Celebrating the champs: AHS honors title teams with downtown community event
Aspen high School boys basketball, boys golf and dance have all won CHSAA state championships so far this school year
From Gondola Plaza at the base of Aspen Mountain on Wednesday, the celebration continued.
Only days after winning the program’s first state championship, Aspen High School boys basketball coach Cory Parker took to the stage once more to recognize what his players accomplished on Saturday in Denver.
And not just that, but it was a day to celebrate all three of Aspen’s championship teams from the school year so far.
“Hopefully this builds a new tradition for all state championship teams, because this is extremely cool,” Parker said to the crowd. “I’m truly blessed to be able to be up here at my alma mater coaching with the guys that we have up here, with the program and the culture we are building. This is truly why I want to be here. It’s a privilege.”
With the help of the city of Aspen and Aspen Skiing Co., AHS put together the quick ceremony Wednesday afternoon to honor its boys basketball, boys golf and dance teams for their state championships this year, as well as a nod to the all-state band and choir performers.
AHS Principal Sarah Strassburger and Aspen School District Superintendent David Baugh gave opening remarks in front of a lively crowd that included a good chunk of the student body, as well as many friends and family members. Aspen Mayor Torre also spoke, saying the City Council will recognize the champions via a proclamation during their session next week.
“You guys are going to remember the state championship for the rest of your lives,” Torre said, speaking mostly to the basketball team. “But guess what? So are we.”
Parker and the AHS boys capped off a perfect basketball season on Saturday with a win over Centuari in the 3A championship game, played at the University of Denver. The team finished 27-0 overall en route to the program’s first state title.
Parker, a 2008 AHS graduate, took over the program this season after having spent the past five as an assistant under former head coach Alex Schrempf.
“This group of boys has worked hard for about 10 years, adding little pieces in between those years to ultimately become the state championship team that they are,” Parker said. “Every one of these guys up here believed inside of them that they could win a state championship, and I guarantee you we had a lot of people out here with that belief, too. But let me tell you, that was not the belief in Denver, and we proved them wrong.”
Photos: AHS championship celebration
Parker recognized his entire team, led by a group of 10 seniors that included Porter Lee, who Parker announced live on stage had been named the Class 3A Western Slope League’s player of the year. While Parker didn’t say it to the crowd, he was named the 3A WSL coach of the year for the undefeated season.
“We did it with style. We didn’t lose one game,” Parker said. “This is a testament to that dedication. This is a testament to the brotherhood that we’ve relied on to get through the adverse moments we had on and off the court. This is a testament to work ethic and how things pay off when you are committed to something you are truly passionate about. And that is what these young men just accomplished here.”
Among the adverse moments was the story of senior Lucas Lee, an important member of the AHS basketball team’s run to a state title. He lost his mother during the state tournament and provided an inspiring spark for the Skiers in the regional championship game against Englewood.
Lucas Lee also stood out on Wednesday as he took to the stage twice as a member of both the basketball and golf teams, giving him two state championships in two sports seasons as a senior.
Despite having a star senior in Nic Pevny — who won the individual 3A title as a junior and will golf for DU next year — the AHS golf team didn’t enter the season as a championship front-runner. But a group that included Pevny, Lucas Lee, Will Stiller and Sky Sosna found a way to come out on top during October’s tournament in Elizabeth.
“This year was truly a team effort,” said longtime AHS golf coach Mary Woulfe, who also led the Skiers to their first championship in 2018. “To win this year, each player had to grind it out and play some of their personal bests.”
The Aspen dance team won the 3A poms title back in December for the second time in three seasons under coach Maddy Miller. When she took to the stage on Wednesday — making sure to point out team captains Lily Jacobson and Ariana Baumgartner — Miller also noted the amount of work the dancers need to commit to in order to become champions.
“I don’t think a lot of people in our community know how hard dance team actually is,” Miller said. “These athletes practice for nine months out of the year. And not only that, they are supporting every one of your sports at every one of your games. But as well as that, they are dancing at 6 a.m., four days a week. For nine months.”
AHS band director Andy Farmer and choir director Erica Nottingham also took to the stage to recognize their all-state performers. In choir, Isabella Poschman and Adriana Cipponeri earned the all-state honors, which according to Nottingham is a first for the school in choir. Cory Michelin and Evelyn Stefli joined a growing list of recent all-state performers in band.
“What a triumph of commitment and fortitude and excellence,” Baugh said of all the state champions. “To Skico, we are hoping to be back in the spring with some more winners.”