Aspen girls triumph at XC regional | AspenTimes.com

Aspen girls triumph at XC regional

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

DELTA, Colo. – Delta’s regional cross-country course at Confluence Park – a largely flat tract replete with crushed gravel and dirt paths – did not figure to suit the Aspen girls cross country team.

Still, the squad looked right at home Wednesday afternoon. The Skiers’ top four runners finished sixth, 11th, 12th and 13th, leading Aspen to a convincing – and somewhat surprising – 3A Region 1 team crown with 42 points.

Bayfield (62), Hotchkiss (65) and Gunnison (67) also will be sending teams to Oct. 29’s state championships at the Arapahoe County Fairgrounds in Aurora.

The title is believed to be the Skiers girls’ first since 2001, head coach Chris Keleher said.

“We typically run better on harder courses but heck, we’ll take it,” he added. “I was thinking a logical spot [to finish] was second or third, but for them to win so dominantly, I’m just kind of speechless. It’s really cool.

“All the coaches were sitting around saying, ‘Whoa, where’d that come from?’ Whatever they had for breakfast, they need to keep eating it.”

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Tayler Quist led the way in sixth with a time of 20 minutes, 12 seconds. Ryley Sutton (20:27), Ellie Parker (20:39) and Lily Isaacson (20:40) finished close behind.

“I was initially hoping the top two girls would be higher, then [Quist] came through and right away you could see the other girls,” Keleher said. “It was a lot of fun to watch.

“I don’t know who’s going to be my No. 1 runner from week to week. Those four girls are super strong. … What they did is just remarkable.”

Basalt’s Giulio Del Piccolo looked strong in Wednesday’s boys race. He pulled away down the stretch to preserve an individual victory with a time of 16:35 – 43 seconds faster than the time he posted on the Delta course about seven weeks ago.

“I told him before the race that if he was going to win this thing, he’d have to stay in contact [with the leader], which he did,” Longhorns head coach Ron Lund said of Del Piccolo, who is the team’s first boys regional winner since Casey Weaver in 2007. “The leader was never more than 5 seconds ahead. [Del Piccolo] was in third at the mile and moved into second at a mile and a half. The leader had a one-stride lead at 21⁄2 miles. Another thing I told him was not to let it come down to the last 100, and he didn’t. He didn’t look back and did what he had to do to come away with the win.”

Teammate Jacob Besser (17:34) wound up 10th for the Basalt boys, who had an otherwise disappointing day. The squad finished fifth overall; only four (Pagosa Springs, Hotchkiss, Gunnison and Buena Vista) qualified for state.

(Forty percent of finishing teams earn state berths. Because 11 schools fielded boys squads with at least four runners – Lake County had three – only four spots were up for grabs.)

“I knew we would have to run real well to be fourth, and we beat two teams [Aspen and Bayfield] that I thought we needed to be fourth. Then Buena Vista beat us by 15. I didn’t even have them in my top five,” Lund said.

“They ran well and had a good season, but this is disappointing.”

The Aspen boys know the feeling. Egbert Ospina, who wound up 12th in 17:47, will be the Skiers’ lone state representative. Kellen Kremer finished 27th, Hudson McNamee 36th and Mike George 45th.

“The only runner I had with regional experience was Kellen. Everyone else was in their first year or on JV last year,” Keleher said. “I don’t know if the pressure got to them or what, but unfortunately they picked a bad week to not run their best race.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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