Skiers boys are fully loaded
Aspen, CO ColoradoASPEN The only thing that can stop Noah Hoffman?Food poisoning, maybe. Possibly a case of mono. Or, more probable, a scheduling snafu.As Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club Nordic Director John Callahan puts it, his sublime senior could have his hand tied behind his back and still probably beat all the state’s best high school nordic skiers.”Really there isn’t anyone in the state right now who can beat him short of a major illness or injury,” said Callahan, who helps coach Aspen’s boys and girls nordic teams with Travis Moore. “If everything goes as planned, there’s no one close to him right now.”The one thing that could derail Hoffman’s bid to repeat as state champion in both freestyle and classic is his packed schedule. He has been training with U.S. Ski Team coaches and athletes throughout the fall and winter and competing at regional and national events. Last month he was 39th and 35th in two USSA SuperTour races at Soldier, Hollow, Utah, and just last week he competed against the best junior and college nordic skiers in the country at the U.S. Cross Country Championships in Houghton, Mich.
Hoffman’s top goal this winter is to place well at Junior World Championships in Tarvisio, Italy, later this month.As for winning two more state titles, that’s a ways down the list, but still important, Callahan said.It’s the reason Hoffman raced in the first classic and freestyle races of the high school season before the holiday break when all but one of his teammates stayed in Aspen to concentrate on final exams. It’s the reason he plans to compete in Aspen’s home freestyle race on Dec. 13, then, after junior worlds, the CRMS classic race Feb. 9.The Colorado High School Activities Association stipulates that high school skiers must compete in two discipline races to qualify for state, and that’s exactly what Hoffman plans to do.”He’s really doing it for the team,” Callahan said. “It’s pretty neat.”
Before this season, Callahan assumed he wouldn’t have Hoffman at state, and even then he expected the team to make a run at a title. Last season, the boys alpine and nordic teams held a considerable lead heading into the last day of competition, but a number of key mistakes in the final slalom cost Aspen the first-place trophy. Callahan and Moore have three other talented seniors: Ryan Waldron, Nate Marrs and Barton Tofany, as well as sophomore Scott Lacy, the team’s second-fastest skier.Lacy is on track to be as good as Hoffman, if he continues to work hard, Callahan said. Whit Fuller, another sophomore, could also score points for the Skiers.In a high school race, a team receives points from its top-three finishers.”With the four seniors on there and Whit and Scott, we’ve got a very good chance of winning a state championship,” Callahan said. “We’ve got six seniors right now – four boys and two on the girls team – and they’re really the core of the whole team. It’s going to be a different team next year.”
The closeness of the boys team is one of its greatest assets, Callahan noted. Practices so far have been spirited as the Skiers have pushed one another, all in the interest of hoisting a team trophy at the end of the year.”Skiing is really an individual sport,” Callahan said. “Once you get to that start line, you’re all by yourself out there. Even in a mass start race it’s not like cycling where you’re trying to work together as a team and draft. It doesn’t work in skiing the same way. But everywhere else it’s a team sport, and that’s a large reason why a lot of the kids are on the team – for a lot of the social aspects and feeling like they’re part of a team. A lot of the kids really enjoy traveling together, hanging out in the locker room together and training.”Make that really like training together.Most of the group works out and competes year round, running cross-country in the fall, track in the spring and then doing off-snow training through the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club in the summer.”All of it really makes a strong team,” Callahan said. “Everyone helps push each other along and support each other. We offer a fun environment and a place where they want to be.”Nate Peterson’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.