STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Vail Mountain hasn't won a state skiing championship since 1991. But Thursday, the Gore Rangers put themselves in title contention.
Vail Mountain's boys head the pack after the first day, and its girls sit in a tie for second — just five points back of first-place Battle Mountain.
It was all made possible by a number of great individual performances dotting the top-10 in the four events that were held as the state championships kicked off on Thursday. Included: a state championship race from Maddie Donovan, who won the girls nordic skate.
The boys last won a state skiing championship in 1991. The girls have never won.
Thursday started with the giant slalom, an event held on Steamboat's All Out run.
Evergreen's RJ McLennan took first in the boys giant slalom, finishing both runs in a combined time of 1:37.8. A senior, he had the fastest time of each run, including a 46.17 second run that was nearly a second faster than the next skier.
Vail Mountain's Michael Resnick (1:39.0) was second in the event, while Aspen's Trey Thorpe (1:39.9) took third.
Evergreen had three top-10 finishers, but so did Vail Mountain, and it was the Gore Rangers — with second-, fourth- and sixth-place skiers who took home the most points (171) from the event. Evergreen had 167 points in the giant slalom.
Vail Mountain's hot start continued in the afternoon's nordic skate event at the Touring Center, finishing with two racers in the top five.
Middle Park's Tyler School won the skate, finishing with the top time of 14:39.08. Battle Mountain's Reilly Franklin (14:42.99) was second, and Cameron Wolfe of Vail Mountain (14:47.34) placed third. Summit's Peter Haynes was fourth and Vail Mountain's Peter Littman was fifth.
Through the two events, Vail Mountain's boys have amassed 331 points, ahead of Aspen, two-time defending champion Battle Mountain and Summit — who all sit in a three-way tie for second with 280 points. Middle Park is currently fifth with 275.
Aspen's Mariel Gorsuch won the girls' giant slalom with a two-run total of 1:42.7. The junior went 51.39 in her first run and 51.33 in her second.
Gorsuch's teammate, Margo McHugh, finished second (1:43.2). Battle Mountain's Haley Frischholz (1:45.5), a skimeister, took third.
Aspen had four of the top six finishers in the event, though only three can score. The defending champions used that to vault ahead in the team race going into Thursday's nordic event with 175 points.
But Battle Mountain was just behind after the GS, and used a solid showing in the skate to take the girls' team lead with 305 points. The Huskies had each of their three scorers place among the top 17.
Vail Mountain's Maddie Donovan was first in the skate in 16:44.1. Colorado Rocky Mountain's Kate Oldham took second in 17:03.7, and Vail Mountain's Bridget Donovan was third (17:12.1).
The huge 170-point showing in the skate, which included Emma Blakslee finishing seventh, catapulted Vail Mountain from fifth into a second-place tie with defending champion Aspen with 300 points.
Colorado Rocky Mountain is fourth with 268 points, and Middle Park and Summit are tied for fifth with 250.
Fielding a program for the first time in more than 20 years, Durango had a strong showing during the first day of the state meet. The Demons had freshman Analise Gates place 10th in the girls giant slalom, and senior Lucas Robbins finish 18th in the boys race.
The state skiing championships resume on Friday at Howelson Hill for both the slalom and nordic classic events.