The Evergreen High School ski team reached the podium for the first time in school history after the boys’ slalom and giant slalom teams, as well as the girls’ slalom team, took first place at the Colorado High School state skiing championships Feb. 14-15 in Winter Park. Evergreen posted its highest overall score in alpine and was runner-up in the overall competition.
“In both of the alpine events, our boys were undefeated — they won every race,” said Evergreen head coach Kirk Petrik. “And the boys really came through (in nordic), which is why we were able to finish runner-up to Summit.”
Leading the charge was reigning state champ Jake Bender, an Evergreen senior.
Bender had the season of his life — consistently finishing all of his races in the top three, clocking remarkable times in both slalom and giant slalom. So it was only fitting that during his last high school competition he'd go out with a bang, or rather a swoosh.
Bender took first place in slalom with a time of 1 minute, 31.28 seconds for 60 points and second in giant slalom for 59 points with a time of 1:54.81, finishing 0.21 combined seconds behind Summit's Patrick Gruber.
Knowing that his team was doing so well and that his state title from last year was on the line, Bender said he upped his game. “There was some pressure to preform and take first again,” Bender conceded.
Recounting his slalom race, Bender said: “The first was a super-basic, super-fast course. It was pretty much whoever could hang on the longest would win that run, and so I came down and had a great run, and my fellow competitors had a few little mistakes that cost them a few seconds here and there.
“The second run was a little more turn-y (than the first course), and so I added like two seconds, but I tried to just ski it smart and make no mistakes, and stay focused,” Bender said.
The cold, blustery, vision-obscuring snow made it all the more tough to stay focused, but the skiers knew that the weather is one factor they couldn’t control when competing for a state title.
The weekend was grueling, for both the alpine and nordic skiers.
It had been a long season, the weather was punishing, the competition was tough, and it took its toll on Evergreen’s Clara Hathorne, who was disqualified in the slalom for accidentally straddling the last gate on her final run. Nederland’s Dayna Larsen finished first in both slalom (1:36.00) and giant slalom (1:56.86), but Hathorne placed second in giant slalom with a combined time of 1:58.53.
In the boys’ nordic classic, Luk Platil took 16th for Evergreen with an overall time of 20:34.5, giving the Cougars 49 points. In nordic skate, Dylan Reed placed 15th with an overall time of 16:09.4 giving the Cougars 47 points.