Basalt harrier tops field in season opener |

Basalt harrier tops field in season opener

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

DELTA, Colo. ” Basalt runners got the chance to preview this year’s regional course when they traveled to Delta on Saturday.

Chiara Del Piccolo hopes her performance there is a sign of things to come.

The junior followed up her sixth-place finish at last year’s 3A state championship meet in Colorado Springs with a resounding season-opening victory Saturday.

Del Piccolo, whom coach Ron Lund recently called his most talented runner ever, settled in with a lead pack of three after one mile. At the two-mile mark, Lund urged his runner to make her move.

“I told her to put in a surge and she did,” Lund said. “She started to pull away from there.”

Del Piccolo, the lone Basalt girls runner to compete in the varsity race, extended her lead to eight seconds after 21⁄2 miles. That advantage ballooned to 14 by the time she cruised across the finish line, finishing in 19 minutes, 37 seconds.

“There were only two runners that broke 20 minutes, and fourth place was [72 seconds] behind her,” Lund said. “It was pretty impressive.”

Sophomore standout Annette Stenstadvold was ill and did not make the trip.

Tyler Wilson (19:22) led the Longhorns boys with a 25th-place finish. Connor Roper (19:23) was 26th, Andy Delany (19:36) 32nd and Gulio Del Piccolo (20:08) 43rd.

“We had 45 seconds between first and fourth which is good for grouping, but we need to move them up,” Lund said. Both Basalt teams didn’t enter the five runners needed to qualify for the team title.

That also was the case for Aspen. Brittany Marrs led the way for the Skiers girls with a 14th-place finish. Two key varsity contributors did not run ” Lindsey Wilkinson is ill and Kelsey Tofany has not participated in enough practices to be eligible.

Pat Severy was the lone Aspen boys runner to participate in the varsity race. He shook off a humbling start to finish 66th.

“I think he was a little overwhelmed ” he was dead last 200 meters into the race,” Skiers coach Chris Keleher said. “He worked his way back up into the bottom third. … He ran a fairly decent race. We both know there’s a ton of room for improvement.”

While seniors Bryce Gordon and junior Jesse Hoffman were ineligible for Saturday’s race, the younger Aspen boys fared well in the junior varsity race. Hayden Joy wound up fourth.

“It was a good showing by a really young team,” Keleher said.

Both teams will return to Delta for Oct. 18’s regional championship.

Basalt coach John McDermott said he’s still trying to put his team together, a challenge he likened to a jigsaw puzzle.

After his team’s annual tussle with a pair of the Front Range’s top teams, McDermott found out he has all the pieces he needs to compete at the state level. After Friday’s 1-0 loss to Kent Denver, 3A’s top-ranked team, the Longhorns battled defending-champion Denver Christian on Saturday.

Basalt spotted the Crusaders two scores ” an own goal and an ill-timed penalty The Longhorns could not overcome a three-goal deficit and fell, 3-1.

“It’s like I told the Kent Denver coach: ‘These first few games are like going into space. You don’t know where you’re going,'” McDermott said. “After coming out with 1-0 and 3-1 [losses], I know we’re in the loop.”

A Basalt player knocked a Denver Christian cross into the net to give the Crusaders an early lead. A second miscue ” a Longhorns player was whistled inside the box ” extended the deficit to three early in the second half.

Basalt didn’t fold. Instead, they increased their offensive pressure, forcing a Denver Christian penalty. Marshall Cleveland, who is back on the front line after one year as goalkeeper, converted the kick to trim the deficit.

Craig Riggins’ late-game bid to cut the lead to one was thwarted when his shot rang off the crossbar.

“We played a lot better than we did Friday,” McDermott said. “We controlled the midfield a lot more. … The obvious thing I’m happy with from this morning is that we kept coming back.

“We’re still putting this team together. It’s going to be an exciting season.”

The Skiers rolled in a 7-2 win over Telluride on Friday.

Things were not as easy during Saturday’s doubleheader. The Skiers needed a second half penalty kick from Kelly Selby to outlast Montrose, 1-0. Later, they squandered two leads against Delta in a 4-2 loss.

“Overall, I think it was a good weekend,” Aspen head coach Junior Sutherland said. “It gave the kids a chance to see where they are. … We’re definitely going to be competitive [this season].”

After besting one 4A Saturday, Aspen came close to knocking off another.

Delta capitalized on a “lack of concentration,” to take the lead just three minutes in, Sutherland said. The Skiers weren’t fazed, as Jesus Meza and Murphy Fyrwald scored back-to-back goals to put Aspen ahead.

The Panthers closed the first 40 minutes with two goals. They added another score with 10 minutes to play to all but seal the victory.

“We weren’t full strength and didn’t really do the job.” said Sutherland, who was missing four players from the day’s first game. Among them was Ryan Dunn, who picked up a red card. “It was a hard-fought game.”

The Skiers begin 3A Western Slope play Thursday at Roaring Fork.

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