Hoffman, Skiers leave no doubt at regionals
Aspen’s Noah Hoffman wasn’t about to let a cold slow him down Saturday at regionals in Delta.The senior, as has been his M.O. the entire season, kept pace with the lead pack, then powered ahead during the final stretch to beat his nearest competitor – Basalt’s Brennan Roper – by as many as 50 yards. Hoffman finished in 16 minutes, 38 seconds. Hoffman’s win catapulted the Skiers boys to the regional title with 31 points. The Longhorns (40) took second, Hotchkiss (56) was third, and Olathe (69) finished fourth. All four teams and all other individuals finishing in the top 20 will compete in next week’s state meet in Colorado Springs.The Basalt girls, by virtue of their third-place finish, also clinched a state berth.”He’s just ran really strong all season, and today was no exception,” Aspen head coach Chris Keleher said. “He’s been nursing a cold the last couple days, so there was a little question going into it, but I saw him at the mile-and-a-half point and he looked so comfortable. He’s as fit an athlete as I’ve ever coached.”The scary thing is that he could run that same time uphill.”Keleher cautioned Hoffman not to overexert himself before the state race. By the two mile-mark, Hoffman was one of four runners distancing themselves from the rest of the field. And even though the flat course did not completely suit him, Hoffman used his strength and conditioning to pull away.Roper, running for the first time in weeks after spraining his ankle skateboarding, could not keep up, Basalt head coach Ron Lund said. “This course didn’t really set up well for Noah, but it didn’t have to,” he said. “Noah ran to win, and it was pretty evident. He was untouchable for Brennan.”Aspen’s Scott Lacy (17:29) and Barton Tofany (17:38) finished seventh and eighth, respectively. The two caught and passed some Basalt runners near the finish, which accounted for the Skiers’ margin of victory, Keleher said. Nate Marrs (17:57) was 15th.”Once Noah came by and Scott hit the line, the other three were in sight,” Keleher said. “I thought ‘This is good. Really good.'”Basalt junior Sal Cruz, a Longhorns soccer player running in his first cross-country race, logged the team’s most surprising finish when he crossed the line ninth at 17:44. Lund said he expected Cruz to be the team’s fifth finisher; he wound up second. Casey Weaver (17:50) finished 11th, Tyler Wilson (18:07) was 18th and Duncan McDaniel (18:24) 20th.”We went to Georgetown three years ago, and Sal was an eighth-grader and won the middle school race,” Lund remembered. “I knew he had run before, but he blew me away. He’s flat-out natural, and he went after it.”Lund said he knew the girls race would be tight; his premonition proved to be spot-on. The Longhorns (49) finished two points behind Hotchkiss and two points ahead of Gunnison. Crested Butte (25) took the top spot after four of its runners finished in the top 12.Longhorns senior Amy Lund (19:48) finished fourth overall, and sisters Nuala (20:40) and Chiara (21:04) Del Piccolo took 13th and 14th, respectively. Annie Tempest (21:16) was 18th out of 35.Unlike Hoffman, Aspen’s top girls runner, Nathalie Obermeyer, could not overcome her cold. The junior struggled with her breathing en route to finishing 21st. She was little more than a step away from finishing 20th, and earning a trip to Colorado Springs, Keleher said. And had Obermeyer been at full strength, the Skiers may have improved on their fifth-place result.”If she runs her normal race, she probably finishes fifth or sixth,” Keleher said. “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug. She’s just a junior and she’ll have to live with this for the next year. Fortunately, she has another year and more races.”The simple fact that she went to the starting line knowing she was not running at 100 percent is a testament to who she is. She’s worked so hard, she just picked the wrong week to get sick.”Lindsey Wilkinson (20:33) finished 11th, Laura Hatanaka (21:14) was 16th and Brittany Marrs (21:17) took 17th – all three qualified for state. Despite finishing one second behind Marrs, teammate Haylen Gregory finished 22nd and failed to qualify.Whether the Basalt boys will be at full strength next week has yet to be determined. Both McDaniel’s and Cruz’s status will depend on whether the soccer team advances.”We’ll have to wait and see who our team is going to next weekend,” Lund said. “If they can’t go, we’ll have two others run and it’ll be good experience for them. On the other hand, it would be interesting to see how our top team could do.”Aspen’s hopes of finishing in the top 10 undoubtedly will rest on Hoffman’s legs. He finished eighth last year and seventh in 2004.”I can guarantee no one going to the line has as much big race experience as Noah,” Keleher said. “I’d put my kids up against anyone in the state, and I get to. They have a good chance to do some fun, magical stuff.” Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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