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Injuries catch up with Aspen, Basalt runners at state

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

LAKEWOOD, Colo. – Chalk it up to unfortunate timing.

Aspen’s and Basalt’s track teams went into the recent 3A track and field state championships with high expectations. Both were derailed by injuries.

Longhorns distance runner Conner Roper was limping after Thursday’s 3,200 meters at Jefferson County Stadium in Lakewood – the result of a recurring shin injury. He battled through the pain to set a school record and finish in the Top 10 in the 800, but was visibly slowed in the mile.

Teammate Chiara Del Piccolo, suffering with a quad strain, wound up 10th in the 3,200. She struggled in the mile, however, finishing well off the pace.

Luke Hemming can feel their pain. The Aspen junior, who sat out the regional meet after injuring his hamstring in practice, finished last in qualifying for the 100.

“It’s disappointing,” Basalt head coach Ron Lund said Tuesday.

“You hate to see kids that work as hard as [Roper and Del Piccolo] do and get to the state meet and not get to run up to their potential. I think they’d rather run up to their potential and be last than place with a half-hearted effort when they can’t go to their maximum. It’s kind of the nature of the sport. Just look at Luke Hemming. He dominated 3A all season, then gets a hamstring injury. It’s a fine balance.”

The injury is nothing new for Roper. The junior was confined to a bike for much of the two weeks leading up to 2009’s state meet because of a similar shin injury. He went on to finish eighth in the 800 and 14th in the mile.

Roper’s training this spring was hampered by a lung infection he contracted during spring break. He appeared to have returned to form, however, after picking up wins and setting school records in the 800 and the mile at the regional meet in Grand Junction.

Lund said he had no idea Roper was hurt.

“If I had, he wouldn’t have run that workout the Monday prior [to state],” the coach added.

The injury took its toll on Roper in the opening 3,200. He went in seeded fourth, but finished a disappointing 14th.

After rebounding to finish seventh in the 800 with a time of 1 minute, 59.66 seconds, Roper wound up 15th in the mile (4:51).

“About halfway through, I could see he didn’t have it,” Lund said. “He was just hanging on.”

Del Piccolo, whom Lund said has dealt with a quad issue for more than a month, was last after the first lap of the 3,200. She passed 13 competitors from there, however, to sneak into the Top 10 with a time of 12:08.32.

She did not fare as well in the mile, crossing the line in 5:45 – good for 19th.

The senior, who is expected to run for Williams College (Mass.) in the fall, was second in the 3,200 and sixth in the mile at state in 2008, then fourth in the 3,200 and sixth in the mile last season.

“I did not know how much [the injury] affected her. Visibly, when you watch her run you would never know,” Lund said. “You kind of lose your sharpness and confidence when you have a nagging injury. … It can be challenging, but I thought she handled it well. She finished on what she thought was a good note.”

The same could not be said for Hemming, who came in seeded second in the 100.

“We were hoping things would hold together, but they didn’t,” Aspen head coach Chris Keleher said. “He gave it a shot, but apparently just from talking to him … he did a practice run before the prelim and tweaked it a bit. Forty meters into the race it really started to pull, and he hobbled across the finish line. That’s unfortunate.”

Kelsey Tofany helped salvage the meet for the Skiers. The senior sprinted to an eighth-place finish in the 300 high hurdles with a time of 49.27.

“It was her first time in the state championships in an individual event, and she did really well,” Keleher said. “This was a good way for her to end her high school career.”

jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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