Ski racers win snowy high school trail run
The Aspen Times
Schedule a high school cross country running event.
Lay out the course on the trails of the Aspen Nordic Trail System.
Cover everything with 4 inches of fresh snow.
Now, guess who wins the 2013 Chris Severy Invitational?
Skiers, of course.
That’s skiers, with a lower-case S.
Two of Colorado’s rising stars in Nordic ski racing won the featured girls varsity and boys varsity running races Saturday on a snowy morning at Aspen High School.
Basalt High School’s Hailey Swirbul, a top cross country racer with the Aspen Valley Ski Club, won the girls varsity race on the familiar trails in a duel with upstart Denver North freshman Kayla Young.
Ian Boucher, of the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy, won the boys varsity race, holding off the charging Jake Erickson, of Palisade, on the 5-kilometer course that meandered up and down the Nordic trails and through the woods and neighborhoods adjacent to the Moore playing fields at AHS.
“I ski this course a lot in the winter,” said Swirbul, a sophomore at Basalt. “It’s my home course … my favorite because it has a lot of hills.”
Swirbul, who won the women’s division of the annual bicycle race up Independence Pass last summer, said all of the snow around the course Saturday made her think about her Nordic racing.
Plus, she said, her skiing teammates were on hand to cheer.
“My whole Nordic team comes out to cheer on this Aspen course. It’s always super fun,” she said, adding that she had to adjust to a fast start.
“I started out a little too fast … too fast on the first downhill,” she said. “That affected me on the second downhill. But I had enough left to finish.”
Young, the Denver North freshman who has won a trio of cross country races in the Denver area, challenged Swirbul, staying close from the start.
“She was definitely stronger on the downhills,” said Swirbul, who watched the diminutive Young take the lead on the final long downhill of the 3.1-mile course. “But I had enough left on the last uphill to get ahead of her.”
Swirbul, the daughter of Rebecca and Brick Swirbul, took the lead for good on the uphill in the final half-mile of the race.
She crossed the finish line at the Lower Moore playing field in 23 minutes, 23 seconds, unofficially.
“It was hard because of the snow,” said Young, who saw the Aspen course for the first time earlier Saturday morning. “I kept slipping a lot.”
She said she enjoyed the challenge of racing against Swirbul.
“In my last races, I haven’t had much competition,” the shy freshman said.
She said she tried to take advantage where should could Saturday on the snowy and muddy course.
“Downhills are kind of my strengths,” Young said. “Uphills … not so much.”
Young also overcame a lack of sleep after her Denver North team bus was stuck in the traffic jam on Interstate 70 during Friday night’s snowstorm.
Young and her Denver North teammates finally checked into their hotel in Glenwood Springs at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.
They arrived not long after the Kent Denver cross country runners had pulled into their accommodations in Glenwood Springs.
Even more teams were delayed en route to Aspen on Saturday morning when a multi-vehicle accident closed Highway 82 in Snowmass Canyon.
Traffic eventually was diverted onto Lower River Road, and the runners arrived in time for Saturday’s races — including middle school and junior varsity events.
Boucher, the winner of the boys 5K, didn’t waste any time in his race.
He jumped to the front, much like he does when he’s racing on cross country skis.
“I’m not a fan of dark-horsing. I like to be out front to know what’s ahead,” said Boucher, a senior at the Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.
“The (Palisade) runner definitely made up a lot of ground on me at the end. But I started feeling a little better on that back stretch. I was a little crampy, but I was able to get on around,” said Boucher, who grew up in Crested Butte. He used to race for the Crested Butte Community School.
But he transferred to the Vail academy to pursue his cross country ski racing dreams, he said.
“I’ve skied this more than I’ve run this, ironically,” Boucher said, adding that the tricky footing made for an exhausting race.
“The traction was poor. You had to watch your footing … because of the ditches out there and the mud divots from the previous races,” he said.
“It was especially difficult on the downhills. You had to make sure each step was well placed.”
Boucher’s cross country running season will end quickly when he leaves for his first Nordic races of the season in Canada in a week and a half.
“Then, there’s three weeks of skiing in Montana … and hopefully world juniors in Europe, after that,” Boucher said.
First, was the Chris Severy Invitational.
Behind Palisade’s Erickson in third place in the boys varsity race was Eagle Valley’s Gino Giovagnoli.
Denver North’s Gino Ciscaveno was fourth with Telluride’s Jack Plantz fifth.
In the girls varsity race, Arianna Toland, of Vangaard School (Colorado Springs), finished third. Anna Fake, of Telluride, was fourth.
Julia Jashke, of Kent Denver, finished fifth.
Aspen’s top finishers were Riley Sutton and Meagan Woodrow, in sixth and seventh places, respectively.
Official times and team finishes were not available Saturday because of computer-scoring problems, according to Aspen head coach Chris Keleher, the meet director. He said team results will be calculated and announced this week.
In the girls JV race Saturday, Tianna Farris, of Grand Junction Central, finished first with Aspen’s Nina Beidleman second.
Allison Chipman, of Mountain Ridge Middle School (Highlands Ranch), won the middle school girls 2-mile race.
Ben Beagot, of Summit Ridge Middle School (Littleton), won the boys middle school race.
Sidney Brown, of Grand Junction Central, won the boys JV race.
In the citizens 5K early Saturday morning, Josh Meyer was first with Ted LeBlow second.
Aspen ski mountaineer Max Taam was third.
Mary Page was the top woman in the citizens race, held on the same 5K course the high schoolers used.
Two Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteer projects are scheduled to assist with finish work, rock armoring and seeding of disturbed areas, according Ted O’Brien, manager of Pitkin County Open Space and Trails Resource and Trails. The events will be led in collaboration with Open Space and Trails and the Roaring Fork Mountain Biking Association.
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