Summit Hockey Classic, A-Basin Enduro honor, raise funds for Summit County locals with cancer |

Summit Hockey Classic, A-Basin Enduro honor, raise funds for Summit County locals with cancer

On Saturday evening, in front of a packed house at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena, Summit High School junior student-athlete Taylor Ash got her first chance this winter to join her Summit Youth Hockey U-19 teammates for a puck drop.

Ash, who is currently battling the rare bone cancer osteosarcoma, did the celebratory honors before the championship game of the Summit Hockey Classic, which Vail Summit Orthopaedics captured over Breckenridge Grand Vacations by the score of 4-3.

“It was really cool to be honored and have all of my teammates around me and my coaches,” Ash said on Tuesday.

Ash, who also was a varsity soccer star for Summit High last spring, has played for Summit Youth Hockey through her childhood winters and also has played for the Vail Valley SC soccer program. Additionally, she played for a double-A mountain all-star hockey team out of Aspen that competed at nationals.

As part of the tribute to Ash, each of the Hockey Classic’s jerseys had Ash’s initials printed on them.

“I’m just glad the hockey classic community and staff put together what I thought was a great way to honor Taylor for her courage and tenacity,” said Summit Hockey director Chris Miller. “And I hope she can find some strength and get back on the ice as soon as possible.”

The weekend’s Summit Hockey Classic was one of only two events this week that will honor Ash, as she is one of two beneficiaries for Wednesday’s 30th annual Enduro ski-a-thon fundraiser at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. Along with Ash, longtime Summit County local and St. Anthony’s trauma nurse Jim McDonnell is the other Enduro beneficiary. McDonnell has been diagnosed with stage 4 bladder cancer that has metastasized to his lung. Speaking from a trauma nursing conference down in Denver on Tuesday morning, McDonnell says he is currently feeling well, going through treatment and hoping to return to work as soon as possible.

In fact, on Monday night McDonnell had dinner with Dave Repsher, the Summit County local and Flight For Life nurse who was a beneficiary of the A-Basin Enduro last year.

“He told me,” McDonnell said, “‘just keep your chin up.’”

McDonnell, who has competed in endurance events such as the Ironman Triathlon and 100-mile runs and 100-mile skis in the past, has also has take part in A-Basin Enduros previously.

“And that’s as hard as any of those other things, let me tell ya,” McDonnell said.

Wednesday’s sold-out Enduro will feature 35 teams of two, lapping the ski area between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., up A-Basin’s Pallavicini Chairlift before they either ski or ride down the mountain on designated lines, without stopping. As part of Wednesday’s event, A-Basin will also host the “Enduro Light,” which is a non-competitive, less intense ski tour of Arapahoe Basin. Though the Pallavicini Enduro is sold out, interested skiers and snowboarders can still sign up for the Enduro Light.

McDonnell first relocated to the county decades ago to work as a hard-rock miner in Leadville, a job that required him and his co-workers to descend 600 feet underground each morning before working on a rock drill all day. When he and his colleagues and friends weren’t drilling, they were often skiing at A-Basin.

As the years went by, McDonnell was a part of Keystone Resort’s early years when he worked a job cleaning the resort’s Summit House at 11,640 feet. A perk of the job was being able to live at the top of the mountain, though there was no gondola back then to protect from winter conditions on a commute up a chairlift to rest for the night.

It was at Keystone where McDonnell befriended a ski patroller named Alan Henceroth, who is now the chief operating officer at A-Basin. In the years since, McDonnell has continued to ski at A-Basin thanks to his personal friendships with Henceroth and other members of the A-Basin community. In that time, McDonnell has also remained close to the county’s ski areas and resorts like A-Basin due to his work as a trauma nurse for St. Anthony’s.

McDonnell this year has also missed time coaching with the Summit Nordic Ski Club, a group of 7-11-year-olds he described as “the coolest kids around.” Soon enough, though, he hopes to be back coaching and working.

“I do miss my job very much, as right now I cannot work,” McDonnell said. “But, hopefully, I’ll be back to work before I know it.”

As for Ash, her mother Kelly said they were asked if they’d be beneficiaries of the A-Basin Enduro by Kay Kirkland, a Summit Middle School teacher and the mother of Whitney Henceroth, the events and marketing coordinator at A-Basin. Kirkland was Taylor’s track coach a few years back at Summit Middle School, where Taylor excelled in the 400-meter run. Taylor’s father, Andrew, has also taken part in the Enduro in the past.

VSO wins Hockey Classic

En route to their Summit Hockey Classic championship, Vail Summit Orthopaedics received a standout performance from goaltender Dougie Wakelyn.

During Friday night’s semifinal game versus Copper Mountain, Summit Hockey director and VSO player Chris Miller said Wakelyn “stood on his head” to lead VSO to victory. In hockey jargon, a goaltender stands on his head when saving many difficult shots on net. In the contest, Wakelyn rose to the occasion on breakaways and penalty shots, including against celebrity player Pierre Turgeon, who was a five-time NHL All-Star.

Friday’s semifinal win for VSO also pitted Wakelyn against his father Marty Wakelyn, who was the goaltender for Copper Mountain in his final Summit Hockey Classic. And, on the offensive end, Miller also credited VSO’s Taylor Hustead, a Summit Hockey coach, for his play through the weekend.

“I think we just had a great coach,” Miller said. “Doctor (Peter) Janes kept the boys in line and made sure that we played as a team.”

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