By Special Correspondent John Altavilla
MANCHESTER – Even before the Class L boys took their first strides Friday morning, the CIAC Cross Country Class Championships on Friday, October 26, 2018 at Wickham Park were already a demonstrable success.
And here’s why: Despite the temperature dipping to 35 degrees at the start of the 12-race event - hey, it is October - there was no rain. There was just a soft breeze. The Wickham course, already dulled by an unusually damp autumn, was in vibrant shape.
It couldn’t have been better. But if the CIAC had stubbornly stuck with the original Saturday schedule, it could have been a cold, damp and windy nightmare.
“The forecast from Saturday right thru Monday was not good.,” said Joe Tonelli, a member of the CIAC’s executive board overseeing the cross-country championships. “We’ve already had unprecedent rain this fall. The course was saturated. This was in the best interest of the kids and their safety. We wanted to make sure they would run on a good course and it turned out to be a great decision and we’re very happy that everyone seems to know it’s for the best that we didn’t have to run in the rain and the wind.”
And the athletes did not waste the optimal setting.
The fastest times of the day were run in the first and last races of the twelve races as New Milford senior Eli Nahom defended his Class L title in the fastest time (15:55) run by any of the boys over the 5km course. And Pomperaug sophomore Kate Wiser won the Girls Class MM title in a scorching 18:32, the fastest time for a girl over the same 5km course.
“I race better in the afternoon when it’s warmer, maybe around 60 degrees,” said Nahom. “This was kind of an adjustment. I had to get up around 5 for a 6:15 bus time. I was really nervous about this race because there were so many good runners in it. I hadn’t really been challenged much this season. So, it felt good to face some competition for once.”
Eli Nahom of New Milford finishes Class L Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Nahom’s performance was not enough to prevent Xavier, the defending State Open champion, from winning the Class L title (26 points) by sweeping the next four spots - Robbie Cozean (16:06), Peter Schulten (16:14), William Curran (16:19) and Dillon Selfors (16:21). Freshman Eamon Burke (16:52) finished in 12th as their fifth runner. Bristol Central placed second with 80 points to automatically qualify for the CIAC State Open Championship next Friday.
“We were pretty confident those four would be ready,” said Xavier coach Chris Stonier. “We had a little stumble concerning when Robbie (who set a PR) would be healthy enough [soft tissue foot injury] to return. He just needed rest. We wanted to take out time, we very slowly worked him back, and we felt this would be the best time for him to come back.
“This is a group that goes after the goals it wants to achieve in a different way than previous classes had. This class has wanted to achieve excellence, but there was still doubt. I don’t think they had trusted the work they had put in. But after we complete it, I think they understand that it equates to a particular outcome.
“Given the fact there was no individual title, they will be just as happy knowing they ran the optimal team race. It was the very best they could have done.”
In the second race of the day, freshman Claire Daniels of New Milford was the Girls Class L champion in 18:56, 24 seconds ahead of Guilford’s Meredith Bloss in 19:20.
The E.O. Smith Girls team won the L team championship with 76 points. Guilford was second (80) and New Milford, despite finishing first, third and fourth, was third (83).
Claire Daniels of New Milford finishes Class L Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
In the final race of the meet, Kate Wiser, whose 17:41 at the recent SWC Championship is the fastest run by a girl this season in Connecticut, finished in 18:32 that was 1:09 ahead of Brookfield senior Juliet Bussell in the Girls Class MM Race. And it helped Pomperaug to the MM championship with 39 points after winning the Class L title last season. The Tolland Girls team placed second with 70 points.
“I’m just excited to race, I enjoy the sport so much,” said Wiser, who admitted she’s had some trouble lately with a calf. “I don’t feel any pressure [to perform]. I’ve had a good season so far, but there still are the bigger races I’ve set goals for.”
Kate Wiser of Pomperaug finishes Class MM Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
East Lyme’s Samuel Whittaker (16:25), who was third in the division in 2017, was the Class MM boys champion, overcoming defending champ Anthony Golino of New Fairfield in the process. East Lyme’s Christopher Abbey (16:38) was second and Golino (16:59) was third.
Whitaker and Abbey helped East Lyme to the Boys MM team title with 53 points while E.O. Smith was second (118) as another automatic qualifier for the State Open meet.
Samuel Whittaker of East Lyme finishes Class MM Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
The Immaculate Boys and Girls won Class SS team titles, the first title ever for the boys. “And it’s a great feeling,” said Immaculate coach Brian Hayes. After finishing second in 2017, Immaculate won the title (60) on the back of Drew Mitchell’s eighth-place finish over runner-up East Catholic with 68 points.
Nonnewaug senior Eddie Nicholas was never challenged on the way to his Class SS title (16:08) over East Catholic’s Heath Olivieri (16:30) and Northwest Catholic’s Michael Stamm (16:49).
