By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
After winning the 2017 CCC and Class LL championships in her first year of cross country, Hall’s Jenna Zydanowicz was chasing down Wilton’s Morgan McCormack at the CIAC State Open when the gas unexpectedly drained from her tank.
“I definitely never expected something like that would happen,” said Zydanowicz on Saturday. “But it did. It was learning experience.”
It certainly was. After spending the summer contemplating the disappointment, Zydanowicz, now a junior, took a totally different approach in her Girls Varsity 1 race at the 40th Haddad Windham Cross Country meet at Windham High.
After the pack broke out ahead of her, Zydanowicz, also the point guard on the basketball team, measured her early strides to conserve energy.
“I focused on running it smart,” said Zydanowicz, the Hartford Courant’s Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year last season. “The first girl went out really fast and last season, I went out to fast and died. So, I focused on starting out slower. When we got the top of the hill, she slowed down a little bit and I was able to catch up and stay with her and then I finished hard.”
Zydanowicz covered the 3.0-mile course in 18:25 to win and lead her Hall team to the Varsity 1 Race Large division team title with 21 points over runner-up East Lyme with 91 points. Junior Kylie Raymond of Somers, who dueled with Zydanowicz for much of the race, finished second in 18:33.
Jenna Zydanowicz of Hall (photo courtesy of Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
“There comes a point in running when you have to determine that it’s just not my day and back off,” said Hall coach Betty Remigino-Knapp. “You have to know where your limits are, where the line is. But she’s not like that. She is very determined. There’s a lot to learn about running 5,000 meters on a cross country course. There are a lot of factors to consider, the environment, what the course is like, who you are running against.
“She’s new to the sport and kind of went over the edge [last season] because she gives it her all. I think she was extremely nervous before the race which tends to tire you out. She is still learning and hasn’t run more than a handful of races. She doesn’t run indoor. And she was hurt in the spring and ran very few races.”
The Girls Varsity 1 Small School team title was won by Suffield with 42 point over runner-up Derby.
On a comfortably cool day, a distinct break from the hot and humid practices preceding it last week, a number of excellent performances highlighted the event traditionally considered to be the official start of the cross-country season.
Glastonbury junior Jacob Smith won the Boys Varsity 1 race in 16:25 over the same 3.0-mile course to lead his team to the Large School team title with 68 points over runner-up Hall with 77 points.
“I had been sick for two or three days and just got back to practice [Friday] I am very surprised and happy about how well I did,” said Smith. “Personally, I like running in the heat better than the cold. I just want to take one day at a time this season and not overthink races.”
Jacob Smith of Glastonbury (photo courtesy of Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
The Suffield Boys team won the Small School team title with 28 points edging Tolland with 30 points.
In the Boys Varsity 2 race, East Catholic senior Heath Olivieri completed the course in 16:22 to win.
“It was a good race,” said Olivieri, a former baseball player. “I tried to push the last mile a little more than I normally would of. And I did, so it worked out nicely. I usually can’t kick the last 200, 400 or even the last 800. I just don’t have a kick left. So, I start kicking earlier than most in hopes that they forget about me.”
Heath Olivieri of East Catholic (photo courtesy of Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Junior Jadon Parris (fifth) and seniors Daniel (sixth) and David Finck (ninth) finished in the event’s Top 10 to give Brookfield the team title (42 points) in the Small School division as Bolton placed second with 93 points.
The E.O. Smith team captured first place in the Boys Large School division with 26 points as Berlin placed second with 47 points.
Rhiannon Richmond, a junior from Avon High, won the Girls Varsity 2 race in 19:54, 31 seconds faster than the second-place finisher Miranda Graves of E.O. Smith.
Rhiannon Richmond of Avon (photo courtesy of Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
E.O. Smith won the Large School team title with 35 points on the strength of seniors Miranda Graves and Elizabeth Rose (fourth) as Avon was close behind in second with 58 points.
The Varsity 2 Girls Small School team title was captured by Berlin with 53 points while Nonnewaug took home the second-place plaque with 57 points.
The Boys Freshmen race also provided a first glimpse at three of the top young distance runners in the state. Conard twins Gavin Sherry, first in 10:59 and Callum Sherry, third in 11:37, sandwiched second-place finisher Aidan Puffer of Manchester at 11:17 for the 2.1-mile course. In a review of meet results since 2006, Gavin Sherry’s finish was the fastest time on the short course and the only sub-eleven-minute effort.
The 40th Anniversary edition of the Haddad Windham Invitational also featured the usage of one of the sport’s latest technologies, a timing chip attached to each runner’s shoe.
“As far as accuracy versus the pull tags, there really is no change. We still use the photo finish to verify results. They are passive tags, so they aren’t as accurate as active tags as far as getting the order of finish correct,” said Jeremy Renninghoff, president of North East Sports Timing. “We have a system of redundancy, a second mat about three meters past the primary to pick up any reads that might be missed. That happened here today a few times.”
“The biggest thing we will be able to provide are the live results we offer. Things will be updated more frequently. Instead of every 30 seconds, it will be every 15. We won’t have to wait anymore for a spindle to be processed. We are also hoping to be able to offer splits, get the team standings as the race is progressing and put that up on our website.”
Renninghoff said that over 2,100 returnable tags were distributed for this meet and expects more will be used at the 35th Wickham XC Invitational on October 6th that usually draws several thousand entrants. North East Sports Timing will also employ the shoe chips at CIAC State Class and Open meets later in the season.
The complete meet results are available for the 40th Haddad Windham XC Invitational on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Team Nights with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook.
Stay tuned for special meet photo gallery of all of the races to be posted later this weekend!