Maple continues hot streak
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN As Aspen High School alpine skier prepped Wiley Maple prepped in the starting gate before his first of two runs in Saturday’s giant slalom at Aspen Highlands, a competitor in the adjacent lane engaged in a little good-natured ribbing. “People are always joking around with me,” Maple said. “They’re always like ‘Oh, we have to beat Wiley.'”If recent history is any indication, such a notion has been wishful thinking for the state’s elite skiers. Maple, second to Summit High School’s Zach Fretz by .04 seconds after the first run, blistered Fretz and the rest of the field in the deciding run to capture first place with a combined time of 1 minute 17.11 seconds. The win is the third in a row for Maple, who has won every high school event he’s entered this season. He took first last Saturday in a slalom at Steamboat Springs, and was the top finisher in a giant slalom in Copper Mountain.Fretz was three seconds off the pace in second and Summit teammate Fletcher McDonald (1:20.71) finished third. Three skiers – Maple, Sam Coffee (fourth) and Stephen Buzbee (10th) cracked the top 10.Despite Maple’s heroics, the Skiers boys were nipped again by rival Summit. The Tigers recorded 171 points to best Aspen by two. Battle Mountain (154) took third.The Aspen girls, too, were narrowly beaten by Summit despite top-five finishes from Joanna Coffee (fourth) and Jenny Hearn (fifth). Middle Park’s Khyla Burrows crossed the line in 1:22.96 to claim the top spot. She was joined on the podium by Summit’s Joey Chevalier and Marissa Ammaturo of Battle Mountain, which finished third in team results. “When you win races, it does wonders for your confidence,” Aspen head coach Bill Madsen said of Maple. “He’s been training really hard and has stayed focused. Where he started, he didn’t have the best course conditions.”
Snow combined with low-lying clouds made things difficult for the 140-plus female competitors. Precipitation dissipated by the time the boys took to the course, which was set up on Highlands trails Powderhorn and Thunderbowl before finishing on Smuggler. While snow conditions were ideal, Maple didn’t push off until more than half of the large field of more than 140 had taken a first run. He admittedly had a few slip ups.
He was thrown sideways a few times during the course’s flat section, but still managed to cross the line in striking distance of Fretz. Adding to Maple’s confidence: His second run was to take place on the green course, which produced the fastest times all day.”It’s the inside line of the hill, so you didn’t have to go as far, and it was a little steeper,” Maple said. “I went for it. I’d rather fall than lose. I definitely skied a little cleaner on that side.”Need proof? Look no further than his three second margin of victory. Coffee made a marked improvement on his second run, too, and was able to climb four spots in the final standings. After being in the wrong state of mind during the first run, he rebounded, Coffee said .”I went to school all morning and then I wanted to go ski powder,” he said. “I just didn’t feel like I had a good run, I watched other skiers and they looked better than I felt.
“I just attacked more [in the second run].”Had it not been for a few Skiers miscues, Aspen most likely would’ve been on top of the podium. Both Buzbee and Baker Boyd took a spill during their second runs; Buzbee overcame the mistake, but Baker did not finish.Buzbee was visibly ailing after his first run. The senior, who severely sprained his right ankle injury during the soccer season that rendered him ineffective during the Skiers’ state semifinal match, said he is still struggling to regain top form. The injury has hindered his ability to train – Friday was his first day competing in giant slalom. His rust showed when, on a tight turn on a small roller on the yellow course, he leaned in a little too much and lost his balance. He hit hard and popped back upright, he remembered, and somehow managed to finish in the top 10. Coincidentally, Boyd and many other competitors fell in the same spot.”I really don’t notice it when I’m skiing, but I can tell I can’t do things I used to,” Buzbee said. “Hopefully I’ll be ready by states.”
The gaffes that led to the Aspen boys’ second place finish last season at the state championship in Winter Park is a distant memory, the players said. And, if everyone skis to their fullest potential, the Skiers believe the podium’s top spot next month in Vail is theirs for the taking.”If we get some good steady results from Wiley and Sam, and the rest of the team fills in, we should be in real good shape,” Madsen said.”Throughout the state and at school, [states] means everything,” Coffee added. “To pull it off, good skiing by all of us is going to have to happen.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.