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Zoi Sadwoski Synnott, Anna Gasser top Burton US Open women’s slopestyle semis

Vail’s notorious slopestyle course may have stifled snowboarders in training earlier this week, but clear skies greeted the women’s field on Wednesday.

Last year’s winner, Zoi Sadowski-Synnott, locked in her final drop position for Friday’s finals by topping semi-finals. Slopestyle veteran Anna Gasser finished runner up with the very first run of the competition.

“Dropping first is pretty nerve racking,” Gasser said. “So I was really nervous to drop in; I’m happy I put it down.”

Hailey Langland, who qualified in third position, had a much different experience than Gasser. She was one of the last competitors to earn her qualifying spot in Friday’s finals.

What started as a 16-person field had been narrowed down to 13 riders before the competition even started. Among those in the original field of 16 was 2018 Olympian Julia Marino, who pulled out after a few practice runs. Marino broke her wrist earlier this season and is still taking it easy.

“I’m just not really feeling too ready, yet, for this course,” Marino said on Wednesday. “It’s just a little much for me.”

Abbreviated training

Wednesday’s semi-final event qualified six riders for Friday’s finals.

The competitors said after facing an abbreviated round of training due to weather on Tuesday, the course was riding nicely on Wednesday.

“The last few days it was a little challenging because of the weather,” Langland said. “But this is the best I’ve ever seen this US Open course, it’s completely new to everyone.”

The new course format provided quite a challenge, with two mandatory “side hits,” or quarterpipe-style transition features onto a straight landing.

“It’s bringing all those elements from the pipe,” Langland said. “It feels like doing a first hit in the pipe to a second hit. I think bringing that over into slope is really important, because we don’t ride pipe very often throughout the season, and it just separates everyone who can ride a little bit of halfpipe.”

Marino, 22, said with both sides of the halfpipe-style walls being mandatory, the challenge to learn the course was daunting.

“Personally, I think I need to work a little bit more on transition features,” Marino said. “I could definitely use some work on that.”

Synnott, 18, said that in addition to the very first rail section, the side-hit transition features were her favorite part of the course. Gasser, 28, wasn’t as excited about them.

“I hope I get more practice on the transition features,” Gasser said. “Those are pretty new for me.”

The course also breaks up the jump section with rail features on either end of the side hit section of the course. After landing a solid, 270-degree spin off the end of the last rail before the side hits, Langland said she felt amazing heading into the side hits.

“As soon as I knew I had that good, I knew the rest of the run was going to be right there,” she said.

SEE: Burton US Open 2020 live photo blog

The Burton US Open is back in Vail for the eighth time, celebrating 38 years of exciting snowboarding competition. See the latest shots from the event here.

Eagle Valley wrestling sending eight to state

Eagle Valley wrestling enjoyed its visit to near-Kansas this weekend.

The bus should be back in the next few days from Lamar, site of this weekend’s Class 3A Region 4 Tournament. And then the Devils will just turn said bus around and head to Denver. Eagle Valley wrestling’s OK with this.

When you finish second at regionals and are sending eight to the Pepsi Center for the state tournament, you’re good with frequent bus miles.

“I’m pretty pumped up,” Devils coach Melvin Valdez said from somewhere on the Eastern Plains. “The guys worked really hard and are peaking at the right time. I’m ready to get these guys some hardware.”

Matthew Medina (106 pounds) and Lucas Comroe (138) are regional champions. Both are stories of redemption.

Medina entered last year’s regional meet at the No. 5-ranked wrestler at 106 in the state. He lost in wrestle-backs, falling short of the state tourney. Now a senior, the 106-pounder left no doubt.

Comroe was second at 132 last year. One year and six pounds later, the senior has added regional champ to his accomplished resume.

Comroe and Cody Ponce (220) will return to the Pepsi Center where both finished second last winter. We’re just assuming that those finishes have been driving them for the last 51 weeks.

Ponce was second at 220, while Logan Stephens (113), Manuel Heredia (132) Brian Garcia (190) punched their tickets with third-place finishes.

And, if you’ve ever been to a regional tournament, preferably one that isn’t on the Kansas border, you know the real drama is in the wrestle-backs.

