Top finishes for AHS skiers
Aspen Times Staff Writer
The first-ever mass start for a Colorado high school nordic race took place in Aspen Saturday, with three girls from Aspen High School placing in the top seven out of a field of 71 competitors.
“It was a great event,” said AHS nordic coach Travis Moore. “The kids were pretty jazzed [about the mass start].”
Brandon Cooper led the way for the AHS boy’s team, placing 11th, with a time of 10 minutes, 56 seconds. But Cooper was out for more of a stroll than a race.
Last week, Cooper placed 10th in the junior national cross-country skiing championships in Maine, and didn’t return to Aspen until Friday night.
“I just went out and enjoyed today,” Cooper said at the high school course near the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club.
Cooper said he didn’t feel pressured to push himself Saturday after his top-10 finish in the nationals.
“We went out and skied smooth today,” Cooper said. “When states come around, we’ll bring our guns.”
Aspen High’s Laura Hatanaka shocked the competition, finishing second in the girls race behind Summit High School’s Brittany Perkins, with a time of 12:43.
Hatanaka’s fast time was particularly impressive, considering she’s only a freshman.
“It feels good,” she said about her finish, adding she has her eye on the state championships in Steamboat Springs Feb. 20-21. Racers must accumulate points to become eligible for the tournament.
Hatanaka was followed by junior Erin Kiernan, 14:00, and senior Cori Hach, 14:01, who finished sixth and seventh, respectively.
Perkins, who came in with a time of 12:10, said the course matched her strengths well.
“There was a good mix of uphill and downhill,” she said. “It was really nice, I liked it a lot.”
While the 5-kilometer course is characterized by a good balance of terrain, two steep uphill sections immediately challenge competitors at the beginning of the race.
“The whole race is these two hills,” said Pat Gleason, Steamboat High School’s assistant coach.
Marty Smith, of Steamboat, heard his coach’s message loud and clear, handily winning the boys race with a time of 10:08.
“I had a good start,” Smith said.
But Smith said the two hills at the start weren’t the key to his victory. Instead, Smith said he was driven by one of his competitors, “Brandon Cooper.”
Smith added he had an edge on Cooper, since he didn’t attend nationals and was well rested, while Cooper was still tired from the previous week of competition.
Following Cooper, five AHS racers finished between 15th and 19th. Freshman Noah Hoffman was followed by senior John Hatanaka, junior Tyler Baker, senior Will Otte, and junior Geoff Walker.
Official team standings in the race will not be available until later this week, Moore said.
The AHS nordic team will travel to Snow Mountain Ranch for a race next Saturday.
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Buttermilk Ski Area already is scheduled to host the world’s best at ESPN’s X Games this coming week, while it was recently announced Aspen Highlands will host alpine skiing’s NorAm finals later this spring.