West had completed a whirlwind run to lead 30-16.

Glenwood coach Fred Heisel must have had some magic in his halftime words, because his Demons came out of the locker room and gave the Cyclones a dose of their own medicine by winning the quarter in fine fashion at 13-4 to make things interesting once again.

“We knew they would make a run. They’re a talented team and I give them credit,” Pueblo West coach Ty Trahern said. “But I’m proud of our kids. They really showed some toughness and grit out there. It was a great game to be a part of.”

Glenwood’s big third period was keyed by Young, who hit a 3-pointer and scored on a determined drive to the basket. Adams got a rebound and scored. Senior post Will Narvaez did the same to push the Demons’ run to 10-0. Burt scored on a layup, but then the Cyclones’ Hanenberg managed to hit two short jumpers to keep Pueblo West in front on the scoreboard at 34-29.

It was now time for two Class 4A thoroughbreds to head for the home stretch of the fourth quarter with a photo finish looming at the end.

Glenwood took control of things from the get-go with Iuele scoring on a drive to the bucket, culminating in a soft floating shot. Reserve guard Gabe Kimbrough then completed the Demon comeback with a high-arching 3-pointer to knot things at 34-all and force a Cyclone timeout.

Following a Demon stop on the defensive end, Narvaez put Glenwood up 36-34 with a score on the block. It was Hanenberg to the rescue again for Pueblo West with a 3-pointer to give the Cyclones the lead again with 3:42 left to play.

Adams scored for Glenwood off of a free throw miss by Narvaez as the lead exchanged hands once again. Harris drove for a score for the Cyclones, but Burt connected on a jumper that found every part of the rim before deciding to drop through, giving Glenwood the lead back at 40-39.

Who else but Hanenberg again to the forefront on a driving layup to give the Cyclones a 41-40 lead. A Demon miss and a Pueblo West rebound forced Glenwood to play the fouling game. Pueblo West junior Xavier Hatch made one of two attempts at the charity stripe, giving Glenwood one last chance to tie, or win, trailing 42-40.

After a timeout by Heisel, Glenwood worked the ball patiently until Burt lofted a midrange jumper that was just off the mark. The Cyclones grabbed the rebound — and a trip to the Final Four — as senior Zach Reid marched to the foul line and iced the game for Pueblo West by connecting on both free throws.

Pueblo West (20-6) will face The Classical Academy on Friday night at the Denver Coliseum.

Glenwood (22-4) ends the season with one of the best records, and teams, in the school’s storied basketball history.

“I just told these kids that they have created a legacy that will go well beyond their graduation,” said an emotional Heisel following the game. “All of the young players in this town saw what this group was all about and what they were able to accomplish. They should be very proud of themselves.”

It was the final game in a Demons’ jersey for seven seniors, including Adams, Burt, Narvaez, Iuele, Young, Schrader and Kimbrough.

Aspen boys basketball season ends with first-round playoff loss to DSST: Byers

For the most part, the Aspen High School boys basketball team did exactly what it wanted to do against DSST: Byers in Friday’s playoff opener. However, the Falcons still made more buckets when it mattered and held off the Skiers for a 51-36 win in Denver.

“Down the stretch they stuck to the game plan. We wanted to try and get some of those guys in foul trouble and play physical and get to the free-throw line,” AHS coach Alex Schrempf said. “A lot of unforced errors. We played rushed and allowed them to pressure us and change the way we were just trying to handle the ball.”

Aspen, seeded No. 27 in the Class 3A state tournament, was playing in the 32-team postseason tournament for the first time since 2014 under former coach Steve Ketchum. AHS got there via a surprise run to the district championship game last week.

Byers, the tournament’s No. 6 seed and regional host for the first two rounds, improved to 21-2 overall and will play No. 11 Alamosa on Saturday afternoon in the Round of 16. Alamosa beat No. 22 Lamar in the late game Friday, 59-46.

Aspen’s only lead against Byers came at 2-0 on a Jon Haisfield basket. This came nearly midway through the first quarter as neither team could find any offense for roughly the first four minutes. The Falcons took a 5-2 lead with just over two minutes to play in the quarter off a 3-pointer by star senior Kyrie Thomas and pulled away for a 13-4 advantage heading into the second quarter.

“They were resilient. They’ve been doing what they’ve been doing all season,” Schrempf said of his group. “They kept fighting and gave it their all. It was a fun battle. I wish we could have done a little bit more with it, but they played an overall really good game.”

