Aspen’s Graham Houtsma wins state title in skate race
The Aspen Times
Graham Houtsma did the opposite of panic.
The Aspen High School Nordic ski racer, leading in the state championship 5-kilometer skate race Friday afternoon, crashed on a steep downhill turn, snapping one pole in half.
With the hometown fans horrified at the untimely mishap, Houtsma hopped back into the race.
First, he borrowed one pole — much too long.
Then, a race spectator offered him a second pole — a bit short, but better than the longer pole.
That’s when the adrenaline kicked in, right after Houtsma had fallen to 12th place.
But the Aspen Skier proceeded to catch and pass everyone in front of him, with only Cameron Wolfe of Vail Mountain School still ahead.
One final finishing sprint and Houtsma skated across the finish line just inches ahead of Wolfe as the state’s 1-2 Nordic skaters collapsed in the finish corral.
Aspen teammates Jack Sweeney and Colt Whitley finished third and fourth for the Skiers, who picked up valuable points in the boys team standings at the Colorado High School Skiing Championships in Aspen.
They helped the Aspen boys finish a close second in team standings behind the state champion Battle Mountain boys.
Battle Mountain won 592.5 to 578.
Third place went to Steamboat Springs in the boys scoring with 563 points.
Summit was fourth with 558.
Middle Park (521), Vail Mountain (487), Nederland (468), Evergreen (448.5), Eagle Valley (426) and Colorado Rocky Mountain School (413) followed in order.
“I was coming down from the top of Zoom Flume, and I fell and broke a pole,” Houtsma said in the finish area after winning his state title. “I got up … and I got a pole from a teammate, but it was too long for me.”
The second spare pole was short — “it was awkward.”
“But your body starts pumping out adrenaline more (after the crash),” Houtsma said. “And I had someone to go catch. If I had been by myself, it would have been a lot harder. I was just trying to catch up to Cameron. He was my motivation.”
Wolfe said he tried to take advantage when the Aspen skier fell in front of him.
“After I passed him, I kept looking back … and I could tell he was gaining on me,” Wolfe said. “He just got me at the end.”
The two offered congratulations to each other in the finish area Friday afternoon.
“This course is always a pain in the butt, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Houtsma, the son of Bobbie Ann and John Houtsma. “It’s got a good mixture of uphills and downhills.”
And it’s where Graham Houtsma won a state championship.
Battle Mountain’s route to the state championship went through the alpine events this week.
Senior Quintin Cook of the Huskies won his second title of the 2016 state championships when he captured the slalom title Friday.
He won the giant slalom Thursday at Aspen Highlands.
“This feels great, the conditions are great … you can’t ask for much more,” said Cook, the son of Chris and Sheryl Cook. “The first run, I had a little bobble. But that’s ski racing, and it’s all about two runs.”
He said his experience paid dividends as he awaited his second run.
“I wasn’t too nervous,” he said. “I just tried to stay ahead of (the course) and put a solid run down.”
He won by more than a half-second — 1:13.04 to 1:13.60.
“It’s been a great day and a great weekend,” Cook said.
Owen Talmadge of Evergreen was second.
Ricio Cole of Middle Park was third.
Chad Mulligan, also of Evergreen, was fourth.
Luke Vickerman of Battle Mountain was next at No. 5.
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.