Kenny, young Aspen girls cross country among the top 10 teams at state meet
The Aspen High School girls cross country team won’t be able to play the inexperience card next season after finally getting to taste the state championship on Saturday in Colorado Springs.
“They did really well. We were talking afterwards that to even be there was a big deal,” Aspen coach Chris Keleher said. “They just had such little experience. You can’t say that anymore. Hoping to go back and improve next year.”
Despite only two of the seven runners having ever raced in the season’s finale at the Norris Penrose Event Center, the Skiers still fared well by finishing ninth as a team in Class 3A with 254 points. The Classical Academy won the 3A girls’ title with 65 points — a record 14th championship in program history — while Alamosa was second (91) and Berthoud was third (104).
Basalt finished sixth, led by individual state champion Katelyn Maley, who had a time of 18 minutes, 37.1 seconds. It was Maley’s second straight state championship.
“That was a really nice surprise,” Keleher said of his Aspen team’s top-10 finish. “It was fun. They all ran really well. I think the heat beat them up a little bit and the nerves, I think, got to the younger runners. But so proud of the way they ran.”
Aspen’s top individual finisher was junior Michaela Kenny, who was 24th with a time of 20:23.1. Next up was AHS junior Elsie Weiss, who was 45th in 21:28.
Kenny and Weiss were the only two Aspen athletes with any previous state experience. Last fall as sophomores, Kenny had finished 25th in 20:51.8, and Weiss had been 32nd in 21:10.2. Aspen’s 2020 squad was an experienced group that finished fourth as a team, the program’s best finish at state since 2011.
Keleher hopes to see this young group climb the ranks over the next year or two, much like that group did.
“You got some big shoes to fill, and you just took a giant step in those,” Keleher said he told the AHS runners after Saturday’s race. “Once it was over, they realized the nerves maybe weren’t as warranted as they thought. But so much was unknown for them that it’s understandable.”
The rest of Aspen’s 2021 state results included freshmen Darienne Kenny finishing 67th (22:15.5), Julia Diaz coming in 69th (22:17) and Eden Bohart coming in 98th (23:24). AHS junior Natalie Wesner was 101st (23:30.5) and sophomore Yasmine Khan-Farooqi was 149th (27:09.5).
“It’s going to be challenging the next couple of years,” Keleher said about a relatively young 3A classification across the state. “It’s going to be hard. That’s good, though. I think the kids like the challenge and I certainly like the challenge of running at a higher level. It’s good for everybody.”
Aspen also had two boys compete, with junior Eske Roennau finishing 80th (18:53.1) and sophomore Edwin Ryerson 82nd (18:54.1) in the 3A race on Saturday. It was the state debut for both runners.
“They ran well,” Keleher said. “That was a good experience for them to see the spectacle and the level of competition is really good. Lets them know what they are in for next year and how to prepare a little bit better. Same with the girls, too. There is a new level out there, and hopefully we can rise to that.”
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The winter prep season is upon us. But before we look toward this year, let’s flashback to last winter and recap what happened between the Aspen and Basalt teams. The 2020-21 winter seasons were overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic, with shortened schedules and cancellations.