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Bender, Cougars owning slopes

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EHS is near the top of the standings with state meet closing in

By Chelsy Woods Klein

For more than 60 years Warren Miller movies have used silly commentary run over the top of exciting and dynamic video footage to inspiring snow lovers to try new things and push their limits.
Eighteen-year-old Evergreen senior and reigning boys giant slalom alpine ski champion Jake Bender loves Miller’s movies. In fact, his whole team does. So it’s no coincidence that they watch them in the charter bus on their way to competitions.
“I love being with my teammates. We like to watch (Miller) movies, listen to music and eat pizza on the bus ride up,” Bender said.
The Evergreen ski team is so busy having fun together, acting out their own version of a Miller movie, that the ski season is quickly coming to an end and right now, they are at the top of the pack.
This season, the alpine team has won all five of its races and is poised to take a state title. Leading the charge is Bender. He missed taking state last year in the slalom by just under two seconds, taking second place to Connor Bernard of Steamboat Springs. Yet, if his finish time of 1 minute, 21.53 seconds in the giant slalom at his last meet at Loveland is any indication this year Bender has his eyes cast upward.
“He is just a blast to watch ski. He finishes consistently because he has great athletic ability and on top of that he has prefect technique,” said Evergreen head coach Kirk Petrik, noting that Bender is on-track to sweep the state in both the giant slalom and slalom.
Petrik recalled a race earlier in the season in Aspen where Bender struggled on his first run, but made up for it the second time around.
“He was in seventh place for the first run,” Petrik said. “He finished that second run (much better) and went from seventh to third.”
But Bender isn’t Evergreen’s lone bright spot. The Cougars’ boys team took the top three spots in the giant slalom Feb. 1 at Loveland Ski Area, while the girls took three of the top four and five of the top seven. In fact, Evergreen’s boys — Bender, Owen Tallmadge, Spencer Albert and Tucker Gordon — were in the top five, and the Cougars had seven of the top 10. Leading the girls is sophomore Rae Lemon, but she’s quickly followed by Cassiopeia Susiki-Ward, Clara Hawthorne, Maggie Cleaver and Brenna Hattler.
According to Petrik, the rest of the team is clipping at Bender’s heels to win.
Lemon is quickly rising through the ranks as a scoring leader for the girls’ alpine team. Her winning time at Loveland was 1 minute, 22.91 seconds. Last year, Lemon took first at state in the slalom and second in the giant slalom.
Both the boys’ and girls’ nordic teams have been taking top honors at competitions this season, consistently finishing in the top three. That gives Petrik hope that they might be able to knock off reigning state nordic champ Steamboat Springs at the state competition Feb. 14-15 at Winter Park.
“We have a great team this year,” Petrik. “I really think they are going to do some amazing things.”