Aspen girls ski team eyes three-peat at state meet |

Aspen girls ski team eyes three-peat at state meet

Three’s a charm for the Aspen High girls ski team.

The team, partnered with the Aspen Valley Ski/Snowboard Club and racing under the combined AHS-AVSC banner, defends its back-to-back titles at the Colorado State High School Skiing Championships today and Saturday at Winter Park.

And in order to pull it off, they’ll need to be carried on the shoulders of three alpine racers: junior Kathryn Eastley, sophomore Gillian Hearn and freshman Bo Forester.

In the high school skiing format, champions are crowned as teams based on cumulative results from two Nordic races and two alpine races. In each event, the top three finishers from each school score points.

In the case of the AHS-AVSC girls, only three girls qualified to race in the giant slalom, set for this morning on the Meadows course at Winter Park.

“There’s no margin for error in the GS,” said AHS-AVSC coach Mike Flynn. “We’re out of it if we lose one in the GS,” meaning if one of the three starters does not finish. “That’s it. We’re done. They know and we talk to them about it, but we don’t make it an issue because anything can happen in alpine.”

“It’s skiing smart, doing your best and avoiding any outrageous chances, but don’t let it be in your thought process,” Flynn continued. “And they know that without me saying anything.”

Freshman Syd Cantrell, who qualified along with the three other girls for Saturday’s slalom event, gives the AHS-AVSC girls alpine racers a slight cushion, but only if things go well today in the giant slalom.

Meanwhile, the AHS-AVSC girls need a strong showing from their Nordic teammates. Junior Maile Wade and sophomores Amy Schwartz, Cori Hach, Erin Kiernan and Ashley Morse all qualified to compete in both Nordic events, a 5K freestyle race today and a 5K classic event on Saturday.

Aspen junior Jenny Hamilton, Aspen’s top Nordic racer, will not be racing. Hamilton is in Salt Lake City fore-running Olympic races.

“It’s too bad for us, but who can blame her? It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There’s no choice,” Flynn said.

“Our whole cross country team hasn’t been training lately,” Flynn continued. “They’ve all been at the Olympics. And they’re young, so we have no idea how they’re going to do, but they’ve done great all season.”

In four high school races this season, the AHS-AVSC Nordic girls finished first or second in each event, based on Nordic results alone. Similarly, the AHS-AVSC alpine girls won three of four events.

Earlier this month at Ski Cooper, the final high school alpine race prior to the state championships, Cantrell placed second in giant slalom, followed by Eastley in third. For Eastley, the result capped off a string of top-three finishes in the three previous high school alpine races that Aspen competed in.

Meanwhile, the AHS-AVSC boys ski team, last year’s fourth place finisher, look to recapture the championship it won in 2000.

Juniors Jesse Durrance and Wheeler Clancy, sophomores Lange Adams, Packy Westfeldt, Coulter Hoff, McCabe Mallin and Blair Pickus and freshman Matt Fox are qualified to race in both alpine events: today’s giant slalom and Saturday’s slalom.

On the Nordic side, AHS-AVSC will be represented by the five freshmen, Simi Hamilton, Brandon Cooper, Tyler Baker, Tae Wescott and Andrew Preusch, along with sophomore John Hatanaka. Like the girls, the boys will race two 5K events: a freestyle today and a classic event Saturday.

The AHS-AVSC boys Nordic team finished in the top two at the four high school races it competed in this season. The boys alpine team, however, “have been all over the place,” Flynn said, “finishing from first to fourth.”

Flynn expects Aspen’s toughest competition to come from Summit High.

And while all the racers, boys and girls, alpine and Nordic, compete in bigger events during the season racing as individuals, the Colorado State Skiing Championships provide an opportunity for the racers to compete as a team.

“It’s a school thing versus an individual event,” Flynn said. “Sure, there are individual awards for the top finishers, but the high school races are a team event, completely different from what they’re used to. The real deal is the team state championship. That’s what it’s all about.”

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