Locals at home in Severy Memorial 5K | AspenTimes.com

Locals at home in Severy Memorial 5K

Jon Maletz

Evan Apple of Dakota Ridge, left, and Colin Stewart of Basalt High battle for fifth in the Chris Severy Invitational at Aspen High School on Saturday morning. The two finished with identical times of 19:06. (Paul Conrad/The Aspen Times)

In a cross country race named in honor of the late Chris Severy – an All-American at CU and three-time state champion at Aspen High School – it seemed only natural that Saturday’s course set-up be demanding enough to test the mettle of the state’s elite runners. It seemed fitting that, on a course where altitude caused runners to wilt and unrelenting uphills lurked behind every turn, locals would vie for the top position.Aspen’s Noah Hoffman did just that, overcoming a difficult start to finish second for a second consecutive year. The Basalt boys team finished second.”I set up this course in the spirit of the way Chris liked to run,” Aspen coach Chris Keleher said. “This course is the total test. It rewards the strongest all-around runners, not necessarily the fleetest of foot.”Hoffman found himself in the back of a pack of close to 140 runners at the onset of the boys varsity race, as runners tried to distance themselves from the pack on one of only a handful of flats. Over the next kilometer – as the course rose from the soccer field toward the base of Aspen Highlands, Hoffman used his hill-running prowess to jump to the front of the pack.There, he tried to keep pace with Dakota Ridge standout Andrew Niccoli. “I didn’t go out fast enough and it cost me,” said Hoffman, who notched his first victory of the season last week at Holy Family High School in Denver. “This is the toughest course we race on all season. I started in dead last and almost got tripped. I was close until the last kilometer.”Niccoli – the defending champion – pulled away on the course’s final and most grueling uphill and crossed the finish line with a time of 18:29. Hoffman finished 10 seconds later.Two-time defending girls champion Christy Severy looked to be well on her way to earning a third top finish, but twisted her ankle when she took a wrong step on a patch of uneven ground early in her race. The injury shocked her, Severy said, but she could put weight on it and did not see any swelling. The senior decided she would finish the race, even if she had to walk, and limped across the line in 12th place with a time of 23:50. She was just 2:28 seconds slower than winner Laura Thweatt of Durango.Severy’s brother, John, won the Invitational’s inaugural race in October 1999. “Finishing 12th is disappointing, any way you look at it,” Severy said. “It is very unfortunate, but I’m glad I could finish.”Severy was the Skiers girls top finisher. Natalie Obermeyer and Lindsey Wilkinson finished 41st and 42nd, respectively. Aspen finished 10th with 176 points. The Basalt girls finished 11th. The Basalt boys – peaking at the right time – finished second in a field of 24 teams with a team score of 86. Dakota Ridge took home both team titles. On the strength of Hoffman’s efforts, Aspen finished fifth. Skiers junior Barton Tofany finished 27th and Jacob O’Connor came in 36th. Longhorns runner Collin Stewart finished fifth with a time of 19:16. Casey Weaver and Duncan McDaniel finished 10th and 11th, respectively. “I figured a really good day would get us second place,” Basalt coach Ron Lund said. “Altitude was a factor and we have been doing a lot of hill work all season.”This course was everything it was billed as,” Lund said. “This is one of those meets that gets talked about from the beginning of the year on. The Battle Mountain course yielded slower times, but I’ve raced here and it was definitely not my favorite.”Lund said he was encouraged by the Basalt girls performance as well. Despite having their No. 2 and 3 runners not compete because of the SAT’s, the Longhorns almost managed to crack the top 10. Amy Lund finished 19th with a time of 24:13.Close to 400 athletes from schools throughout the state competed Saturday. In 1999, 45 teams traveled to Aspen. Severy said the high caliber of competition and difficult course helps draw interest, but most come for the chance to honor one of their own.Chris Severy, a 1994 graduate of Aspen High School, was killed in a bicycle accident in Boulder on Oct. 12, 1998. He was an academic and athletic All-American during his time in Boulder, earning a cumulative GPA of 4.0. Chris was a member of the 1995 U.S. World Cross Country team.The chance to honor his good friend and ‘little brother’ is something Keleher plans to do each fall for the foreseeable future.”He was super talented and a good kid,’ Keleher said. “Keeping this event going is a no-brainer. It’s a lot of fun and I think the kids really appreciate it.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com