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Cool Runnings

Tim Mutrie
Aspen Times Staff Writer

Christy Severy isn’t one to boast, but she doesn’t need to anyway. Nowadays, her name and reputation precede her.

As the fifth of six Severy children, she’s quite literally following in the footsteps of Chris, Robin and Jon, who won state titles in cross country and track at Aspen High, and more recently, Elizabeth, who captained Aspen’s state champion under-19 girls hockey team in 2001 and 2002.

Last fall, Christy joined her older siblings in becoming a state champion for Aspen High School, winning the 2002 State Cross Country Championship and helping deliver Aspen its first-ever team championship in girls cross country. All that as an AHS freshman.

Therefore it came as no surprise to see Christy win – dominate, actually, by a 43-second margin – the Chris Severy Cross Country Invitational in Aspen on Oct. 4. Even as a state champion, a victory in the race named for her brother – who died in a cycling accident in 1998 – eluded her last year as she finished second to a senior, Danielle Brown of Moffat County.

Not this time around.

Running with the same, determined expression on her face at the start and finish, 15-year-old Christy stuck with the pack up the first hill of the 5K course, then proceeded to leave 91 other runners in her wake. At the first-mile marker she led by five seconds, and by mile two, the lead grew to about 30 seconds.

After emerging from an aspen grove to begin a long downhill section in the third and final mile, Severy heard spectators cheering in equal shares excitement and astonishment. One local runner remarked she’d never seen feet move that fast.

But afterward, asked when she knew victory was hers, Christy replied with a chuckle, “When I finished.”

“I don’t really think about that when I’m running,” she explained. “I want to, but I try to focus on going forward.”

Christy says she gets extremely nervous before every race. Her goals don’t include victories but rather, and quite simply, just running well.

“I ran as hard as I could last year,” Christy said of her first effort in the Chris Severy race, “and she [the winner] ran better. But I was happy with the way I ran last year.

“Now, to win this race is better than winning any other race, just ’cause of what it’s for. But I was just trying to do my best. And that’s what it’s all about – you always want to do better, always. Even if you do win, you want to extend your lead.”

Christy’s older sister Robin won the Chuck Severy Memorial 5K, named for their father, who died of cancer, on the same course Oct. 4. She said her little sister is driven by quiet determination.

“She is a very modest little lady,” Robin said Saturday, “so she doesn’t actually say what she’s going to win, or if she thinks she’s going to win. She always just goes out there and puts her best into it. But this is her brother’s race, so it is an important race to her.

“She knows that she wants it and she knows that she can get it, but she’s not one to verbalize that,” Robin added. “She keeps it to herself.”

In six races to date this season, Christy’s results speak for themselves: three firsts, two thirds and a fourth.

Her success this year, combined with last year’s triumph at the state championship, is something remarkable even to the likes of AHS junior Simi Hamilton. Hamilton, who finished fourth among the boys at the Chris Severy race, is the defending state high school champion in nordic skiing, both classic and skate, and, like Christy, had an older sibling to show him the path. Hamilton’s sister Jenny, an AHS grad, is one of the most promising nordic skiers from Aspen in recent history.

“There’s only one Christy,” Hamilton said after his fourth-place finish in a field of 99.

“I think probably the best thing about Christy, and one of the reasons why she’s so amazingly good, is that she doesn’t let anything get to her,” continued Hamilton, who took up cross-country running last season as a sophomore. “She’s super-relaxed when she runs, but she’s one of the girls who will not let anyone catch her. That’s Christy.”

All in the family

The same day Christy ran to victory in the Chris Severy race, Jon Severy, a senior at the University of Colorado, Boulder, ran to a 13th-place finish at the 18th annual Rocky Mountain Shootout race in Boulder.

As a result, the Severy mom, Betty, a former course record holder in the America’s Uphill on Aspen Mountain, went to Boulder to watch Jon run, while Robin and 9-year-old Patrick stayed in Aspen to support Christy.

Patrick, who finished the Chuck Severy race in 26th place, stood beside Aspen High cross-country coach Chris Keleher during the Chris Severy awards ceremony, handing out trophies and plaques to the top finishers.

Keleher, a member of Aspen High’s first-ever state championship squad in boys cross country, says the so-called “Running Severys” are perhaps misunderstood.

“The `Running Severys’ – I think that’s almost an unfair characterization of them,” said Keleher, who has coached and mentored all five Severys at AHS. “They’re just amazing people, and they work so hard at whatever they do – hockey, running, academics, whatever it is. Their success in athletics is just a reflection of that hard work, which is also evidenced academically.

“Chris was the salutatorian [of his class]; Robin was top 5 percent of her class and now she’s studying to be a physician’s assistant; Jonathan was up high, too, and he’s majoring in philosophy and premed; and Elizabeth was at least the salutatorian,” Keleher noted. “So you’re not looking at the dumb jock here, you’re looking at some substantially well-rounded individuals.”

Christy says she looks up to her brother Jon.

“I definitely do,” Christy said. “I ask him about what kind of shoes to wear – whether I should wear my regular shoes or my flats when I race. Stuff like that.”

Keleher says when he talks with Christy about running goals, victories or titles are never part of the conversation.

“Going out and winning states is not something we sit down and ever talk about,” he said. “I know she’s going to go out and try as hard as she can, and if it happens, it happens.”

Robin Severy agreed: “I think she’s going to end up having a great season. … But she doesn’t push herself too hard or think about things down the road. She’s actually a very easygoing kid.”

‘Tis the season

This weekend, the Aspen High cross-country teams race at the annual Montrose Relays. Next weekend, Oct. 19, is the regional championship race, followed closely by the Oct. 25 state championship meet in Colorado Springs.

The AHS girls face an uphill struggle to repeat as state champions, but it’s a different story for Severy.

In the meantime, Buena Vista’s Rachel Gioscia, who beat Christy in the opening race of the season on the state championship racecourse in Colorado Springs, remains undefeated this year and a favorite at the state meet. But it would be foolhardy to discount Christy Severy.

Asked whether Gioscia was somewhere in the back of her mind, Christy nodded.

“I do get nervous, but I just have to run how I run and see how she runs, and whatever happens, happens,” she said.

Tim Mutrie’s e-mail address is mutrie@aspentimes.com


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