AHS sweeps state skiing
Aspen Times Staff Writer
Aspen High School now has six state titles in its history, up from four when classes let out Friday.
In thrilling fashion, the girls and boys ski teams, racing under the combined Aspen High-Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club banner, swept the Colorado High School State Skiing Championships Friday and Saturday at Winter Park.
In a show of gutsy determination where the team goal prevailed over all others, the Nordic and alpine racers banded together, stacking good results on top of one another. Alone, none of the results were great enough to deliver the titles, but combined, when the final results were tabulated Saturday afternoon, the girls and boys teams from Aspen were on top. In both boys and girls standings, Aspen claimed the state titles over Summit, Battle Mountain and Middle Park.
For the AHS-AVSC girls, three’s a charm. The girls successfully defended their back-to-back titles from 2000 and 2001. Meanwhile, the AHS-AVSC boys won the state title in 2000, then slipped to fourth last season.
“This was the most exciting of all of them,” said Mike Flynn, Aspen alpine coach. “Each event had its little cliche about someone stepping up. In every alpine event and every Nordic event, someone stepped up to fill in for someone who wasn’t there or when something went wrong. It was an incredible job.”
“I think the kids skied as well as they’ve skied all year,” added Aspen Nordic coach Travis Moore. “It was a huge team thing. It took the alpine and Nordic boys and girls to do their best.”
@ATD Sub heds:Girl power
@ATD body copy: Despite being two-time defending champions, the Skier girls entered the state championships at a disadvantage without top Nordic racer Jenny Hamilton.
Hamilton, a junior, was invited to participate in the Salt Lake Olympics as a forerunner for cross country events, an invitation she couldn’t refuse.
And on the alpine side, only three girls qualified to compete in both the giant slalom and slalom. At the state championships, winners are crowned based on combined results from two Nordic events and two alpine events, where the top three finishers in each event score points.
So with only three racers in the giant slalom, Aspen couldn’t afford any mistakes in Friday’s event.
Junior Kathryn Eastley finished third in the field, while freshmen Bo Forester took 15th. In between, Aspen sophomore Gillian Hearn took a fall on her first run, but hiked back up to finish. On the second run, Hearn laid down the fastest time of the day to finish ninth, keeping Aspen in the hunt.
“It was almost over when Gillian fell, but she hiked hard to get back in it and was spectacular after that,” said Flynn.
Prior to the girl’s 5K freestyle Friday afternoon, the racers got together, Flynn said.
“Jenny Hamilton not being there was a concern,” he said. “But the girls said we’re going to do it anyway. We’re all going to do more to fill her spot, and they did more than that. They were incredible.”
Aspen sophomore Amy Schwartz rose to the challenge and finished second, ahead of junior Maile Wade in fourth and sophomore Cori Hach in eighth.
“That score, combined with the GS score, which was on the verge of disaster, put the girls in first place after the first day,” Flynn said, “but we didn’t know that at the time. So there was no real strategy for the second day.”
In the girls slalom Saturday morning, it was Eastley who ran into trouble this time. After a fast first run, she fell near the finish of the second run and had to hike back up to get back on course.
“She would’ve been top one or two, but she scrambled, hiked and threw herself over the line,” Flynn said, to salvage an 11th-place finish. Meanwhile, Hearn rebounded from Friday’s near-disaster to finish third, followed by Forester in 12th.
“So it was Gillian’s scramble on the first day and Kathryn’s on the second day that saved us,” Flynn said.
In the girls 5K classic Saturday afternoon, Aspen packed the top-five with three racers to clinch the event and the state title. Hach “skied the race of her life,” Flynn said, to take second, followed by Wade in third and Schwartz in fourth.
“Everybody just stepped up to the plate. It was awesome,” said Moore. “They knew they needed to rise to the occasion without Jenny. There’s always this assumption that Jenny’s there to bail them out, and without her there, they said they all needed to do it for themselves this time.”
The Nordic girls won both events, the freestyle and the classic, which tipped the championship scale in Aspen’s favor.
“The Nordic girls came together,” Flynn said. “There’s no doubt about that being a team thing that happened.”
Individually, Wade and Schwartz earned first team all-state honors in freestyle, while Wade, Schwartz and Hach earned first team all-state honors for classic. Eastley was named first team all-state in both giant slalom and slalom, while Hearn made the second team in both alpine disciplines.
@ATD Sub heds:Boys bounce back
@ATD body copy: After winning the state championship in 2000, then dropping to fourth place last season, Flynn attributed the slip to racers not stepping up.
“It’s more meaningful because people stepped up,” he said. “Last year, the boys didn’t step up, and this year they did. They came through and accepted their responsibility. It was just so exciting when we found out we did so well – all the hard work paid off for the kids.”
In Friday’s giant slalom, Aspen was missing its top racer, junior Jesse Durrance, who missed several qualifying events while racing in Europe. Similarly, Aspen’s No. 2 racer, sophomore Lange Adams, fell and did not finish.
But a trio of sophomores, Coulter Hoff, Packy Westfeldt and McCabe Mallin, picked up the slack. The trio finished fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively. “They got us second place without the top two guys,” Flynn said. “Those guys stepping up like that was remarkable. They did really well.”
In the boys freestyle on Friday, Aspen freshman Simi Hamilton (younger brother of Jenny) won the event, followed by fellow freshmen Tae Wescott in 14th and Tyler Baker in 17th.
“It was not their race all together, but they finished about third, and that kept us in the game,” Flynn said.
In Saturday’s slalom, Durrance was qualified to race, but barely ready. Still jet-lagged from a trip to Europe, Durrance was skiing on borrowed boots (his race boots didn’t make it back with him), a hat and gloves purchased at the last minute and regular outerwear (his speed suit didn’t make it back, either). But he stepped it up on his second run to move from fourth into second place.
Adams followed in sixth with two solid runs, and Westfeldt rounded out the scoring with an 11th-place finish (followed by Hoff in 12th).
Combined, the performance was good for second place in the event.
In the boys classic Saturday afternoon, Baker led the charge for Aspen with a seventh place finish, followed by Hamilton in ninth and Brandon Cooper in 10th.
“It was a little scary because we knew it was close,” Flynn said. “But they scored high enough for us to win it. Interestingly, we didn’t win any of the four events team-wise, yet we scored well enough to win the whole thing by over 40 points.”
Individually, Simi Hamilton earned first team all-state honors for classic and freestyle. Westfeldt was named first team all-state in giant slalom, while Hoff was named to the second team. Adams and Durrance were named to the second team all-state for slalom.
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