Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Chatting with coach Keel about AHS swim at state
The Aspen High School girls swim team had a rookie head coach and only six athletes in the pool. Those swimmers were certainly talented, but the general lack of depth and experience led to a lot of unknowns for the Skiers entering the season.
The end result? A runner-up finish at the Class 3A state swim meet Saturday in Thornton.
“It was definitely a fight to the finish,” AHS coach Katherine Keel said Monday. “I hesitate to say I didn’t have expectations for our team, because I did, but I was focusing more this year on individual goals and making sure we were improving definitely our team culture, but also our individual times. I was hopeful we could shoot for the moon, but I didn’t really know what was reasonable.”
Evergreen, which had quite the numbers advantage on the Skiers, won its second straight state championship with 372.5 points. Aspen was second with 214 points, narrowly holding off third-place Salida (209), fourth-place Kent Denver (208) and fifth-place Durango (204). Glenwood Springs was sixth with 190 points.
It’s fair to say the runner-up finish establishes AHS swimming as a 3A powerhouse. The classification only made its debut in 2017, the year Aspen won its lone state championship. After dropping down to eighth in 2018, the Skiers finished fourth in 2019 before taking second this year. Not a bad four-year stretch.
“The result was better than all of us could expect,” Keel said. “Right now we are all riding high from two days ago, but I think as soon as it settles and we have a second to digest, I’m sure everyone is going to turn their attention toward next year and start setting bigger goals.”
It’s a run that’s likely far from done. Thanks to the Aspen Swim Club, which has done a great job bringing up swimmers from the youth level over the years, AHS should be able to find plenty of talent in the middle school ranks.
Not to mention, of the six varsity swimmers AHS had this season, only junior Emily Kinney was an upperclassman. The rest of Aspen’s state swimmers this past weekend included sophomores Kayla Tehrani, Laila Khan-Farooqi, Ava Cherry and freshman Lilly Huggard.
Even if it doesn’t add a single swimmer to the 2021 roster, AHS could have its entire 2020 team back in the pool next year, which certainly makes it a state title contender yet again.
“I’m just so thankful for all the parents and the coaches in my life who stuck by me in swimming, because it takes a lot of people to make a season like this happen,” Keel said. “If anything, it was just shedding light on how many moving parts there are and how great it is when it all works. It really makes me appreciate the support I’ve had.”
WRESTLING UP NEXT
The Basalt High School wrestling team will be the next to compete at state when it sends a pair to the Pepsi Center in Denver this week. The Longhorns had two qualify out of regionals this past weekend in 170-pound junior Ruben Samuelson and senior heavyweight Ernesto Lopez.
Samuelson lost in the regional final for his first loss of the season. Still, at 37-1 overall, he’s very well a contender at state. Samuelson will face Jefferson senior Randy Duran (31-8) in the first round. Samuelson is a first-time state qualifier.
Lopez is returning to state for the second year in a row. He’s 29-3 overall and coming off a regional championship and will face La Junta senior Ryan Metzger (8-15) in the first round.
Prelims start Thursday afternoon, with quarterfinals and semifinals slated for Friday. All championship matches take place Saturday.
SKIING, HOCKEY, BASKETBALL EYE POSTSEASON
The rest of the winter sports seasons are quickly coming to an end, as well.
— The AHS skiing teams, both alpine and nordic, are off this week before heading to the state championships Feb. 27 and 28, where they’ll contend for another state title.
— AHS hockey has one more game to go, a Saturday trip to Glenwood Springs, before finding out if it makes the state playoffs. It’ll be close.
— The basketball season is down to one regular-season game, which will be Thursday night when Aspen hosts Basalt. At this point, it looks like all four teams will end up competing in a district play-in game Saturday, with Thursday’s results determining the matchups.
Regardless of who wins Thursday (game times are 5:30 and 7 p.m.), it looks like both the AHS and BHS boys basketball teams will host their play-in game against either Cedaredge or Olathe. The AHS girls are certainly going on the road, while the BHS girls should also host, regardless of Thursday’s outcome.
The Aspen girls had previously been scheduled to play at Summit this week as well in a non-league game, but that game is officially scratched off the books.
TIME FOR A HOOTENANNY
This Saturday, the Basalt High School athletic department is hosting its fourth annual Wild West Night at the Homestead Bar and Grill at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. It’s a fundraiser that supports the BHS athletes, notably the tennis teams.
It’s a 21-and-over event that will include plenty of dancing and poker (with complimentary game chips) all set to a Wild West theme. The event goes from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, with single tickets starting at $35 (or $60 for a couple).
For more information or to buy tickets, visit http://www.longhornstennis.org or call coach Diana Elliott at 970-927-4693.
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There hasn’t been a high school lacrosse season since 2019 after the spring 2020 season was canceled following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Nearly two years in the making, the Skiers opened the 2021 season on Wednesday with an 8-6 loss at Eagle Valley, playing without five starters.