The Skiers answered back, outscoring the Falcons 10-9 in the second quarter to trail 22-14 at halftime. Thomas, who averages roughly 24 points per game to lead the Confluence League, scored 11 points in the first half alone but did not play in the second half.

Even without Thomas and mounting foul trouble, Byers didn’t let Aspen get too close in the second half. Each team scored nine points in the third quarter and it was 31-23 going into the fourth, where the Falcons broke it open down the stretch, outscoring AHS 20-13 over the final eight minutes.

“Down the stretch, ultimately they got the ball in a few more times than we were able to,” Schrempf said. “I know it was close, neck-and-neck, until the last couple of minutes.”

Senior big man Elijah Thatch led Byers in scoring with 17 points, 11 of those coming in the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Alphonso Flores, who came in averaging less than three points per game, had a career night with 13 points.

Senior Jonathan Woodrow, who did not start because of illness, came off the bench to lead the Skiers with 11 points. He was the only AHS player in double figures.

Aspen finishes the season 14-10 overall, the most wins since going 19-5 in 2013-14. It was the first time AHS reached double figures in wins in four years under Schrempf. With a core nucleus of underclassmen to build around, the coach is confident the team will make it back to the state tournament sooner rather than later.

“Testament to these guys. The seniors, what this group has done over the last four years with us, they made all of this possible,” Schrempf said. “They are going to be remembered for a long time because of what they were able to do. They started this out and this is not going to be our last time winning, this is not going to be our last time in this position. For our younger guys it’s really all about making sure they take the lessons from it and remember what it feels like, remember the hunger they feel wishing they could have won it.”

Also competing Friday, the Roaring Fork High School girls basketball team had its season come to an end, losing as the No. 20 seed to No. 13 seed Platte Valley, 25-20. That game was played at Delta, seeded No. 4, which cruised to a 68-30 win over No. 29 Buena Vista in its first-round game.

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Six years later, Aspen boys basketball heads back to the state tournament

Only two years ago, the Aspen High School boys basketball team finished the season with a mere four wins. Last winter it was seven wins, hardly impressive considering the program’s powerhouse status under former coach Steve Ketchum not that long ago.

Still, this year’s senior class, led by Aidan Ledingham and Jonathan Woodrow, fought on and always believed in a better day. Now, six years after Ketchum last took the Skiers to the state tournament, they are back and with a swagger not seen in many seasons.

“We did,” Ledingham said simply when asked if they believed in getting back to this point. “We had a lot of good work ethic and I thought we had a lot of good drive and we have really good coaches. It took us a little time, but I think with the coaches’ help and our own instinct of being better basketball players, the team finally got better.”

This belief has culminated with a spot in the 32-team Class 3A state tournament, their first trip to the big dance since 2014. As the No. 27 seed, Aspen (14-9) will play at No. 6 seed DSST: Byers (20-2) in the first round at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Byers, located in the heart of Denver, will host the regional competition.

The winner will face either No. 11 Alamosa (16-5) or No. 22 Lamar (13-9) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Round of 16, a game also played on Byers’ home court. Alamosa and Lamar play Friday at 7:30 p.m. in Denver.

According to fourth-year AHS coach Alex Schrempf, Byers is hosting despite original concern about their smaller court, similar to that found in Aspen’s Skier Dome. CHSAA approved the court for regional play earlier this week.

“We have a great opportunity to create a great game of basketball tomorrow night,” Schrempf said Thursday. “I’m looking at these teams that we have a chance to play, and I can’t wait to play them. We have such a great chance to do something with this tournament opportunity and it’s a great chance for these young kids to build experience and see what it’s going to be like when we try and get back next year.”

Aspen getting to the state tournament seemed farfetched only a few weeks ago. At one point the team was 10-8 overall and amid a four-game skid. Ledingham said it was their 60-51 win at Delta on Feb. 15 that snapped their losing streak that changed their fortunes.

“That was a big game for us,” Ledingham said. “We came out to play and that was when we were on a losing streak. We just clicked and that’s when we really started playing Aspen basketball. It’s been really fun from then.”

The Skiers are 4-1 since that four-game skid, and that doesn’t include a rout of Basalt in the regular-season finale, a game that didn’t officially go on the books because of an overscheduling issue on Aspen’s part. The only loss came Saturday in the district championship game to Gunnison, 79-49. AHS only trailed by six points at halftime of that game.

