Maple soars at Junior Nationals

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Aspens Wiley Maple charges downhill Sunday en route to a bronze in super G at the J2 Junior Nationals at Oregons Mount Bachelor. (Courtesy Bryan Hilts)

Last year’s trip to the J2 Junior Nationals in Sun Valley, Idaho, yielded mixed results for Aspen’s Wiley Maple.Still, after last year’s awards ceremony, he vowed to his father, Mike, that he would be on the podium in 2007.Those expectations came to fruition last week at Mount Bachelor, Ore. The 16-year-old took gold in the downhill, silver in slalom and bronze in super G; the results earned him the overall junior national title.Teammate Sam Coffey, the nation’s top-ranked J2 in super G, confirmed his status Saturday with a gold.Maple and Coffey contributed to one of the most successful weeks ever for Aspen High School and the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. At last week’s nordic Junior Olympics in Park City, Utah, Noah Hoffman won individual gold and silver medals, and helped Aspen capture its second high school national championship in the past three years.”Wiley’s been skiing well all season and peaked at the right moment,” AVSC head alpine ability coach Ben Black said Sunday. “I expected him to do well, but I never would’ve guessed he’d be on the podium that many times.”Despite recording one top-10 in Sun Valley, Maple said he was convinced he could win every event this year. While he fell short of that, the overall was a welcome consolation – especially considering he’s been battling mono for the past four weeks.

“It could’ve been a lot uglier for everybody else,” Maple said Tuesday. “I was tired, and all my muscles are weaker than they should be. I wanted to win them all this year, but it didn’t quite work out.”

Maple was 29th March 6 after the first of two slaloms before one of the field’s fastest second runs catapulted him to silver. He was in 17th after one run in giant slalom March 7 but improved drastically, vaulting into sixth.Friday, Maple battled a field of the nation’s top young skiers plus foggy, wet conditions to win the downhill.”He was second in the training run and it was tough with the wind, but he just nailed it,” Black said. “He was pushing the envelope, but it was fast and clean.”Aspen athletes do better on steeper terrain but, for the course being as flat as it was, Wiley skied excellent. He took advantage of his ability to let the skis run.”Coffey, who failed to qualify for any of the Junior National events one year ago, made the most of this year’s opportunity. Along with his national super G title, Coffey took ninth in the downhill.

Because race organizers were anticipating bad weather, they moved the super G up a day – a decision Coffey was not ecstatic about. And, to compound matters, the race’s start was in the afternoon instead of the usual morning. Coffey, accustomed to being on the hill at 6 a.m., bided his time by scraping his skis, then played video games before heading up to the lodge. Despite the minor setbacks, Coffey felt confident after Sunday’s course inspection.”I looked at the course and felt like I was seeing things other kids weren’t,” Coffey said Tuesday. “The course started with some steeps, and I knew I could do well on those turns. At the bottom there were rollers and jumps where you really had to be active. I felt like the course suited me, and I wanted to prove myself.”That confidence translated into an impressive win.

“Sam aced the top part of the course that everyone was struggling with and he was dialed in the whole way down,” Black said. “It was unbelievable.”As a result of their efforts, Maple and Coffey, two of only 20 skiers who qualified to represent the Rocky Mountain Division, earned trips to the U.S. National Championships in Alyeska, Alaska, later this month. There they’ll compete against everyone from the nation’s top J1s to Olympians Bode Miller and Ted Ligety. Maple is hoping for a few top-30 results in Alaska. He’s hoping Junior Nationals provide a springboard for his up-and-coming ski career.”Last year I watched a kid win overall, and he’s going to be on the U.S. Ski Team this year,” he said. “He won every event except for one. It’s kind of cool to compare myself to him. Hopefully I’ll experience the same success.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is