Near miss for Aspen boys in Winter Park | AspenTimes.com
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Near miss for Aspen boys in Winter Park

Jon Maletz

Missed gates. An unfortunate fall.In its tight race with Summit High School for the boys skiing state championship at Winter Park, Aspen knew it needed to be perfect to repeat. A handful of costly mistakes proved to be the team’s downfall as the Tigers edged the Skiers by 10 points to take the title.”We were in a position to walk away with it, and it was too bad we unraveled in the slalom,” first-year AHS alpine skiing head coach Bill Madsen said Sunday. “We imploded.”A dominating first day of competition helped the Skiers distance themselves from their nearest competitor and rivals – the Tigers – by 17 points. Paul Britvar and Wiley Maple captured the first and second spots, respectively, in the giant slalom. They were joined in the top four by Steven Buzbee. Among them, the three athletes recorded 176 points, 23 more than the Tigers, who came in second in the discipline.Noah Hoffman ran away from the field in the nordic classic race, besting second-place finisher Kevin Soller of Summit by nearly 16 seconds. Hoffman, a junior, was one of four Skiers in the top 10; Ryan Waldron finished fourth, Scott Lacy seventh and Nate Marrs 10th. It looked as if the Skiers, carrying a 22-point edge over the Tigers heading into Saturday, were primed to hoist an eighth state title trophy. But, as Madsen said, “Nothing’s done until the big lady starts humming.”First came the slalom, and a few uncharacteristic bobbles. While Britvar, a senior, was again golden after besting Middle Park’s Evan Johnston by .39 seconds, no other Aspen skier finished in the top 30. Both Whit Fuller (34) and Sam Coffee (35) missed gates and wasted precious time hiking back up the hill to get back on course. A mistake by Maple, however, proved more costly. He missed the course’s final gate before crossing the finish and failed to earn any team points. Aspen’s total of 141 in the event was 30 behind the pace set by Summit, which had three skiers finish in the top five. The Skiers’ lead had evaporated, and they could do little to close the gap.”The course was ill-marked when the kids previewed it, and you can make up as many other excuses as you can, but things just went against us,” Aspen nordic head coach Travis Moore said Sunday. “Summit is such a tough team to beat, you can’t mess up once. Against their depth, every error is compounded. After we won last year, Summit was amped up to win again. To their credit, they stepped up and capitalized.” Compounding Aspen’s frustrations was the loss of skier Brandon Briscoe. The senior, who Madsen said is a consistent top-five finisher, hurt his ankle during a training session Thursday. Hoffman again captured first place in the nordic freestyle, but it was a costly mistake at the starting line that sealed Aspen’s fate. The race’s mass start format, coupled with an unusual downhill start, caused Lacy to fall, and slide to the back of the pack early. The freshman rebounded to finish 13th. Waldron finished fourth and Whit Parker ninth, but the team could not contend with the depth of the Tigers. Four Summit skiers finished in the top 10 and seven cracked the top 20.”When the Summit team goes up there on the podium, they have 20 boys to our six or seven,” Moore said. “They are so deep and so strong.”We had some bad luck and thing’s went in Summit’s favor. We may have been beaten, but we came away with all four races won by Aspen kids, which is really cool.”While the team put up an admirable effort, it lacked the strength in numbers needed to compete with the state’s top schools. The Skiers – third in 2005 – finished fifth out of 14 teams; Summit completed the sweep as its girls team bested second-place finisher Middle Park by 99 points.Christina VanMoorsel, one of two Aspen alpine skiers to qualify for states, finished 10th in giant slalom and ninth in Saturday’s slalom. Taylor Buzbee was 26 in the giant slalom and 31st in slalom.Skiers Jenny Hearn and Olivia Davis failed to complete a minimum number of high school races to qualify for state because of their competition schedule with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.Aspen nordic skier Laura Hatanaka followed up a third in the classic race with a fifth in freestyle. Lindsey Wilkinson finished ninth in the classic.Members of the boys team were understandably dejected on their bus ride home Saturday evening, Moore said. But following two days of battling wind chills, adverse conditions and stiff competition, Moore and Madsen were encouraged. The weekend’s low points make for strong life lessons for future competitions, Madsen said. The Skiers boys, who lose Britvar and Briscoe, should be strong contenders in 2007.”Some kids were disappointed with the circumstances, but hey, that’s the way it goes,” Moore said. “One of the Summit skiers said it best: ‘If we knew the outcome, we wouldn’t have to be at the race.'”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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