At 152, Jason Morrison had a nail-biter against Florence’s Jacob Kennedy. With fourth place and the last ticket to state, Morrison edged Kennedy, 6-5.

“Jason just had no quit,” Valdez said. “And that’s what won him the match.”

The last match of the regional was for fourth place at 120. Devils senior Josh Boeke trailed Sierra’s Darryl Mills by as many as three points during his match. Boeke rallied for a 9-8 win.

“That shook the whole gym,” Valdez said.

Huskies send three

Instant replay: Battle Mountain’s Jeremiah Vasquez (heavyweight), Victor Ortiz (152 pounds) and Anthony Sanchez (160) are making repeat trips to the Pepsi Center after this weekend’s CHSAA 4A Region 2 Tournament in Broomfield.

“We’re pretty happy the way the boys performed,” Battle Mountain coach Angelo Vasquez said. “We knew we had a tough region with tough teams. We have three days of cardio and technical wrestling, and we’re off to Denver.”

The younger Vasquez finished second, suffering a late pin by Broomfield’s Tyler Carpenter. Don’t be surprised if those two meet again at the Pepsi Center. Anthony Sanchez took second at 160 pounds, and Victor Ortiz was third at 152.

While there are only three in black and gold going, one cannot underestimate the experience the three hold, having already been to state.

As much a one can do the whole Gene Hackman thing of measuring the court with a tape measure as done in “Hoosiers,” there is no replicating the experience of wrestling on the big stage.

Steamboat holds off Devils, 61-59

ESPN was in the house on Tuesday night.

OK, it was four guys, all claiming to be Dick Vitale — Eagle Valley’s Trace Hobbs, Lisandro Aguilar, Brian Garcia and Josh Boeke — sitting at a table with a homemade ESPN banner and wearing headphones connected to nothing in front of the Devils’ student section.

Upon further review, perhaps The Worldwide Leader in Sports should have been on hand because the Devils nearly pulled the upset, falling to the Sailors, 61-59, Tuesday night.

Eagle Valley went for the 3 at the buzzer, but missed as the Devils fell to 4-8 overall and 1-5 in the Slope.

Eagle Valley was on the wrong end of a 9-0 foul count — by and large, deserved — at one point during the second half and that kept Steamboat in the game. The Sailors (9-8, 5-1) were 14-for-18 from the line during the fourth quarter.

“It was big,” Steamboat coach Mike VanDahl said. “Our guys really stepped up. I’m real proud of them. It was a team win and I’m happy for our guys.”

Dawson Lundquist led the Sailors with 20.

“I think we went the whole first half with six fouls,” Devils coach Justin Brandt said. “(There were the) same referees and same players in the second half. It’s hard to say without watching the tape, but we have to be more disciplined.”

If you’re comparing scores in anticipation of next week’s rivalry game — Battle Mountain at Eagle Valley — Steamboat Springs was not at full strength as compared to its appearance last week in Edwards, but a team plays with what it has.

Despite the procession of the Sailors to the charity stripe, the Devils had their chance. Bryan Martinez hit a 3 with 2:58 left in the game to close to 54-53. With 28 seconds remaining, Carlos Sanchez drilled a 3 and got a foul for a 4-point play. The Sailors led just 60-59 but held on.

Campbell leads Sailors to win

It isn’t the prettiest of work on the basketball court, but it often yields beautiful results.

Steamboat Springs sophomore Samantha Campbell pounded the offensive boards, leading to eight straight points during the fourth quarter helping her team to a 50-41 win at Eagle Valley on Tuesday night.

Campbell tied the game at 32 with two free throws and then had three straight putbacks, staking the Sailors to a 38-32 lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish.

“She did a great job,” Sailors coach George Ibarra said. “She really helped us with the rebounding. She really fought it out today.”

Campbell ended up leading the Sailors (5-11, 3-3) with 15 points, while Sieairra Rivera had the same total for Eagle Valley (2-9, 1-5).

Eagle Valley hosts Grand Junction Central on Saturday, while Steamboat’s teams return home for Summit County on Friday.

“I think our league, with the exception of Glenwood, which is an excellent team, really well-coached — everyone can win and lose on any night,” Ibarra said. “So I think we can make a push. Our approach is one game at a time.”

