WISER SETS COURSE, MEET RECORD IN CLASS L RUNAWAY
MANCHESTER — The comparisons between Pomperaug junior Kate Wiser and former Staples standout Hannah DeBalsi are unavoidable.
They took similar tracks to the top of the sport, with the latter setting numerous records for the former to chase.
One of the biggest ones fell in perfect conditions at the home of Connecticut cross country.
Wiser etched her name into Wickham Park lore Saturday on her way to capturing the Class L title. Her time of 17:39 set a course record, two seconds ahead of DeBalsi’s mark.
— Ryan Lacey (@RyanLacey11) October 26, 2019
“It’s been on my mind, I wanted to do it one of these races,” Wiser said. “I was feeling good. When I saw 40 seconds I had left for the final straightaway, because other than that I don’t really know what my time is.”
New Canaan took the team title with 56 points, a commanding performance with all five runners finishing in the top 18. The Rams needed all of that as Simsbury finished second with 62, while Wilton, Darien and Pomperaug rounded out the top five.
“We’ve never been this high up in emotions,” New Canaan senior Sophie Curcio said. “Just to win the whole thing is amazing.”
Wiser finished ahead of SWC rival Claire Daniels (19:04) of New Milford while Amanda Derway of Simsbury (19:14) finished third. For the Rams, Molly Murphy finished sixth (19:43), Curcio took ninth (20:32) and Lauren Doherty finished 11th (20:35).
“We thought we had a chance coming in but we never thought it would come true,” Curcio said. “We didn’t think we were that good to win states. All of us packed really well.”
But the day belonged to Wiser, who will head into the State Open and New Englands with history in her back pocket.
“I think there’s some spots I definitely could have pushed harder,” Wiser said. “I wanted to see how my times would change from last year, and I know I like this course a lot. This is a good race to prepare for the next ones.”
Greenwich’s Mari Noble had to survive a charge from several runners to earn the win in the Class LL race last year — her first in cross country — but the 2019 edition was much easier to navigate for the talented junior.
Noble won her second straight Class title with a time of 18:30, a personal best for the standout. She finished 28 seconds ahead of Manchester’s Kate Hedlund (18:58) as Noble produced the second fastest time of the day behind Wiser.
“I was thrilled with my time,” said Noble, who ran an 18:57 at last year’s Class LL and a 18:59 at the State Open. “I couldn’t ask for much more. I’m super excited for next week’s (State Open) because there’s going to be some tough competition.”
Hall won the team title despite No. 1 runner Jenna Zydanowicz hobbling to a 26th-place finish after slowing down late. Katherine Sanderson finished seventh to lead the Warriors while Nora Holmes — both sophomores — was ninth. The Warriors scored 77 points while Trumbull — led by Alessandra Zaffina’s sixth-place finish — was second with 97.
“I’d say this race could have gone two ways,” said Noble, who won the FCIAC championship last week. “Either I’d start with Jenna or Kate and run with them for a while. It’s more fun to run with people next to you and it helps a lot. But I think right from the gun because of my start I knew by the time I was ahead, that was my game plan (to get ahead).”
Danbury’s Daniella Grullon-Pena finished third in 19:10 in what was the sixth-fastest time of the day, tied with Ava Graham of Bethel, who won Class M. FCIAC champion Ridgefield took third in the event.
One of the more interesting battles heading into Saturday was the team competition in Class MM, with several with hopes of winning.
It was as close as anticipated as E.O Smith (63 points) edged East Lyme (68) for the crown. Avon wasn’t far behind in third (87) with Rhiannon Richmond leading the way. Guilford finished fourth as Clara Wiesler finished third in the race.
E.O. Smith won Class L last year, trading places with Pomperaug, which won Class MM.
Richmond strolled to a win in the event, clocking in at 19:59. The senior finished 15 seconds ahead of Linsey Adams of Woodstock Academy. Bridget Olsen led the way for the Panthers by finishing fourth, while teammates Elizabeth Bigelow (20:53) and Jayden Stygar (21:00) finished in the top 10.
