Two titles in eight days – Not bad, Aspen High
What a week for Aspen High School’s athletic department. In the span of eight days, the Skiers captured two state titles – one reaffirming Aspen’s skiing prowess, the other a watershed moment for Aspen’s hockey program and other mountain-town high schools in general. To both teams, their coaches, the athletic director, parents, and all others involved, we extend our congratulations.Nordic skier Noah Hoffman added to his legend Feb. 16-17 in Vail. The senior, who claimed the state cross-country title in October, repeated as the freestyle and classic nordic champion and led a Skiers sweep of the podium on both days. Sophomore Scott Lacy and senior Ryan Waldron finished second and third in each race.Those performances, coupled with junior Wiley Maple’s two sterling slalom runs and a pair of gritty races from senior Stephen Buzbee – who fought back from a serious ankle injury he suffered during the soccer season – helped Aspen overcome a first-day deficit and take home its eighth state ski title.What unfolded this weekend at the Denver Coliseum was far more surprising. Sure, Aspen advanced to five of the last seven state hockey semifinals. But it advanced to the title game only once – during the program’s first year, in 2001 – and lost to Liberty. Who would expect a 3A school with 500 students to compete against 5As that routinely draw from as many as 1,500? Past history or numbers didn’t intimidate these Skiers, many of whom formed the nucleus of a team that won a Peewee A state title as sixth- and seventh-graders. They scored 20 goals in three impressive playoff routs and rolled into Saturday’s finals against top-seeded Ralston Valley.Three seniors, stung by defeat multiple times during their high school years, fittingly propelled the team to victory Saturday. Seniors Matt Butler and Nicky Anastas – who were also on the Aspen soccer team that fell in the state semifinals in the fall – connected on a beautiful goal in the second period. Senior goaltender Kody Hornburg made that score stand up, thwarting multiple scoring chances and a late flurry of shots from the Kadets to post a title game shutout. The Skiers won one for the little guys. Not only was it the high school’s first hockey crown, it was the first for any mountain town. In a sport traditionally dominated by teams from Denver and Colorado Springs, Aspen silenced the doubters and amassed a great deal of respect. These two winning teams had rosters full of dedicated, respectful and talented athletes. Both were part of a winter sports season that will surely go down as one of the school’s finest. It was a pleasure to watch from the sidelines.
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