By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
MANCHESTER – We begin with the reminder that Gavin Sherry is 14 years old, just a freshman at Conard High. Stop and ponder that for a moment.
He’s two years from his driver’s permit and taking his SATs. He’s just old enough for his first job, maybe pushing carriages or bagging groceries at some grocery store near his home.
Once school was over on Tuesday, what do you suppose other kids his age were doing? Perhaps playing Fortnite or exchanging texts. Killing time, idling away hours. Hanging out in a kids-will-be-kids kind of way.
Not Sherry. Nope, not a chance. He was at Wickham Park with his teammates, one of the hundreds and young men and women participating in the 2018 CCC Cross Country Championship meet.
But what’s been already made abundantly clear this season is that Sherry is not your average novice, carefully managing strides so not to slip and slide on muddy trails like the 5k course he tackled flawlessly today.
Sherry is already ahead of his class and, as a result, on top of the list of cross-country runners in Connecticut. And he’s not afraid of the big kids, either.
Using his characteristic steady and ultimately explosive gait, Sherry ran to victory in the Boys Varsity Race at Wickham Park in 16:16, a long stride ahead of Hall senior Miller Anderson (16:17.9) and even farther beyond Hall senior Trey Cormier (16:22.2), last year’s champion.
Gavin Sherry of Conard sped to victory in Boys Varsity Race at CCC XC Championship (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
“I have to give credit to Gavin Sherry,” said Cormier. “He’s a really tough competitor. He knows how to mentally handle every single race. He has such a great future. I had a gap on him at one point, I could tell he was breathing heavy out near the stone wall. Then he pulled even with me and I stuck with then I hit some mud and he got me there.”
Sherry’s time of 15:49 at the recent Manchester (NH) Invitational is one of the fastest 5k times run by a state athlete this season. Anderson’s 15:53 in a tri-meet with Avon and Glastonbury on September 11 is second according to results posted on Athleteic.net.
“It was interesting, a lot of fun,” said Sherry. “And it’s nice to have someone right there. It’s hard to push it without that. We [Sherry and Anderson] were with each other the whole race until we hit a little downhill and then I passed him and held on.”
The rivalry between Sherry and Anderson, an indoor and outdoor state champion last season, is real and its exciting.
Anderson avenged a loss to Sherry on September 22 at the Manchester (NH) Invitational by nosing him out the end of the Wickham Invitational on Oct. 6.
“That was the first race I’d lost since 7th grade,” Sherry said. “It was nice to feel humbled, to know I had competition.”
Last Tuesday, Sherry repaid the debt for the first time, beating Anderson by 15 seconds at the Hall-Conard dual meet on Hall’s home turf.
For Cormier, the race was another step towards rebuilding momentum for the postseason.
“I was injured early in the season and took three weeks off,” said Cormier “I had a stress fracture of my left tibia. The MRI came back on Aug. 29, the first day of school. I spent two weeks in a boot and another half week after that not running.
“And when you combine that with the stress of the college search, it’s been kind of hard to focus on racing. But I feel like I’ll be coming back strong in the postseason.”
The performances of Anderson and Cormier were only good enough to earn Hall second place (78 points) in the team competition. Tolland won the title with 50 points, powered by strong performances from Jackson Cayward (5th), Alec Sauter (8th) and Stephen Sutton (10th). Bristol Central was third (112) with Conard fourth (115) and Glastonbury 5th (139).
Next for Sherry, of course, are the CIAC Class Championships on October 27 at Wickham Park and then the State Open Championship the following Friday. Win or lose, he will be spending his winter on the swim team.
“I do think about it [my] future,” said Sherry. “You hear so many stories about kids who train too hard, too early, record incredible times and just stay there and fizzle out. I haven’t done a lot of training, I ran only like 35-40 miles a week during the summer. I’m happy to run these times without a lot of training. That tells me with more training I might be able to do more.”
The Girls Varsity race provided its own intrigue and excitement as Rocky Hill junior Elizabeth Stockman (18:57) outlasted Hall junior Jenna Zydanowicz (19:06), last season’s champion, who had sailed to victory in her race at the Wickham Invitational. Simsbury’s Dagny Edwards (19:43) finished third.
Elizabeth Stockman of Rocky Hill won Girls Varsity Race at CCC XC Championship (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
“I knew I needed to get out with a reasonable pace and then really commit to the second mile,” said Stockman. “And I needed to go as hard as I could in the last mile. I think the second mile is the hardest for me.”
Beating Zydanowicz was just the latest accomplishment for Stockman, the defending Class M cross country champion who also distinguished herself with state titles last season in the indoor and outdoor seasons.
“She is an awesome runner. She got out strong,” said Stockman. “I felt good in the first mile, then she started to pull away in the second, but I just tried to pick up my pace in the second and told myself to close to her as I could.”
According to Athletic.net statistics, Zydanowicz’s 18:22 in a tri-meet with Farmington and Northwest Catholic on September 17 is second in the state to Pomperaug’s gifted sophomore Kate Wiser, who ran 17:49.0 at the Manchester (NH) Invitational.
But at the end, it was Glastonbury, ranked first in the latest soundRUNNER CT Coaches’ Cross-Country Poll, that won its fourth straight CCC title with 62 points. Hall was second (73), E.O. Smith third (112), Tolland fourth (117) and Southington fifth (145).
The Tomahawks received top 10 finishes from Casey MacElhiney (5th, 20:02.7) and Angela Braga (7th, 20:04.5). Kacey Malz was 13th (20:41)
“Overall, they ran well,” said Glastonbury coach Brian Collins. “We had a runner in the sixth [slot] and she didn’t finish in the top group. The good thing is when someone is off a little, someone else tends to step up. And that made a major difference.
“Casey was our No. 1. She’s been coming on, getting a little stronger and knock on wood. … Last year, she was probably our 11th or 12th runner. We lost five of our top seven from our last season.”
The complete meet results are available for the 2018 CCC Cross Country Championship on the Results page sponsored by soundRUNNER Team Nights with stores in Branford, Fairfield, Glastonbury and Old Saybrook. The meet was held at Wickham Park in Manchester CT on October 16, 2018.
NOTE: MySportsResults.com publishes the results received/posted from meet directors and timing companies. If you don't see your results or if you think that the results are incorrect then ask your local coach to contact the meet director to send us the corrected meet results. Do not send an email to MySportsResults asking to correct the posted results.