Skiers’ Lacy left out in the cold | AspenTimes.com

Skiers’ Lacy left out in the cold

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado

This was supposed to be Scott Lacy’s time to shine. Friend Noah Hoffman swept both the classic and freestyle nordic events at last year’s state skiing championship in Vail. Lacy finished second in both races and helped Aspen clinch its eighth state boys title. The upcoming state championship at Steamboat Springs seemed like the ideal place for Lacy, who admits the comparisons to Hoffman coupled with expectations have been overwhelming at times, to seize the limelight. Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 should have been the 16-year-old’s chance to flex his skiing muscle, to leave his mark, to dominate.But the junior won’t be standing at the start line next month as the prohibitive favorite. He won’t be overwhelming fellow competitors like he did Thursday in Breckenridge. Lacy isn’t eligible to compete in Steamboat. And it’s neither the result of indiscretions or classroom struggles. No, the real reason Lacy won’t be making the trip to Steamboat is because he’s too good. The issue is a tad more ambiguous than that – but barely.By virtue of Lacy’s impressive performance at the recent U.S. Cross Country Championship in Houghton, Michigan, the 16-year-old was one of six male and six female J1s selected to represent the U.S. in the Scandinavia Cup in early February. He’ll be in Estonia skiing against the world’s top juniors instead of competing in Granby (Feb. 2) and Eldora (Feb. 5). As a result, Lacy won’t complete the four high school races the Colorado High School Activities Association requires for one to be eligible for the state championship. He won’t have the chance to chase his own state crown. “Considering I won’t have enough races to be considered first-team all-state is disappointing,” Lacy said Tuesday. “My only goal going up [to Michigan] was to make that team. And now that the adrenaline has run off and everything, I’m a little bummed.”Confused? So was Lacy, who found out logistics and a fundamentally flawed system ultimately left him out in the cold. Apparently, being one of the top 10 nordic skiers in the country isn’t enough to garner an invite to Steamboat.So much for having the best interests of student athletes at heart. Let’s hope the schedule works out better for you next year, Scott. You’re a victim of your own success.It’s about time CHSAA realizes its eligibility rule is backward and is in desperate need of revision. Shouldn’t athletes be lauded, not penalized, for their accomplishments?”What CHSAA needs to do is integrate a little more than they do, which is none, into the world of competitive ski racing,” Hoffman said. “It’s a different sport than football. … Club skiing is actually dominant, and there should be a prequalify system like the Junior Olympics. Because [Scott is] on the Scandinavia Cup, he prequalified for the Junior Olympics.”But not for the state championship. “We’ve asked [CHSAA] to allow kids that qualify for a trip to Europe, which is a much higher level, to be qualified for state,” Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club nordic program director John Callahan said. “… They won’t do it.”Who benefits here? The athlete who is penalized for attempting to further his career by taking advantage of a rare, exciting opportunity? The team that was relying on their star to be the catalyst for the drive to a ninth state title, but is now left dealing with the stinging realization that they won’t be at full strength? And what about the coaches, or the championship organizers who won’t have many of the state’s preeminent athletes to showcase at their main event?Let’s be honest. In the world of competitive skiing, the high school state championship is little more than a blip on the radar. For gifted athletes like Lacy and Hoffman, accruing United States Ski and Snowboard Association points, impressing sponsors and making an impact on the sport’s biggest stages take precedence.”The high school championship was not the highlight of my year,” Hoffman said candidly. “It definitely means something, and I was certainly happy to win and to help out, but it’s certainly not worth giving up a trip to Estonia for, in my opinion.”Hoffman’s perspective is understandable, but merely a footnote. The prevailing issue here is that Lacy has been forced to choose between letting down the team and chasing a dream. Such a situation would cause angst for anyone, let alone a 16-year-old.”He doesn’t want to let the team down,” Callahan said of Lacy. “He wants to be a state champion.”Hoffman assumed he wouldn’t be in Vail last season, but his schedule – and his prequalification – ultimately allowed him to compete. Alpine standouts Wiley Maple and Sam Coffey missed the state’s opening giant slalom to compete in a NorAm Cup race in Montana. The duo made it to Vail in time for the slalom. Maple won, setting the stage for the nordic team to complete a dramatic come-from-behind victory over rival Summit.If Aspen is to repeat, they’ll have to do so without Lacy – and without any help from CHSAA. It’s neither fair or logical.When the choice is between a trip to Estonia and one to Steamboat, Estonia always wins.Everyone else loses.jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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