“I was not expecting it at all,” said Richmond. “Especially after last season I didn’t do well at this course specifically, coming into this season I was kind of nervous about it and didn’t expect to win. This is a hard course.”
BETHEL’S GRAHAM CHAMP IN 1ST YEAR
In her first year running cross country, Bethel sophomore Ava Graham was crowned the Class M Girls State Champion, completing the 5K race in 19:10.
“Since this was my first year of cross country I did not know what to expect,” Graham said. “Coming to the meet I hoped I would get one of the top spots and here I am. This week at practice we didn’t do a lot of hard running so we were rested for the meet.”
Graham played soccer in the fall her freshmen year, and the switch to cross country appears to have been a wise decision.
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) October 26, 2019
When asked how she would rate her first season of her new sport, she responded “I would give it a 10/10. It was a lot of fun.”
Graham was not the only sophomore to impress in the race, as each of the top five finishers were sophomores, three of which hail from Tolland.
Calista Mayer placed second overall with a time of 19:31 to help Tolland win the Class M team title handily.
Peyton Bornstein finished in 20:08 for fourth place and was accompanied by Isabelle McNamee, who finished fifth overall in 20:11 as the three Tolland sophomores combined for just 11 points.
“The girls have worked so hard, I know how much they wanted it.” Tolland coach Victoria Cronin said. “Tolland has had a great history of winning state championships and it has been a couple years, so I know how much this meant to the girls. Coming into it and looking at our times, we knew that we had a real shot at finishing high, but having three sophomores in the top five overall was a nice surprise.”
WOLCOTT’S RODRIGUES DEFENDS SS CROWN
In Class SS, Kathryn Rodrigues of Wolcott completed the 5K race in 18:59 to capture her second straight individual title.
“I was able to win the Class SS title last year, so to return and be able to do it again is just an amazing feeling and a great way to end my senior year,” Rodrigues said. “I was pretty nervous because it is states, but I feel like that helps me to go faster. I’ve been training since the summer for this so it is awesome to have it pay off.”
The senior finished ahead of Immaculate’s Ailene Doherty, who finished in 19:35 for second place.
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) October 26, 2019
Haddam-Killingworth finished first in the team competition, dethroning defending champion Immaculate by three points.
Meara Bodak and Julia Callis were the catalysts for Haddam-Killingworth, placing 7th and 8th.
“I am very proud of the girls from where we started in the season,” Haddam-Killingworth coach Matt Diglio said. “We actually raced Immaculate our first race of the year in New York and they crushed us. Our girls were in a rough spot the first month with some injuries and illness, but the past couple of weeks they have come together so for us to do this, the girls rose to the occasion. We have been running as a pack all season long. I could not be more proud of what they’ve done and how hard they’ve worked.”
Lauren D’Amico, Ava Dimatteo and Isabel Berardino all finished in the top 20 as well to overcome an Immaculate team that had four top 10 finishers.
SOMERS’ RAYMOND THREE-PEATS AS STATE CHAMP
Kylie Raymond of Somers captured her second consecutive Class S individual state title Saturday, completing the Wickham Park 5K course in 19:21.
Raymond also won the Class SS title in 2017, technically making it three in a row for the senior.
Raymond shined on the big stage yet again, completing the race thirty seconds before second place finisher Liv Distefano of East Hampton.
— Will Aldam (@AldamWill) October 26, 2019
“I tried to stay really conservative inside of the first two miles today and then just kick as hard as I could in the last mile,” Raymond said. “Sometimes I tend to go out too fast in races so I’ve been meaning to do that. I won the SS my sophomore year and then class S last year so I knew it was my time. It is my senior year and I worked really hard for this, I was injured during the outdoor season so I knew I needed to run really fast today.”
Somers placed third as a team in the event with 109 points.
The team title was dominated by Thomaston which had five top 20 finishers for 59 points compared to second place East Hampton’s 102 points.
Thomaston was led by Maegan Desmarais, who came in 6th place at 20:35 and Briana Greco, who finished in 8th place in 21:01.
Payton Mozelak, Kiera Fainer, and Kiersten Sundell placed 14th-16th, respectively, to solidify the win for Thomaston.