States on the Skiers’ mind
Aspen Times Staff Writer
On the eve of the 2004 Colorado State High School Skiing Championships, Mike Flynn, coordinator of the Aspen High School ski teams, says without hesitation that “the Skiers” are in fact the best skiers in the state, nordic and alpine, boys and girls.
The Skier girls, after all, racing under the combined Aspen High-Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club banner, are four-time defending state champs.
But, Flynn hedges with a tinge of regret in his voice, “that doesn’t guarantee victory.”
“As skiers, we are the best ” you can quote me on that. But the best team may not walk away with the award,” he says.
The conundrum is that not all of Aspen’s top skiers will be represented in Steamboat Springs, site of the Friday-Saturday competition which includes a giant slalom and slalom, a classic and a freestyle (or skate).
Aspen’s three defending individual high school state champions ” junior Simi Hamilton, in both boys nordic events, and senior Packy Westfeldt in the boys slalom ” will not be in the start gates for those disciplines this year, though Westfeldt will race the GS. Seniors Gillian Hearn, the runner-up in the girls GS and slalom last year, and Lange Adams, always an alpine threat, will only race GS as well.
Why? Because the foursome didn’t race in enough high school qualifying races earlier this season, owing to other racing conflicts/opportunities (such as Estonia for Simi Hamilton, also the J-1 freestyle U.S. National Champ).
“It’s the way the ski industry is ” not well coordinated,” Flynn says Wednesday morning, “and the kids are the ones who end up paying for it.
“We’re losing some heavy hitters, but at the same time, these kids still have a shot. In fact, [AHS-AVSC nordic coach] Travis Moore and I are going to give the kids a motivational talk in an hour. And it can be done. That’s the way to put it.”
Aspen High launched its ski teams in the 1996-97 season. But it wasn’t until February of 2000, when the boys and girls teams captured their first state titles, that the program truly arrived. By a scoring calculation that counts each team’s top three finishers in all four events, boys and girls separately, the girls have four straight and the boys two of the last four.
Last winter, the AHS-AVSC boys were edged by Summit High (by six points out of 600-something), while the AHS-AVSC girls bested Summit. This weekend, Flynn expects Summit to be tough once more, as well as Middle Park.
“Because the qualifying races were so scattered this year, that’s one of the hardest things going into this year,” Flynn said. “We didn’t have an event where all the teams were racing on the same weekend. Last year, it was Summit and us. And this year, because I may be overlooking a team, it’s gonna be wide open.
“And I think that’s good. We’ll be biting a few fingernails.”
On the nordic side, coach Travis Moore has nine boys qualified and six girls, but only four girls in the nordic classic race. “They’re aware of the challenges we’re facing,” he said. “And they know what they have to do to pull it off.
“As a nordic coach, the thing I’m concerned most about is making sure our wax is good. It could be very tricky with a 3 o’clock start on Friday [for the classic], just after the heat of the day and knowing how that course is set up.”
Girls racers include freshman Laura Hatanaka, seniors Amy Schwartz, Cori Hach, Erin Kiernan, Ashley Morse, and first-year skier Christy Severy, a junior and top cross country runner.
Is the pressure on?
“Definitely,” says Moore. “The pressure is the fact that they’ve won four in a row and that if they don’t bring home another one, what’s going to be the implications of that. It’s something they’re concerned about. But I think if they all ski to their potential they can pull it off.”
The girls alpine racers include Hearn in the GS, senior Corina Rantz, German exchange student Katharina Neumayer, juniors Bo Forster and Syd Cantrell, and freshmen Christina Van Moorsel, Taylor Buzbee and Jenny Hearn (Gillian’s sister).
Top nordic racers for the boys include junior Brandon Cooper, freshman Noah Hoffman, juniors Tyler Baker, Geoff Walker and senior John Hatanaka.
On the steep slopes, the AHS boys include Westfeldt and Adams in the GS, sophomores Paul Britvar and Jackson Davis, juniors Matt Fox and Brandon Briscoe, and freshmen Jericho Hajduk and Steven Buzbee (Taylor’s twin).
“With Gillian, I think it’d be a slam dunk,” said Flynn. “Without Gillian, I think there’s going to have to be people that ski their best races of the year.”
Britvar “is skiing the best,” Flynn continued. “And Jackson Davis is really hot too. Matt Fox has been injured, but he’s coming back strong.
“For individual state championships, Lange, Packy and Paul all have a shot in the GS, and Paul in the slalom and Gillian in the GS.”
Added Moore: “I told them every second’s going to count. And not to slack off. And when they finish, I want them to know themselves that they gave everything they had, because that’s what it’s going to take. And, hopefully, we’ll end up on top.”
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