Aspen High athletes come together for college signing ceremony for 10 students
Aspen High School usually has a handful of students sign on to play college athletics each year, but the 2022 graduating class may have reset the bar in terms of quantity.
In one of the largest ceremonies of its kind in recent memory, the Skiers recognized 10 student-athletes on Wednesday inside the AHS gymnasium, students who will keep on competing in one sport or another after graduation.
“It’s pretty special because I feel like not a lot of people go on to play at the next level from Aspen,” AHS senior Shae Korpela said. “So, I feel like having this many people here really means a lot to the school.”
Shae and his twin brother Braden were among the headliners, as both are headed to Washington State University in the Pac-12 Conference to play basketball. AHS boys basketball coach Cory Parker considered it the sport’s biggest signing since Robert Tomaszek went on to play for Bob Knight and Texas Tech two decades ago.
The Korpelas were key pieces in the Skiers winning the Class 3A state championship this winter, a first for the program, part of a magical 27-0 season. The twins were both named first team all-state in 3A, while Parker was the 3A coach of the year in his first season in charge.
Parker, a 2008 AHS graduate, played collegiately for Drake out of the Missouri Valley Conference.
“It’s unique that they are brothers. It’s unique that they are twins. It’s just a beautiful part of our narrative this year,” Parker said of having the pair sign to the same school. “So excited to see what they make of their opportunity at Washington State and I wish them the best of luck.”
When it came to earning all-state recognition, Kayla Tehrani might have the Korpelas beat. A future swimmer at Denison University in Ohio, Tehrani was named the Class 3A girls swimmer of the year each of the past two seasons.
“I’ve been working at this for the past 11 years and there was a little bit where I thought this wouldn’t happen for me,” Tehrani said during Wednesday’s ceremony. “So, I’m really excited to see it all come together.”
Tehrani will leave AHS as a record holder in four events, two of them individual swims, and continues a strong tradition of sending swimmers from the Roaring Fork Valley onto the college ranks.
“She’s been a great leader and representative for the school as well as helping me coach,” AHS girls swim coach Katherine Keel said. “She’s been a co-captain this year and really supported her teammates and myself and my assistant coaches throughout the last couple of years.”
Other signings included Jenny Ellis to Pacific Lutheran University for soccer; Brenon Reed to Beloit College for lacrosse; Sadie Bayko to Frostburg State University for volleyball; and Riley Rushing to Tusculum University for volleyball.
Photos: AHS signing ceremony
“Brenon is the type of guy that would come up to you at the end of every practice and say, ‘What can I do better?’ and actually do it the next practice,” said AHS boys lacrosse coach Tommy Cox, only hours before the Skiers hosted Resurrection Christian, playing to an easy 16-3 victory. “He’s one of the best guys on the team in terms of being part of the brotherhood. He takes any role he is asked. If I asked him to play goalie, he’d step in there. He’s a great young man and there couldn’t be a more deserving kid to go play at the next level.”
Ellis, who also is currently in the midst of her final season with the Skiers, has the unique opportunity of being coached by her father, Chris Ellis, who is the head coach of the AHS girls soccer team. Jenny Ellis has been one of the team’s more prolific offensive threats ever since her freshman season on varsity.
“A lot of people say it’s not that good of a position, but I think it’s really fun to get to work and grow alongside my biggest supporter, so I think I’m actually really lucky to be coached by my dad,” Jenny said.
Bayko and Rushing were both key pieces in the AHS volleyball team having one of its best seasons in recent memory this past fall.
No AHS signing class would be complete without a pair of future college skiers. Anders Weiss is headed to Montana State University for Nordic skiing, while Mica Bodkins finds herself bound for Middlebury College, also for Nordic skiing.
Austin Weiss, Anders’ father and a longtime Nordic coach with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, spoke about both skiers during Wednesday’s ceremony.
“It’s been a true pleasure to watch a kid like Anders come up through the program, in a ski town, and work so endlessly. As I’m sure you are all aware, Nordic skiing is not an easy sport, and those that participate work very, very hard on a daily basis,” Austin Weiss said.
“When we found out last summer that we had a new athlete joining us from the East Coast, we were very thrilled,” Austin Weiss said a short while later about Bodkins, who is also a member of the AHS girls soccer team this spring. ”Little did we know what an amazing young lady and athlete we were getting in Mica. She has been an amazing addition to the team. A true leader amongst the entire team and she is following in big footsteps to Middlebury.”
Among the many big names to have skied at Middlebury is Aspen’s own Simi Hamilton, a three-time Olympian who retired last year.
Elijah Goldman was the 10th athlete to be recognized on Wednesday. In one of the more unique AHS signings, Goldman will head to Hobart and William Smith Colleges where he will join a powerhouse sailing team. Goldman spent much of his time in high school couch surfing along the East Coast to compete in regattas.
This athlete list is far from complete, as it only includes those athletes who chose to take part in Wednesday’s ceremony. For example, a separate ceremony was held back in November for senior Nic Pevny, who signed to play golf for the University of Denver.
“This is so vital, this is so important to support their lives. They couldn’t be successful without you, so thank you. Thank you to all of your parents, as well, for constantly being supportive for the past four years. And probably for a lot longer than four years, probably since you were all little,” first-year AHS athletic director John Castrese told the crowd through an ASL interpreter, an audience that included a mix of parents, coaches, teachers and students.
“I would like to thank all of the student-athletes we have here. They set a great example for our younger generations.”
The dance team traveled this past weekend to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, for the high school national championships, winning the intermediate varsity pom division on Sunday.