High hopes for Basalt harriers | AspenTimes.com

High hopes for Basalt harriers

Nate PetersonAspen, CO Colorado

Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times

BASALT Basalt’s cross-country teams will run in four meets in the valley this fall, including the 3A Western Slope regional, which the Longhorns will host for the first time ever. With that in mind, head coach Ron Lund urged Basalt supporters to come out and see his runners this season. He believes they’ll have plenty to cheer about.”It’ll be good to have [regionals] in our backyard, and give the parents and kids a chance to come,” said Lund, whose team will run at Aspen, Glenwood Springs and host its own meet on the same course as regionals. “It’s just more exposure for the sport. A lot of people don’t really know what cross-country is, and this a chance for them to come and see it up close.”Lund has good reason to be optimistic. He returns all of the boys runners from a team that finished 16th last year at state, the most notable of whom is Brennan Roper. The senior caught on quickly last fall after trading in his soccer cleats for running shoes, finishing second to Aspen’s Noah Hoffman – the eventual state champion – at regionals before a ninth-place showing at state.Senior Casey Weaver is also back, and fully healthy after struggling with a lingering sickness last season which made him a shell of the runner he’d been as a sophomore. After a 15th-place finish at the 3A state meet in 2005, Weaver admittedly struggled as a junior and closed out a frustrating season by taking 58th at state. “I was sick for four months, and I wasn’t able to train at all over the summer [last year],” said Weaver, a Roaring Fork student who runs for Basalt because his school doesn’t field a team. “This year, I’d like to run faster than I did as a sophomore. I’m looking at schools, maybe running in college, so I’d like to put up some fast times and finish well at state.”

Now that Weaver is healthy, he said he has been pushing Roper during training runs. Lund said the friendly rivalry should bode well for the season, although he wasn’t prepared to make any bold predictions before his runners had actually competed in their first race.”Obviously, going to state is a goal, and I think a regional title is not out of the question, but it’s just way too early to tell,” said Lund, whose boys and girls open their seasons today at the Holy Family Invitational in Broomfield. “You don’t know what other teams have got, and there’s injuries and stuff like that. It’s early, but I think if our kids stay healthy, we’re going to be right in there.”Weaver wasn’t as reserved with his remarks. “I think we have potential to finish in the top three at state,” he said. “We finished fourth at state my sophomore year, and I’d like to do better than that this year. We expect to be winning a lot of meets in the area, and place pretty well at meets in Denver and on the Front Range.”The other two boys runners expected to score for Basalt are junior Tyler Wilson and freshman Connor Roper. Wilson finished one spot ahead of Weaver at last year’s state meet, although he is expected to be the team’s third-best runner this fall. For Connor Roper, Lund said the “sky is the limit.”The coach said the exact same thing about his top returner on his girls team, Chiara Del Piccolo.The soft-spoken sophomore showed up for team practices in great shape after training diligently this summer, and she should improve on a finish of 57th at last year’s state meet.

The lady Longhorns will miss Lund’s daughter, Amy, the team’s top state finisher last fall who is now running at Concordia College in Irvine, Calif.The team also received a blow this summer when senior Annie Tempest – another Roaring Fork pickup – called Lund to inform him that she had been diagnosed with lymphoma. Tempest still plans to run in some races this fall, despite traveling to Denver every three weeks for chemotherapy treatments. “The doctors pretty much leave it up to her,” Lund said. “It really just depends how she’s feeling. I expect to see her out there. She wants to be around these kids.”Going off practices thus far, freshman Annette Stenstadvold has been the runner closest to Del Piccolo, followed by Del Piccolo’s older sister, Nuala, who finished 92nd at state last year.Lund said his girls team as a whole should be stronger this year, although he is still looking for a team leader to step into the role that his daughter left vacant when she graduated.”It’s one thing to have your talents at the lower grade level, but if it’s at the lower grade level, that kid may not be ready to take on that responsibility or have that personality to be a team leader,” he said. “I’m hoping somebody out of the group can sort of rally the troops, because I think that’s an important dynamic to have on your team.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com

Key departures: Duncan McDaniel, Amy LundKey returners: Brennan Roper, Casey Weaver, Tyler Wilson, Chiara Del Piccolo, Nuala Del Piccolo, Annie TempestCoach speak: “We’ve got some potential. Aspen is in a rebuilding situation, but I think there’s some other teams up there that were young last year that could be pretty tough. I like the way the kids are running.” – Ron Lund

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