Fourth to be reckoned with
Together four-ever.Aspen High seniors Kathryn Eastley and Maile Wade cemented a place in history together as the Aspen High-Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club girls ski team captured its fourth straight Colorado State High School Ski Championship in Beaver Creek and Vail over the weekend.The only two seniors on the girls team guided their alpine and nordic teammates to a narrow, 13-point victory over Summit (644 to 631) after the four events – classic and skate, giant slalom and slalom – in which the top three finishers from each scored toward the combined, team calculation.However, Eastley and Wade’s career sweep was somewhat bittersweet.The moment before the girls were announced as four-peat champions Saturday night at Berry Creek Middle School in Edwards, the AHS-AVSC boys team, looking for its third title in four years, learned its come-from-behind assault on Summit came up short by just six points, 678 to 672.”That’s tough,” said Eastley. “Really we’re all in it together, all pulling for each other, all training together, traveling together. They worked just as hard as we did.”Demuring momentarily, she added quietly: “So awesome.””It’s really satisfying,” said Wade, who was also named Female Skier of the Year in a coaches ballot.In fact, the AHS-AVSC boys delivered three individual state titles, two by sophomore phenom Simi Hamilton, who won the grueling 6K classic at Cordillera on Friday afternoon, then the 8K skate race at the Vail Nordic Center the following afternoon in blizzard conditions.Junior Packy Westfeldt opened Saturday by winning both runs of the Saturday’s slalom at Beaver Creek to lead Aspen to a 1-3-4 finish, with freshman Paul Britvar and junior Lange Adams, as the boys made a concerted push to catch Summit after falling behind Friday in the giant slalom and classic events.”We each gave 100 percent and 100 percent came up a little short, so you kind of have to taste that and then come back next year with a vengeance,” said Hamilton, who also won the state skate race last year.”When that much is on the line, you’ve got to remember that you’re not doing it all just for a great personal result but you’re supporting the whole team. And sometimes that’s hard to keep in mind, because we’re all working toward the same result which is different from most races, but I’m really happy with the way we fought.”Indeed. The girls and boys team battled all weekend.And owing to the difficulty of gauging where each team stood after every event, it wasn’t entirely clear where they were in relation to Summit until the announcement met the bleary-eyed Skiers at about 8 Saturday night.”We thought the boys had it,” said Mike Flynn, the coordinator of the AHS-AVSC teams, “and we thought it would be closer for the girls, but we’re happy for the girls because that’s four-in-a-row, and I don’t know if it’s ever been done before. We’re excited about that” – pause – “but the boys worked hard, they worked as hard as you could possibly work to get it.”I thought we had it, and we’re going to add the results just to be sure.”The championship opened with the giant slalom at Beaver Creek, where junior Gillian Hearn led the girls with a second-place finish and sophomore Matt Fox led the boys in third place.At the Cordillera classic later Friday, the girls overcame a two-point deficit from the GS with a fifth-place finish from junior Aimie Schwartz, followed by junior Cori Hach in sixth and Wade in seventh. Not one Summit girl finished ahead of them, turning the tables heading into the slalom on Saturday at Beaver Creek and the skate race at the Vail Nordic Center.Meanwhile, the boys trailed Summit after both events Friday – despite Hamilton’s win and a fourth-place finish from fellow sophomore Brandon Cooper – until Saturday’s breakout performance in the slalom appeared to even the playing field heading into the finale at the Vail Nordic Center.On Saturday in the women’s slalom, Hearn again finished second behind Summit’s Tucker Burton, a member of the U.S. developmental team, as Summit cut into Aspen’s advantage. That is until the finale, the skate race in a driving snowstorm, when Aspen’s nordic girls finished sixth, seventh and 11th (Schwartz, Wade and Hach) to seal the four-peat.”I was ready to stand up and get up for second place because we didn’t have anyone of the podium for the skate race,” said Wade of the mounting drama at the awards ceremony, where the overall results and the skate race results were first disclosed. “I didn’t think it was going to happen. It was nerve-racking but it just made it more awesome.”I was just sitting there chanting, ‘We won, we won, we won, we won, we won, don’t worry, we won, we won, it’s OK, we won,'” added Eastley of the suspense. “But that was just more for me. That was a lot of stress.”As for a five-peat, well, the girls team will only be losing Eastley and Wade.”And they can totally do it,” said Wade.
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The Longhorns track and field prowess was most evident with their runners, winning multiple events and showing they are to be a factor for podiums, if not state championships, later this month at the state meet in Lakewood.