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Girl Wants to play from boys’ tees

Tim Mutrie

Kristin Walla, Aspen’s top female junior golfer, wants to play with the Aspen High School boys golf team.The Aspen School District, citing rules that govern high school sports in Colorado, isn’t letting her.And with the boys prep season already under way – another tournament is set to tee off today at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale – the clock is ticking.The controversy may go before the Aspen School Board at its regular meeting tonight.Walla, an AHS senior who has been a top 10 finisher in the Class 4A girls state tournament the last three springs, asked to play on the boys team a few weeks ago, just before the start of the season.Since then, she and her father, John, have debated the issue with Aspen school officials, who say they’re only following the rules of the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA).”I don’t know if I’m being treated fairly,” Walla said Sunday night. “The only unfair thing now is the timing – it’s unfortunate that it takes so long while the season is wasting away.”Neither Aspen High athletic director Carol Sams nor district Superintendent Diana Sirko returned messages during the weekend.Jon Seigle, Aspen School Board president, said the board will take up the matter this morning.”This is not the school board or the school district versus Kristin Walla. We have no control over the rules,” he stressed last night.Colorado prep rules state girls may play with their school’s boys team, in any sport, if there isn’t a girls team of the same discipline in place. And in Aspen’s case, with a girls golf team that plays in the spring, the school district says it would have to terminate the girls team in order to allow Walla to play with the boys.But Walla questioned even the very presence of a girls team – that is, whether there will be enough players to constitute a team this coming spring. In her conversations with classmates and teammates, she’s doubtful Aspen has the numbers.But, said Seigle, “To abandon [girls golf] now wouldn’t be fair either. We established the sport and it’s a new sport and it may take some time to establish itself.”Our girls golf team is basically because of Kristin Walla,” Seigle continued. “And we’re willing to help out Kristin to the extent that we can, but we have to keep the big picture in perspective, and the entire sports program at Aspen High School.”Seigle said the school has asked CHSAA for a waiver that would allow AHS to keep its girls team while enabling Walla to play with the boys team, but the request was denied. CHSAA officials could not be reached over the weekend.”We’re really trying to work on this. We’re going to call CHSAA again [today] and we’re calling our attorneys. CHSAA has said no but maybe that’s a tentative no. My hope is we can again appeal for a waiver,” he said.Alden Richards, Aspen Junior Golf Foundation executive director and the former AHS girls and boys coach, pointed out a “fundamental flaw” with the CHSAA rule.”Why should Kristin be saddled with the burden of keeping the girls golf team afloat?” Richards asked.As an AHS freshman, Walla played with a combined Aspen High-Basalt High team because Aspen didn’t yet have a girls team. In her sophomore year, thanks in part to the efforts of her dad and Richards, the school debuted its first girls golf team. Last spring, AHS’s second season and Walla’s junior year, the team only carried four players – “hardly a full team,” Walla said.Walla said her decision to try and play with the boys this fall came after a number of things recently became clear.1. A college recruiter suggested she might benefit from playing the longer courses that the boys play, courses she is likely to encounter as an aspiring college golfer.2. The possibility that Aspen may not be able to field a girls team this spring.3. A desire to compete at a higher level against boys.”I would love nothing more than to take a girls team to state or even compete at the regional level,” said Walla. “But it’s just not going to happen, in girls that is. We just don’t have the players.”Walla, a three-time Western Slope League tournament champion, continued: “And unless there’s some freshmen out there that I don’t know about, there aren’t any girls on the Western Slope that can compete on my level. So the only thing I’d miss of importance is the state tournament, but that’s scheduled too late in the spring to have any bearing on my chances of getting on the best college team I can.”If I played for the boys team, I’m on longer courses, competing in better fields and coaches will be able to hear about it before the first recruiting and signing period ends. That’s basically why I want to do it.”Aspen High junior Teddy Karlinski, the No. 1 player on Aspen’s boys golf team, said last night he supports Walla playing as his teammate.”I think that’d be cool,” said Karlinski, who won the Snowmass Club open championship Sunday. “I think you have to support her. Why not?”Aspen Junior Golf’s Richards, a longtime coach of Walla’s, agreed.”It should boil down to what she wants to do. Kids first,” he said. “If Kristin Walla chooses to play on the boys team, that’s where she should be playing.”She’d kick half the boys’ asses out there any day, and I know she’d help the AHS team.”


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