Basalt finishes 1-2 in girls, boys races at regionals
EL JEBEL A striking yellow and purple sign stood out in a crowd of spectators at the 3A Western Slope regional cross-country meet at El Jebel’s Crown Mountain Park.It read “Brennan Has Strength.”Brennan Roper wasn’t the only Basalt runner exhibiting clout Saturday. Basalt dominated the top of the leaderboards, going 1-2 in both the boys and girls races. Casey Weaver nipped Roper a few yards from the finish, and four Longhorns finished in the top 10, clinching the team’s second consecutive boys regional title.Freshman Annette Stenstadvold and sophomore teammate Chiara Del Piccolo ran away from the field for the Basalt girls, who finished in a tie for second with Gunnison. Crested Butte took the top spot. “It was exciting, especially on the girls side with a freshman and a sophomore being on top,” Basalt coach Ron Lund said. “They ran as well as they have all season – they just haven’t been that healthy. It’s unfortunate they tied for second.”Because the Ouray girls didn’t field the five runners needed to compete as a team, only five schools were in the running for the overall title. As a result, the number of state qualifying spots for teams shrunk from three to two. Basalt and Gunnison tied, and the result of each team’s fifth runner was used as a tiebreaker. Ultimately, the Basalt girls were left out by the slimmest of margins.So, too, were Noel Chiarilli and Nuala Del Piccolo. The two finished 21st and 22nd, respectively – the top 20 individuals advance to Colorado Springs.The news was disconcerting, but couldn’t temper the home team’s excitement.Roper and fellow senior Weaver finished 1-2 at Crown Mountain Park on Sept. 8. Saturday, they vaulted out in front moments after the starting gun. “We’re trying to get ready for state, and staying in the back of the pack at state won’t get you a top 10,” said Roper, who finished ninth in Colorado Springs last year. “I was happy to see a pack, but I was hoping to see more up there. The more you get, the faster you seem to go.”Two miles in, that pack had dwindled to three, with Roper leading the pace, Weaver in hot pursuit, and Hotchkiss’ Gerardo Delgadilla visibly struggling as he tried to keep up. Delgadilla dropped back soon after, and a race that began with 47 hopeful runners became a battle between teammates. Roper maintained the lead as he charged down the final straightaway, but Weaver out-kicked him just before the line to clinch his first win of the season. He finished in 17 minutes, 44 seconds – one second ahead of Roper.”I was out in front and cutting the wind, and he stayed in back and did what he had to do,” Roper said. “Being in front takes more muscle, and I’m pretty skinny. It slows you down, and you’re running a lot faster and working a lot harder and you don’t even know it.””He did a lot of the work – that always helps,” Weaver said. “We finished 1-2 here before, and we were confident in our ability to do the same. … I’m pretty happy. This wasn’t expected, but now it comes and it’s a good feeling.”After an injury-marred junior season filled with mixed results, Weaver is finally reverting to old form, Lund said. “He had some physical problems [last year], and he overcame a lot,” Lund added. “This was their race to lose, and I think they wanted to come out and make a statement and give themselves some confidence going into state.”We might have a top five team, and three guys in the top 10 [at state] is not out of the question.”Connor Roper and Tyler Wilson finished ninth and 10th, respectively, for the Longhorns, who scored 22 points – 20 better than second place Hotchkiss. Ouray (47) took third, Gunnison (62) was fourth and Aspen (97) finished seventh. Skiers junior Scott Lacy finished sixth.Roper and Weaver followed the Longhorns’ girls lead. Stenstadvold and Chiara Del Piccolo jumped out in front and never relinquished the lead in the earlier girls race. They were all alone from the 2-mile mark until the final straight-away. Stenstadvold finished in 20:26, one second ahead.”Coach talked to Chiara and I, and told us to kick it up at the start and keep the gap,” Stenstadvold said. “Chiara pushed me. It was a nice battle. I was nervous, but I tried not to think about it. I tried to do my best, and I’m glad I got good results.”Natalie Obermeyer was ninth, Lindsey Wilkinson was 13th, Brittany Marrs improved six spots from the start to take 14th, and Brianna Morse finished in 17th for the Skiers girls, who were fourth in the team standings.”There are three teams out of this region who are ranked in the top 10 in the state, so to finish where we did and qualify four girls is strong,” Aspen coach Chris Keleher said. “It wasn’t the best I’ve seen us run, but everybody ran a tough race, and they all moved up.”I picked [Lacy] to finish fourth. He didn’t have his best race, but he has another shot next week.”Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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