Aspen boys make state-ment in Leadville |

Aspen boys make state-ment in Leadville

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Mark Fox

LEADVILLE, Colo. ” The Aspen High boys ski team came from behind to win the 2007 state title.

Friday, the Skiers are hoping they can maintain a lead.

After the first of two days at the Colorado High School State Championships in Leadville, one that included a 5-kilometer classic and a slalom, Aspen’s boys are pacing the field as they chase a ninth state crown. The nordic and alpine teams compiled a combined 324 points, 36 better than Middle Park and 40 more than Steamboat Springs.

The championships conclude Friday with a 5K freestyle and giant slalom. The Skiers finished fourth last year in Steamboat.

“We’re always hopeful and know we have a shot,” cross-country coach Travis Moore said. “It’s nice to see the kids rising to the occasion and skiing nicely.”

While they were not as dominant as in 2007, when current U.S. Ski Team member Noah Hoffman won both nordic races and the Aspen boys swept the podium both days, the Skiers impressed in Thursday’s classic at Colorado Mountain College’s Timberline Trails. Bryce Gordon, who finished in 16 minutes, 5 seconds to nab fourth place, was one of three Skiers to crack the top 10. Ben Armstrong (16:57.9) wound up fifth and Whit Parker (17:11.9) ninth.

Sean Woods crossed the line in first with a time of 15:36 for the Vail Mountain School, which had three racers finish in the top seven. The Gore Rangers finished first with a score of 173 ” eight points better than Aspen and 33 more than Nederland.

“The kids went in there and gave it everything they could,” Moore said. “Honestly, you never know what to expect on the alpine end ” those races can go either way. [Head alpine coach] Craig [Carlson] seemed to be pretty confident they would be able to put three guys in the top 10. … That was right on the money.”

Aspen’s alpine skiers carried the momentum into the afternoon slalom at Ski Cooper. James Britvar finished with a combined two-run time of 1:19.18 to take fourth, some four seconds off the pace set by winner Nick Stenicka of Middle Park.

Kevin Hartman (1:20) and Tyler Nelson (1:21.13) finished ninth and 10th, respectively, for the Skiers, who piled up 159 points ” good for third place. Middle Park and Battle Mountain shared first with 161 points.

“I definitely knew going in that our nordic team was strong and alpine would have to pick up the slack in order to get our goals accomplished,” Carlson said. “We definitely did that today. … [Expectations] were pretty high, especially for slalom. My leader of the pack [Britvar] stepped up to the plate.

“It was nice to see the guys come through when it counted.”

On the girls side, Aspen has some work to do if it hopes to post a third-consecutive second-place finish. The Skiers currently sit in third with 287 points. Middle Park (324) and Vail Mountain School (311) are leading the race for the state title, while defending champion Summit (160) is well off the pace.

In Thursday’s classic, Lindsey Wilkinson (20:13.9) and Brittany Marrs (20:24.6) finished fourth and fifth, respectively, and Erica Heaphey (21:08.7) took 10th for the Skiers, who finished second with 164 points. Vail Mountain School (171) took first and Nederland (154) third.

Thursday’s slalom was not as kind to Aspen. Olivia Davis posted the team’s top result, finishing 14th with a two-run combined time of 1:23.97. Isabelle Woodrow (24th) and Molly Keelty (48th) were the only other Skiers to complete the flat course.

“Unfortunately, we had only four girls start and we had to use the fourth seed in scoring. That happens,” Carlson said. “We had little bobbles on the second run. … The course is so flat that you have to ski really clean to be up with the fast guys. Little mistakes here or there can cost you quite a bit by the finish.”

Carlson said he expects a stronger performance Friday, when Aspen will start six skiers in a discipline that has been much more of a strength this season.

“We finished 14th, 24th and 48th and we’re still in the hunt for a podium finish,” he added. “I’m pretty optimistic we can get three or four girls in the top 15. That would help our cause a lot.”

When it comes to today’s boys giant slalom, Carlson won’t have the luxury of starting six Skiers. Just three ” Britvar, Hartman and Luke Hemming, who did not finish his second run Thursday ” are slated to race. All three’s points will count toward the team title.

Nelson has a prior racing commitment and will not be in Leadville today.

“They know the pressure is on them,” Carlson said. “Tomorrow will be a real test. … They know their teammates are counting on them.”

Aspen’s nordic team will be buoyed by the return of standout Scott Lacy for today’s freestyle. The senior’s presence will have Aspen shooting for four top-10 finishes. With uncertainty looming on the alpine side, Moore said every point will be crucial.

“They’re psyched. They’re pretty even keeled and are going to go out tomorrow and ski as fast as they can,” Moore added. “There’s always a worry there, but you know it’s out of your hands. Those three guys have the potential to just smoke it tomorrow, but they can’t make a mistake.

“It always comes down to the last few minutes, so yeah, we’ll be sweating it. This is not a done deal by any means.”

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