The Durango High School alpine and Nordic ski teams are off to impressive starts as the Demons prepare to host the state championships later this month at Purgatory Resort.
A total of eight racers have qualified for the state championships – five girls and three boys – and DHS is hoping to get more.
“It’s been pretty good for the first couple of races,” said Demons head alpine coach Leah LeSage. “The conditions at the beginning of the season were very challenging, but they all stepped up and had some very good performances. We’re hoping to improve as we get closer to state.”
In order to qualify for the state championships in the alpine discipline, a racer must finish in the top 30 percent of finishers for a meet and compete in at least two races, while it’s 45 percent for the Nordic discipline.
DHS had tough competition from the first race of the season in Aspen. DHS fared well, as Skylar Thorpe qualified for state in the giant slalom event, while Harry LeSage qualified in the giant slalom.
The second week was particularly successful for the boys Nordic team, as it finished tied for second with 153 points in the 5-kilometer race at Maloit Park on the outskirts of Minturn. Cobe Freeburn, Noah Bodewes and Luke Tichi qualified in the skate discipline for the boys, and Kristiana Bodewes qualified in skate for the girls. The alpine team added two more to its state-bound participants, as Levi Tichi and Juliana Gans qualified in the giant slalom.
Last weekend at Tabernash, the boys Nordic team continued its hot streak, as it tied for first overall and had three qualifiers.
The girls alpine team also had three qualifiers in the races at Ski Cooper, including Analise Gates, Claudia Luthy and Zoe Kiesel. The boys alpine team had one qualifier in Miles Bronson. Gates, one of two seniors on the team, was second in slalom at Ski Cooper one race after she won the giant slalom at Loveland.
“Our girls alpine team has the potential to be very, very strong, and we’ve got a few contenders to win in Analise Gates and Skylar Thorpe,” LeSage said. “The rest of the team has been really steady and support the top few girls with top-15 or 20 finishes. There’s plenty of promise. On the boys side, they’re a young but talented bunch. It’s been a learning curve for most everybody on the team, and I like where we are at being so close to state.”
The team also has a few new additions with two foreign exchange students. Stella Molitor is originally from Sweden, while Emanuel Popp is from Switzerland. LeSage said they have been key contributors to this year’s team.
“They just heard about it and thought it might be fun,” LeSage said. “They both have really strong backgrounds in skiing and wanted to try it out. It’s been really fun having them on the team this year.”
While the team continues to prepare for the state meet, the level of competition has been fierce from the first race.
“I think it’s been eye-opening for some,” LeSage said. “The teams that we’ve faced from the beginning of the season have been really, really talented. When you look at it, Aspen gets to train at a World Cup venue twice a week. Some other places like Battle Mountain have been racing at the club level for years and have more experience. It’s hard to be get to be a high-level skier in Durango because in Aspen or Vail, you can go pretty much anywhere in an hour. That’s not the case with us, but we’re making the most of it. Chapman Hill is one of the best training venues in the state, and as an alpine team, we like the snow as hard as it can get, so Chapman is great for our purposes.”
DHS will race Friday and Saturday at Winter Park.
“This weekend, we hope to qualify a few more racers for state in both disciplines,” LeSage said. “We’ve got a couple of skiers who are right on the cusp and are so close to qualifying. I’m hoping they ski fast, and ski well.”