Aspen mountain bike team races at state
The Aspen Times
The Aspen High School mountain bike team keeps on rolling.
The Skiers rolled right through the Colorado High School Cycling League state mountain bike championships last weekend in Eagle.
The Skiers, racing in their first season of interscholastic mountain biking, pedaled to a 12-place team finish out of 25 team in Division 2.
“Each and every racer should be proud of themselves for competing in such a competitive league,” said Paul Stucki, an Aspen High School teacher and assistant cycling coach. “The Aspen team represented themselves as a serious group of competitors.”
At the state finals, the high school cyclists competed on a 5.4-mile Haymaker course through some of the open range just outside the town of Eagle. The course was built specifically for the high school state championship mountain bike race.
“By far, it was the best course of the season,” said Aspen High School cycling coach Aimee Ross. “It had approximately 520 feet of elevation gain per lap.”
Sonja Gagen again set the pace for the Aspen Skiers.
She finished 11th in the girls JV division.
“I can’t express the consistency she has shown over the year,” Ross said. “She had 10th in her sights, so much that she sprinted for the finish hoping to close the small gap.”
Ross said Gagen finished the series in 10th place overall.
“We will certainly miss Sonja as she is a senior this year,” Ross said. “We do hope that we will gain more momentum with recruiting girls for the 2014 season.”
Hunter Callahan led the boys JV racers for Aspen. He finished 23rd at the Eagle race out of a field of 95.
“ This is the largest field in the Colorado league overall,” Ross said. “Hunter finished 25th overall for the season. Again, it was an impressive performance from another Aspen High senior.”
Kinley Niebur finished 42nd on Sunday to boost his overall score. He placed 52nd for the season.
“We are looking forward to seeing Kinley back on the team next year as a senior,” Ross said..
“Ty Carpenter, our third senior racing for the Aspen team, finished 50th on Sunday giving the team some extra bonus points for finishing in the top 50,” Ross said.
Carpenter finished 71st overall for the season.
Racing in the boys sophomore Division 2, Kevin Callahan again led the way for Aspen.
He finished third in the state championship race and moved up to fourth overall for the series.
He made the state podium — a first for the Aspen High School mountain bike team, an endeavor sponsored by Charlie Tarver and the Hub of Aspen.
“Over the course of the season, we’ve had some friendly competition and team (camaraderie) among Connor Laughren, Nicolas Laughren and Shaw Hughes,” Ross said. “These three ride consistently together and continue to place one right after the other.”
On Sunday, Hughes finished 23th. Connor Laughren finished 24th, and Nicolas Laughren finished 29th.
By finishing in the top 50, they generated extra team points for Aspen.
For the season, Connor Laughren was 22nd, Nicolas Laughren was 23rd and Hughes 24th.
“We can’t wait to see how these three push each other next year as JV riders,” Ross said, who added that Matt Herndon added points for his 41st-place finish.
“The team can’t wait to see Matt back as a junior and watch how he continues to gain strength over the course of the year,” Ross said.
Rounding out Sunday’s race in Eagle, Hunter Hill finished 35th for the Aspen freshman boys.
He climbed up to 46th overall in spite of competing in only two of the four races.
“On behalf of the team director (Nat Ross) and the coaching staff, we couldn’t be more excited about how the season turned out for the Aspen High School riders,” Aimee Ross said. “We had an amazing group of kids and a very supportive group of parents along with the community.”
She urged anyone interested in helping with the 2014 team to contact her at aimeerush@ hotmail.com.
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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.