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Basalt sprinter is state champ

PUEBLO When asked to describe sprinter Cody Russell’s strongest attributes, Basalt track coach Ron Lund didn’t hesitate.”He has a lot of natural ability, and he’s a quick learner,” Lund said. Is he ever. The junior, competing in just his fifth track meet, charged from the back of the pack Saturday to win both the 100- and 200-meter titles at the 3A state championships in Pueblo. “I don’t even know what to say. I’m blessed,” Russell said. “I thought I was definitely going to get beat after my slow start.”Things did not start off auspiciously for Russell, who was slow out of the blocks during his 100-meter qualifier Friday – all seven other competitors came out ahead of him. “I didn’t want to lose, so I just kicked it,” he said. The simple strategy worked. Russell crossed the line first and posted the fastest qualifying time, guaranteeing him the coveted fourth lane in the middle of the track for Saturday’s final. He turned that advantage, coupled with a strong run through a brisk headwind, into gold with a time of 11.37 seconds.Russell, the 100 and 200 champion at last week’s regional in Grand Junction, relied on that same kick in the 200 final to pull out the victory. He was in sixth position for much of the race, but surged out in front 50 meters before the finish.”He got somebody running on his shoulder – he wasn’t going to give up,” Lund said. “It was a little nerve-wracking, but when he got out in front, I didn’t think anybody was going to get him. “It was sheer determination.”Russell becomes just the first Longhorns athlete to win an individual state title since Scott Roberts won the 400 in the early 1990s, Lund said.”This is my first time coaching an individual champion, and it’s ironic that he’s a sprinter and I’m a distance runner,” Lund said. “With him being a rookie, I knew just enough to stay ahead of him. I gave him all the fundamentals, and he put it all together. I’m so excited for him.”Russell, who moved to the valley last year from Texas, grew up playing basketball. The switch from hightops to sprinting spikes was prompted by the urgings of friend Brennan Roper and a Basalt math teacher. “The teams I was usually playing on were not all that great, so I said, ‘Well, let’s see what I can do on my own,'” Russell said. “I had an idea this was going to happen.”Russell wasn’t the only athlete to excel at Dutch Clark Stadium. Senior Amy Lund made her final state appearance count with a tactical race in the 3,200 to finish fifth. She finished in 12:08 – one second out of third place. It was her first top-8 finish at state in four appearances.”She was 19th out of 21 after the first lap, but she improved from 10th to fifth in the last two laps,” coach Lund said. “With the exception of the first and second finishers, she ran the fastest second mile of the race.”Longhorns sophomore Taylor Allmon qualified for the finals in both the 100 and 200; she finished sixth in both. Allmon posted a personal best of 12.82 en route to winning the 100 title at regionals last week. Roper, a junior, bested his school record in the 3200, which he set earlier this year, by two seconds. His time of 10:06.93 was good for eighth.Aspen’s 4 x 800-meter relay team of Barton Tofany, Jacob O’Connor, Adam Huber and Whit Fuller impressed for a second straight week after running away with the regional title. But, despite breaking the school record for a third time this year – this time by nearly 10 seconds – they settled for third place with a time of 8:08. They finished a half second out of second place.”They were seeded second going in, and they were hoping for second or better, but you have to take those times and throw them out the window,” Skiers coach Chris Keleher said. “They ran great, and they didn’t do anything wrong. Two teams were just faster. They ran their hearts out.”Tofany went on to compete in the 800, finishing 12th. Nathalie Obermeyer shadowed Amy Lund for much of the 3,200 and wound up eighth. Obermeyer lowered her previous best by nearly nine seconds, and has dropped nearly 40 seconds off her 2-mile times in the last three races, Keleher said.”She used Amy’s expertise, and experience on the track and followed her the whole way,” he added. “Amy ran one of the smartest 2-miles I’ve seen. She was behind the pack, but started working her way through and picking off kids. With 300 meters to go, she dropped the hammer and pulled Nathalie around with her.” All told, Aspen and Basalt recorded eight top-8 finishes, highlighted by Russell’s improbable, yet golden performances.”Things couldn’t have gone better,” coach Lund said.Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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