Colbert’s Prep Playbook: AHS swim off to state to kickoff championship season
Championship season is here. First up is swimming. Then in consecutive weeks we have wrestling and skiing, not to mention basketball and hockey playoffs.
The grind of the regular season can be just that, but with the postseason comes this renewed vigor. I, for one, can’t wait for the upcoming couple of weeks.
Here’s what to watch for the next few days in the local prep world:
The season has come down to two days for the Aspen High School girls swim team. The Skiers will compete in the Class 3A state championship Friday (prelims) and Saturday (finals) at the Veterans Memorial Aquatics Center in Thornton.
Under first-year coach Katherine Keel, AHS has five individuals qualified for state in Emily Kinney, Ava Cherry, Laila Khan-Farooqi, Lilly Huggard and Kayla Tehrani. Each is qualified in two events. The team also has two relays qualified.
Despite a small roster, Aspen will be a contender in Thornton. In the final CHSAANow.com poll before state, AHS came in at No. 4 in Class 3A, behind only top-ranked Evergreen, No. 2 Salida and No. 3 Glenwood Springs. AHS won the inaugural 3A championship in 2017 before finishing eighth in 2018 and fourth in 2019.
The state wrestling tournament begins Feb. 20 at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Before this, the Basalt High School wrestling team will have to battle its way through its Class 3A, Region 1 tournament Friday and Saturday in Montrose.
The 14-team regional includes some heavy-hitters in Alamosa, ranked No. 3 in 3A as of Jan. 31, and No. 5 Pagosa Springs. The top four finishers per weight class will move on to compete at the Pepsi Center.
Basalt’s lone state qualifier in 2019 was then-junior Ernesto Lopez. The heavyweight lost in the first round but did win once on the backside of the bracket. Lopez, who is 26-3 this season according to trackwrestling.com, is a pretty good bet to get back to state.
Of course, junior Ruben Samuelson has been the star this winter. Wrestling at 170 pounds, Samuelson is 36-0 and can start dreaming of more than simply a podium at regionals. Junior Jose Castorena (182 pounds) also has a winning record this season and should contend for one of those four spots at regionals.
We are two weeks away from state skiing. The Aspen High School alpine and nordic teams both swept their home meets this past week, which is pretty exciting with state so close.
AHS alpine has a slalom in Loveland on Friday to close out the regular season, while the nordic team has one final classic race Saturday in Steamboat Springs. The state championship is Feb. 27 and 28, with alpine events taking place at Beaver Creek and nordic events at Maloit Park in Minturn. Battle Mountain High School in Edwards will host the dinner and awards banquet.
The Aspen boys have won two straight state championships, while the girls won it all as recently as 2018. They were runner-up in 2019.
We’re down to the final two weeks of basketball’s regular season. AHS and Basalt close it out against each other Feb. 21 in Aspen before jumping into the district play-in games that following Monday. Teams essentially need to make the district championship game for a spot in the 32-team state tournament.
Before that regular-season finale in Aspen, the Skiers will make a trip to Cedaredge on Tuesday, a trip to Coal Ridge on Friday and a trip to Delta on Saturday.
Basalt will host Roaring Fork on Wednesday night, a game that was rescheduled from last week because of the winter storm, and host Olathe on Friday.
The BHS boys, BHS girls and AHS girls are all but assured of playing in the play-in game of the district tournament. The AHS boys are right on the bubble of finishing top six in the 10-team league to advance straight to the district quarterfinals.
We also have about two weeks left in the hockey season. As it stands, Aspen has a home game Friday against Mountain Vista and a Feb. 22 trip to Glenwood Springs and that’s that.
At 3-9-3 overall and sitting fourth in its six-team conference, Aspen’s playoff hopes continue to sit on thin ice. AHS was holding firm at No. 23 in RPI as of Monday night, so snagging one of those 24 playoff spots remains very much possible. The state tournament bracket should be announced Feb. 23.
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