Aspen hopes to overcome more obstacles at state
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” In the moments after the 100-meter dash finals at last weekend’s regional meet in Grand Junction, multiple coaches approached Aspen’s Chris Keleher.
“Where did they come from?” they inquired after three Skiers sprinters finished in the top eight ” a first in Keleher’s nine years as head coach.
“I don’t know,” Keleher responded. “I guess they crawled out of a snow bank.”
It was hardly a joke.
Through the season’s first four meets, Aspen had yet to practice on its own track. One lane was finally cleared three weeks before the regional meet. Team members bided their time in the weight room, practicing their starts on the school’s indoor track and wearing out a clear patch of grass at the Aspen Golf Course ” hardly optimum training conditions.
“If we ran around the golf course one more time, I was going to get sick,” Keleher joked Thursday in a phone call from Colorado Springs, some 40 miles from Pueblo, site of this year’s state meet. Competition begins today at Dutch Clark Stadium. “It was just comical, sort of like a Shakespeare play. It was a comedy of errors. We’d get one lane clean, then it would snow a foot.
“This was happening all over the Western Slope. I joked with other coaches that we don’t even know what a track looks like.”
Keleher had no idea what to anticipate when his team headed to regionals last weekend in Grand Junction. What transpired “wasn’t unexpected, but more of a welcome surprise,” he said.
Was it ever. The girls 4 x 800 relay team ” Brianna Morse, Brittany Marrs, Kelsey Tofany and Lindsey Wilkinson ” successfully defended their 2007 regional title. (Natalie Obermeyer, who competed on the team last season, battled injuries this year and Morse replaced her.)
Wilkinson, the relay team’s anchor, took third in both the 800 and the mile. She is the first Aspen girl since Christy Severy (2004) to qualify for state in three events, Keleher said.
“She’s is another kid who is coming into her own and running some good strong times,” the coach added. “Sitting there and looking at the seeding for the girl’s mile, I think [the Western Slope] has the second seed, the fifth seed and the ninth seed ” that’s a pretty strong region.”
Sprinter Tucker Eason put the running chops he used last fall to pile up 1,699 yards for the football team to good use in the 100 in Grand Junction. The senior shed strong winds much like he did tacklers en route to a third-place finish.
Eason last went to state in 2006, when he qualified in the long jump.
“As big and strong as he is from football, it served him better in the finals in Grand Junction in a stiff headwind,” Keleher said. Freshman Luke Hemming took fourth in the race and senior Beau Seguin was eighth. “It was a considerable breeze, but Tucker punched a hole in everything. … He held his own throughout the whole race and never gave anything up.”
Eason will compete in today’s preliminary rounds. Keleher said he expects there to be three heats of eight runners, with the top two in each heat and the next two fastest times overall advancing to Saturday’s final.
“I think he’s got as good a chance as anybody,” Keleher said. “In a perfect world, he’ll be right next to the kid that’s fastest and that will pull him to a fast time.”
Wilkinson and Adam Huber will compete in today’s 800. Huber will look to make a statement in the final two laps of his career. The senior was a member of last year’s 4 x 800 relay team that took third in Pueblo.
“The 800 is a tough thing to train for,” Keleher said. “It’s a lot of endurance at pretty high speed, and it’s tough to do that anywhere in Aspen, where you’re going uphill then downhill and the pace is always varied. … For him to get a top 10 would be a very solid showing.”
Keleher is hoping for another week of pleasant surprises. After a frustrating winter ” it seemed fitting that it was snowing in Aspen on Thursday afternoon when the team boarded the bus ” he said his kids are becoming accustomed to overcoming obstacles.
“[Last week] was vindication for these kids. They realized their hard work and everything they went through paid off,” Keleher said. “The state meet has a lot of energy, and the kids are excited. I’m looking forward to it.”
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Not only did Hamilton win Saturday’s 50k race, but he won by more than 56 minutes, a testament to the lung capacity of an Olympic-level endurance athlete.