AHS/AVSC racers find edge in last tuneup for states
Aspen Times Sportswriter
In the final high school alpine race before the state championships, a giant slalom Friday at Ski Cooper in Lake County, the combined Aspen High-Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club girls grabbed gold and the boys settled for bronze.
Aspen High sophomore Gillian Hearn blazed the path for the AHS/AVSC girls with a second-place finish among 80 starters. AHS junior Kathryn Eastley was right behind in third place, followed by freshman Sydney Cantrell in 18th.
“Gillian and Kathryn had excellent runs,” said AHS/AVSC alpine coach Mike Flynn. “Kathryn’s been in the top three in all four [high school races]. She’s done a really good job.”
Out of 120 starters on the boys side, Aspen finished third in the team standings behind solid performances from Lange Adams (eighth), McCabe Mallin (15th) and Packy Westfeldt (16th).
“The boys have generally been first and the girls second, so this was kind of a reversal,” said Flynn.
The AHS/AVSC girls enter the Feb. 22-23 state championships at Winter Park as the two-time defending state champs. Meanwhile, the AHS/AVSC boys finished fourth last year after winning the title (along with the girls) in 2000. For boys and girls, the state championships consist of two nordic events (5K freestyle and classic) and two alpine events (slalom and giant slalom). Boys and girls winners are crowned based on the combined results from each team’s top alpine and nordic finishers.
Aspen has qualified about 24 racers total, boys and girls, nordic and alpine, Flynn said.
“We’ve qualified a big team, and it means if our top kids go down, we’ve got good backups in there, except for girls alpine. We’ve got no backup there,” Flynn said.
“We don’t have one senior on the team, and we only have three or four juniors in this whole crowd of 24 kids, so it’s an incredibly young team,” the coach continued. “But if everyone’s there and everyone stands up, we’ll win it. We should be the best team there, but in alpine, well, you never know what’s going to happen.”
In high school races this season, the AHS/AVSC nordic boys and girls have finished no worse than second, while the alpine teams have finished no worse than third.
“Once again, our main competition is going to be Summit County, and it’s going to be close,” Flynn said.
In preparation for the state championships, the Aspen racers will be training with their AVSC coaches. As Flynn put it, “They’ll be AVSCing it right up until states.”
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This is the 53rd Aspen Ruggerfest, a year delayed after the 2020 tournament was canceled. It’s one of the country’s most prestigious and longest-running tournaments of its kind still left and draws in high-level players from all over the world.