Aspen High boys, girls win state skiing titles
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY, Colo. – Step aside, Steamboat Springs: There is a new Ski Town, USA.
After two impressive days at the Colorado State High School Ski Championships in Eagle County, Aspen High’s girls and boys reaffirmed their dominance. Both vaulted into first place Thursday, then delivered the exclamation point Friday at Beaver Creek and Maloit Park in Minturn.
The result: Aspen pulled off a state title two-peat for the first time since 2002.
The girls amassed 634 points – more than enough to defend last year’s win on home snow. Steamboat (603) and Nederland (592) finished well off the pace, in second and third.
After a two-year hiatus, the Skiers boys climbed to the top of the podium once more with 655 points. Steamboat (629) took second and 2010 and 2011 state champion Summit (620) was third.
The titles are the boys’ 10th and the girls’ fifth.
“What was really cool about this year was that neither one of us could have done this alone,” Aspen nordic coach Travis Moore said. “The alpine team and the nordic team independently were not dominant, but when you combined them together we were obviously competitive. That was really cool.”
Keegan Swirbul sure looked dominant. The sophomore, who last year experienced some disappointment at state, was not about to squander this opportunity. He sped to a nearly 20-second victory in Thursday’s skate, then outdid himself in Friday’s 5-
kilometer classic. He led from the outset and crossed the line in 15 minutes, 52.2 seconds. His closest competitor, Summit’s Jackson Hill (16:21.2), had to settle for runner-up for consecutive days.
Swirbul is the first Skiers nordic racer since Noah Hoffman in 2007 to win both state races.
“(Last year) was a learning experience, a freshman mistake,” Moore said of Swirbul, who relinquished the lead 40 meters before the finish of 2011’s state skate, then let up and allowed another racer to pass him. “He’s also got a different way of competing now. He wants to be in front, he wants to lead the race. When he went by both today and yesterday, I was like, ‘OK, keep it together, think about what you’re doing and ski smart.’ I didn’t want him to rip it out there and blow up somewhere along the way.
“I’m not surprised. He’s tough, he was ready and he really wanted it. His game plan is to go out hard on the first lap, then go harder on the second.”
A pair of teammates followed Swirbul’s lead Friday: Brett Gordon (17:49.8) and Hudson McNamee (18:07.1) finished sixth and eighth, respectively, for Aspen, which tallied 171 points in the race. The Tigers (174) placed four in the top five.
In the two boys nordic races, the Skiers and Summit both scored 345 points. Aspen distanced itself from its rivals on the slopes of Beaver Creek.
Andrew Hancock led the way for the alpine squad Friday, laying down two clean slalom runs to post a time of 1 minute, 18.37 seconds – good for sixth. Ben Throm (1:22.54) overcame a blunder during Run 2 to take 13th, one spot ahead of teammate Gabriel Hjorth (1:23.43).
“Ben was third after the first run and was having a strong second run. The course set was a little fast, and he leaned in on a right-handed turn near the bottom. … His hips got a little inside, and he hit the snow,” Aspen alpine coach Craig Carlson said. “He had to hike a few steps. He showed good composure and got those points we needed.”
Ilona Schwarz overcame some misfortune, too, losing her pole near the end of her first run. She was unfazed, however, finishing third in 1:20.46. Lilly McSwain (1:26.29) and Sonja Gagen (1:30.85) wound up ninth and 14th.
Steamboat won the slalom with 164 points – seven better than Aspen. Consequently, the Skiers’ 11-point, Day 1 lead had been cut to four heading into the afternoon classic.
Aspen’s nordic girls removed all doubt.
Ellie Parker (20:54.5), Hannah Dodge (21:31.7) and Else Dodge (21:48.4) logged eighth-, 10th- and 12th-place finishes for the Skiers, who scored 159 points – 17 less than runaway winner Vail Mountain School but 27 better than the Sailors.
“It was a great effort,” Moore said. “We were worried with the timing in the afternoon that the kick wax was going to play a big role in our performance. Luckily, we nailed a really good wax, and it all came down to their strategy, their fitness, their attitude and commitment. It was beautiful.”
X Games is back for its 22nd consecutive year at Buttermilk Ski Area starting Friday, with many of the world’s best skiers and snowboarders set to compete in halfpipe, slopestyle, big air and knucklehuck over three days.