Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN Inclement weather provided a new and difficult challenge for competitors in Saturday’s high school cross country state qualifier at Aspen High School.
Substantial snow – close to 14 inches in the last 24 hours, according to local reports – made strength and endurance, not speed, ideal. And while the course took it’s toll on a number of racers – many collapsed on the wet ground moments after crossing the finish – the Aspen boys managed to stay upright and out in front. Senior Scott Lacy led for the majority of the 5K and finished first with a time of 15 minutes, 20.4 seconds. Teammate Noah Hoffman took second, 20 seconds off the pace. Five Skiers finished in the top 10; Ryan Waldron (16:10.5) took fourth behind Summit’s Tyler Reinking, Barton Tofany (16:44.3) finished sixth and Nate Marrs (16:57.3) came in ninth. Aspen won the team title with 176 points; Summit (163) and Vail (153) finished second and third, respectively.Laura Hatanaka took third and teammates Natalie Obermeyer and Britany Marrs finished ninth and 10th, respectively, to lead the Aspen girls to a second place team finish. Vail took first and Summit third. Summit’s Briana Perkins took the individual title with a time of 18:21.7 and was followed closely by Vail’s Karlie Moore. Hatanaka was 21 seconds off Perkins’ pace.”The goal was to have me start of the front of the line, and get in front with the lead pack,” Lacy said. “I always try to get out in front. It’s a lot easier when you don’t have to worry about catching up to other people or ski around them.”Lacy was the first Aspen skier out of the start once the horn blew. He proceeded to push toward the front during the first uphill, then settled in alongside the lead pack. After 1 1/2 kilometers, Lacy pushed out in front. He would not be caught. He was followed closely by Reinking, but Reinking faded as the two approached the course’s largest hill.
Lacy was the lone competitor in sight when he climbed the finish hill near the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club, and he cruised through the finish.”Scott is a tough skier and is very competitive,” Aspen head coach Travis Moore said. “He likes mass starts because he can be out in first. He won’t relinquish the lead unless he has to.”Moore made a pre-race decision to rest Hoffman, who competed in the World Junior Championships qualifier Jan. 6 and 7 in Michigan, and put him in the back of Aspen’s line at the start. Hoffman, who is slated to compete in next week’s first Junior Olympic qualifier at Utah’s famed Soldier Hollow before heading to Sweden to take part in the Scandinavian Cup, was given orders to ski at 75 percent. Hoffman had a bad skate and sprint in Michigan and finished ninth; only the top seven competitors advanced.Hoffman was in the middle of the pack after the first uphill, and by the time the course flattened out a two kilometers later, he caught his first glimpse of Lacy. As he neared the course’s final uphill, Moore yelled from the gallery to Hoffman, urging him to pull ahead of a fading Reinking. Hoffman obliged, taking over second in the last half kilometer. Twenty meters from the finish, he looked over his shoulder one time. No one was in sight as Hoffman, who looked like he had expended little energy, crossed the line then skated over to congratulate Lacy.”I skied an easy pace then picked it up at the end,” Hoffman said. “This course really set up well for our team.”
“The course was sloppy, which made things much more challenging,” Moore said. Groomers started work Saturday at 4 a.m., and snowmobilers drove the course until the first race, clearing off as much excess snow as possible. “We knew we were getting snow, we just didn’t think it’d be this much. The competitors were tired and making mistakes out there, but that happens in any nordic race. They struggled around the course, but everyone skied their hearts out.”The Aspen boys showed little signs of struggle and once again proved they’ll be a formidable force in next month’s state championships in Vail. The Skiers girls, however, still are trying to find their stride during the season’s most crucial stretch, Moore said. “The guys are going in very solid, and there’s an outside chance the girls could pull it off [at state],” Moore said. “This is the part of the season where things really pick up. We’ll find out a lot more about ourselves.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
Let’s make some skiing predictions. I made my X Games snowboarding predictions a day earlier and remain only mildly lukewarm in terms of confidence, but maybe I’ll feel better about the skiers.