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Olympic skiers, long-distance runners, sponsored road bikers—the folks who’ve been pursuing mountain-town sports since they could walk. But championship lacrosse players?

On May 15, the Aspen High School boys’ lacrosse team beat Valor Christian High School, who entered the game undefeated for the season, in the Colorado state 4A championships at Denver’s Mile High Stadium. The big—and unexpected—win made news statewide and even gained national coverage.

How was a small ski-town team able to beat a school almost twice its size and from a part of the state where team field sports are the only game in town? Playing together since middle school helped. “They were the first kids to have lacrosse sticks in Aspen,” head coach Mike Goerne said in a video interview with USA Today. Players came and went, he added, but the core group remained the same. “We’ve been telling these kids since they picked up lacrosse sticks in fourth or fifth grade, ‘You’re going to win a state championship, you’re going to win a state championship.’ This has been an eight- or ten-year project for us.”

The players got to bask in the glow of the win one more time on Independence Day, when they were the grand marshals for Aspen’s Fourth of July parade.

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