Ghent flies to GS win on Golden Peak
VAIL – Christa Ghent seemed to be channeling Bode Miller Friday on the giant slalom course at Golden Peak.The Battle Mountain freshman, who is the younger daughter of former U.S. Ski Team racer Karen Ghent and the younger sister of Huskies standout Erika Ghent, blasted through gates in a Bode-esque manner to clock the two fastest runs by a female and pick up an easy win in the first high school race of the season.Ghent, who was faster in her second run with a time of 41.28 seconds, clocked in with a winning two-run time of 1:22.80. Middle Park’s Rebecca Fuller (1:24.08) was second followed by Aspen’s Jenny Hearn (1:24.11) and Summit’s Shelly Miller (1:24.16).”I was trying to be as aggressive as I could be during the whole race,” Ghent said after her second run. “It feels good. I didn’t really expect to win because there are a lot of girls who are ski racers from Ski and Snowboard Club Vail. I was sort of nervous for this first race.”In the boys race, Middle Park’s Spencer Woolwine won by nearly a full second with a combined two-run time of 1:11.17. Platte Canyon’s Len Faroldi finished runner-up in 1:12.12, followed by Nederland’s Brian Buell at 1:13.48.The best local finisher in the boys’ race was Vail Mountain’s Drew Riley who ended up in eighth place with a time of 1:14.13. Only nine-hundredths of a second separated the fifth- through eighth-place finishers in what was a tight top-10.Battle Mountain’s Mitch Hendrix, whose time of 1:16:01 was good enough for 18th place was the fastest Huskies’ finisher. Teammate Kyle Bruntz was right behind in 19th at 1:16.26.With its three top finishers finishing in fourth, fifth and ninth, Summit won the girls race with 165 points. Aspen was second with 163 and Battle Mountain took third with 157.”We’re pretty happy as a whole,” Summit coach Tori Hauser said. “I don’t worry about winning the race. We haven’t had a lot of training so just to have the kids finish and do well and build some confidence, that’s the most important thing. As a whole, even our racers who have never raced before, got a lot of experience on that run and feel really good now.”The Vail Mountain School finished seventh with 116 points and Eagle Valley was ninth out of the 13-team field with 108 points.The boys’ race was a whole different story.
The Steamboat Sailors, whose top three skiers Derek Nickum, Kris Allen and Wiley Thayer finished fourth, fifth and ninth respectively, took home the team title with 165 points. Middle Park finished second with 159 and Evergreen finished a point behind in third.With 133 points, Battle Mountain finished behind Summit in fifth. VMS was right behind in sixth with 132 points and Eagle Valley finished 10th with 104 points.Youth is servedGhent’s win fit right in with the theme of the day for the Huskies girls team as freshmen Jamie Lee-Roberts (14th, 1:28.06) and Kelly VanHee (15th, 1:28:7) were the next two fastest Battle Mountain skiers. “To have three freshmen finish in the top-15 is great,” Battle Mountain ski director Kathryn Benysh said. “I didn’t even notice it until I got home.”Jane Lettovska (17th, 1:28.28), Kelly Scholl (20th, 1:28.67), Rolena Richardson (24th, 1:29.96), Rebecca Richardson (25th, 1:30.19), Kate VanHee (31st, 1:32.82), Jenna Hughes (36th, 1:35.07) and Paige Bennett (40th, 1:36.26) rounded out the other state qualifiers for the Huskies’ ladies. Bennett just snuck in as the last state qualifier in the field of 89 finishers. “In the first race, I’m looking for the biggest amount of kids we can get to qualify,” Benysh said. “I think in the first race, if they can get that qualifying for state out of the way and get that monkey off their back, they can really go for it the rest of the season.”The best finisher for VMS Friday was also a prep ski racing rookie. Freshmen Lucy Sackbauer had a stellar debut as a Gore Ranger by finishing in 1:31.35 – good enough for 28th place.”It was exciting,” Sackbauer said. “I was really nervous up at the start, but I was a little less nervous after that.”
As for the course, Sackbauer said everything was pretty straightforward.”There was a huge ice patch up at the top that was kind of scary, but other than that it ran pretty smoothly,” she said. “I didn’t think it was that bad, except a gate on there was pretty tough.”Sackbauer’s teammates Joely Denkinger (33rd, 1:33.37) and Katie Wear (1:33.71) were the other two female skiers from VMS to finish in the group of state qualifiers.Eagle Valley also had two female state qualifiers. Hanna Nelson finished two spots behind Sackbauer in 30th with a time of 1:32.66 and Nicole Luczkow landed in 32nd with her two-run time of 1:33.25.Boys qualifiersThe local ladies had a better day on the hill than the boys, but with nine male skiers picking up their state qualifying times – four Huskies, three Gore Rangers and Eagle Valley’s Kyle Green – it was still a productive day.Axel Spaeh (31st, 1:20.27) and David Deline (41st, 1:23.68) were the other two Gore Rangers to join Riley on the state-qualifiers list. Chris Woods, who was 42nd in the finishers field of 92 with a time of 1:23.81, just missed the cut.Along with Hendrix and Bruntz, Battle Mountain’s Bart Cuomo (34th, 1:20.71) and Charlie Banner (39th, 1:23.04) both laid down times fast enough for state qualifying.Green finished in 20th place behind Bruntz to become the lone representative from the Devils boys team with a time of 1:16.85.
Cookies of deathBecause of cold afternoon temperatures, Friday’s GS course held up nicely throughout the day for the large field of competitors. Benysh, who was in charge of the race, said the whole day went off without a hitch.”I thought it went very, very well,” she said. “We got done before dark which with a field of 240, that’s an outstanding accomplishment by the race crew over here at Golden Peak.”The lone complaint from racers in the first run was that the course was full of death cookies – tiny little balls of ice that make it hard to dig in on an edge.”The top wasn’t that good,” Battle Mountain’s Rolena Richardson said. “It’s because it’s man-made snow. Toward the bottom it’s pretty nice. The second run is a little slower, but it’s a lot nicer than that first run.””I think the snow texture in the second run was better,” said Battle Mountain’s Jason Edeen. “I crashed on the first run, but I hiked back up and was able to finish. The second run was a lot smoother.”The high school alpine racing season continues January 7 at Winter Park with another giant slalom.Staff Writer Nate Peterson can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.