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Skiing: Aspen boys, girls shine on home hill

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – The pressure was on for Aspen High’s boys and girls alpine squads at Aspen Highlands.

Because a late-January snowstorm canceled the teams’ scheduled trip to Loveland Ski Area, Friday served as the last chance for many on the two teams to qualify to compete in slalom at next week’s state championships.

“This was do or die basically,” Skiers head coach Craig Carlson said Friday night. “There was definitely a lot of pressure on most of the team.”

They did not seem fazed. Aspen impressed on its home hill, producing slim victories over Steamboat Springs in both races on Thunderbowl. All told, 11 local athletes secured spots in the field at state, which begins Thursday in Eagle County.

Ilona Schwarz paced the Skiers girls, laying down a blistering second run to finish with a combined time of 1 minute, 20.05 seconds – nearly four seconds ahead of Steamboat’s Suzanne Lyon. Teammates Lilly McSwain (1:28.34), Sonja Gagen (1:33.27) and Tayler Quist (1:34.02) wound up fourth, fifth and sixth.

Isabelle Woodrow (1:37.50) also locked up a state spot with her 12th-place finish.

“We only have six girls on the team, and all six qualified for GS and five for slalom,” Carlson said. “We definitely have some depth. They showed today they can ski with teams that have a little more experience, especially Steamboat. Their alpine team is loaded with a bunch of pretty good club girls.”

The Sailors girls, who beat Aspen in last week’s giant slalom in Beaver Creek, finished just two points behind Friday with 171 points. Middle Park (156) rounded out the top 3.

The Skiers boys, meanwhile, had six competitors crack the top 10 – an impressive feat that helped them score 172 points and log a second win in as many weeks. Ben Throm (1:14.58) led the way in second while Xon Baker (1:24.24), Andrew Hancock (1:24.92), Eli Kaplan (1:24.96), Gabriel Hjorth (1:25.85) and Michael Mondry (1:27.67) finished fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth and 10th.

Scott Houtsma (1:30.28) and Max Marolt (1:31.07) also qualified for state with 12th- and 13th-place results.

“We had a couple athletes that were right on the verge, and Max was one of those who was stressing out today,” Carlson said. “He’s one of our better boys skiers, and he’s also a skimeister, so he’s been doing both (alpine and cross country) all season long. He just missed the GS qualification by four-tenths of a second last week, but he skied really well today. After the first run, he was 16th and (out of qualifying position), but he was 12th in the second run and moved up. He should definitely be proud of that.”

Connor Bernard’s .27-second victory over sophomore Throm helped Steamboat lock up second place with a team total of 169. Summit (155) was third.

“It was probably one of the longer slalom runs of the year, and the conditions were pretty much ideal. The new snow didn’t do much to the track,” Carlson said. “I definitely saw my athletes using the tools I’ve tried to teach them during practice on this hill.

“I have 19 boys on my roster, and 13 qualified in GS and 10 in slalom. … If you look at the depth chart, even if the top boys didn’t finish, there was someone else right behind them to step up. I can tell my athletes to go and ski at states as hard as they can and have fun with it.”

The Skiers boys will be looking to improve on their second-place state finish last season, while the girls have their sights set on consecutive titles.

“With the way the nordic kids are skiing, I think both sides will be able to pull their weight equally,” Carlson said. “A lot of good teams will be gunning for us, but we have really good momentum.”


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