Nordic racers show what it means to be a team
Mark Cole, the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club’s executive director, would start beaming last week every time the subject of his organization’s performance in the Junior Olympics came up. And for good reason.At the end of the USSA Nordic Junior Olympics in Truckee, Calif., Aspen’s nordic team was awarded the Roger Weston trophy. They were recognized as the top boys team in the nation based on the performances of Simi Hamilton, Brandon Cooper, Noah Hoffman and Scott Lacy.Hamilton dominated the games with three gold medals and a silver, and was recognized with the Dave Quinn Award as the athlete who best exemplifies the ideals of cross-country skiing. Hoffman and Cooper were critical to the team’s success, with each turning in fourth-place finishes. Lacy, an eighth-grader, managed strong showings throughout the games. Meanwhile, Laura Hatanaka came in with a third, a 12th, a 13th and an 18th-place finish against athletes from all over the country. All together, the boys were the best team in the nation. There are several things about this win that would qualify as “rad.”One is the fact they won it all. The Roger Weston trophy is also known as the Alaska Cup in recognition of the place it resides most of the time. In fact, the win came as a bit of a surprise to Aspen, despite Hamilton’s dominance.Said AVSC Nordic Director John Callahan: “The award was a complete surprise to both coach Ruthie Brown and me – we had no idea we even had a shot at it.”Another awesome thing about the big win is how it is completely homegrown. Cole, a relative newcomer, recently hired Callahan, one of the top nordic coaches in the country, who also happened to grow up here. Included in the roster of coaches are Toby Morse, the former director of the nordic program (and all of AVSC), and Travis Moore, another veteran coach. They, like coach Brown, grew up here, too.Hamilton and Cooper are both graduating from high school and the program, where they learned to ski with coaches who grew up here, too. Lacy, a middle schooler with plenty of time to develop his career as a junior racer, is just getting started with those same coaches. Hatanaka and Hoffman, too. The cool thing is that all these homegrown kids grew up learning to compete right here in Aspen.So congratulations first to the competitors, then to their coaches and finally to the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club for being the best at what they do.
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