Basalt’s Roper finishes strong at state track meet |

Basalt’s Roper finishes strong at state track meet

Jon MaletzThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado
Jeff Caspersen/Post IndependentBasalt's Conner Roper charges to a sixth-place finish in Friday's 3,200 at the State Track & Field Championships in Lakewood.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Inclement weather forced the postponement of much of Thursday’s action on Day 1 of the State Track & Field Championships. Because of scheduling changes, Basalt distance runner Conner Roper faced a tall task Friday.Roper competed in the 3A 4×800, the 3,200 and the 800 on Day 2 in Lakewood – all in the span of about seven hours. The senior made the most of the circumstances, recording two top-six finishes.He returned to the track Saturday, logging a fourth-place finish in the mile.”He did phenomenal considering the circumstances and the fact that he was going up against some guys that were fresh,” Longhorns head coach Ron Lund said. “The schedule didn’t play in his favor … but if he finished that way even if the schedule hadn’t changed, it still would’ve been a good result for him.”Roper ran the opening leg of Friday’s 4×800, helping Basalt settle into second place before he handed off to Wes Niemer. Jacob Besser and Bobby Brandt followed, and the Longhorns wound up 12th with a time of 8:38 – topping the group’s previous best this season by six seconds.”We changed the order and put Conner first. … We ran better because we weren’t trying to play catch-up,” Lund said. “The guys that passed them pulled them along. They ran faster that way. For us to get in the top nine would’ve been tough, but they were competitive. They missed the school record by 4 seconds.”In that race, Aspen’s Madison Coia, Kellan Kremer, Robbie George and Luke Smith combined to finish eighth with a time of 8:34.14 – the team’s lone top 10 result of the meet. Skiers head coach Chris Keleher did not return calls seeking comment. Roper followed up the relay performance with a sixth-place finish in the 3,200, posting a time of 10:14.52. He passed Pagosa Springs’ Carlos Brinkman down the stretch.He wound up one spot better in the 800, crossing the finish line in 1:59.65 – more than 3 seconds behind Western Slope competitor Bryce Johnston of Gunnison, who topped his nearest competitor by more than 1.5 seconds en route to victory.Roper’s effort in the mile, where he finished in 4:32.88, helped him best his previous school record by about 2 seconds.”He was with three other guys with a lap to go. He had a good look at it,” Lund said. “A kid from Classical started his kick, another went after him and it got strung out a little bit. [Roper] ended up a second behind third place.”That’s three medals for Conner in individual events. I’ve never had an athlete do that in my 12 years at Basalt.”Roper will be the first and last to accomplish that feat during the veteran coach’s tenure; Lund has decided this track season will be his last at the helm.He still plans to coach cross country.”I’m an empty-nester, I’ve got a grandkid on the way. … It’s time,” he said. “I’ll still be involved in cross and still get to see the kids. … And one sport is a lot easier to coach than 14 events.”This was a good way to end it, a fun weekend.”

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