Durango High School Athletics


Durango alpine skiers off to fast start


The Durango Herald | 1/20/2022

PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy photo

The Durango High School alpine ski team has competed in two races this season, and athletes qualified for the state championships at both.

So far, the Demons have had 11 state-qualifying performances in slalom and giant slalom. Four athletes have qualified in both.

“It’s going great,” said first-year head coach Jill Carithers. “We have some amazing kids, and they’re doing really well in the standings.”

The team began its season at Loveland Jan. 7 in giant slalom. Holden Bronson, Annabel Carithers, Ava McClellan, Alysia Cullum and Lauren McClellan all finished in the top quarter of the field to qualify for state.

Annabel Carithers finished seventh to lead Durango’s girls, finishing her two runs in 1 minute, 35.70 seconds. Ava McClellan finished 0.01 seconds after Carithers in eighth. Cullum placed 20th in 1:39.43, and Lauren McClellan placed 25th out of 98 skiers in 1:40.49.

Holden placed 14th out of 72 boys in 1:31.66 to earn his qualifying spot.

In the team races, Durango’s boys and girls both finished fourth, with its top three finishers scoring for the team. Jed Hughes, 27th, and Dane Englund, 30th, also scored for the DHS boys.

Battle Mountain’s Will Bettenhausen (1:26.57) and Middle Park’s Olivia Niedwiecki (1:30.31) won individual titles in Loveland.

At the slalom competition Friday in Eldora, the Demons moved up in the team standings, and six athletes qualified for state.

Toby Scarpella was the fastest skier on the hill. He had the fastest first run, 22.08 seconds, and the fastest second run (22.76) to finish in first place almost two seconds ahead of his closest competitor in a combined 44.84 seconds.

Bronson scored his second state-qualifying performance, finishing seventh in 49.17. Barron Bronson also qualified for state at the event, placing 10th in 51.60.

In the girls’ slalom race, Ava McLellan, Lauren McLellan and Cullum all finished 10th or higher to qualify for state in the discipline. Ava McLellan finished sixth in 53.53. Lauren McLellan placed eighth in 56.17, and Cullum finished 10th in 56.28.

Sofia Olsson of Middle Park finished first in 49.34.

The Durango boys finished second as a team behind Middle Park. The Durango girls finished third behind first-place Evergreen and Nederland.

Durango has 20 skiers who have traveled with the team, including just two seniors. “All these kids love to ski,” Carithers said.

The team will race Friday in Winter Park and then race three more times before the state championships Feb. 17 in Winter Park. The team will also race twice at Ski Cooper and once in Aspen.

To prepare for the races, DHS practices two nights a week at Chapman Hill and then on Saturdays in Purgatory Resort’s Nastar course. At Chapman, the student athletes have to first set up the course. Then they typically get eight to 10 practice runs through the gates. Then they have to take the course down at the end.

At Purgatory, which gave the student athletes free Nastar season passes, they get an actual timed run through the gates. “Getting an actual timed run gives them a measurable outcome,” coach Carithers said. “We’re really fortunate to have that.”

Carithers grew up skiing, starting when she was 3 years old. She doesn’t have a racing background though. In college, she competed in the freestyle moguls discipline.

“I call myself the logistics coach,” she said, but added, “I have a good eye for technique.”

She said assistant coach Molly Deffenbaugh, however, has a “real strong race background.” And that others in the community, like Tim Kuss at Chapman Hill and Ivan Unkasvskoy at Purgatory have helped the Demons with their technique.

“The collaboration to support the DHS ski team has been unbelievable,” Carithers said. “This town has amazing support for their youth ski programs. It feels like anytime I have a question or face a hurdle, there's someone in this community willing to help and support our DHS ski team.”

She also thanked Durango School District 9-R for enabling DHS to have one of the state’s 15 ski teams.

“They really support this team and fund it, which is fantastic,” Carithers said.

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