“One thing I never doubted from the inception of this whole little project here is I never doubted having their trust,” Schrempf said of the current group of players. “These guys are not going to be a fluke. This isn’t the stars aligned, one good season in a small town; this is a product of a group of kids who keep trying to work to grow their love of the game together. It’s super exciting for us coaches to see.”

Ledingham said it was business as usual this week, although he also mentioned it’s “really cool to have that new chapter” of AHS basketball with a return to the state tournament. While he and his fellow seniors helped lay the foundation for the program’s return to winning, unfinished business at that, coaches and players alike see the potential for this program going forward with three underclassmen — Lucas Lee, Braden Korpela and Taylor Akin — often starting for the Skiers.

“It allows us the chance to recognize this senior group for how they’ve created this and acknowledge the underclassmen for the future they have at their grasp,” Schrempf said. “These guys stuck with it and they always trusted this process we’ve been trying to get them through. For how exciting our future can be with these underclassmen who are working so hard and love this game so much and have such a high ceiling, it’s so exciting to be a part of that.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Aspen High School dance team heads to national competition in Orlando

The casual fan might only see these girls during halftime of a football game and call them nothing more than cheerleaders. But that’s not how the Aspen High School spirit and dance team wants to be seen, as it’s far from the truth.

They are highly competitive athletes coming off a state championship and put in as much work as any other AHS athlete this season. And after finally getting the attention of their peers, they now have the chance to show off to the entire country.

“In the past, we’ve definitely been made fun of and people never saw us as a real team, if that makes sense. They just didn’t think we were this good in this sport,” AHS senior co-captain Juliana Nickell said. “This year, especially winning state, we’ve shown people how hard it is and how determined we are. While we are not 100 percent there, I think we have gotten a lot more respect this year and it really feels great.”

With those good vibes in tow, the AHS dancers are headed to Orlando this week for the National Dance Alliance national championships, held just down the road from Disney World. It’s uncharted territory for the Skiers, who won their first state championship in December. AHS qualified for nationals through a regional meet held prior to the state competition.

Aspen has had successful competitive teams in recent years, but first-year coach Maddy Miller, an Aspen native and former Denver Nuggets dancer, has challenged the Skiers to push for more this winter and they’ve responded.

“She has changed our mindset,” AHS senior co-captain Louise Lipsey said of Miller. “How other people saw us is how we see ourselves, and they only see us from what we can build ourselves to be. So she made us, every time we do the dance, think of our goals, our tasks, anything that we wanted to improve upon.”

Aspen won the Class 3A poms title at the Denver Coliseum in December, and will take a modified routine from that to NDA nationals. New will be their jazz routine, the second and more demanding element to the national competition that the Skiers only learned within the past few weeks.

“It’s got to have a lot more technique, so it’s a harder execution of a dance,” Miller said of jazz. “Jazz can literally be anything from a contemporary kind of song, a little bit slower and more slow movements, or it can be a hard, sassy jazz, which my girls like to be sassy so I figured they would probably do great in a sassy jazz.”

At nationals, the divisions aren’t divided up by school size, like it was at the state level, but by how many dancers each team will have competing. There are small, medium and large varsity divisions, with AHS set to compete in small varsity jazz and medium varsity pom.

Unlike at state, which had the Skiers competing against only five other 3A teams, the national competition will have them facing off against dozens of the top teams from across the United States. Aspen’s competition includes schools from bigger cities, such as St. Louis and San Antonio, to smaller towns including Paducah, Kentucky. Although, based purely off a town’s population, Aspen might be the smallest of the bunch.

“It’s just amazing how far they’ve come, and as a coach it makes me feel so proud,” Miller said. “We have grown so much as a team, this program has grown so much, that they deserve to go out there and show them everything that we’ve done.”

AHS is sending 12 girls to nationals. Along with Nickell and Lipsey, the jazz lineup will include Jamison Delaney, Ariana Baumgartner, Avery Hirsch, Riley MacArthur, Abby Romero, Grace Romero and Caprice Seeman. Each of those dancers will join Olivia Zwieg, Eryn Brettmann and Bella Hoffman on the poms squad.

Prelims are Friday inside the Grand Sierra Ballroom at the Caribe Royale Resort in Orlando. AHS is scheduled to compete in jazz prelims at 12:43 p.m. locally in Orlando, and pom prelims at 4:26 p.m. They’ll be on the dance floor for less than two minutes each time, with hopes of making it into Saturday’s finals.

