Nordic boys, girls look to maintain dominance
ASPEN The Aspen boys nordic team has become synonymous with dominance these days.Need proof? Every time the team was at full strength this winter, the Skiers came away winners. Friday at Spring Gulch in Carbondale, the boys captured first, third, fifth, seventh and ninth – not bad considering senior Noah Hoffman, the defending state champion in both classic and freestyle, was 44th.”I had to start the race to qualify for state, so I used it as a distance workout,” Hoffman said Tuesday. “I stopped along the way to talk to people.”Hoffman’s disposition will be decidedly different in today’s state championship, when the boys and girls teams compete in a classic race in Vail. The 5-kilometer freestyle skate is Friday. While questions concerning the health and depth of the boys alpine team linger, the nordic team continues to gain momentum. A podium sweep this week is not out of the question, Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club nordic director John Callahan said Tuesday.”It’s a very real possibility, for both races even,” he said. “The depth on this team is really good. I expect Noah to win the thing, and Scott [Lacy] and Ryan [Waldron] are skiing really strong. I’m really confident about how the kids are skiing.”
Aspen’s boys took command on the first day of last year’s state championship. Four Skiers finished in the top 10 in the classic race, and Hoffman bested his nearest competitor by 16 seconds. The nordic and alpine teams combined to take a 17-point advantage over rival Summit. Hoffman again captured first in freestyle Saturday, but mistakes cost the Skiers. While Aspen took first in every discipline, bobbles in slalom and on the cross-country course cost the team its lead – and an eighth state championship. “I can’t control them [alpine], so I’ll be more concerned about what I can do to help,” Hoffman said. “After what happened last year, I’m really hoping we pull out that team title.”Sophomore Lacy, whom Callahan said has the potential to be as good as Hoffman, will look to atone for a fall in last year’s freestyle. After skiers in the mass start left the stadium and funneled onto a narrow track, a competitor skied over Lacy’s tips, and he fell to the ground. He was trampled, and one pole plant hit his thigh, drawing blood. He got back on his skis and managed to take 13th. “It made me angry, so I skied a lot harder,” said Lacy, who took third in a Western Region Junior National qualifier Jan. 20 at Soldier Hollow, Utah. “I think the experience will make me a little more careful.” Because of similar incidents, organizers decided to do away with mass starts in favor of an interval start at the state races. It’s a change Callahan criticized.
“I think they jumped the gun with this decision,” he said. “It’s part of ski racing to get tangled up. The mass start hurt us last year, but the race will lose its excitement.”There will be no lack of excitement for senior Laura Hatanaka, who on Tuesday contemplated taking part in her final high school race. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. We’ll see when we get there,” said Hatanaka, who finished third in the classic and was fifth in freestyle last year. “I’m really hoping we do well.”While they lack the depth of their male counterparts, Callahan expects his girls to figure prominently.”Laura has the potential to go out and win,” he said. “All the girls are more than capable.”Issues concerning Friday’s freestyle abound. The skate technique has yielded multiple injuries among some of the girls, most notably Cornelia Carpenter and Hatanaka, who said the skate motion tightens her calves. Carpenter will not race in freestyle at state, leaving the team without one of its most accomplished competitors.
“With CC, we’ve tried different boots, different insoles, stretching – all sorts of things,” Callahan said. “We can’t figure it out. It’s not worth the effort or the pain and suffering.”Hatanaka persevered through injury and took first in the freestyle and third in the skate at a CHSAA qualifier Jan. 27 in Leadville. One week earlier, she posted a personal best with a third-place finish at Soldier Hollow. With Carpenter, Nathalie Obermeyer and Lindsey Wilkinson skiing strong, as they have all season, the Skiers girls have the potential to post some strong results.”The guys have a good chance to finish first, and I think the girls can finish in the top three,” Hatanaka said. “We haven’t really talked about taking first. We’ll see how things play out when we get there.””These next few days are all about the team,” Hoffman added. Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Longtime Roaring Fork Valley golf club professional Doug Rohrbaugh is set to play in this weekend’s Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores Golf Club in Michigan.