Snowskate jam returning to Little Beach Park on Feb. 1

MINTURN — Last year’s informal snowskate jam in Little Beach Park turned out better than organizers had hoped. The snowskate community — riders of the binding-less, skateboard-like snowriding device — turned out in numbers and spectators enjoyed the stunts, as well.

Organizer Angelica Clemmer said most of all, the event was approachable for anyone interested in snowskating.

“Little kids seemed to really enjoy it, which is what we want. We want to keep it very welcoming,” she said.

Clemmer is organizing an encore of the event, scheduled for Feb. 1. It could be the start of an annual gathering of snowskaters in Eagle County.

Free demos for kids and anyone else interested in snowskates will be available from 2 -4 p.m. The jam will take place from 4 to 7 p.m., with awards to follow. There will be men’s and women’s categories in amateur and pro divisions.

Following the competition, an after party will take place at the Minturn Saloon. In addition to the Saloon and the town of Minturn, the event is currently receiving support from Crazy Mountain Brewery, Transition Sports, Hovland Snowskates and Squampton Snowskates.

“We’re currently seeking more sponsors to help with prizes and giveaways, though,” Clemmer said.

In an upgrade from last season, there will be people on hand to help with parking, first responders on scene in case there are injuries, and since Crazy Mountain Brewery will serve beer, there will also be people there checking IDs.

“We’re hoping to make it a legit event but still very approachable and welcoming,” Clemmer said.

The year in Vail Valley prep sports: All the best stuff from 2019

I do consider Eagle County to be Lake Wobegone at altitude “where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

And, happily, there were several instances in 2019 in which the children were actually far above average.

Here’s the best of the local prep sports scene for 2019. Apologies if I missed anything, there was just so much to write home about.

Eagle Valley drives for the win

Eagle Valley and Battle Mountain actually played a fun, competitive football game that the Devils won, 22-15. Eagle Valley drove 97 yards in the final minutes to erase at 15-14 Huskies’ lead. Will Geiman to Matt Lee for a touchdown did the deed.

Battle Mountain also revived the flip play with Victor Ortiz doing backflips to distract the Devils on a 2-point conversion that provided the lead which Eagle Valley needed to overcome.

You all think I like one team better than the other here. Yes, I like the Giants better than the Dodgers and the 49ers more than the Cowboys. (If you haven’t figured that out by now, you aren’t paying attention.) In preps, I root for our local teams to win because you all like me a whole lot more when your teams win.

When the Devils and Huskies play each other (or the Saints or Gore Rangers), I root for a close game, and we finally got one.

We’re No. 1

In the head-of-school-gets-excited department, Vail Christian 8-man football spent most of the season ranked No. 1 in the state, according to the rating-percentage index. Allowing for Steve O’Neil’s genuine pride in the Saints, they were fun to watch and went 10-1 in 2019, making the state quarterfinals for only the third time in school history.

Vail Christian ran the single-wing with creativity, including a play called the J-Train which allowed center John Pavelich to rush for a 2-point conversion.

The Saints also managed to play defense in the wide-open 8-man game and were just a generally entertaining football team, playing with around 14 Nowickis (OK, only two, Simon and Vinny.)

The Hardings

They’re still fast. Lizzy and Naomi got on Nordic skis, along with Grace Johnson, helping Battle Mountain alpine to a state title down in Durango in February. (Whose idea was it to have state down there? Yeesh.)

From left, Battle Mountain’s Naomi Harding, Elliot Pribramsky, Grace Johnson and Lizzy Harding the school’s third state title in the 3,200-meter relay in May.
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On the track, the Harding sisters continued to be fast. Lizzy, Naomi, Johnson and Sofia Piliero combined for the Huskies’ third consecutive 3,200-meter relay state title. (Coach Rob Parish really should have run Liz Constein on that team.)

Then Lizzy and Nomi went 1-2 in the 1,600 at state. Otherwise, the two had a pretty mellow year. The Huskies finished second in the 4A state meet. (Bleeping Niwot.)

With the Hardings running at the University of North Carolina during the fall, Battle Mountain cross-country still won its ninth-consecutive regional title — is that a nono-peat? — and finished second in the state. (Bleeping Niwot.)