The team’s goal entering the season was to win state, and that’s been accomplished. Whatever happens at nationals is just icing on the cake, and they plan to spend Sunday at Disney World, win or lose.

The most important part of it all for the AHS dancers was to earn that respect and become the best team they could.

“I’ve seen how much this team has progressed over the past four years, and I know our determination and drive and strength and especially our endurance is so much stronger,” Lipsey said. “Everything we’ve done these past seven months has been building us to this moment and every time we do the dance we make it stronger than the last. I think nationals is our time to show the city, the state, who we are, what we’re made of and how we keep pushing ourselves to the furthest possible point.”

acolbert@aspentimes.com

Onto Great 8 for Glenwood Springs boys basketball after win over Green Mountain

The Glenwood Springs High School boys basketball team took a commanding lead at the midway point of Wednesday’s Class 4A playoff game and then held off a late rally by Green Mountain to punch its ticket to Saturday’s Great 8 round with an emotional 56-50 win.

“We were able to beat a really good team tonight with our defense and rebounding. That’s what we have hung our hats on all season long,” Glenwood coach Fred Heisel said. “As long as we stayed active and kept playing good defense, we didn’t give them much.”

Playing in front of a capacity crowd at the Chavez-Spencer Gymnasium, Glenwood’s version of Batman and Robin — John Iuele and Mitchell Burt — provided the offensive spark for the Demons in what was a methodical first half of play by both teams.

With Iuele scoring Glenwood’s first seven points of the game, the Demons managed to pull out to an 11-2 lead after the first quarter. Burt contributed a baseline jumper and senior post Adam Schrader hit from the foul line to also give Glenwood a boost during that span.

The Rams fought back and made a brief charge at the Demons when junior guard Austin Peterson dropped in a 3-pointer and senior post Jason Luzayadio flushed down a two-handed dunk to bring the visitors close at 13-10. Schrader hit a layup off a slick feed from Iuele and Burt hit high with a 3-pointer and a scoring drive to the basket as Glenwood had now taken back the all-important momentum from the Rams.

Iuele then dropped in a couple of layups, one off a cross-court feed from Burt, and the other just prior to the halftime horn, as the Demons charged into the locker room in complete control of the game.

The pace of play picked up considerably in the third stanza, and the Demons started off the final half with a hot hand and a steely resolve to keep their season going.

Burt netted a 3-pointer following a patient offensive set by Glenwood. Iuele swished a 2-pointer and senior Patrick Young found his offensive game with a 3-pointer to give the Demons a 30-18 cushion.

“Mitch (Burt) and John (Iuele) are so talented that we all feed off of them,” Young said. “I always just try to fit in and find my shots whenever the opportunity is there. These guys are so fun to play with. I wouldn’t trade them for anyone.”

Senior Will Narvaez made a spin move and scored from the block for Glenwood and fellow senior A.J. Adams, who controls the paint along with Narvaez and Schrader, hit two free throws as the Demons took a 38-24 lead with one quarter to play.

“My role is to fight and battle down low with the other team’s big men, and to try and get the boards on the offensive and defensive end,” Adams said.

With a sizeable advantage, it began to look as though Glenwood could start to make practice plans for Thursday and a game plan for Saturday, but Green Mountain had other ideas.

Sophomore Blake Nieslanik started off the fourth period for Glenwood by scoring from the paint after grabbing a big rebound. The Demons looked to be safe, and on cruise control, leading 40-24.

Iuele hit a 3-pointer off an inbounds play and Young scored on a hard drive to the basket. Burt hit his target with a 3-pointer on a diving assist from Iuele to make it 49-33 in favor of the Demons with 4:02 showing on the clock. Things then took a slight turn to the south for Glenwood.

Peterson hit a pair of 3-pointers and senior guard Blake Schell, who led the Rams with 19 points on the evening, did likewise. Coach Heisel was then forced to use a timeout with his team suddenly clinging to a scant 51-45 lead with 1:39 to go.

Following the plan, Glenwood spread the court and forced the Rams to chase after the ball and ultimately foul to make the Demons decide things at the charity stripe.

That’s exactly what they were able to do, with Young calmly lofting in a pair of freebees and Iuele adding one of his own. A desperation 3-point make by the Rams at the buzzer accounted for the game’s final count.

