As Basalt’s Maley goes for cross country three-peat, Lane remains right at her side
Longhorns' star duo competes one final time at state on Saturday
The Aspen Times
Ava Lane isn’t shy about crediting her teammate and close friend Katelyn Maley for making her the runner she is today. Trying to keep up with one of the area’s best cross country athletes — ever — for all these years has turned Lane into a force herself.
But Maley, the two-time defending Class 3A champion, is equally as appreciative of her fellow Basalt High School senior for having been willing to run alongside — or at least slightly behind — her all these years.
“It makes all the difference in the world. Ava is my best friend outside of just running. In my mind, she doesn’t feel like a competitor,” Maley said. “At the end of the day, people would see we are racing against each other, but I just see my teammate there beside me. Honestly, I can take a deep breath and realize we are in it together. As long as one of us walks away having a good race, we are both happy. I think that’s a really special thing that we have. It’s been that way since we were in fifth grade doing Girls on the Run. I feel like we have a really special bond.”
Come Saturday, the dynamic duo will run alongside each other one final time in a Longhorn cross country uniform. As it does every year, the Norris Penrose Event Center in Colorado Springs will play host to the state cross country championships, with the 3A girls to be first on course at 9 a.m.
Also expected to compete for a top-25 finish in the 3A boys race is Coal Ridge senior Tyler Parker, fresh off his regional championship in Delta last week. He’ll be joined by junior teammate Dallin Karren and the Basalt boys, who qualified as a team. Race time for the boys is 10:20 a.m.
And, in the 4A girls race, Glenwood Springs senior Sophia Connerton-Nevin and Rifle junior Ana Robinson toe the line at 1 p.m.
With Maley seeking a three-peat, Lane is hoping for another top-10 finish, if not something a little bit more if she can keep in sight of her superstar teammate.
“I look up to Katelyn so much. My whole high school career she has been the perfect running partner. I just try to keep my eyes on her and stay as close as I can,” Lane said. “We know this week is when it really matters and we know what we need to do to be successful.”
While Lane will be flying somewhat under the radar in a talented 3A girls field on Saturday, Maley will have a target on her back. In fact, she’ll likely have every target on her back, part of what comes with being a two-time champion.
Her breakout came as a sophomore, when she surprised many by winning her first championship in 18 minutes, 39 seconds. This even came over her senior teammate at the time, Sierra Bower, who finished fifth in her final race as a Longhorn. In 2019, it was Bower, then a junior, who broke the 3A girls course record in 18 minutes flat to win the championship.
Last fall, Maley repeated with a time of 18:37.1, a solid 10 seconds ahead of second place, to make it three straight for the Longhorns. Lane was eighth a year ago in 19:16.1.
“When I was a sophomore, I might have defined a good race differently. But now, I can just see the smaller factors, like maybe I had a better second mile or maybe I had a better finish. There are so many different definitions of a good race,” Maley said of her evolution as a runner. “This year is definitely going to be very different from the last couple of ones. I think 3A girls has really grown in competitiveness, which I love to see.”
It’s been somewhat of an odd ride this fall for both Maley and Lane, with both missing a handful of BHS races while on college visits. But the veterans they are, they had a plan to make it all come together this month and next, with some national postseason races in the mix as well. However, they feel this weekend’s state championship is really the ultimate goal.
“Katelyn is going to have some company up front, but she is ready to see what she can do. And Ava is just going to put herself in position to have success,” said longtime BHS cross country coach Ron Lund. “That atmosphere, that confidence and excitement, they bring it to practice. We are glad we have this group of seniors to set the example for the kids who are going to be here for a few more years.”
As for Maley’s three-peat hopes, yes, she wants to win. But at the same time, she’s wise enough to not put all her hopes and dreams into that one basket. If there is one thing she has really mastered over these past two years is the ability to not take the results too seriously.
“I’m really proud of myself for all the growth I’ve made mentally, not just physically. Running, that’s a mental sport, more so than people realize,” Maley said. “The only person putting pressure on myself is me. So I just want to make this experience fun and obviously that goal is still there, but I know as long as I put everything I have into the race and really know I’ve done everything I can to prepare, then I can walk away happy and satisfied from this season.”
Both girls are currently at the end of their long recruiting journey. They each plan to run in college, following in the footsteps of Bower, who currently runs with Division I power Furman University. Maley’s older sister, Megan, also is a senior runner for the Division III Claremont Mudd Scripps.
Neither have quite finalized their college plans, but hope to make some decisions and announcements in the coming weeks, if all goes well.
“I feel like Ava and I have been going through this together and learning along the way. There really are not instructions of how to do this,” said Maley, who is embracing the best she can what will be her final high school cross country race on Saturday with a team she holds close. “For me, the most important thing is being able to run with people like Ava and getting to see Ron and (assistant coach Amy Rollins) and all my other teammates. That is what has made this experience so special.”
Win or lose, Maley’s legacy in this valley is pretty concrete. With two state championships already in hand — not to mention her impressive track and field resume, which she is likely to add to this spring — she’s set a new standard for athletes to hopefully strive toward once she has graduated.
It’s been that desire for excellence, and the commitment to do the work, that has made Maley great, and Lane is grateful for having been along for much of that journey.
“I don’t know where I would be in the running world without her. She is incredible,” Lane said. “I don’t even think she realizes how much she has helped me, having her there to set an expectation. She is such an amazing runner so I know if I can be near her at all I feel good, it feels like a win. She has really been such an inspiring person.”
Austin Colbert can be reached at email@example.com Post Independent reporter John Stroud contributed to this report.
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