Colbert’s Prep Playbook: Five teams or individuals that could impress this fall
The best part about the brief window between the first practice and the first game is the universal optimism. Nobody has lost yet and everyone — hopefully — has some belief that this could be their year.
Of course, reality will set in soon enough. For some, it may be harsh. But for the chosen few, all those dreams and ambitions from the preseason might actually come to fruition.
In this week’s Prep Playbook, I list my top five high school individuals or teams from Aspen to Basalt that I feel have the best chance to be truly special this fall season.
1. Jack Pevny, AHS boys golf
A big question entering 2019 is what the Aspen boys golf team has in store for an encore. The Skiers won the 3A state championship as a team last fall, the first in program history, but a repeat performance seems unlikely considering all the talent they graduated.
However, senior Jack Pevny has the potential to become the school’s first individual state champion in golf. As a junior, he opened the state tournament at Boulder Country Club by shooting 68, leaving him in third after Day 1. He limped to a 76 in the final round, but still finished tied for fourth overall and only five back of state champion Jackson Klutznick of Kent Denver.
Klutznick graduated, as did Aspen’s Jack Hughes, the state runner-up. Pevny’s toughest competition might be Peak to Peak senior Davis Long, who won the 2017 state title as a sophomore. Long finished third in 2018, finishing a shot ahead of Pevny.
2. Sierra Bower, BHS cross country
Sierra Bower will be gunning for that state title this fall. The Basalt junior really broke out when she won the 2018 regional, hosted by AHS at Aspen Golf Club. She only finished 24th at state (20 minutes, 12 seconds), but that was an 11-second and 11-place improvement over what she did as a freshman at state.
What really gets you excited about Bower is what she did at state track in the spring, finishing second in 3A in the 3,200-meter run. She lost by a mere 0.31 seconds in a sprint finish to Classical Academy senior Kaylee Thompson. Now, going from 24th to the top spot at the state cross country meet might be tough, but Bower seems to take a big step each running season, so it’s not crazy talk.
3. AHS girls cross country
Speaking of cross country, the Aspen girls should be pretty solid. While Basalt is more or less focused on Bower — she was their lone state qualifier in 2018 — the AHS girls have strength in numbers. I’m not sure if they have a legitimate individual title contender, although juniors Kylie Kenny and Kendall Clark could have some say.
Now, a team championship might still be a stretch for the AHS girls, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t dare to dream. They finished seventh as a team last fall and didn’t lose a single runner because of graduation (I assume they are all back this season, but I can’t yet confirm such a thing). In fact, their top six finishers were all underclassmen last fall. Kenny finished 17th overall in 19:55.2, beating even regional champion Bower. Clark was 33rd overall (20:30.4) and Macy Hopkinson, who also was a sophomore, was 56th overall (21:17.5).
Even a slight improvement from each runner could vault the AHS girls into the top five teams at state. Anything on top of that and we enter that dare to dream situation.
4. AHS football
The Aspen football team was a pleasant surprise last fall, going 6-4 and making a run at the league title. With junior quarterback Tyler Ward back under center and coach Travis Benson and company again in charge, the preseason hype is certainly more noticeable this fall. In fact, the Skiers are ranked preseason No. 9 in Class 2A by CHSAANow.com.
The hype is mostly about Ward, who led all of 2A in passing as a sophomore with 2,202 yards. He threw for 26 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. AHS also returns senior receiver Max Ufkes, who led all of 2A with 920 yards to go with his 10 touchdown grabs. So I’m guessing the offense will be pretty good again this fall.
The sky is the limit for Aspen football in 2019. About the only reason to be negative is a brutal schedule. They play in the same league as preseason No. 5 Rifle and preseason No. 7 Delta. Basalt, which is reloading somewhat but has basically owned Aspen in recent years, is effectively No. 11. Not to mention the Skiers open the season Sept. 7 against 2017 state champion Bayfield.
5. AHS boyS tennis
Much like with AHS girls cross country, the Aspen boys tennis team brought back nearly its entire roster from what had been a strong season in 2018, so they are certainly on this list. Gone is graduate Alex Ilic, who played No. 1 singles a year ago, but that’s about the only subtraction.
The Skiers rolled over Durango in their lone meet so far this season, winning 7-0. They don’t play again for a couple of weeks. Coach Steve Sand made it clear the lineup from that match is still fluid going forward, but it gives us a starting point. Christian Kelly played at No. 1 singles, with Alex Mosher playing No. 2 and Lukee Tralins No. 3. All three are juniors this season and return with state experience.
The Skiers sent all 11 players to the 4A state tournament last fall, finishing seventh as a team. Most of their points came from the doubles teams. With experience and depth looking pretty solid in 2019, a top-five finish at state should be a reasonable goal, if not something more.
Note: There will be no Prep Playbook next week because of experiential education. If the kids are going to take a week off, then so will I. The column will return Sept. 3 when the prep season really gets going.
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The Aspen High School girls soccer team locked up a spot in the 16-team playoff field on Thursday with a senior day win over rival Basalt on the AHS turf. The Longhorns entered Thursday’s game likely needing a win in what was their final regular-season game of the shortened spring season.