Local cross country teams impress at regional meet in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Local cross country teams impress at regional meet in Aspen

Jon Maletz
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN – Aspen cross country runner Brianna Morse missed out on a trip to state by the slimmest of margins last fall. She put that disappointment behind her Saturday on an overcast, snowy day at the Aspen Golf Course.

The senior settled into third one mile into the girls’ 3A regional race. With teammate Ellie Parker following close behind, Morse cruised to the finish in fourth place to secure her spot in the field at next week’s state meet in Fort Collins.

“A lot better than last year,” said a smiling Morse, who qualified for state in both 2006 and 2007. “To be a senior, to be on the home course, this is great.”

Grand Valley’s Brandi Krieg secured the individual crown with a dominating performance. The junior crossed the line in 21 minutes, 5.8 seconds, some 46 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Diana Miller of Centauri.

The win was the first of the season for Krieg, who led throughout.

“I was planning to stick with the lead runner or runners. After the first mile, I felt like I could go,” Krieg said. “That second mile, I decided to keep pushing.

“I wanted to win so bad. … To win by this much is just icing on the cake.”

Parker (22:09.9) wound up fifth, four-tenths of a second behind Morse. Basalt’s Chiara Del Piccolo (22:21.3) and Annette Stenstadvold (22:45.5) – the regional champions each of the last two seasons – finished sixth and eighth, respectively. The top 15 advance to state.

Morse was on the outside looking in last fall after finishing 16th. Compounding frustrations, the Skiers girls finished one point behind Hotchkiss, which nabbed the final team qualifying spot.

This time around, Morse took matters into her own hands.

“It was a huge [motivator],” Morse said of 2008’s result. “I was pretty broken up. It was hard to accept. … I trained all summer to be able to go.”

Morse’s and Parker’s results highlighted what was otherwise unlucky day for Aspen. Both the girls and boys teams finished one spot outside of team qualifying. The girls took fourth with 63 points, five points behind Bayfield, who nabbed the third and final spot. Pagosa Springs (47) and Gunnison (54) finished first and second.

“We knew it would be an uphill climb coming in, but everyone ran well,” Skiers head coach Chris Keleher said. “This region is really tough.”

While Alex Montano (19:42.7) qualified with a 14th-place finish, the Skiers boys wound up fifth – four teams earned state berths. Gunnison (30), Bayfield (50) and Pagosa Springs (55) finished first through third.

Beating out Aspen for the final qualifying spot was downvalley rival Basalt (55), which was buoyed by the performance of Conner Roper. The junior surged to the front shortly after the start, was caught at the 4-kilometer mark, then battled some pain in his left leg and a strong kick from Gunnison’s Bryce Johnston to take second in 17:29.9. Bayfield’s Derek Laue (17:28.6) won the regional title.

“I was trying to feel out the competition, and I felt like I had a good pace. I decided to push it,” said Roper, who is suffering from Osgood-Schlatters, a growth-plate disorder characterized by sharp pain just below the knee. “I made up some time [on Laue], but I was really tired at the end.”

Sophomore Giulio Del Piccolo (18:53.9) finished ninth and freshman Jacob Besser (20:11) 21st for Basalt.

“We’ll take it. Our goal was to get the boys to state,” Longhorns head coach Ron Lund said. “Going in, I thought Conner would be anywhere from one to five. He went for it. You’ve got to hand it to him.

“I wasn’t looking forward to not sending a team [for the first time in 10 years of coaching]. It was a solid performance.”

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