Severy’s run approaches the finish line |

Severy’s run approaches the finish line

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times file

Christy Severy isn’t looking over her shoulder. Not until she finishes the final lap. Not until she’s run as hard as she can run for the last two miles – the final two out of so many – in what has been a brilliant four years at Aspen High School.Great runners don’t look back. Severy, the fifth of six children from Aspen’s first family of running, knows from experience. She knows from having watched her two older brothers win state titles, break school records and earn Division I scholarships. She knows from having watched her oldest sister, Robin, win a state title of her own in running.When it’s finally over today, when she crosses the finish line in Pueblo, Severy said she’ll assess her four years. She’ll look back on the four consecutive regional titles in the 3,200 meters, her four consecutive top-10 finishes at state, the four regional titles in cross country and the lone state title she won in cross country as a freshman. But not before the starting gun goes off. Not before she pushes herself for some 12-odd minutes around an oval in the hot afternoon sun.”I’m trying to just think about this one race and not put so much pressure on myself,” she said Thursday. “I’m just going to go and run as fast as I can.”But to understand Severy, and why she runs as hard as she does, you have to look back. You have to go back to her oldest brother, Christopher, who ran just as hard as, if not the hardest of the six Severy children.Aspen track and cross-country coach Chris Keleher remembers when he first met Christopher, who was a sophomore at the time. The young coach knew right away he had found a special athlete – a once-in-a-career type of star. Christopher had the natural ability to run, but that wasn’t just it. There was an unrivaled determination to run as fast as possible, to be the best, that distanced Christopher from his peers, Keleher said.”He set the bar,” Keleher said. “He would ride his bike every day to school because he was mentally tough. I’m sure he got a lot of it from [his parents] Chuck and Betty, but he set the example for the other four.”Before he left Aspen High School, Christopher Severy won three state titles – two in cross country and one in the 3,200. He then went on to run cross country at the University of Colorado, where he was an All-American.

Christopher died in a bicycling accident in 1998.

Keleher was right about Christopher Severy being special, but wrong when in his assumption that he would have only one athlete with such dedication during his coaching career. He didn’t realize all of Christopher’s siblings had similar traits and talent.The second-oldest, Robin, was an 800-meter runner who won a state title in the 4×800 relay as a junior. The third-oldest, Jonathan, broke his older brother’s school records in the mile and the two-mile, and won two state championships of his own – one in cross country and one in the 3,200. After high school, he also ran at CU, where was an All-American. The fourth in line, Elizabeth, never flourished as a runner because of knee injuries, but she excelled in hockey and won a state club title while in high school.When she entered high school four years ago, Christy Severy said she knew she had big expectations to live up to. When she won her state championship in cross country as a freshman, she assumed it would be the first of many. Entering her final individual race today, it appears it will be the only one.

A top-five finish at state in the two-mile would be an impressive finish for her, after she crossed the line seventh last year.At times, she said there has been frustration for being unable to match her form as a freshman. Her worst finish at a state meet was this past fall when she finished 12th in her final high school cross-country race.Still, she has learned to accept the good and the bad, and has come to grips with the pressures she puts on herself because of what her siblings accomplished before her.”It is hard,” she said. “There’s a lot of pressure that comes with that name, because people expect you to be good. If you have a bad race, everyone asks what happened.””It’s funny, because you have kids who measure themselves against the rest of the state,” Keleher said. “I think the Severys measure themselves against each other. It’s a tough ghost to be chasing when it’s one of your siblings – whoever it is, whether it’s Jon or Chris or Robin or Elizabeth. It’s big shoes to fill.”

When it’s over, Severy will only look back for a short while. Like her older brothers, she will continue to run in college. She has accepted a partial cross-country scholarship to run at the Division II level at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. As for Keleher, he’ll only look back a while as well. Severy’s youngest brother, Patrick, is in sixth grade, and there’s still the possibility he might be the next great distance runner with the familiar last name – maybe even the best yet.Regardless of what happens, Keleher said he feels privileged to have worked with five once-in-a-career athletes.”Who knows what Patrick is going to do, but it’s been fun,” he said. “I’ve learned a ton about coaching and running and just being a good person from them. I think that’s probably the best part of having coached them is that they’re just such good people to be around. They come back into town and they’ll call me and we’ll go for a run, or go to a movie, or whatever. I think running is such a little part of who they are as people.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes

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