Summit High School athlete wins state title during skate ski race as boys team looks to defend its top-tier status in Colorado
Michael Cheek places third in state giant slalom
After competing in Grand County for last year’s Colorado High School Activities Association’s State Skiing Championships, the annual championship event returned to Summit County for the conclusion of the 2022-23 high school skiing season.
The two-day state championship kicked off on Thursday, Feb. 16, with a giant slalom Alpine ski race at Copper Mountain Resort, while a 5-kilometer skate race took place at the Frisco Nordic Center.
Heading into the competition, both the Summit High boys and girls skiing programs had high expectations. The Summit boys skiing team hoped to defend its state title performance from last year while the Summit girls skiing team looked to improve upon a fourth-place finish.
The boys skiing team got off to a great start on Thursday, with sophomore James Sowers being crowned as the individual state champion in the skate race and senior Michael Cheek placing third in the giant slalom.
Boys Nordic skate race
With a home-snow advantage for the second week in a row, the Summit Nordic team rose to the occasion on a hilly and challenging state Nordic course.
In the boys race, Sowers shot out from the start line like a bullet, pumping his arms and working to find a rhythm in order to settle into the race. Sowers may have settled a little bit, but it was minimal compared to his competitors.
He cruised to the finish line in a time of 15 minutes, 2.45 seconds to win the individual state title in the skate race, beating the second-place finisher by over 18 seconds.
“All season I wanted to win states, that was my goal,” Sowers said after the race. “I was really hoping to win coming into it and I was expecting at least a podium finish. I am just really glad I caught the dub.”
Beyond the excitement of winning his first state title, Sowers was also excited by the prospect of being in the running for future state titles over his next two years at Summit.
“It feels pretty good because I know I am competing against a lot of senior guys and they are going to be gone next year,” Sowers said.
Sowers was not the only athlete on the Summit boys Nordic ski team to have a standout performance. Freshman Carter Niemkiewicz placed seventh overall, with a time of 16:07.58 and Roan Varble placed 14th in 16:42.9.
Rounding out the top 20, Brody Henning placed 15th, Parker Osborn placed 18th and Bryce Oppito placed 20th.
Inching one step closer to back-to-back boys skiing state titles, the Summit boys Nordic ski team was awarded first place overall in the skate race.
Boys Alpine giant slalom
The Summit boys Nordic ski team was greatly aided by the Summit Alpine ski team who also had an impressive day of performances at Copper.
Leading the way for the Alpine ski team was senior Michael Cheek who had two solid runs down the giant slalom course. Cheek finished his first run in a time of 48.53 seconds, which catapulted him into third place, where he stayed with a time of 52.95 seconds on his second run.
With a combined time of 1:41.48, Cheek successfully made the podium at state for the first time.
“I am pretty stoked,” Cheek said. “I have never gotten a podium at states before so I am happy with that.It is definitely a little sad, but it is a good way to end (my senior year). Hopefully we can continue the momentum tomorrow.”
Two athletes from Steamboat Springs High School, Colin Kagan and Brooks Overstake, placed first and second, respectively.
Following Cheek was junior Michael Green in eighth place with a final time of 1:42.95 and senior Jackson Campbell in 39th place with a time of 1:56.98.
Senior Liam Dalzell and sophomore Emmett Dalzell placed 46th and 47th, respectively.
With two, top-10 finishes, the Summit boys Alpine ski team placed third overall and the team was one step closer towards a second state team title.
Girls Alpine giant slalom
The story of the season for the Summit girls Alpine ski team has been young talent and that storyline remained true on the first day of the state skiing championships.
Freshman Lauren McCalla notched a top-10 finish by placing eighth overall with a combined time of 1:51.26. McCalla recorded a blazing fast, first run time of 53.58 seconds which was supported by her second run time of 57.68 seconds.
The race was won by Aspen’s Stella Sherlock in a time of 1:47.
Sophomore Kristiana Stoyanova placed 13th overall with a combined time of 1:53.10 and freshman Claire Jackson placed 19th with a time of 1:56.39.
Junior Luci Brady looked like a contender to finish within the top 10, but was disqualified on her first run for missing a gate.
The Summit girls Alpine ski team placed fourth in the giant slalom.
Girls Nordic skate race
In the girls Nordic skate race, sophomore Ella Hagen led the way for the Tigers.
After a long and illustrious cross-country running season in the fall, Hagen bounced back to improve upon her fourth-place finish in last year’s skate race, placing third overall in a time of 18:26.50.
Hagen was preceded by Lake County High School’s Ella Bullock, who took first place with a time of 17:53.47, and Battle Mountain High School’s Lindsey Whitton in second (18:24.51).
Hagen was soon followed by Niamh Nelson in 11th place (20:11.48) and Kate Williams in 17th place(20:53.30).
Liliane Zygulski placed 31st overall and Fiona Florio finished in 37th place. The performance from the Summit girls Nordic ski team was enough for third place — two spots behind where the team placed in the skate race last year.
“I am proud of myself, I am proud of the team,” Hagen said. “I think we performed out here today. We really showed what it means to be part of Summit Nordic.”
The state skiing championships will conclude on Friday with a slalom Alpine ski race and a 5-kilometer classic Nordic race.
At the conclusion of the competition a boys and girls team will be crowned state champions.
The slalom competition will start at 9:30 a.m. on Copper’s Ore Deal ski run and the Nordic classic race will start at 2:30 p.m. at the Frisco Nordic Center.
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