AHS cross country hosts race as season looms
Running in the mountains is a little more difficult than running at sea level. Fortunately for Florida’s Julie Berling, learning this lesson the hard way didn’t stop her from finishing as the top female in a small group competing Saturday at the 2016 Aspen Mountain Summer Uphill.
“Our hill training in Florida is over a bridge, which is a 24-foot elevation gain. So this is a little different,” the 49-year-old said. “I had no problem with the legs, but problems with the altitude. Knowing I have to report back to my friends in Florida made me push it.”
Berling finished the 4.6-mile trek — including more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain — from the Silver Queen Gondola to the summit in 1 hour, 18 minutes. She was in town visiting a friend and said it was her first time running in the mountains.
“I love Aspen, and I always Google races,” Berling said. “I always look up a race when I go out of town and you always meet great, healthy people.”
The top male and overall race winner was Silverthorne’s Greg Ross in 55:21. He was in town visiting his sister and decided to try and tame Aspen’s infamous hill. The 38-year-old is a former semi-professional cyclist who was running competitively for only the second time after taking a couple years off to recover from injuries.
“It was long. It’s a consistent grade. It’s a grueling uphill,” Ross said. “I’m not quite where I want to be yet, but I’m gradually getting there.”
Finishing second overall was Carbondale’s Jeremy Duncan in 55:36 and third was Aspen’s Brian Johnson in 1:01:09.
The race, in its 22nd year, was a fundraiser for the Aspen High School cross country team and was organized by Aspen High School coach Chris Keleher. Unlike most years, no one signed up for the mountain bike portion of the race, but the friendly running crowd made the event a fun kickoff for the Skiers’ season.
“We’ve got some good returning juniors and seniors, which is good,” Keleher said. “It’s kind of a rebuilding-ish year, I think, for both the boys and the girls. The boys team last year was definitely in a rebuilding year, so I’m hoping to improve on performances from last year.”
The boys team, which didn’t qualify for state last season, looks to be improved. The girls team, which finished 16th at state last fall, is replacing many graduated seniors from that team, although senior Dara Schenck returns after leading the Skiers with a 50th-place finish in the Class 3A meet.
“It’s still really fun for me. I don’t really care so much about the results,” junior runner Chelsea Moore said. “I think since I’m older, I’m going to have to be more of a leader and kind of keep the fun in the running for everyone.”
Aspen opens its season Saturday at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel, a meet hosted by Basalt High School. The Skiers’ lone home meet will occur Oct. 8.
“I don’t really know what I’m getting into,” said freshman Connor Chesner about the season opener. “I’m a little nervous because I’ve never really done any of these races.”
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