Youthful Aspen High Skiers head to state cross country meet eyeing the future

The Longhorn Invitational from Saturday, Aug. 26, 2017, at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times |

Saturday’s Class 3A state cross country meet is shaping up to be more like a fun activity as opposed to any serious competition for the Skiers.

“They are so young there is no pressure on them to do anything,” coach Chris Keleher said. “We are just going on a fact-finding mission to go have fun this year. The goal is really to get back next year and see if we can really start to do well there.”

Aspen High School qualified a team of seven girls for the weekend’s season finale, held at the Norris-Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs. The girls’ 3A race is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Saturday, the final race of the day.

The Skiers got there by taking fourth as a team at their regional meet in Delta last week, holding off Basalt High School by two points to earn the final team qualification.

“I’m really proud of my teammates because they had to dig deep in the end and pass a lot of people, and they did,” AHS freshman Kylie Kenny said. “It’s really exciting because we are freshmen and we didn’t really expect anything out of the season, but now we are doing well.”

Kenny led Aspen at the regional meet, taking seventh overall with a time of 20 minutes, 10.9 seconds. She was one of three girls to finish inside the top 15, the cutoff for individual qualification. However, by finishing fourth as a team, AHS gets to send a full contingent of seven runners to the state meet.

Of the seven going, five are freshmen and one is a sophomore.

“The freshmen are so good this year, so I’m excited to see where the team goes, even though I’m leaving,” AHS senior Jane Marolt said. “It’s kind of even a surprise to me that we made it to states, so I’m just going to see where it goes.”

Marolt, who is on the cross country team for the first time this season, took 26th at the regional meet. She is the lone upperclassman going to the state meet for the Skiers.

“It’s good to be going back to the state championships. That year off was strange,” Keleher said of the team failing to qualify any runners for the 2016 state meet. “We are just going to go and put them on the line and compete and have fun. It would be kind of cool to put some kids inside the top 30 or even top 20 possibly, but I’m not stressing that.”

With so much youth and no state experience to work with, Aspen is going to Colorado Springs with no expectations, at least this year. The hope is this group of freshmen — Kenny, Kendall Clark, Edie Sherlock, Macy Hopkinson and Maggie Woodrow — will remain together to give AHS quite the group for the next few years. Throw in sophomore Greta Hansen, running for senior Chelsea Moore who will miss the state meet because of a scheduling conflict with Nordic skiing, and the future certainly looks bright for the Skiers.

“We are just happy we are doing well,” Kenny said. “I don’t personally expect much from myself because it’s already been a great season and regardless of what happens on Saturday, I’m proud of my team for that.”

Basalt is sending two runners to state, each having qualified as individuals, in freshman Sierra Bower and senior Carly Robinson.