Column: Aspen sporting memories well worth celebrating | AspenTimes.com

Column: Aspen sporting memories well worth celebrating

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Aspen Times Sports Editor Dale Strode

Happy Thanksgiving, Aspen — and beyond.

This week, we should be reminded that the sporting scene in Aspen offers plenty to be thankful for.

The best ski racers in the world will grace Aspen with their presence again this week.

The best in the world. Think about that for a second.

The best women's ski racers on the planet will ski on Aspen Mountain in a tripleheader of a World Cup weekend, including a bonus slalom.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday — for free — you can watch the best ski down Spring Pitch Strawpile and on to the finish at the base of Lift 1A.

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That's the best from Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, Spain, Lichtenstein and Vail.

The best from the U.S., of course, are the legendary Lindsey Vonn and the future legend Mikaela Shiffrin, both from Vail. They'll race giant slalom Friday.

Shiffrin and the rest of the World Cup racers will race slaloms on Saturday and Sunday.

For free. No ticket required. See you there.

RUGBY

Aspen rugby history added a dramatic new chapter in 2015 when the Gentlemen of Aspen international side reclaimed the annual Ruggerfest title.

With the mainstays of the Aspen rugby club bolstered by a contingent of five young New Zealand rugby players and former Gents coach Brian Going, the Gentlemen of Aspen returned to Ruggerfest prominence.

An entertaining championship victory was capped by a sporting first in Aspen — the traditional haka performed by the rugby-playing New Zealanders on the turf at Wagner Rugby Stadium.

VOLLEYBALL

The Motherlode Volleyball, too, provided dramatic and historic moments in 2015. Ryan Ammerman, the accomplished international all-star and setter for the U.S. national indoor team, played the last match of his storied career in the championship final in Aspen.

He and partner Will Montgomery of Santa Barbara won the 2015 men's open title in the sand at Koch Lumber Park.

Ammerman, who grew up in the Denver suburb of Parker, had been coming to the Aspen Motherlode since he was 10.

An illness, Marfan syndrome, forced the 6'9" Ammerman to retire from competition. An American volleyball great, Ammerman played his final match in Aspen.

TRACK

Aspen High School returned to the top of the podium at the State Track and Field Championships this season. Sophomore Sunday Abarca won the Class 3A 400-meter dash at historic Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood, shattering the AHS school record in the process.

Abarca, under the guidance of coach and former Notre Dame football standout James Aldridge, went on to a summer of top AAU competition, advancing to the USATF Junior Olympics in Jacksonville, Florida, where Abarca finished 20th in the nation among prep 400-meter runners.

LACROSSE

Aspen High School also celebrated a team state championship in 2015, when the AHS boys lacrosse team rewrote Colorado lacrosse history. The Skiers of 2015, led by head coach Mike Goerne, won the Class 4A state lacrosse championship with a victory over powerhouse Valor Christian in the state final at Mile High Stadium in Denver.

Never before had a mountain school, a Western Slope school, won a Colorado state lacrosse championship.

Thanks, Aspen.

dstrode@aspentimes.com