Severy, Mitchell both earn gold at state’s track championships |

Severy, Mitchell both earn gold at state’s track championships

Dale Shrull

It was a gold rush for the Aspen Skiers.

Led by junior Jon Severy and senior Elizabeth Mitchell, the Aspen High School track team turned in some of the top performances at the 3A Colorado State High School Track and Field Championships over the weekend.

On a sunny weekend as golden as their performances, the Skiers’ long-distance dynamic duo picked up three golds and one silver medal competing against the best in the state.

Severy claimed golds in the 1600 on Friday and 3200 on Saturday, while Mitchell won Saturday’s 3200 and was second in the 1600.

After finishing third and second as a sophomore, Severy wasn’t to be denied this year as he turned in one of the top performances in the state this season.

Running at the always-winding Fountain-Fort Carson Sports Complex, Severy and Erie’s Matt Billings broke free at the 600-meter mark in the 3200. But after the midway point, the smooth-gliding stride of Severy took over.

With Severy increasing his lead at every corner, there was little mystery who would win over the final three laps. The extremely appreciative 3A/2A crowd brought Severy home with a rousing ovation.

His time was 9:44.42, 20 seconds better than Billings’ 10:04.38.

Severy said he was a little disappointed with his time, which was 10 seconds off his personal best and just short of the 3A state record of 9:37.67.

Aspen coach Mark Barbour said he was thrilled with Severy’s run and not at all disappointed with the time.

“It’s difficult to run fast here,” Barbour said about the 3A venue. “The wind was gusting and Jon was running by himself most of the race.”

Battling very stiff winds during Friday’s 1600 race, Severy and Billings hooked up in a tight race throughout. Once again it was the distinctive stride of Severy that helped the Aspen runner pull away.

Not wanting to be caught in a sprint to the finish, the Aspen junior broke free in the final 300 meters to win with a time of 4:31.97.

Barbour called Billings’ performance a “gutsy effort” to stick with Severy for the entire race.

Severy said he was a little concerned coming into the final lap with Billings riding his shoulder.

“I was worried because I don”t have a great kick, so I tried to out-kick him with 300 meters to go,” Severy said.

Billings finished with a time of 4:35.12, holding off a fast-closing Jay Hafemeister of St. Mary’s.

Basalt junior Drew Schiller ran a strong race, placing fifth in 4:43.84.

Severy’s gold medals come on the heels of a state cross country championship in the fall, and the emotional roller-coaster from the death of his brother Chris.

Chris, one of the finest runners in Aspen school history, was killed in a mountain biking accident last fall in Boulder. Jon said he never steps on the track without thinking about his brother.

“I always think about him, and just think to myself what would he do, and then I try to go out and do it,” Jon said.

After winning the cross country championship in the fall, and now with the two track titles, Jon has done exactly what his brother had done.

“It’s what I always wanted to do,” Jon said about following in his brother’s footsteps.

Chris went on to star at the University of Colorado before his death.

With the classification’s cross country title secured in the fall, Severy was a strong favorite entering the track season. That’s quite a contrast to Mitchell’s rise to the top of the track ranks this season.

Running her first season of track, the diminutive Mitchell demonstrated her power and determination by dominating the 3200 field with a winning time of 11:51.94.

At 5-feet-even, Mitchell shielded herself from the pesky breeze by running inside the pack during the early stages of the race.

With 800 meters remaining, Mitchell moved to the front, taking Frederick’s Alisha Williams with her.

Williams had out-kicked Mitchell in Friday’s 1600 to win that race, but in the 3200, Mitchell knew that she had to open up some space.

“I don’t have a very good kick with my short legs,” Mitchell said with a giggle. “I knew I had to open a gap so she wouldn’t catch me.”

As she headed down the final backstretch, Mitchell had a comfortable lead and her short legs easily held off Williams, who posted an 11:59.94.

Mitchell was joined on the podium by two other Roaring Fork Valley runners. Roaring Fork freshman Caroline Cretti turned in a memorable showing in her first state meet with a fourth-place finish and a time of 12:05.04 in the 3200 and a fifth-place in the 1600. Basalt freshman Eleanor Cleverly had a time of 12:08.01, good for fifth in the 3200.

In the 1600, Mitchell had to settle for the silver medal, but Barbour said he couldn’t have hoped for anything more.

“As far as I could tell that’s the best 1600 race she could run,” he said about Mitchell’s performance. “If we’d run it another 10 times, I’d have her run it exactly the same way.”

Another Aspen performer who placed again at the State Track and Field Championships was Clay Shipp. The senior closed out his prep career with three top-eight efforts.

In the high jump, Shipp fell victim to the harsh winds, placing eighth with a 6-2 best. The week before he jumped a career-high 6-5.

In the 110-meter high hurdles, Shipp posted a 16.37, good for sixth.

Shipp’s biggest disappointment came in the 300 hurdles where he placed fourth after entering the meet with one of the fastest times.

After hitting the first two hurdles, Shipp finished with a strong effort down the stretch to move into fourth with a time of 41.58.

Jarett Hart of La Junta won both hurdle events, to join Severy as the only double individual winners in 3A.

Also competing for the Aspen boys team in the 3200, were sophomores Michael Otte, who placed 11th (11:02.26), and Conor Flynn, who posted an 11:21.33, good for 16th.

In the team standings, the Aspen boys team placed fifth with 29 points. La Junta won the team title with 100 points.

Mitchell accounted for all 18 points for the girls team, which tied for 14th. Hotchkiss won the state title with 66 points.

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