Eddie Nicholas of Nonnewaug finishes Class SS Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Wolcott’s Kathryn Rodriguez (19:02) won the Class SS Girls title ahead of Haddam-Killingworth’s Emma Anziano (19:33).
The Immaculate Girls team, who won the Class S title last season, moved up and won another title with 31 points fueled by Angela Saidman (3rd), Aileen Doherty (4th), Taylor Mascetta (6th) and Kaitlyn Segreti (7th). The defending champion, Haddam-Killingworth placed second with 78 points to secure a place in the Open meet using the sixth runner tie-breaker over Ellington.
Kathryn Rodriguez of Wolcott finishes Class SS Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
One of the more intriguing races was the Class LL Boys with the renewal of perhaps this season’s most compelling dual between Hall’s indoor and outdoor senior champion Miller Anderson and Conard’s precocious freshman Gavin Sherry.
Coming into the race, their fifth of the season, Sherry had won three times, including a win at the CCC Championships at Wickham on October 16th. But Anderson (15:57) got him this time, outlasting Sherry by two seconds (15:59). Shelton’s Peter Dillion was a close third (16:00).
“It’s been a back and forth for sure,” said Anderson. “He [Sherry] has pushed me to be a better run, for sure. The last few times I went out a little slower and it was clear that didn’t work. So, the plan was to be within two seconds of the lead at the mile and I was there. … When I could see the finish line, I didn’t even think about it. I just to move past them.”
Anderson’s win helped Hall to a second-place finish (87 points) in the team competition as Staples defended its title with 78 points.
Miller Anderson of Hall finishes Class LL Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Sophomore Mari Noble is one of Greenwich’s new star distance runners. She won the Class LL Girls title in 18:57, two seconds ahead of Danbury’s gifted senior Lauren Moore.
“I am extremely happy, to be honest,” said Noble. “I wasn’t entirely expecting this. Coming from a K-9 school, I didn’t have the cross-country experience, so it’s been an amazing opportunity to run with such a great team. I was pretty nervous, especially with the weather. It’s hard because your entire body kind of numbs. It can be a struggle, but I would take this over a 90-degree day. I had some expectations, but I mostly came into this just excited.”
The Danbury Girls won the team championship with 56 points ending Glastonbury’s (97) long hold on the title. Not only were they the defending champions, but they had won four of the last five state titles.
Mari Noble of Greenwich finishes Class LL Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Rocky Hill’s Elizabeth Stockman defended her Class M Girls title in 18:45 with a resounding 52-second win over Weston sophomore Mie Axelsson (19:37).
“I got out a little bit harder than I usually do,’ said Stockman. “And once again, I focused hard on my second mile and then closed the race. So, I just did what I’ve usually been doing. Sometimes I like running by myself, so I can pace it the way I feel comfortable with and work on the areas I need to work on.”
The New Fairfield Girls won the team championship with 65 points while Weston was second with 114 points.
Elizabeth Stockman of Rocky Hill finishes Class M Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
The Suffield and Tolland runners battled to end of the Boys Class M race before Suffield senior Kyle Englander pulled it out in 16:22. His teammate, junior Nick Sinofsky, was second (16:27).
“I thought I’d go out easy. I have a lot of confidence in my kick,” said Englander. “I stayed with the pack until there was about a mile to go and then I made my surge. I didn’t even look back. I just gave it everything I had. …You always go into a race wanting to do something like this, it was my goal. But when it happens you’re like, ‘Wow, I didn’t think it would actually [happen].’”
Tolland overcame the Suffield 1-2 finish to win the team title (30 points) using a third place by Stephen Sutton (16:29), a fourth by Jackson Cayward (16:29) and fifth by Alec Sauter (16:31). Suffield finished second with 37 points.
Kyle Englander of Suffield finishes Class M Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Old Saybrook senior Shane Henderson (16:37) earned the the Class S Boys individual title. But Bolton, which finished four points short of a title in 2017, was the team champion with 58 points highlighted by Lucas Carini (3rd), Michael Barrett (4th) and Kevin Brudz (5th). Terryville was second (67) on the strength of Chris Deforest’s second-place finish (16:46).
Shane Henderson of Old Saybrook finishes Class S Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
Junior Kylie Raymond of Somers, the defending Class SS champion, won the Girls Class S crown in 19:30 in convincing style over Emily Sienna of Hale Ray (20:12).
“The competition wasn’t that different. I had hoped we could have stayed in Class SS. It’s all about tradition,” said Raymond. “The season’s gone well. I’ve been holding back somewhat because I really want to run fast at the Open. I still feel like I have a decent amount left, so I am hoping that helps at the Open.”
The Derby Girls team wrapped up the Class S title with 89 points adding to their 2016 title ahead of Shepaug Valley with 98 points.
Kylie Raymond of Somers finishes Class S Race (photo by Ron Knapp, MySportsResults.com)
The complete meet results are available for the CIAC Divisional XC Championships 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 Saturday October 26, 2018.
Stay tuned for further meet coverage with Photo Galleries from each race.
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.