Aspen girls skiing holds off Summit to win third state championship in four years

The Aspen boys won the state title on Thursday

Aspen High School ski racer Maddy Hicks navigates gates while skiing the slalom course during the Colorado high school state skiing championships at Loveland Ski Area on Friday, March 12, 2021.
Photo by Jason Connolly/Jason Connolly Photography

The ideas of dedication and team are paramount to the foundation of the Aspen High School ski teams. And in the year of COVID-19, where gatherings were limited and being a team was more challenging than ever, the AHS skiers really stood out in the way they navigated the unknown to even more state titles.

“Obviously it means a lot, especially with the COVID challenges. But what means even more is how they just came together. It was really inspiring,” AHS Alpine coach Jennifer Morandi-Benson said. “The girls and the boys both really banded together to keep each other on track and trying to be as — I hate this word — but as normal as possible while really trying to maintain that sense of team we try so hard to cultivate.”

A day after the AHS boys won their fourth straight state championship in skiing, the AHS girls held on against Summit to win their third championship in four years, pairing with a runner-up finish in 2019. That’s seven team titles in eight possible opportunities over four years for the Skiers.

The AHS girls finished with 670 points, with Summit finishing second with 644 points and Middle Park well back in third with 577 points. The overall team title is determined by combining the points from the two Nordic races — held last Saturday in Breckenridge — and the two Alpine races, held Friday for the girls at Loveland Ski Area. Aspen finished second to Summit for the girls slalom title (175-169), while the teams tied for first at 168 points each in giant slalom.

The AHS girls won both the classic and skate titles in Nordic last weekend, that head start in points being key for the Alpine team to hang on Friday against Summit.

“We definitely went to battle today. Summit is a formidable competitor and our girls really showed up,” Morandi-Benson said. “They set courses that were similar to the boys courses (on Thursday), but I wouldn’t say as tricky. They were a little more straightforward. The beautiful thing about Loveland is that hill has everything. It’s got the pitches, it’s got the flats, it’s got the rollovers, the knuckles. It has a little bit of everything to offer.”

Unlike Thursday, when AHS freshman Chase Kelly won both the boys slalom and GS races, Aspen did not have any individual race winners with the girls on Friday. Summit won both, with Olyvia Snyder and Jenna Sheldon going 1-2 in the slalom, and Ella Snyder and Sheldon going 1-2 in the GS.

Aspen High School ski racer Chase Kelly navigates gates while skiing the slalom course during the state skiing championships at Loveland Ski Area on Thursday, March 11, 2021.
Photo by Jason Connolly/Jason Connolly Photography

Aspen’s Stella Sherlock finished third in both races to lead the Skiers. Other top finishes for AHS belonged to Cate Simpson (fourth in slalom, fifth in GS) and Maddy Hicks (eighth in slalom, seventh in GS). All three girls are only sophomores.

“Those girls could really take some risks today. It was nice to see,” Morandi-Benson said. “There wasn’t anything to talk to our athletes about in terms of tricky sets. It was really a day to have fun and to ski fast.”

Powered by Kelly’s sweep, the AHS boys finished off their championship Thursday with 683 points, well ahead of runner-up Battle Mountain’s 581.5. It was the 11th overall state title for the AHS boys, second most in state history, and they became the first to win four straight since Summit won five straight from 1986-1990, according to CHSAA. The Summit boys have the most state titles in history with 19, but haven’t won since 2013.

The Aspen girls have now won 10 state titles, also second most all-time behind Summit’s nearly untouchable 21 championships, the last coming in 2015.

Of note, Aspen senior Christian Kelly, Chase’s older brother, won the state’s skimeister title on Tuesday, a non-CHSAA competition that required athletes to compete in two Nordic and two Alpine races on the same day in Steamboat Springs. Senior Edie Sherlock, Stella’s older sister, was second in the girls skimeister competition. She won it as a sophomore.

Many of the AHS skiers balance their winters between racing for the high school and competing for the Aspen Valley Ski & Snowboard Club.

“We are just so proud of our kids because some of them do both,” Morandi-Benson said. “They are racing for the club, they are racing for the high school, and they are committed to both. Because we require that. We are not just putting in ringers, so to speak. They are dedicated to both teams and they are making it work. For that we are so proud.”