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Basalt sending two, Aspen three to state track championships

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
Sky-Hi Daily News | Sky-Hi Daily News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. – Conner Roper contracted a lung infection during spring break that has limited his training. The Basalt distance runner did not even return to competition until two weeks ago.

He has reverted to form in a hurry. The junior picked up wins and set school records in the 800 meters and the mile at Thursday’s and Friday’s 3A regional meet at Grand Junction’s Stocker Stadium. Roper will compete in three events in the upcoming state championships; he pre-qualified in the 3,200 at last week’s Tiger Invite.

Chiara Del Piccolo will join Roper at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood next Thursday through Sunday. The senior, who has been nursing injuries of her own, secured her spot with a win in the 3,200 on Thursday, then a third-place finish in the mile on Friday.

Aspen will be sending three runners to state: Luke Hemming, who pre-qualified in the 100 and did not compete in Junction because of injury, as well as Rachel True and Kelsey Tofany.

Roper’s efforts helped the Basalt boys finish seventh overall with 52 points. Cedaredge (134) captured the team title, while Gunnison (110) and Middle Park (91) rounded out the top three. Aspen (30) wound up ninth out of 10.

On the girls side, Aspen (33) and Basalt (27) finished eighth and ninth. Middle Park (158) ran away with the title, besting second-place Cedaredge by 29 points.

Hemming, Roper and Del Piccolo were three of the local teams’ four representatives at the state meet last spring.

“[The lung infection] has taken time to get over … but his workouts have been good and he started to get healthy,” Basalt head coach Ron Lund said of Roper on Friday.

“He looked like he was ready to bust one.”

Roper did just that, topping the field in the 800 and posting a time of 1 minute, 59.76 seconds – nearly two seconds faster the time he posted at 2009’s state meet, when he finished eighth.

He followed that up with another impressive victory in the mile, crossing the line in 4:35.11. That time was nearly 12 seconds faster than his previous best this season – set at March 27’s Hotchkiss Invitational.

Del Piccolo was nearly 12 seconds slower than her previous top time this season in Thursday’s 3,200 – likely the result of a lingering quad strain, Lund said – but she still won handily.

She was nearly 25 seconds off the winning pace of Middle Park’s Samantha Berggren in Friday’s mile, but nabbed the third and final qualifying spot with a time of 5:36.68.

Other Longhorns narrowly missed out on berths. Omar Lopez finished fourth in the 400, one second out of third, and Basalt’s 4×100 and 4×200 relay teams finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

True secured her state spot with a

second-place finish in the 200, while fellow senior Tofany took third in the 300 high hurdles. Hemming, a junior, is expected to be near full strength next week after straining his hamstring during a recent practice.

Luke Smith missed out on a berth after taking fourth in the 3,200, just two seconds out of third. He also took seventh in the mile – sandwiched between teammates Kellan Kremer (sixth) and Robbie George (eighth).

Nick Codd finished fifth in the 400, and sixth in both the 200 and the high jump.

“We were getting close on a lot of the events. A lot of kids are running [personal bests] right now,” Skiers head coach Chris Keleher said. “It was a great showing. Now, we’ll go down and mix it up at the state meet.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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