LAFAYETTE — As if William Ledden didn’t have enough planned for an expectations-laden senior season, Peak to Peak’s top runner went ahead and added mountain running to the mix.
This isn’t just jogging along mountain trails we’re talking about here, either.
On July 27, Ledden placed fourth at the National High School Trail Championships in Salida. Smack during the build-up phase of a busy Colorado prep cross country season he will travel to Susa, Italy, to compete in the WMRA International U18 Mountain Running Youth Cup as a member of Team USA on Aug. 24.
That’s as high-level as it gets and something Ledden hopes is both a life-changing experience with a new passion, as well as a trial that strengthens him for the home stretch of his final cross country campaign with the Pumas.
“Hopefully it sets me up to be more mentally prepared for cross season,” Ledden said. “Some of my teammates who have graduated encouraged me to give it a try and I love it. And getting to go to Italy and do something you love, that’s pretty cool and a special opportunity.”
When it comes to cross country, Ledden is already one of the best in the Centennial State.
At the state meet last fall, Ledden finished the course at Norris Penrose Event Center in 16 minutes, 23.9 seconds. That was good for third place in the Class 3A state championship race and solidified him as one of the top two or three runners coming back in 2019, at least on paper.
“I really want to focus on starting healthy so I can have a season of longevity this year,” Ledden said. “I also want to put down some fast times at more meets than just one because Liberty Bell was really my only really fast time last season. And then I want to win state.”
That’s quite a list, which will be preceded by a trip abroad to compete for an international title later this month. The annual top-level Liberty Bell Cross Country Invitational is on Sept. 7 and this year’s state meet will be held Oct. 26.
Ledden has a long list of personal goals but he’s equally focused on helping drive the team success for the Peak to Peak boys. For the past several years, the Pumas boys team has been overshadowed by a dominant girls team led by the historic trio of Quinn McConnell, Anna Shults and Tiana Bradfield. But the Peak to Peak boys won the 3A team title in 2018 and are looking to remain among the upper echelon of 3A cross country teams in Colorado.
“Our returners have been working really hard and our incoming freshman class has been putting in a great base this summer,” Ledden said. “We’ll see how the season goes. It’s pretty exciting to show that Peak to Peak isn’t just a girls team and that our boys are pretty talented as well.”
Also joining the Pumas is this year is new head coach Jesse Fassler, who spent the past five years coaching track and cross country under head coach Devin Rourke at Centaurus. There are a lot of moving parts to this year’s Peak to Peak boys cross country team but if the Pumas can put all the pieces together, they believe something special could be in store.
“This is my first season so it’s a transitioning year for us,” Fassler said. “We graduated quite a few, both on the girls and boys sides. We’re a little bit in a rebuilding mode with Will leading the way. We’re expecting him to have a good senior year and I don’t think it’s out of his range to finish top five at state. He works really hard and he’s going to do whatever it takes to be successful.”
Bringing it home: 2018 state results
5A team champions: Mountain Vista (girls) and Dakota Ridge (boys)
5A individual champions: Jenna Fitzsimmons, Mountain Vista, and Cole Sprout, Valor Christian
4A team: Niwot (girls) and Centaurus (boys)
4A individual: Layla Roebke, Niwot, and Cruz Culpepper, Niwot
3A team: The Classical Academy (girls) and Peak to Peak (boys)
3A individual: Kaylee Thompson, The Classical Academy, and Mason Norman, The Classical Academy
2A team: Lyons (girls) and Heritage Christian (boys)
2A individual: Katie Fankhouser, Lyons, and Seth Buxvoort, Heritage Christian