Aspen, Basalt harriers run well in first meets |

Aspen, Basalt harriers run well in first meets

Nate Peterson

Basalt cross-country coach Ron Lund called it a “reconnaissance mission.” Chris Keleher, the head cross-country coach at Aspen, called it a “scouting race.”Saturday’s cross-country meet in Delta sounded more like a covert operation, not a high school race. But there was justification for the analogies.With regionals being held in Delta at the end of the season, both coaches wanted their runners to get acquainted with the fast, flat course there. In its first meet of the season, Aspen showed promise. Despite the absence of top runner Noah Hoffman, the boys team finished sixth overall behind three 4A schools and 3A powers Hotchkiss and Olathe. The girls team finished fifth overall.Hoffman, last year’s regional champ, didn’t run because of a prior commitment with a nordic skiing camp.In his absence, senior Barton Tofany was the Skiers top runner, finishing the 3-mile course in 18 minutes flat, good for 11th place. Seniors Jake O’Connor and Nate Marrs were right behind in 16th (18:12) and 18th (18:17), followed by sophomores Taylor Preusch in 61st (22:27) and JD Redmond in 63rd (23:21).Tofany, O’Connor and Marrs ran almost the entire race together, with Tofany breaking away from his teammates with about 50 yards to go, Keleher said.”It was good see all three of them run that close,” Keleher said. “Seventeen seconds is a good gap between your No. 1 and No. 3 runner. It was a good experience-building race for the early season.”Junior Natalie Obermeyer led the way for the Skiers girls with a 17th-place finish in 21:50. Senior Laura Hatanaka was 22nd (22:29), sophomore Brittany Marrs was 32nd (23:05) and senior Haylen Gregory was 38th (23:06). Junior Abby Mickey was the final Aspen runner to score, clocking in at 24:04.Hatanaka, the Skiers top returner from last season, has battled some calf ailments this summer and is still finding her form, Keleher said. As for Obermeyer, Keleher said her hard work in the offseason showed in the first competitive race of the season.”Natalie has been running really well,” Keleher said. “It was actually a really good race for everyone. Four of the girls were running right together at the first mile, then some started to drop off a little bit. With the first race, it’s just a chance to see some other teams and see where you’re at. I thought we looked good.”Basalt actually went on an earlier reconnaissance mission Thursday when it ran at the Harrison Invite in Colorado Springs on the same course that will be used at this year’s 3A state meet.Because school doesn’t start until Tuesday, Lund jumped at the chance to give his team a preview of the course. He decided not to run a full team at Delta Saturday because of the earlier race.Basalt’s girls finished fourth out of the 19 3A schools that scored at the Harrison Invite. Lund estimated that 10 more schools were also at the race, but didn’t score.Lund’s senior daughter, Amy, was the top finisher for Basalt, finishing third overall amongst the 126 girls in the race with a time of 20:45. “That was actually faster than she ran at the state meet, so she was happy about that,” Lund said. “She knows coming in that she is ahead of where she left off last year.”Junior Annie Tempest was the next Basalt runner across the line in 17th (22:07), followed by fellow junior Nuala Del Piccolo in 38th (23:19). Del Piccolo’s freshman sister, Chiara, was the final runner from Basalt to score, finishing in 52nd place (24:35).”We now know what we need to do, and that is close the gap,” Lund said. “We need our third and fourth runners to narrow the gap between the first and second. Nuala last year was close to Annie, and we expect her to get closer. She sprained her ankle this summer twice and didn’t have as much training. She’s still getting in shape. Her sister is just a freshman, and she’s never trained 30 miles a week. She’ll only get better as the season goes on.”Basalt had only two varsity runners – juniors Brennan Roper and Tyler Wilson – compete at the Harrison and Delta meets.On Thursday, Roper completed the 3.1-mile course in 19:08 to finish 29th in his first varsity meet. Lund said the result was “what he expected” from Roper, a track standout who came out for the cross-country team this fall.”It kind of went the way I’d thought it would go,” Lund said. “With 150 kids, it’s hard to run conservative in the first mile. You just naturally get pulled out. He was as high as 12th at the 2-mile mark. The last mile just told us that the first one was too fast. The key thing with a first-year runner is for them to learn from mistakes. And he did when we ran at Delta.”Roper was indeed a little more conservative Saturday, finishing in 15th (18:12) among a field of 65 runners.Wilson was 43rd on Thursday (19:39) and 31st on Saturday, running just one second faster with a time of 19:38.Lund noted, however, that the Delta course was a little shorter than the course in the Springs.”They both ran better at Delta,” he said. “Tyler, he was one of my three kids over the summer who had severely sprained ankles. He even went out a little quick Thursday and didn’t finish as strong as we’d hoped. They didn’t necessarily run faster at Delta, but they ran more controlled in the first part.”Both coaches agreed that the first meets were also great experience for all of the younger runners on their teams, including the freshman who have never competed in cross-country before.In the junior varsity races Saturday, Keleher noted that he had a freshman boy and freshman girl finish in the top 10.Next up for the Skiers is a meet in on a tough hilly course in Steamboat Springs that is known as “the sufferfest.” The Longhorns will run next Friday at the Warrior Invite in Grand Junction.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is

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