Aspen High School girls basketball continues rebuild under coach Peck

Skiers plan to return to varsity play next winter

Aspen High School girls junior varsity basketball coach Annie Peck watches during a play as the team hosts Vail Mountain School on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021, inside the AHS gymnasium.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

A reset was needed to make it happen, but the culture surrounding Aspen High School girls basketball is changing. Without a varsity team this season and last, Annie Peck was hired to rebuild a program long mired in losses and forgettable play, something she hopes to change.

The Skiers haven’t even been close to a .500 record since going 10-12 overall in 2011-12. This included four straight one-win seasons in the years to follow.

“Really tough when you are trying to rebuild a program and you don’t have any upperclassmen for the kids to look up to and learn from,” Peck said prior to the holiday break. “This year looks a lot different than we did last year, because we got three upperclassmen that joined us that we are really excited about. All three have given us positive direction and emotion. They are really kind kids. We also have many of our sophomores returning from last year’s team, and we have a really good crop of freshmen.”

The Skiers battled through their shortened pandemic junior varsity season last winter without any juniors or seniors. But with the addition of three seniors this season — Amy Amaya, Riley Rushing and Elle Amatullah — the JV team has a nice balance of upperclassmen to guide a strong sophomore class forward.

Peck largely credited assistant coach Niki Lee, who also helped coach AHS volleyball, for getting some of the seniors to come out and play a sport that doesn’t have a varsity program at the moment.

“She basically has her hand on the heartbeat, I guess, of this high school,” Peck said of her assistant coach. “So, all these girls, she did a good job of pushing them, especially Elle and Riley, to come out.”

When former AHS athletic director Martha Richards hired Peck prior to last season, she was taking a small gamble as Peck had no previous coaching experience. However, Peck is a former Division I basketball player for Rice University from the early 2000s. She also was a standout high school player, even winning a state championship, and originally spent a season with Michigan State before transferring to Rice.

Peck had moved from Texas to Edwards in recent years and simply decided to pursue the AHS coaching job when it came open.

Gallery caption: Photos: Aspen girls basketball vs VMS

“Basketball is really fun. We want them to have fun. We want them to be excited. We want them to be a happy group of kids. We want people to want to come play basketball,” Peck said. “Second year coaching, I’ve learned a lot, but still learning all the time, too.”

Aspen will continue to play through its JV and C team schedules this season. Next winter, the Skiers will again field a varsity team, whether they are ready or not.

The Colorado High School Activities Association largely operates in two-year cycles and with this strong group of sophomores ready to become juniors in a year, the move back to varsity next winter makes sense for the program.

“We are growing up together,” Peck said. “Ready or not, varsity here we come. Hopefully the three seniors can help us with that, and we have a really strong sophomore class. They are exceptionally good little ball players, so I see them being exceptionally good juniors.”