Her own lane: Basalt junior Ava Lane finds motivation running behind champ Maley

The Longhorns compete Saturday in the state championship

Basalt's Ava Lane competes in the Longhorn Invitational cross country meet on Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.
Photo by Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Ava Lane doesn’t have to search long for motivation. She does, however, have to keep up with it.

Most days, the Basalt High School athlete is chasing down teammate Katelyn Maley, one of the state’s best runners, and this is incentive enough to put in the extra work needed to reach that same summit.

“I’ve put in a lot more work this year and I’ve been trying to run with Katelyn as much as I can. Running with her has honestly been the best thing for me,” Lane said. “She is so inspiring to be around. She is super motivated and I’m going to try and stay as close to her as I can. If I fall behind, I’ll be OK, but I definitely have a higher expectation for myself this year.”

Both juniors, Lane and Maley are back leading the BHS girls cross country team in the Class 3A state championship race on Saturday in Colorado Springs, where Maley is looking to defend her title from a year ago. Basalt has actually won the past two 3A girls individual titles in cross country, as Sierra Bower won it in 2019 when she was a junior.

It’s easy for Lane to get lost in the shuffle considering the teammates she’s had in front of her, but she’s quietly become one of the better runners in the state in her own right. Lane was fourth in the team’s Class 3A Region 1 meet last week in New Castle, finishing in 19 minutes, 44.1 seconds, helping the Longhorns to a runner-up finish behind Alamosa. Maley was second in that race (19:23.8), which was won by Alamosa sophomore Sarah DeLaCerda (19:18.2).

Now, Lane hopes to keep up with those same runners in the state finale.

“We want to beat Alamosa hopefully and it’s given us something to look forward to,” Lane said. “Going into it I feel like I want to be a little bit more aggressive than I was last year. I feel like last year I was a little bit tentative about it. But I want to go out with the front pack and stay out there and see what I can do.”

Maley won last year’s 3A championship with a time of 18:39, a massive gap over runner-up Kennedy McDonald, a then-junior from The Classical Academy (19:13.4). Maley’s time, of course, wasn’t close to the 3A girls course record, set only a year prior by Bower in 18:00.1. Bower is a freshman runner at Furman.

Basalt High School runners, from left, Sierra Bower, Katelyn Maley and Ava Lane pose for a photo during the Class 3A, Region 1 race on Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, at Hillcrest Golf Club in Durango. They swept the top three spots in the girls' race.
Courtesy photo

Basalt was third as a team at state in 2020, behind champion TCA and runner-up Holy Family, while Aspen was fourth. With most of the heavy-hitters back this season, plus upstart Alamosa, the Longhorns know they face a difficult task when it comes to pushing for the team title.

“We like the way the kids have been running up to this point. We think we could be a little more competitive if everybody was healthy,” longtime BHS coach Ron Lund said. “The cream is still at the top, and it’s more competitive and deeper than I’ve ever seen. It’s exciting to see and we are going to see what we can do. Our priority is have fun first and good things happen.”

Basalt has gotten a recent boost with the return of junior Sarah Levy, who had been out with injury since the spring. Levy was 17th overall at regionals last week, fourth among BHS runners, and while she is still dealing with the injury, Lund expects her to compete at state and she should provide some needed depth for the Longhorns.

Freshman Isabella Moon, who was 16th at regionals, is the team’s fourth runner. The rest of the BHS state contingent includes freshman Juniper Anderson, junior Payton Barill and junior Lacey Lindberg.

“For Katelyn, it could be a little bit different of a race this year for her. There are some real strong runners out there that are going to be formidable,” Lund said. “She is the team player that you want and I think that helps her navigate her own individual side of things. We are just trying to be as supportive as we can as coaches. We can’t run the race for them, but we can certainly be nervous for them.”

Katelyn Maley, left, and Ava Lane each hold the runner-up plaque alongside their teammates after the Basalt High School girls cross country team finished second at the regional meet on Friday, Oct. 21, 2021, in New Castle.
Courtesy photo

Lane finished 11th at state last fall in 19:44.2, third on the team behind Maley and Bower, who was fifth in her title defense. As a freshman in 2019, Lane was 34th at state in 20:51.5, while Maley had been 12th that year (20:00.8).

However, Lane’s expectations are much higher this fall, and she’ll be able to lean on her own teammate in Maley for motivation, both in and out of the race.

“She is so humble about everything and she always has a great attitude,” Lane said of Maley. “We’ve put in a lot of running and a lot of days of hard work. I’m feeling really confident about this race and I think as a team if we all stay supportive and we all are really inspiring for one another, we can’t lose. I think we’ve already won the season and everyone has such a good attitude, I feel like this is just a cherry on top.”