Aspen High ski teams set to defend state titles
Colorado’s reigning state champs, the Aspen High School girls and boys ski teams, defend their titles tomorrow and Saturday at the 2001 High School Ski Championships at Ski Cooper in Leadville.
Racers will compete in four events Friday and Saturday – two Nordic, and two alpine – for individual awards, and the overall combined title, which is awarded to the top boys and girls teams, based on cumulative Nordic and alpine results.
And just like last year, when the AHS boys and girls captured the overall titles, the Skier teams will likely face the stoutest competition from Summit, Battle Mountain and Middle Park, all teams that posted top-5 boys and girls overall results last year.
“I think it’s down to those three teams and us,” said Aspen coach Mike Flynn. “Same as last year.”
The AHS girls team is a favorite, having qualified a total of 14 racers, eight in alpine and six in Nordic, including Jenny Hamilton, who won the individual Nordic title last year as a freshman.
The AHS boys team features a solid Nordic side as well, with four racers qualified, though the boys alpine team, with six qualified racers, will need to produce peak performances in order to match last year’s successes, Flynn said.
“The alpine boys are our wild card,” he said. “We have a small group that’s going and if they ski to their ability, they’ll be very strong. But you just don’t know in a sport like skiing.”
All AHS ski team members train and race with the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club, where individual success is paramount. However, the format of the State Championships emphasizes team achievement, which requires a slightly different approach, Flynn explained. In each boys and girls event, just the top 3 finishers score points toward their team’s cumulative total.
“So much of alpine and Nordic racing is trying to make it to the Junior Olympics,” he said. “But when they ski for the school, what they’re trying to accomplish is so different, it doesn’t really hit them until they’re all there at the state championships together.”
“Then it becomes very significant,” he continued. “They realize that they’re part of the school, part of a larger community.” Qualifiers and events Aspen girls qualified for Nordic events at the State Championships include: sophomore Jenny Hamilton, sophomore Maile Wade, and freshmen Cory Hach, Amy Schwartz, Ashley Morse and Erin Kiernan. Aspen girls qualified for alpine events include: seniors Kate Jensen and Ashley Cantrell, freshman Gillian Hearn, sophomore Kathryn Eastley, and seniors Ali Crum, Alison Eastley, Sascha Anastas and Emily Teague.
Aspen boys qualified for Nordic events at the State Championships include: seniors Michael Otte and Conor Flynn, and freshmen Tae Wescott and Jon Hatanaka. Aspen boys qualified for alpine events include: sophomore Jesse Durrance, seniors Charles Greenwood and Patrick Sewell, sophomore Wheeler Clancey and freshmen Packy Westfeldt and Colter Hoff.
On Friday, the State Championships open with a boys and girls giant slalom at Ski Cooper at 9:30 a.m. Later, at 3 p.m., also at Ski Cooper, a boys and girls 5k classic Nordic race will be held.
On Saturday, the alpine racers will compete in a slalom, beginning at 9:30 a.m. The 5k Nordic skate race for boys and girls starts at 3 p.m., at the Leadville campus of Colorado Mountain College. Stacking up “We qualified more girls than anybody else in girls alpine, but we probably qualified fewer kids than the other top teams in boys alpine,” Flynn said. “In Nordic, both boys and girls, we qualified fewer kids than the other top teams. But the ones we qualified are very good.”
Jenny Hamilton and Michael Otte are “definitely in a position to win one, both races,” Flynn said. “It hardly ever gets done, but they have a shot at being individual state champions.”
Flynn said Maile Wade and his son, Conor Flynn, may also figure into the top-5 in both Nordic races.
“The boys and girls have been scoring second in Nordic in almost every race this season,” Flynn said. “They’re very consistent, very solid, and they’ve only been getting better. That should take some pressure off the alpine, but the only team title out there is the combined.”
In girls alpine, “we’ve got eight girls and potentially four of them could be in the top 3,” including Kate Jensen, Ashley Cantrell, Kathryn Eastley and Gillian Hearn, he said.
“The other four girls are poised to break into the top 10,” Flynn added.
The “wild card” alpine boys “can get in the top 10 in slalom and giant slalom, but we just haven’t been able to do it consistently,” Flynn said. “And Jesse Durrance has a chance at being an individual winner. He’s getting stronger as the year goes on.”
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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.