With the light of the evening shining brightly on Glenwood’s talented starting five, it was the bench play that also came through again for the Demons, allowing Heisel to give valuable rest to his regulars throughout the contest.

“Coming in off the bench, I just try to help in any way that I can,” Schrader said. “We all feed off John (Iuele). He always finds us. But mostly, I just try to leave the nerves on the bench.”

Reserve senior guard Gabe Kimbrough echoed much the same sentiments as Schrader.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help when I get in there, especially on the defensive end,” Kimbrough said. “I just try to disrupt the other team and be a pest. I’m not going to force anything on the offensive end. This group is a team. This is not a selfish bunch.”

Iuele had 19 points to lead the Demons. Burt’s solid evening produced 17 points, with Young chipping in with 10 points.

Glenwood (22-3) now finds itself one step away from the 4A Final Four. The next obstacle will come on Saturday when the second-seeded Demons host No. 10 Pueblo West. The Cyclones pulled off the 56-54 upset over No. 7 Harrison from the Colorado Springs Metro League, also Wednesday night. Saturday’s game time has not yet been determined.

Pat Gleason, creator of Steamboat’s high school Nordic ski program, is retiring

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Twenty years ago, Pat Gleason and Barry Smith created the Steamboat Springs High School Nordic ski team. Gleason, 67, has always been involved with the team, volunteering to assist the Sailors and becoming their wax master.

After decades with the team, Gleason has decided to retire.

“You start getting older, it gets harder to get around. Race day, it’s extremely demanding. Every minute is counted for,” Gleason said. “Physically, my knees have gone to hell. It makes it tough to get out and do things.”

Gleason skied for the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club before competing collegiately at the University of Wyoming, or the “Harvard of the West,” as he called it. So, his knees have seen their fair share of work.

“He’s been skiing less and less the last couple years,” said high school Nordic head coach Jesse Wilkins. “Now, most of the time he doesn’t even put skis on anymore. But I don’t think that detracts from his value as a coach.”

When Wilkins took over the team four years ago and learned Gleason had been volunteering this whole time, he offered to pay him.

“He said, ‘You couldn’t pay me what I’m worth,’” Wilkins said. “I believe that now. He’s been skiing and waxing for three to four decades.”

A Steamboat native, Gleason has been a part of the community in almost every major way possible, holding positions on the SSWSC board of directors, Steamboat Springs School Board and Steamboat Springs City Council. Most recently, he’s been in charge of waxing the Sailors’ skis, which requires him to get on the snow before a race to evaluate the conditions and then apply the appropriate amount of wax.

His knowledge began developing in the late ’70s when he coached ski jumping for the SSWSC. He helped the cross country coach, and the cross country coach helped him. Every year since, Gleason has learned more and more about wax.

His knowledge was needed at this year’s state championships, where there was rapidly warming weather.

“It would change from one wax to another in a period of 30 to 45 minutes. What you try to do is outguess what is going to happen in two hours to get it right,” Gleason said. “In the temperature range we were skiing on Thursday, I have probably a combination of 25 to 30 different waxes that you can use in that temperature range. It depends on snow temperature and humidity. It depends on how long the snow has been on the ground. It depends on sunshine. It’s not a science. It’s an art.”

Unfortunately, on the first day of the state championships, Gleason was under the weather, leaving Wilkins and assistant Wil Chapple to figure out how to wax the skis. The two are familiar with waxing but not to the same extent as Gleason. It was even more difficult for the pair since the classic race was that day. Wilkins said one of the hardest thing he has to do is nail a classic ski kick wax.

“After that day was over, (Gleason) basically said, ‘Good job. You guys got it,’” Wilkins said. “That was nice to get that shot of confidence from Pat. He’s been working all season as Wil and I try to transfer most of what he knows. We’ll never get everything he knows, but we can get pretty close.”

Gleason’s favorite part of coaching was experiencing race day, especially since it brought back memories of when he was the one lining up at the start. Now, he does everything but race on race days.

“I run it,” Gleason said. “There’s so many different things that have to be done. You have to have somebody manage the team, pay entry fees, verify the race course, go to the team leaders meeting, those types of things. I get on the snow, I do the waxing and deal with the start and finish areas.”

The team is in good hands though, as Wilkins and Chapple led one of the largest and most successful group of skiers this winter, and Gleason knows they are more than capable of carrying on his duties in the future.

