Basalt runner hitting the right note

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

BASALT ” So much for a sophomore slump.

Basalt distance runner Chiara Del Piccolo proved her impressive finish in last week’s regional meet was no fluke. While she never threatened Classical Academy’s Kaitlin Hanenburg for first in the 3,200 meters at Friday’s 3A state track championship in Pueblo, Del Piccolo didn’t relinquish second. She withstood a late charge and finished in 11 minutes, 30.02 seconds ” nearly 11 seconds ahead of the third-place finisher.

Del Piccolo’s time was more than 40 seconds faster than the one she posted in Grand Junction on May 9, when she humbled the field with a 50-second victory. And Friday’s performance shattered her existing school record by nearly 20 seconds.

“I’m thrilled for her,” Longhorns head coach Ron Lund said. “It’s really a joy to coach somebody that disciplined and who understands that running the splits as planned leads to good results.”

Lund stole a glance at his watch as he watched Del Piccolo hover near the front of the pack at the start. He worried the brisk opening pace “was a little too bold.”

It wasn’t. By the end of the second lap, Del Piccolo had vaulted to the front of the chase pack to avoid the potential of becoming tangled with other competitors. Her lead over third place ballooned to seven seconds on laps three and four and persisted until the final two laps, Lund said.

With 600 meters to go, Del Piccolo’s grasp on second place was momentarily threatened, but she responded with a strong kick to walk away with silver. She finished 11 seconds behind Hanenburg.

Del Piccolo capped an impressive freshman season by finishing 18th in the 3,200 at last year’s state meet.

“This should give her some confidence,” Lund said. Del Piccolo will compete in today’s 1,600. “This proved she can run with the best of them.”

Del Piccolo’s performance was the highlight of a day in which Basalt’s and Aspen’s runners posted multiple personal bests, but could not produce another top 10.

One year after finishing sixth in both the 100- and 200-meter dashes in Pueblo, Basalt sprinter Taylor Allmon finished 10th in both Friday. Her 100 time was just five hundredths out of eighth place ” the top eight advanced to today’s finals.

Basalt’s Tyler Wilson ran a new personal best in the 800, but his time of 2:03.41 was good for only 15th. Every runner who finished in the top eight posted times under two minutes.

Teammate Brennan Roper was 12th in the 3,200, posting a time of 10:13 ” six seconds faster than his previous best this season. Nuala Del Piccolo finished 21st in the 3,200.

Aspen distance runner Lindsey Wilkinson was boxed in on the final backstretch in Friday’s 800, but still managed to finish 13th and to post a personal-best time of 2:25. The junior is closing in on the school record of 2:20.

Senior Adam Huber was in the back of the pack in the boys’ 800 and struggled to gain ground in the final lap. The four-time state competitor settled for 16th place and a time of 2:05.

“He put himself in a really good spot, assuming that some of kids in front of him had gone out too fast and would come back,” Aspen coach Chris Keleher said. “They just didn’t.”

Aspen’s Tucker Eason went out quietly in Friday’s 100. The senior, competing for the first time in the event after previously qualifying for state in the long jump, failed to advance past the prelims.

“He had a great start and was with them for 30 meters, but they just ran away from him,” Keleher said. “I think he was a little disappointed, but also relieved that it’s over. … He was happy with the way he ran. There’s always going to be someone faster than you, and we saw that in action. That’s OK. If you always ran to win, I would’ve stopped running a long time ago.”