Basalt High runners sweep regional titles | AspenTimes.com

Basalt High runners sweep regional titles

Dale Strode
The Aspen Times

Double trouble.

The Basalt High School cross country team offered a dose of double trouble for the competition Friday at the Class 3A Regional Cross Country Championships in Delta.

Longhorn runners won the girls and boys 5-kilometer races at Confuence Park, giving Basalt it's first regional cross country sweep since 2007.

Hailey Swirbul, a national champion cross country ski racer, won the girls race to start Basalt's regional run.

A half-hour later, fellow BHS senior Zach Walsh won the boys race — a second regional champion for the Longhorns and head coach Ron Lund.

"This feels great," Walsh said in a telephone interview right after he won his regional championship. "I was third the last two years (at regionals), and I'm happy to win it this year."

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Walsh ran up with the leaders and then made his winning move in the final mile.

"I was running to place," he said of the 16-minute, 26-second time on the relatively flat Confluence Park course. Walsh, the son of James Walsh and Adair O'Connor, had run under 16 minutes on the same course earlier when he was challenged by 4A runners from Montrose and Rifle.

"We're looking forward to state," Walsh said of the State Cross Country Championships next Saturday at Penrose Equestrian Center in Colorado Springs. The course is a hilly trail course with dramatic, difficult climbs.

"I'm looking forward to the course," Walsh said. "It should be fun and challenging."

Swirbul, likewise, is looking forward to the state championship course and its hills.

She mastered the flats at Delta on Friday and led the field from the starting line.

"Hailey took off in the first mile … and she led all the way," Lund said after the Basalt cross country sweep.

"She's really looking forward to those … hills at state," he said of Swirful.

The Basalt boys also qualified as a team to advance to state. They include Lyle Luckett, Patrick Niemer, Robbie Thompson, Ashton Albright and Trevor Stroud.

Swirbul will compete as an individual at next week's state championships.

"Zach … just stayed up front. But when he put the hammer down, it was a decisive move," the Basalt coach said, adding that the runners battled warm temperatures for the races that started at 1:30 p.m.

"It was a little on the warm side," Lund said. "But overall it was a good day."

Walsh, who won the Delta Invitational and the Rifle Invitational titles earlier this season, said he felt good when he took off Friday.

"I ran happy," he said.

No doubt.

dstrode@aspentimes.com

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