The Blairs

They’re still fast. At Eagle Valley, Joslin and Samantha Blair ran all over the place, by which we mean Texas, Kansas, Arizona, Argentina, Italy, and Oregon. (We weren’t kidding.)

When in the state of Colorado, the Blairs anchored the No. 2 team in the state in the 3,200 relay, won multiple medals at the state track meet and rampaged in cross-country. Samantha won the individual regional title one year after Joslin took the title. By the way, Naomi Harding won in 2017. This sibling stuff is awfully confusing for an only child.

Hoop dreams

Battle Mountain girls basketball won its first league title, the first for the program since 1993. For players like Claire Krueger, who played all four years, and experienced the worst, and Audrey Teague, who had an older sister who experienced the worst, these were heady days.

Battle Mountain’s girls even won a playoff game, beating Harrison in the first round of the tournament.

Meanwhile, the rivalry never fails to deliver, especially when the Devils and Huskies meet in Edwards. In boys basketball, the two played another classic with Eagle Valley winning in triple overtime, 82-78.

The Devils’ Carlos Quezada is my personal hero for helping end that game with a 3-pointer. As we wrote earlier, I root for close games in the rivalry, but I really root for making deadline.

Just for kicks

Vail Mountain School soccer wore orange in both the spring and the fall because the disposition of its psyche corresponded with the culture of the school for a translation of core principals from training sessions to the pitch. All of this occurred under variegated skies.

If we may get serious — ahem — Battle Mountain soccer was pretty darn good. Under coach David Cope, the girls and boys went a combined 30-3-1 for two Slope crowns and three playoff wins and two Player of the Year Awards.

Krueger continued her masterful year in the spring anchoring a rock-solid defense, winning Player of the Year honors in the Western Slope. Audrey Teague was also pretty good kicking the ball. She’s now at Regis University, terrorizing defenders there.

The girls made it back-to-back league titles in the spring, and the boys five-peated in the fall. The fall was splendid and heartbreaking simultaneously. The guys, led by Dani Barajas, were a juggernaut, going 14-0-1 and becoming the first team in the history of a storied program to be the No. 1 seed in the playoffs.

And then the Huskies lost in the quarterfinals, 3-1, against Lewis-Palmer and the season was over. Just like that. Sports seasons rarely end happily, and this one was no exception.

We’ll see you in 2020.

Battle Mountain basketball beats Kennedy

EDWARDS — It was Wear Your Ugly Christmas Sweater Night for Battle Mountain basketball against John F. Kennedy on Tuesday and coach Philip Tronsrue was, nonetheless, the picture of sartorial splendor.

The Huskies didn’t wear ugly sweaters because that would be kind of cumbersome while playing a basketball game. They did however look good, winning their home opener, 66-39.

Battle Mountain started crisply with 10-2 lead, but let the visiting Commanders back into the game. After Kennedy tied it at 18, the Huskies finished the first half with a 15-2 run.

“We’re really trying to be a more cohesive unit. We want to make sure that we’re a team in all phases the whole game, on and  off the floor,” Tronsrue said. “We’re working on getting along and respecting each other, achieving that connection we haven’t seen  in a while.”

Liam McKenny, who would look good in a ugly holiday sweater, started it with a layin with 5:45 left. Owen Ruotolo followed by draining a 3. After a Dalton Patterson free throw, Hadiya Dath struck.

Yes, he’s the latest of the Daths, following Amadou (Class of 2014) and Abdoulaye (2016).

McKenny finished with the final five points of the second quarter and the Huskies went to the locker room with a 33-20 lead.

Battle Mountain brought the hammer in the third quarter, closing out the game by outscoring the Commanders, 25-8.

Yes, McKenny was piling up his game high 22 points during that stretch, but Ruotolo, Luis Trillo, Dath and Harrison Rubis all got in on the act.

And late in the contest, coach Tronsrue appeased the masses chanting, “We want Karsen,” with a cameo appearance from Williams. As the seconds waned, Thorne Hensel put in two free throws much to the delight of the crowd.

Battle Mountain (2-2) is at Evergreen on Friday to close out its pre-holiday slate.

This will present a different challenge for Battle Mountain.

