Aspen High girls ski team repeats as state champs
The Aspen High girls ski team successfully defended its state title at the Colorado High School Skiing Championships Friday and Saturday at Ski Cooper in Leadville.
Just like last year, nordic and alpine racers with the AHS girls team combined to fend off Summit, the reigning runner-up, Middle Park, Nederland and Battle Mountain.
The AHS boys, also last year’s state champs, failed to repeat and settled for fourth place in the team standings, behind Battle Mountain, Summit and Middle Park. Carbondale’s Colorado Rocky Mountain School was fifth.
“Aspen High only has four state championships, and three have been in the last 12 months in skiing,” Aspen coach Mike Flynn said yesterday. “There are a whole bunch of new girls on the team this year and a bunch of seniors going out as two-time state champs, so there was a lot of excitement.”
“Our girls were great, just tremendous,” Flynn continued, “and the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club coaches should be proud of all these kids, because they’re the on-snow coaches for our team.”
In the Colorado High School Ski League format, the top three finishers from each team score points toward their teams’ cumulative totals, which include both nordic and alpine events.
Both Aspen nordic squads, the boys and girls, took second in the team nordic standings after a 5K classic race Friday and a 5K freestyle race Saturday.
Aspen sophomore Jenny Hamilton recorded second-place finishes in both events. Sophomore Maile Wade registered points in both races, with a seventh in the classic and an 11th in the freestyle. Freshman Cory Hach took eighth in the classic, while Amy Schwartz finished eighth in the freestyle to score team points for Aspen.
In boys nordic competition, senior Michael Otte was Aspen’s top finisher in both events. Otte was third in classic, followed by senior Conor Flynn in seventh and freshman Tae Westcott in 13th.
Otte led Aspen in the freestyle with a sixth, followed again by Flynn in seventh and Westcott in 24th.
The Aspen girls alpine racers dominated the downhill events, placing five racers in the top 11 in the giant slalom Friday, and five racers in the top 12 in the slalom Saturday.
In the GS, senior Ali Crum finished fifth, followed by senior Kate Jensen in sixth and sophomore Kathryn Eastley in ninth as the point scorers. Freshman Gillian Hearn was 10th, and senior Ashley Cantrell was 11th.
“That was a great day for us,” Flynn said. “But they skied like they’ve skied all year, beating the next-closest team pretty handily.”
In the girls slalom, Jensen claimed third, followed by Cantrell in fifth and Eastley in eighth. Hearn recorded another 10th, and Crum was 12th.
“Interestingly, Summit won both girls classic and freestyle [nordic] events ahead of us, and they took second behind us in the GS,” Flynn said. “But [Summit] slipped to third in the slalom, and that’s essentially how we beat them.”
In points, the Aspen girls edged Summit 659-636. “It’s a good victory, but by no means overwhelming,” he said.
In the boys alpine events, Aspen struggled to record three point-scoring finishers, as a result of crashes.
“We lost most of our racers, so we were really depleted and that’s what hurt us,” he said. “I think we were all disappointed that the alpine boys didn’t have a better performance, because they’re all capable of doing well. We would’ve liked to defend the title there, but it’s tough to do.”
In the boys GS Friday, two of Aspen’s six qualifiers finished, including senior Patrick Sewell, in 18th, and freshman Packy Westfeldt, in 19th.
In the boys slalom, sophomore Jesse Durrance blazed to second place, followed by Westfeldt in 18th and freshman Clancy Wheeler in 61st, a point-scoring finish he earned by hiking back up the course after missing a gate.
“We had one shining moment [in boys alpine], and that was Jesse Durrance’s second,” Flynn said. “Other than that, it was good to see Packy Westfeldt’s consistency.”
A total of six Aspen racers earned all-state honors (meaning they finished the Colorado High School Ski League season in the top five of a given discipline), including Michael Otte (nordic), Jesse Durrance (alpine), Jenny Hamilton (nordic), Kate Jensen (alpine), Gillian Hearn (alpine) and Ashley Cantrell (alpine).
“That’s pretty darn good,” Flynn said, “and we had a couple more who were real close.
“It was a great opportunity for our racers,” Flynn continued. “Expectations were high, but they lived up to them and did it. It’s good for the town and the state as well. This is a skiing town, and our kids should be doing well.”
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Posted: Monday, February 26, 2001
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Had Hailey Swirbul decided against going to Europe, she would not have finished with a career-best result in Friday’s World Cup opener. Yes, there was a time, and not long ago, when the U.S. ski team member and Roaring Fork Valley native questioned her desire to put on a race bib.