Aspen senior Hoffman wins state title
The message from Aspen head coach Chris Keleher to senior Noah Hoffman was short in the moments before the start of Saturday’s 3A state cross country championship:When you go, leave no doubt.Hoffman paid close attention, then scripted the high school finale by running away from the field on Colorado Springs’ soggy El Pomar Youth Sports Complex course. He bested his nearest competitor by nearly 12 seconds and helped the Skiers boys capture eighth place overall with 216 points.”Noah ran unbelievably,” Keleher said. “He ran such a smart race, and it worked out perfectly.”Lyons sophomore Andrew Roberts was second, and senior Jeremy George from the Classical Academy was third. The Classical Academy (80) won the team title. Rocky Ford (109) and Monte Vista (124) finished second and third, respectively. The Basalt boys (290), on the strength of a ninth-place finish from junior Brennan Roper, took 16th.Hoffman stuck to a game plan he concocted before the start. He chose not to go out with the lead pack, opting to bide his time close behind. He joined the leaders at the one-mile mark.At two miles, Hoffman made his move. When he charged ahead, only one runner – Roosevelt’s Aaron Alarcon – kept pace. That changed soon thereafter. Hoffman opened up a gap of nearly 50 yards with a quarter-mile to go.
“I got away, and he never came back,” Hoffman said. Alarcon wound up fifth. “I was definitely surprised by that.”Hoffman maintained his lead on the course’s final straightaway.”Basically, the race was his to lose,” Keleher said. “He was in control the entire way.”Vindication took 16 minutes, 45 seconds. One year ago, on the same course, Hoffman went out too fast at the start, and was caught and passed multiple times en route to a disappointing ninth place finish. Hoffman said earlier this week he was fortunate to have one more chance. “I didn’t want to run stupid like I did last year,” he said.He made the most of his final opportunity.”He came down for breakfast and had his game face on,” Keleher said. “He was really focused on what was going on, and I did not know whether it was nerves. He was serious and had already started to formulate a plan.”
It worked to perfection. Hoffman also had help from the weather.”We walked the course this morning and their was snow on the ground last night at our hotel. I thought ‘This could be helpful,'” Hoffman said. “There was snow and the course and it was a little soggy, so leg speed wasn’t too much of a factor.”Saturday’s win gave Hoffman individual titles in both of the season’s postseason races – he overcame a cold to win last week’s regional in Delta – and five wins this season. The one runner to beat Hoffman this season – Rocky Ford’s Victor Montoya, who won the Liberty Bell Invitational – wound up fourth, 18 seconds off the pace.Hoffman is the first Skiers runner in five years to win the state crown. Christy Severy accomplished the feat in 2002.Aspen sophomore Scott Lacy overcame a fall to finish in 64th in 18:32. Senior Barton Tofany (18:41) was 74th, Senior Jacob O’Connor (18:44) took 77th and Senior Nate Marrs (18:50) finished 86th.”It looked like [Lacy] slid into second base,” Keleher joked. “Everyone was covered in mud. It looked like they had gone through a cavalry charge.”This was a great meet for the seniors to end on because they all had a ton of fun running. You don’t ever want them to leave with a bad taste. You don’t want any questions or frustrations.”Sophomore Tyler Wilson (18:28.4) finished 57th, junior Casey Weaver (18:28.9) took 58th and junior Andy Delany finished 166th for the Longhorns. Notably absent from the roster were Duncan McDaniel and Sal Cruz, who traveled with the soccer team Saturday to play Colorado Academy.
Senior Amy Lund (21:16) took 23rd for the Longhorns girls, who finished 11th. Freshman Chiara Del Piccolo (22:04) was 57th, junior Annie Tempest (22:39) took 74th and junior Nuala Del Piccolo (23:05) finished 92nd. Longhorns head coach Ron Lund could not be reached for comment Saturday.Skiers Sophomore Lindsey Wilkinson (21:46) was 43rd, Senior Laura Hatanaka (22:47) took 83rd and Sophomore Brittany Marrs (22:50) finished 85th.All were on hand to cheer on Hoffman as he was honored for one final time.”He’s pretty stoic, but he’s proud,” Keleher said. “He’s experienced the highs and the lows and this is vindication. He’s the measure of what it takes to be a state championship, from training hard to staying focused.”This is something no one can ever take from him.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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