“Playing a team like Kennedy, the game finished as it should have,” Tronsrue said. “On Friday, we’re talking the other end of the spectrum. We have to come ready to play. There can’t be any lulls.”

Vail Christian edges Eagle Valley in thriller

Last year, Eagle Valley boys basketball started with a 17-0 run against Vail Christian, and won, 62-55.

This year, the Devils only got out to a 12-0 lead, and the Saints rallied for a 59-56 win.

With his team trailing 56-55, Vail Christian senior Alec Moritz calmly sank two free throws with 20 seconds left.

The Saints’ defense held on the ensuing possession and Vail Christian’s Kaleb Williams got enough of a rebound to force a jump ball.

The Saints had the possession arrow. After the timeout, Moritz inbounded the ball to fellow senior Jamison Lee, who was immediately fouled.

With 5.5 seconds left, Lee sank both from the stripe. Eagle Valley hurried the ball down and Branden Vigil just missed a 3 that would have sent the game into overtime.

“Oh man, I have no voice left,” Saints coach Sheldon Kuhns said. “That was a blast to coach. This team, we have endless energy and we’re deep. We started out down 12-0 and it didn’t phase us.”

It might have phased the Saints faithful. Vail Christian made just one field goal in the first quarter — a Moritz 3-pointer — and was still tied at 14 with the Devils.

Eagle Valley played well early, but gave away too many fouls during the first half. Consider that a combination of adrenaline — it was Devils’ opener — and the youth of the roster.

“These guys have a ton of heart and hustle,” Devils coach Justin Brandt said. “Those are the hardest things to coach, so we’re going to be fine.”

Eagle Valley got a great night from senior Keegan Garvey, who had a team-high 19 points. Speaking of seniors, Moritz had 24 and Lee 23 for the Saints.

While those two were the headliners, the Saints got a bunch of contributions from up and down the roster during their comeback. With Hayden Sticksel in foul trouble, sophomore Jessie Gonzalez contributed some big minutes off the bench and three big free throws to start the fourth quarter. Vail Christian tied it at 48 with 3:35 left in the game, only to have Garvey drop in another 3.

Lee ripped off five straight points giving his team a 55-51 lead. Eagle Valley responded with a Garvey three and a bucket from Carlos Sanchez to gave his team a 56-55 lead with 52 seconds remaining.

While the Saints are excited about a 3-0 start, and the Devils doubtless disappointed by losing their opener, it’s early December and there’s a lot of basketball to go.

Eagle Valley heads to Steamboat, starting Thursday for a tournament, while the Saints are at Aspen on Dec. 19.

Vail Valley football players named all-league

Vail Christian football had eight players named to the first-team, all-league team. Seeing as the Saints play 8-man football, that’s a pretty big accomplishment.

Vail Christian’s octet headlines the postseason honors on the football front.

Saints

Vail Christian football went 10-1 and swept the Northwestern League, and, thus, postseason honors are in order.

Quarterback Jamison Lee, fullback/linebacker Micah Sharpe and running-back/defensive-back Chris Cappel made all-league. This is about as surprising as the sun rising in the east every morning.

Lee ran the show under center and was also one of the team’s leaders. We hear he might make the basketball team, as well. (We’re not so sure about Alec Moritz … kidding.)

Taking nothing away from what Sharpe and Cappel did offensively — which was a lot — these two really solidified the defense, which went from allowing 38 points per game in  2018 to 13 points per outing this fall. Sharpe helped the Saints dominate the line of scrimmage, and Cappel’s move from linebacker to defensive back was pivotal for the West Grand win.

The Nowickis made all-league. Senior Simon is no surprise. Sophomore Vinny is a bit of one as all-league teams tend to favor upperclassmen.

Wide-receiver Hayden Sticksel showed opponents just how fast he is, while tight-end/defensive back Andrew Stojkovich gave the Saints options aplenty.

Junior Slater O’Brien represents the offensive/defensive lines. If there is a beef with this year’s selection process, it’s a lack of beef for the Saints.

John Pavelich and Eddy Palacios were honorable-mention selections, but everybody above doesn’t do what they do without guys like O’Brien, Pavelich, and Palacios clearing the road.

