Battle Mountain savors the skiing title
The day after Battle Mountain boys skiing’s first state championship in 14 years it snowed.
That was kind of appropriate.
And as an added bonus, the Huskies actually got the trophy this time. (In 2001, CHSAA calculated the points in error and initially gave the thing to Summit County before trophy finally made it over Shrine Pass.)
“It was honestly 100 percent better to win the team title,” Sands Simonton said. “I was talking with some of my teammates and we all decided that it’s kind of hard to believe, grasping that. Holding the trophy is a whole different thing.”
And this is not coming from some starry-eyed kid. Simonton is now the two-time giant-slalom state champ, won slalom last year at state and happily finished second behind teammate Quintin Cook on Friday in the discipline.
But it’s a happy disbelief.
“I still can’t believe it,” said senior Cameron Moore, who led a tremendous performance on the Nordic side all season. “After putting in four years, trying to reach this goal, it’s pretty big.”
This is Battle Mountain’s first state title since the boys soccer team went 20-0 in 2012, which means these guys will get a mural-sized picture of themselves up on the wall at the school. Say cheese, fellas.
Battle Mountain does have a storied history in skiing — the school has six crowns now on the boys’ side and four from the ladies, who were third this week behind Summit County and Aspen.
The issue has always been finding the Nordic side of the equation. The Battle Mountain campus, be it in Minturn, Eagle-Vail or Edwards, has always been located in the shadow of the slopes, and the Huskies have a slew of good alpinists.
And when young master Moore was a freshman, Battle Mountain Nordic was in the basement.
“The practices, they are hard, very demanding, but you try to make the most of it,” Moore said. “During races you have to focus in. It takes a lot to execute what you want to do. It’s one of the most demanding sports.”
And therein lies the problem. Taking nothing away from the school’s historical success in soccer, alpine skiing and hockey, those are the glamor sports. (Cross-country in the fall isn’t very glamorous either, but it plays a role in this title.) There is very little glamor in having snow and snot frozen on one’s face combined with occasional puking at the finish line on race day in front of only a few people, usually just your coaches and family.
The Huskies had not only the three necessary guys to score points qualified in both disciplines of Nordic — freestyle and classic, but eight. That’s Moore, Franklin Reilly, Cook, Koby Simonton, Nicholas and Christian Apps, Connor McCabe and Nathaniel Badger. The Huskies also had Parker Roeden qualified in the skate and Karsten Kunst in classic.
That’s depth that Battle Mountain hasn’t seen for years in the sport. A large majority of this crew ran cross-country in the fall, which always helps.
And that enabled Battle Mountain to win the day(s) at state. And in a not unrelated development, the Nordic Coach of the Year is Battle Mountain’s Kevin Hochtl.
The fog of state
Few people know how team points work at the state meet. Even fewer can do them on the fly. Going into Day 2 at state, the Huskies knew they were 16 points up on Summit County and 46 on Aspen, the two schools which had combined to win every state title since the Huskies won it last in 2001.
Battle Mountain knew it did well during Friday’s slalom with Cook and Sands Simonton going 1-2 and Keenan Zopf “in the top 10.” No one has a definite idea of where everyone is.
At last year’s state meet, the Huskies boys were in a big hole after the first day, and thought they had no chance of rallying. They ended only 11 points behind the winner, Aspen, after a great second day.
This confusion just amps up the pressure on the Nordic classic race.
“Going into it blind (to the scores) puts some stress on us, for sure,” Moore said. “It gives us some motivation to push through and help the alpine team. We had some motivation to bring home the bacon.”
The Nordic team that didn’t barely existed three years ago brought home the pig.
Moore powered his way to fourth. More importantly, he topped Summit’s best racer by 11 seconds. Reilly was seventh. It’s huge for Battle Mountain to have two Nordic racers in the top 10. Even better, Reilly finished ahead of Summit’s second scorer.
“As they were going, I lost my voice from cheering. It was crazy,” alpine Simonton said. “Cheering on Nordic is fun, but it’s weird having to watch, and having it not being up to you decide.”
It turned out just fine. By the time, Cook came in at 19th place, finishing his fourth race in two days, the vibe in the Huskies’ camp was good.
“After I crossed the finish line, all my friends were cheering for me and the team,” Cook said. “They told me what they thought were the points. We were pretty sure we got the win.”
About four hours later, it became official — Battle Mountain 657 points; Summit 622 and Aspen 588.
Call him Skimeister
And, by the way, the boys’ alpine team crushed it. Battle Mountain skiing history is littered with tales of woe at state — the popped ski and the straddled gate. There were happily no surprises this time.
Cook won Friday’s slalom, followed by Simonton. Simonton was fine with not defending his slalom crown just as long as the black and gold won it. Zopf’s top-10 finish was seventh. That meant the Huskies had gone 1-2-5 in GS on Thursday and 1-2-7 in the slalom Friday, the necessary level of domination on the hill. As they did in the GS on Thursday, Battle Mountain alpine smashed all opposition in slalom with 173 points, with Summit at 150 and Aspen at 136.
Not only did Cook win the slalom state title, he was also picking up another bigger award. The junior is the Skimeister, the best all-around high school skier in the state.
Cook has been shuttling between alpine and Nordic practices and races all season. And after four races in two days at state, he was tired but quite happy.
“I kind of already knew,” Cook said. “But being on stage and seeing the size of the trophy and the names on it was great.”
One of those names of Skimeisters past happens to include coach Hochtl, who won it in 1995, 1996 and 1998. Kevin’s older brother, Karl has won it, as has Sean Kerrigan (1980-83), then competing for Lake County, and now the head coach of Eagle Valley alpine. It’s a sometimes small world, but one which the Huskies boys ski team has conquered.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.