AHS Nordic team starts title defense at state skiing championships in Breck
With limited races against limited fields this season, it’s difficult to know how the Aspen High School Nordic ski team will stack up come the state championship meet this weekend near Breckenridge. But, as the defending champs, the Skiers are expected to again be among the contenders.
“Every year is a different year, and this year is about as different as you can get. We are just focusing on going out there and having fun, skiing hard and having fun, twice,” AHS Nordic coach Travis Moore said. “We normally race against everybody every weekend, so we know who the players are and we know what to expect. This year was more like a cross country running season, where we had smaller races. It will be fun to go there and see who is who.”
The state championship is scheduled for Saturday at the Gold Run Nordic Center. Normally state is a two-day event with Alpine and Nordic competing more or less simultaneously, but between the pandemic and venue availability the Colorado High School Activities Association was forced to break it up. Both the classic and skate races will take place Saturday for Nordic, while the Alpine races will take place March 11 and 12 at Loveland Ski Area.
Overall state champions in skiing are determined by combining results from Alpine and Nordic. Aspen swept both the boys and girls state titles in 2020, just as they did in 2018. The AHS boys also won the state title in 2019, while the girls finished as the state runner-up. Both teams finished third back in 2017.
“We have kids who are strong all around. Most of them have been working pretty hard on both skate and classic,” Moore said. “For some of these guys, it’s been a long road. So that’s pretty exciting, and also bittersweet. We are going to lose a lot of really talented skiers. The core of the team is going to change a little bit.”
Aspen is sending a group of 16 to state: eight boys and eight girls. There was no statewide qualifying system this season, and the number of spots each team got was based on previous years.
Who exactly qualified was up to each team’s coaching staff. For Moore, it was fairly easy, as while he could have sent up to 12 girls to state, he only has eight girls on the roster. The unused spots were reallocated to a different team.
Even though all athletes will represent AHS at state, the Skiers’ roster does include students who attend Basalt and Roaring Fork as part of a valley-wide team.
The eight Aspen boys competing Saturday include seniors Taiga Moore, Christian Kelly, Noah Wheeless (RFHS) and JP Viola, junior Anders Weiss, sophomores Corbin Carpenter (RFHS) and Eske Roennau, and freshman Edwin Ryerson.
The eight Aspen girls include seniors Kylie Kenny, Eva McDonough, Edie Sherlock and Kendall Clark, junior Emma Borchers (BHS), sophomores Elsie Weiss and Michaela Kenny, and freshman Lucy Silcox (RFHS).
Last year at state, Elsie Weiss won both the girls classic and skate races, while her brother Anders won both the boys classic and skate races, with Taiga Moore finishing second in each.
“We got a lot of kids who have been around for a long time. We got eight seniors going to states here and all of them have been there all four years,” Travis Moore said. “We normally have a sense of who we are competing against. We have our season leading up to it where we are racing everybody. But this year we haven’t skied against a lot of these teams, so we don’t know yet. And that’s going to be the fun.”
Saturday’s 5-kilometer classic races are scheduled for 10 a.m. (boys) and 10:45 a.m. (girls). The 3-kilometer skate races are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (boys) and 2 p.m. (girls).
Due to COVID-19 precautions and local Summit County rules, spectators are not permitted and there is no post-race banquet this season.
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Once the Aspen High School defense woke up — random 4 p.m. kickoffs need some getting used to — the Skiers were able to dictate Saturday’s football game en route to a 22-7 victory over visiting Steamboat Springs on the AHS turf.