Aspen High School girls win cross country regional despite Basalt’s 1-2-3 finish
1. Aspen, 51
2. Basalt, 59
3. Moffat, 99
1. Katelyn Maley, Basalt 18:58
2. Sierra Bower, Basalt 19:12
3. Ava Lane, Basalt 19:13
4. Mikayla Cheney, Coal Ridge 19:16
5. Kylie Kenny, Aspen 19:17
1. Alamosa, 47
2. Gunnison, 61
3. Moffat, 116
1. Alex Baca, Gunnison 15:58
2. Joshua Medina, Alamosa 16:14
3. Gabe Heraty, Pagosa Springs 16:49
4. Isaac Higareda, Alamosa 16:53
5. Zeb Shields, Bayfield 16:56
The Longhorns dominated up front, but the Skiers had the numbers to withstand the onslaught. Either way, neither team had much to be disappointed with during Friday’s Class 3A, Region 1 girls’ cross country race at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango.
“Basalt had the firepower, but Aspen had the depth and that was the difference. That was fun to watch, those three purple jerseys out front,” Aspen coach Chris Keleher said of the Longhorns’ 1-2-3 sweep. “The (AHS) girls did a really good job. They responded very well to everything we were trying to do.”
In a somewhat surprising result, the Aspen High School girls cross country team won Friday’s regional race with 51 points, holding off runner-up Basalt’s 59 points. Keleher wasn’t sure of the last time the AHS girls won a regional team title, but it had been a handful of years. Last fall, the Basalt girls finished first and Aspen second at a regional meet hosted by the Longhorns at Crown Mountain Park.
And, like last year, both Aspen and Basalt will send their entire girls teams to the state meet, which is scheduled for next Saturday, Oct. 17, in Colorado Springs.
“We knew it was going to be tight going in. The girls, they all stepped up and really responded well. But man, to win that thing, it feels really good,” Keleher said Friday of the regional championship. “They wanted it. They were nervous last night. You never know what is going to happen.”
Still, it was Basalt’s trio up front that stole the show. BHS sophomore Katelyn Maley was the first across the finish line with a course-record time of 18 minutes, 58 seconds. Maley, who took third at regionals as a freshman before finishing 12th at state, has become a bona fide star for the Longhorns this season. This despite, or possibly because of, having to run alongside senior teammate Sierra Bower, the reigning 3A state champion and Furman commit. Bower, who had won the regional race the past two years, finished second to Maley on Friday in 19:12.
“They’ve been going back and forth. It’s going to be anybody’s guess next Saturday,” BHS coach Ron Lund said of Bower and Maley. Lund showed no surprise for Maley’s rise this season. “She was definitely showing some promise (last season). But yeah, she’s had a solid year. She would have had a solid track season if we would have had one (in the spring). She just really put the work in over the summer.”
Finishing third Friday was Basalt sophomore Ava Lane, who was right on Bower’s heels with a time of 19:13. Coal Ridge sophomore Mikayla Cheney was fourth in 19:16 and Aspen senior Kylie Kenny was fifth in 19:17.
Lane’s showing at the regional race is promising for the Longhorns, who had to compete without Sarah Levy, another of their top runners who is out because of injury. This means others have to step up for Basalt to remain a factor for the overall team title come state.
“We were really impressed with the way our third girl ran today,” Lund said of Lane. “Our new fourth girl, she is a freshman from Roaring Fork, Avery Smith. She has really stepped up. She was 17th today. She’s just been improving by leaps and bounds every week.”
After Smith in 17th (21:05), Basalt’s next runner was senior Kaitlin Boothe in 36th (22:35). Sophomore Lacey Lindberg was 43rd (23:05) to round out the BHS lineup.
After Kenny in fifth, Aspen’s next best runner was sophomore Elsie Weiss, who finished seventh (20:13). In 10th was sophomore Michaela Kenny (20:29); in 14th senior Kendall Clark (20:53); in 15th senior Edie Sherlock (20:53); and in 26th senior Eva McDonough (21:51).
The regional win could bode well for the Skiers next weekend at state, where they will look to improve on last year’s fifth-place finish. Led by Bower’s individual win, Basalt finished third at state last fall behind champion The Classical Academy and runner-up Faith Christian.
“We’ve been on some people’s radar for a while,” Keleher said of the AHS girls’ steady rise the past few seasons. “The girls like to compete. They like to stick their nose in it and knock heads with some of the big girls. I’m looking forward to it.”
BOYS COME UP JUST SHORT
In a normal year, the AHS boys would have been state bound, as well. However, with the pandemic limiting the amount of runners who can qualify for state this fall, the boys will have to be nothing more than cheerleaders for the girls.
The Aspen boys finished fourth as a team Friday with 140 points, with only the top three teams qualifying for state. Normally the top four teams would qualify. Alamosa won the boys’ title with 47 points, followed by Gunnison (61) and Moffat County (116). Basalt was seventh with 161 points.
“A little bit frustrating for the boys to lose that extra qualifier because of the COVID thing,” Keleher said. “But we knew the rules coming in. It just didn’t come out the way we wanted.”
Again, in normal years, anyone in the top 15 who wasn’t on one of the top four teams would also qualify for state. This year, however, only the top two runners not on one of the top three teams moved onto the state finale. This meant AHS senior Christian Kelly, who finished sixth on Friday in 17:12, is the first runner out. Gabe Heraty of Pagosa Springs was third and Bayfield’s Zeb Shields was fifth to take those two spots. Gunnison senior Alex Baca won the boys’ race in 15:58.
Only a spot back of Kelly in seventh was junior Ross Barlow, a BHS runner who attends Roaring Fork High School. Like Kelly, he just missed the new COVID cutoff but would have qualified for state in a normal year.
“If we would have had two more weeks of the season, I would have put money on him,” Lund said of Barlow making the cut. “This kid is a gamer and a natural. He just runs so fluid. He runs like he has a lot of experience.”
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