Diaz leads AHS girls cross country to win on home course as regionals approach | AspenTimes.com

Diaz leads AHS girls cross country to win on home course as regionals approach

The Skiers plan to compete next weekend at the Montrose Relays before heading to regionals on Oct. 21; state is Oct. 29

Aspen High School sophomore Julia Diaz competes in the Skiers' home cross country race on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Aspen. Diaz won the girls varsity race.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

With regionals less than two weeks away, Saturday’s home race seemed like a perfect time for the Aspen High School girls cross country team to win for the first time this season. On the wild, hilly and stunning — the yellow aspens were in peak form — course next to the high school, the AHS girls placed five runners in the top 10 to run away with the timely victory.

“They are running well. Just trying to hold everything together for three weeks; get to regionals in two weeks and to state, I hope, in three,” longtime AHS coach Chris Keleher said. “We’ll see what happens. But things are looking good right now. This should be a huge confidence boost for them.”

The Skiers finished with 30 points, well ahead of runner-up Caprock Academy (72 points) and third-placed Glenwood Springs (81). Crested Butte was fourth (99) and Coal Ridge was fifth (111), while talented Basalt and two-time defending state champion Katelyn Maley did not compete.

Leading the AHS girls was rising sophomore star Julia Diaz. She led all the girls, in fact, winning Saturday’s race in 22 minutes, 51.9 seconds. Diaz was more than a handful of strides ahead of runner-up Maddie Grossman of Caprock Academy (23:25), with AHS senior Michaela Kenny coming across the line in third place in 23:36.6 and Crested Butte’s Ruby Pendy finishing fourth (23:47.4).

Hardly an imposing figure, Diaz has become the Skiers’ top runner in short order.

“The kids can feed off of her and she quietly does her work and puts the hammer down. Tough runner,” Keleher said of Diaz. “She is pretty reserved. I think a lot of cross country runners are that way. The bigger, brasher you get, it’s very easy to get humbled very quickly in this sport.”

In seventh was AHS sophomore Fiona Benvenuto (25:32.2), in ninth AHS sophomore Darienne Kenny (25:43.6) and in 10th was AHS senior Natalie Wesner (25:50.9). Seniors Chloe Smith (26th, 27:45.9) and Stella Sherlock (28th, 28:00.6) also finished in the top 30 for the Skiers.

“Everyone ran so well,” Keleher said. “They just constantly moved up throughout the race. Everyone ran a really smart race, the girls did. It’s good to see some of the other girls, the younger girls, feed off of the older girls. They all ran great. I can’t speak highly enough of how strongly they ran.”

In the boys race, Olathe’s 74 points was enough to hold off Glenwood Springs (86) and Coal Ridge (114) for the team title. Aspen finished seventh with 132 points, which according to Keleher was the first time the AHS boys had recorded a team score this season with five runners starting.

Individually, Coal Ridge’s Tyler Parker won the boys race in 19:27.1. Rangely’s James Talbot was second (19:41.7) and Crested Butte’s Jake Pendy was third (19:59.5). In fourth was Colorado Rocky Mountain School’s Ben Oldham in 20:16 and in seventh was Glenwood’s Tanner Merritt in 20:52.8.

Aspen’s top finisher was junior Edwin Ryerson (8th, 21:14.8), with senior Finn Johnson not far behind (11th, 21:28.5).

The Skiers plan to compete next weekend at the Montrose Relays before heading to regionals on Oct. 21. Delta will host the race on a flat and fast course, which teams got to see as recently as Sept. 30 at Pantherfest.

“Totally different course than this one,” Keleher said, comparing the Delta course to Aspen’s slower, hillier setup. “But we ran there last week and the kids liked it. It’s fun to run fast, so hopefully we can do that again in two weeks.”

State cross country is Oct. 29 in Colorado Springs.



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