Hoffman dominates field on home course | AspenTimes.com

Hoffman dominates field on home course

Jon Maletz

Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times

Aspen’s Noah Hoffman was nowhere to be seen at the onset of Saturday’s Chris Severy Cross Country Invitational varsity race.After about 17 minutes, however, all eyes were on the senior. Hoffman, who finished second in the invitational each of the past two seasons, overwhelmed a field of 101 en route to a resounding victory on his home course.Hoffman’s time of 17 minutes, 36 seconds on the grueling 5k course was 49 seconds better than his nearest competitor Moffat County’s Jake Miller. Miller’s teammate Jeremy Bird (18:37.8) took third. Durango took the boys team title with 44 points, and Moffat County (50) took second. Aspen (55), which finished third, had four runners finish in the top 22.”The guys at the front went out super fast, and I didn’t have a lot of room,” Hoffman said. “I really didn’t have a plan, but I decided to get out front on the second hill and see who followed me.”Hoffman bided his time in the moments following the start horn as a group of runners charged uphill. Following a brief, rare flat section on Upper Moore Field, Hoffman decided to make his move. By the time he passed the one kilometer mark, he was leading the pack.

In 2005, Hoffman utilized his strength on the course’s steeps to overcome a slow start and vault into second. He could not, however, keep up with Dakota Ridge’s Andrew Niccoli. Hoffman wound up crossing the finish line 10 seconds after Niccoli. Saturday, Hoffman did not relinquish the lead. He distanced himself on the hills and successfully negotiated the difficult course, muddy and slick because of recent wet weather. The only time he saw his competitors was the three times he glanced behind him. “I could never really get comfortable because I was worried I was going to get caught,” said Hoffman, who won for the third time this season. “They let me go.”While interval training on the course during the week, Hoffman said he struggled on the wet surface and slid 10 feet on at least one occasion. Saturday, however, Hoffman was sure-footed and confident as he strode toward the finish. “He is such a great uphill runner,” Aspen head coach Chris Keleher said. “Because this race is named after Chris Severy, who was one of the toughest runners ever, I felt obligated to put together a tough course. On a course like this, there are very few people that can run with [Hoffman].”He’s among the top-5 [runners I’ve coached]. It’s his toughness, his attitude towards training and his focus. Who he is as a person definitely factors in.”Skiers sophomore Scott Lacy (19:51.4) finished 15th, one week after coming in ninth in Aspen’s win at the Holy Family Invite in Denver. Senior Nate Marrs (20:02.4) was 17th, and senior Barton Tofany (20:29.3) was 22nd.

“Scott’s getting better every race, not only because his fitness is better, but because he’s figuring out how to race,” Keleher said.The Basalt boys, hampered by injury and a lack of depth, had just two varsity competitors. Sophomore Tyler Wilson (21:24.5) was 40th, and junior Casey Weaver (21:48.5), competing for just the second time this year, was 46th. Longhorns junior Brennan Roper, who has been battling an ankle injury, sat out Saturday. And senior Duncan McDaniel did not attend the meet because he was playing in Basalt’s soccer game with Vail Mountain School.The Longhorns girls, despite also struggling with late-season injuries, finished sixth. Senior Amy Lund (23:32.6) finished ninth a week after taking first in Denver. She patiently overcame a slow start in which she was 25th after the first kilometer. Freshman Chiara Del Piccolo was 22nd and junior Nuala Del Piccolo came in 26th. Basalt coach Ron Lund decided to rest junior Annie Tempest, who is battling a sore calf, so she’ll be ready for the regional meet in Delta in two weeks.”This wasn’t a meet we’ve been pointing to all season,” Lund said. “But after this, everything else will be easier. If nothing else, that was a good reason to run.” The Skiers, competing without injured runners Nathalie Obermeyer and Laura Hatanaka, took fifth. Leading the way was sophomore Lindsey Wilkinson in 19th, followed by Brittany Marrs (24th), Haylen Gregory (28th), Brianna Morse (31st) and Abby Mickey (41st). Obermeyer finished third in Denver.

“We ran great considering we didn’t have our top two,” Keleher said. “Everyone who ran stepped up and filled in those spots really well.”Hoffman, last year’s regional winner, said he wished this year’s post-season race would be held at home.”If it was on this course, I’d be awesome,” he said. “This is probably the hardest course we’ll face all year, but it’s tailor made for me. This is real cross country.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com