State skiing: Aspen High’s Levyn Thomas wins girls giant slalom title on Day 1
The Durango Herald
DURANGO — One run. That’s all that was possible to decide high school skiing’s giant slalom state champions on Thursday.
With deep snow at Purgatory Resort in Durango — there was seven inches overnight and heavy snowfall all morning Thursday — the Colorado High School Activities Association state skiing championships condensed the opening alpine event to one run instead of the typical two.
On a tricky course that deteriorated throughout the day, it was Aspen High School senior Levyn Thomas who beat out Battle Mountain senior Gretchen Pavelich in the girls giant slalom. Later, after the course was dyed and packed down once more by the athletes, Vail Mountain senior Shane Cole found state redemption with a boys giant slalom title in front of Aspen senior Trey Thorpe.
“I was surprised,” said Thomas, who was the 10th skier down the course Thursday morning. “I really didn’t think I’d come in first. It was pretty bumpy and really snowy, and there was some air on the course. It was pretty tough.”
Thomas finished her run in 39.61 seconds, 0.17 ahead of Pavelich. Battle Mountain junior Berit Frischolz was third, 0.46 behind. Aspen senior Estelle Sweeney placed fourth in 41.14 seconds.
Cole won the boys race in 39.81 seconds and was the only boy to break 40 seconds. Thorpe finished in 40.34, while Battle Mountain freshman Will Bettenhausen placed third in 40.37. Aspen dominated the top 10, as Charlie Olsen and Noah Forman, a pair of sophomores, tied for seventh in 41.62 seconds, while Aspen senior Ethan deMoraes was ninth in 41.65 seconds.
Cole watched the girls races and knew he had to properly plan his path going into two rollers that sent skiers airborne.
“Using more direction off those two big rollers was the biggest thing,” he said. “I learned a lot watching the girls. When you hit those, it’s pretty scary sometimes, especially today with the conditions. All that’s going through my head is getting my skis back on snow as quick as possible to continue the turn if I need to.”
Thomas said she didn’t expect to go into the air on the course, but she had the advantage of seeing nine other girls hit the rollers first.
Battle Mountain coaches had hoped for a second run for Pavelich to challenge Thomas, but the weather didn’t make it possible.
For Cole, the win served as redemption after he fell in both runs at last year’s state championships and did not finish in three other events that season.
“I only had one DNF this year. I’m just really hyped that I was able to get the win here,” Cole said. “We all came to the bottom and thought we did terrible because of the conditions. I was definitely surprised that I was the only person to crack into sub 40s.
“Today’s weather really showed that you have to go with the flow. Everything was changing, but you can’t control the weather. It teaches you to take it how it comes to you.”
Friday’s slalom event will change venues with the hopes of getting two runs completed. Rather than racing at Purgatory, the race will be held at Chapman Hill. It will give the feel of a World Cup city event with the speedy slalom stars racing from the top of a hill that overlooks downtown Durango.
The National Weather Service had called for another three to seven inches Thursday night in Durango and another one to three inches Friday during the day.
“It looked like a nice, pretty even hill,” Thomas said. “It’s a nicer surface and a good venue to have a slalom.”
Aspen’s Olson, Whitley go 2-3 in Nordic race
Cameron Wolfe has been unbeatable on the boys Nordic skiing scene the past two years. Tai-Lee Smith was untouchable much of this season amongst the girls.
Wolfe of Vail Mountain School won the boys 5-kilometer classic race Thursday at the Durango Nordic Center in the first of two Nordic races at the CHSAA state skiing championships. Summit’s Smith won the girls race in dominant fashion.
The boys race was hotly contested by a strong pack of skiers. Wolfe finished in 16 minutes, 1 second, the same time as Aspen’s Everett Olson, as Wolfe edged him by a ski-length. Aspen’s Colt Whitley came across third in 16:06, followed by Durango’s Logan Moore in fourth in 16:32.
Wolfe won both the classic and pursuit races at last year’s CHSAA state championships and made it three state titles in a row Thursday.
“It’s pretty nice to finish out high school with some good races,” he said. “I’m stoked. Hopefully I can keep this going in the next race tomorrow.”
While Wolfe won for Vail Mountain School, it was Aspen that took a commanding lead in the boys points standings going into today’s pursuit race. Along with Olson and Whitley’s result, Noah Wheeless was sixth in 16:49 and Taiga Moore added a 10th-place finish in 17:19. Aspen has 172 points, while Middle Park is second with 158.
The host Durango Demons had a banner day, as Noah Bodewes added to Logan Moore’s finish with a ninth-place result in 16:57. Cobe Freeburn also placed 26th in 18:30, as the Demons scored 153 points to sit in third place.
Logan Moore, a three-time junior national qualifier who will attend this year’s nationals next month in Alaska, said he is looking forward to today’s pursuit race, an event he prefers. Last weekend, he skied the same course at the Durango Nordic Center during junior national qualifying. He said it was tougher Thursday.
“There were more steep hills, longer hills in general,” he said. “Then there were shorter, flatter downhills. There was a lot less rest and it was a lot more difficult.”
Soft snow conditions led to a bit slower times. It also helped the boys stay in a tight pack until the final kilometer.
“I knew the last downhill coming to the finish, it was important to go down first,” Wolfe said. “I made my move going up the last hill to keep in front going to the finish.”
Wolfe said the course offered nowhere to rest, but he had the legs and upper body in the end to hold off a charging Olson.
Smith won the girls race in 19:14, 13 seconds ahead of Battle Mountain’s Grace Johnson and 35 seconds in front of third-place Liz Harding of Battle Mountain.
“The snow was really soft, and the tracks weren’t really set, but it was fun,” said Smith. “It was hard without tracks. The snow was soft and your ski would go in.
“I didn’t qualify for the skate race Friday because I didn’t go to enough races this year, so it was fun to win the classic.”
Instead of the last hill, Smith made her move earlier.
“I was staying behind pacing off all the other girls,” she said. “In the flat, open area near the end of the loop, I started picking up a bigger stride and then broke away a bit.”
Battle Mountain has 169 points to lead the girls Nordic competition going into Day 2. Aspen is second with 158 points, one point in front of Summit. Aspen’s Emma Barsness placed sixth in 20:14, three seconds and one place in front of teammate Eva McDonough. Jordan Miner was 12th for Aspen in 20:39.
With more snow expected to fall Thursday night and Friday at the Durango Nordic Center 26 miles north of Durango, Logan Moore said his coaches will have the team ready.
“Our coaches have been great putting wax on that’s not super sticky but that still gives you enough kick to get over the hills,” he said
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The Skiers’ latest victim was Vail Mountain School on Monday, a 67-47 non-league rout inside the AHS gymnasium. It was the second time the teams had played in less than a week, as AHS also won in Vail last Tuesday, 40-28. Aspen is in position to possibly host a playoff game next week.