Winter is legit here, and that means more than just skiing and snowboarding. With the snow comes basketball and hockey, wrestling and swimming, as the high school winter sports seasons get underway this week.
Therefore, it’s time to bring back my Prep Playbook column. Before we delve into this year’s teams, let’s take a look back at the 2018-19 season and refresh our memory on how things went for each of Aspen’s and Basalt’s winter sports teams.
In Year 3 under coach Alex Schrempf, the Aspen High School boys basketball team started to find its stride toward the end of the season. The highlight was their back-to-back wins over rival Basalt, including a 70-43 rout in the first round of districts. The AHS season ended a few days later with a 72-23 loss to a very good Delta team. Aspen finished the year a mere 7-14, a three-win improvement over a 4-16 record the season prior, but still not as good as a 9-12 campaign in Schrempf’s first season. The Skiers will get their season going Dec. 10 in Rifle.
It was a rough season for the Basalt High School boys basketball team last winter, finishing 3-17 overall with those back-to-back losses to Aspen to close it out. Coach C.P. Martinez stepped down to take a teaching job outside the Roaring Fork Valley, ending his two-year stint with a 9-31 overall record. Basalt went 21-4 as recently as the 2016-17 season. Clint Hunter has taken over the program with the Longhorns opening the season Thursday at Eaton.
The husband and wife coaching duo of James and Lindsey Aldridge injected a bit of life into the dormant Aspen girls basketball program last winter. The first-year pair led AHS to a 4-15 overall record, a big deal considering the Skiers had gone exactly 1-19 in each of the previous four seasons. The four wins were the most for the AHS girls since going 10-12 during the 2011-12 season. The Skiers will get Year 2 under the Aldridges going Thursday with a trip to Meeker.
The Basalt girls also saw improvement under a first-year coach last winter. Amy Contini took over the reins, guiding BHS to a 6-15 overall record. The Longhorns had won five games in each of the prior two seasons, and won only a combined nine games the five seasons before that. The six wins were the most for Basalt since going 7-14 in 2009-10. Year 2 under Contini starts Thursday against Eaton, a game played at Platte Valley High School.
Aspen hockey’s 2018-19 season started with so much promise — including a tie with mighty Valor Christian and a dramatic 6-5 win over Summit — but little materialized after that. The Skiers finished with a 6-8-4 overall record, although they did go 6-3-1 in league play. Aspen made the state tournament as the No. 17 seed, losing to No. 16 seed Kent Denver in the first round. The Skiers were 14-5-3 in 2017-18, so last year’s record could prove to be more of an anomaly than anything. Another season with coach Dru Lucchesi gets going Dec. 11 with a game at Battle Mountain.
After sending three to the 2018 state tournament — seniors William Rivera, Thomas Wirth and Oswaldo Morales went — only junior Ernesto Lopez made the cut for the Basalt wrestling team in 2019. Lopez, who was a first-time state qualifier, competed in the Class 3A heavyweight (285 pounds) division, where he lost in the first round but did turn around to win a match on the backside of the bracket. Lopez also has been a standout on the football team the past couple of seasons. The Longhorns are slated to open their 2019-20 season on Saturday in Buena Vista.
The Aspen girls swim team won the inaugural Class 3A state championship in 2017 and hasn’t backed off much since. The Skiers finished eighth at state in 2018 before bouncing back by finishing fourth in 2019. Senior Davy Brown led the team last winter, winning individual state titles in both the 200-yard IM and the 100-yard backstroke. Brown also joined with sophomore Emily Kinney, Laila Khan-Farooqi and Kayla Tehrani, the latter two only freshmen, in winning the 200-yard freestyle relay, setting a 3A meet record in the process. Kathleen Callahan has since stepped aside as the team’s coach, with Katie Keel taking over this winter. The Skiers will open their season Dec. 11 in Glenwood Springs.
Considering the mascot, Aspen High should be pretty good at skiing, and it has been. The Skiers swept both the boys and girls state championships in 2018, with the boys repeating as state champs in 2019 while the girls finished second. The AHS boys have now won nine state titles in skiing, tying Durango for second all time (Summit has 18). The AHS girls have eight state titles, second all time behind only Summit’s 21 championships. Aspen’s Levyn Thomas was the girls giant slalom champion in 2019, while Everett Olson took the boys Nordic skate championship. The high school ski season doesn’t get underway until January.