Devils

The first thing that jumps out when looking at Eagle Valley’s all-league selections is that just two of the eight are seniors.

“As a coaching staff, we just don’t want to mess it up,” Devils coach Gabe Brown joked. “We’re already excited for next year.”

Eagle Valley’s Matt Lee breaks into the clear, always a welcome sight for the Devils.
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Matt Lee and George Smirl are the seniors. Lee will doubtless be remembered for his touchdown catch to beat Battle Mountain, but he also played defense and slammed the door on Steamboat Springs with a pick-six. Smirl, an honorable-mention pick, was a tight end so key to the Devils’ offense.

So coming back are:

• Will Geiman … Yes, the all-league quarterback is a sophomore.

• Tyler Morrison … Yes, the all-league strong safety is a junior.

• Lisandro Aguilar … All-league, a junior and he led the team in sacks and tackles.

• The Garcia twins … Abraham and Brian play both sides of the line and Brian kicks as well.

• Kodi Raper … One of the team’s leading rushers is a junior.

As far as Devils fans go, next season can’t come soon enough. In the meantime, coach Brown wants to see his boys spending the winter, wrestling, playing basketball or in the weight room.

Huskies

Four losses by one score and injuries sent Battle Mountain to a 2-8 record.

Nonetheless, junior Anthony Sanchez and senior Spencer Goldberg represent the Huskies on the all-league team.

Sanchez played running back, cornerback, safety, kicked, returned kicks and did pretty much everything but clean out the stadium after the game.

Yes, he did fumble, setting up Eagle Valley’s game-winning drive during the rivalry game, but, as Huskies coach Jim Schuppler said, “We wouldn’t have been in that position to win without Anthony. He was huge for us. He works his butt off and we’re excited to have him back for another year.”

Goldberg was at wide receiver and outside-linebacker and played hurt.

“He was a leader,” Schuppler said. “He set the tone and he played every game despite having broken ribs after the Basalt game in Week 3.”

Battle Mountain’s honorable-mentions were  Kai Haggen, Victor Ortiz, Kiah Gongaware and Jimmy Hancock.

Uphill travel – the booming trend in ski culture

Uphill travel has exploded in popularity throughout the last several years. The feeling of “earning your turns” has people venturing out of the traditional ski resort and self-propelling themselves up a mountain using skins on skis or a splitboard.

Though, with the added traffic comes more risk. Many people are venturing into the backcountry while unaware of the risks associated with it.

To address the recent influx, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center has adopted the term “Know Before You Go.” This saying is invaluable as it points out there is a lot that can go wrong, way beyond what you might think. So, how are you prepared?

A few basic tips…

First, wearing a beacon is most important. Carrying a probe and shovel is also essential for any backcountry outing.

Yet, just wearing these pieces of equipment will not save you. Knowing how to use them and practicing regularly is essential. Basically, they aren’t useful at all without the proper knowledge.

The same goes for any person in your party without the proper gear or the knowledge on how to use it. They could be useless at a time when you’re depending on them.

Second, be informed. Checking the CAIC website or app daily will fully ensure you have the most up-to-date report on avalanche conditions around the state, whatever zone you’re in. The more you know, the better.

Lastly, safety in numbers. Always bring a friend who can dig you out.

Go uphill, inbounds at a ski resort

Skinning and splitboarding have also become more popular on resort properties. This is a great way to access the resort before people have a chance to ride the lifts. Yet, as uphill travel becomes more popular, rules and regulations will only get tighter.

Arapahoe Basin Ski Area recently announced they are now charging for uphill access, something that used to be free. This comes from the result of nearly 10,000 people applying for an uphill pass when it was thought only a few hundred would be interested. This number is staggering.

Locally, Vail Resorts lists their uphill policy on their website. Uphill users can also call 970-754-3049 for Vail and 970-754-5907 for Beaver Creek to get the most up-to-date information.

Basic rule of thumb: If any work or activity is happening on a particular run, it’s closed. Especially if a red blinking light is flashing, turn around; it’s a winch cat operation going on. I’m going to assume you value your head.

Vail Daily photographer Chris Dillmann can be reached at cdillmann@vaildaily.com. Folllow him on Instagram @cameraone.