The veteran isn’t totally vanishing, though. He hopes to remain somewhat attached to the program.

Gleason said the city is in the process of potentially replacing the Barrows lift on Howelsen Hill, as well as the yurt at the base of it, out of which the high school Nordic team operates. Gleason hopes to be heavily involved in that discussion and lobby for the yurt to be replaced with a building that the team can use in the future.

“I think I have the pull,” Gleason said. “I think I may have a little bit of some background, some information to get what the program needs over there.”

sreardon@steamboatpilot.com

Aspen boys basketball draws No. 27 seed, will face DSST: Byers in first round

For the first time since 2014, the Aspen High School boys basketball team will compete in the state tournament. The Skiers will be the No. 27 seed in Class 3A and will face No. 6 DSST: Byers on Friday in the first round, it was announced Sunday.

Byers will host the regional rounds Friday and Saturday, although as of Sunday night the exact location of the games wasn’t known as the school doesn’t have the facilities to host. The games will be in Denver, however, with game times still to be determined.

No. 11 Alamosa (16-5) and No. 22 Lamar (13-9) make up the other half of Aspen’s regional pod. The Aspen-Byers winner will play the Alamosa-Lamar winner in the Round of 16 on Saturday in Denver.

“It’s not just happy to be here,” fourth-year AHS coach Alex Schrempf said Sunday about getting back to state. “This is something we want to get used to. This is something that is not our last time; this is not a fluke. This is something we are going to keep doing.”

Byers, one of the Denver School of Science and Technology schools, competes out of the Confluence League. The Falcons went 20-2 overall and finished 8-0 in league play. They have a couple of mutual opponents with the Skiers (14-9), having beaten Coal Ridge in their season opener, 62-55 in overtime, and having beaten Roaring Fork in their second game, 58-16.

As the No. 7 seed in the district tournament, Aspen knocked off No. 2 seed Coal Ridge last week in the quarterfinals, 61-59 in overtime. AHS then beat Roaring Fork in the semifinals, 35-32, to punch its ticket to the state tournament.

Aspen lost to top-seeded Gunnison in the district final on Saturday, 79-49, after only trailing by six points at halftime.

“We were getting in our heads a little bit,” Schrempf said of that game. “They went on a run. Went on another and we couldn’t really put the buckets together.”

Still, the top two teams from the district earned automatic spots in the regional round of state, so the loss to Gunnison only impacted seeding for the Skiers, who were a longshot to host a regional. Gunnison earned the No. 7 seed and will host No. 26 Colorado Academy in the opening round. No. 10 Sterling or No. 23 Kent Denver awaits the winner of that game.

Coal Ridge made the tournament as the No. 16 seed and will play No. 17 DSST: Green Valley Ranch on Friday. The winner likely will face No. 1 Resurrection Christian in the second round.

Aspen’s task against Byers will be to slow down senior guard Kyrie Thomas, who averages about 24 points per game. Senior Elijah Thatch is a legitimate big man for the Falcons, averaging about 17 points and nine rebounds per game.

“A very good shooter — he gets to the rim,” Schrempf said of Thomas. “Just an all-around offensive threat.”

While the mutual games came early in the season for Byers, Schrempf looks at those, especially the Coal Ridge game, as a starting point in believing AHS can keep up with the Falcons.

“It’s definitely something we can look at as we can play to their level,” Schrempf said. “If we do that and they bring out the best in us we can hopefully play at a pace of basketball we like.”

The last time Aspen played in the state tournament was the 2013-14 season, the final under longtime coach Steve Ketchum. AHS was the No. 10 seed that year in the 32-team tournament, and beat No. 23 Florence in the first round, 58-55. The Skiers then lost to No. 7 Brush in the second round, 60-43.

“It takes time. But I can’t take credit for that. We stuck with it,” Schrempf said of finally getting back to state. “They started picking up what we were putting down and to see that reinforced, to see them get there just based off doing the things we keep asking, that’s reinvigorating.”

In the 3A girls bracket, Roaring Fork earned the No. 20 seed and will play No. 13 Platte Valley in the first round. That winner will play No. 4 Delta or No. 29 Buena Vista in the next round. Also earning a spot at state out of the girls 3A Western Slope League are No. 14 seed Cedaredge, No. 15 Grand Valley, No. 17 Moffat County and No. 26 Coal Ridge.

acolbert@aspentimes.com