Aspen High School boys ski team wins state championship, girls take second
The only thing missing from the 2019 high school state skiing championships Thursday and Friday in Durango were the cowboy boots. With feet of snow pounding the area this week, it made for an interesting show at Purgatory Resort.
“It was a rodeo,” Aspen High School senior alpine skier Trey Thorpe said. “People were flying through the air and poles and skis were all over the place, but I think that makes it fun. It adds another aspect to it.”
Despite the conditions, the AHS boys ski team held on to win the combined alpine-Nordic competition for its second state championship in as many years. Aspen finished with 675 points, beating runner-up Battle Mountain by 97 points.
It was the ninth state title in skiing for the Aspen boys in school history, tying Durango, which hosted this year’s event, for second all time. Summit has the most with 18 championships.
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“It’s hard to ski in these conditions, obviously. It feels sluggish. I fell twice, which was kind of a bummer, but it felt like a good day,” AHS cross-country skier Colt Whitley said. “It’s pretty awesome to (win state) my senior year. To see the team come together and have a really strong performance feels awesome.”
The Aspen girls finished second as a team, with Battle Mountain taking first by a mere 33 points. AHS had won the state championship as recently as last winter.
“I couldn’t have really asked for anything better,” said AHS senior Levyn Thomas, who won the girls’ giant slalom on Thursday. “I’ve thought about it a little bit, and I’m still pretty excited. It was probably one of the toughest races that I’ve ever done. It was pretty rugged.”
Thorpe carried the alpine boys, finishing second in both the GS and slalom at state.
Along with Whitley, it was AHS senior Everett Olson who really shined for the Nordic team. Olson was second — losing in a sprint finish to Vail Mountain’s Cameron Wolfe — in the classic race Thursday, but responded by edging Wolfe for the skate title Friday.
“I was a little tired after yesterday’s race, but I came out here, previewed the course, looked at the conditions and knew where to push and where to back off, and I think that worked out well,” Olson said. “(Wolfe) and I were pretty close last year, too, in terms of time. Yesterday we were neck and neck. Today it felt pretty good to beat him.”
Despite all the success, the Aspen athletes, and especially alpine coach Jennifer Morandi-Benson, kept going back to the wild weather that hit the southern part of the state. While the excessive snow likely made for once-in-a-lifetime powder days, it played havoc on the state championships.
The cross-country ski races at the Durango Nordic Center were slow and challenging, and the alpine races had to be moved from Purgatory on Thursday to Chapman Hill, which overlooks Durango, on Friday.
“We got feet and feet of snow here in Durango and in Purgatory and our first GS was the most challenging conditions we’ve ever faced as a team,” Morandi-Benson said. “Both days, under any other circumstances, would have been canceled. But we pulled it off. The grit and the character building that happened on both of those days is what we are the most proud of. We had kids hiking up Chapman Hill to race a slalom in the most challenging conditions I’ve ever experienced as a coach.”
John Livingston of The Durango Herald contributed to this report.
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