The 2020 East Coast Cross Country Championships left an upbeat impression on an imperfect cross country season as Connecticut runners took home three titles.
Nicholas Bendtsen (Wolcott) pulled off an upset, edging Gavin Sherry (Conard) in a photo finish for the boy’s title, while Kate Wiser (Pomperaug) closed her high school career with yet another championship.
The Nutmeg All-Stars, put together for this club event, outpaced the field with strong performances from Chloe Scrimgeour (Conard) and Mari Noble (Greenwich) to claim the girls team title.
“I think it is awesome how our state did,” Wiser said. “Chloe (Scrimgeour) and Mari (Noble) did really good and I watched the finish of Gavin (Sherry) and Nicholas (Bendtsen) and it was really a battle to the end. It was a great showing for Connecticut.”
The event was not affiliated with the NFHS or CIAC. Runners ran independent of their high schools.
Nicholas Bendtsen had a quiet senior season consisting of just six Wolcott dual meets before the NVL conference meet was canceled, so when he edged Gavin Sherry by one half second for the title, it was even more surprising.
“It was crazy, I couldn’t believe it,” Bendtsen said. “There were so many talented guys in that race like Gavin Sherry and Aidan Puffer. It felt good to compete with them and show everyone that I am an excellent runner as well and that all my hard work payed off.”
Though Bendtsen pulled off an upset over the two-time GameTimeCT Runner of the Year, the 2019 NVL champion and fourth place State Open finisher knew he was capable.
“I guess you could consider it an upset. I knew I had the capabilities even though I had never beaten any of these guys before,” Bendtsen said. “Gavin has been on the top for a long time, and I don’t think anyone really expected me to win this race.”
Bendtsen had showcased his skills on Nov. 28 at the NEXC Club Championships. Bendtsen finished third overall and was the second Connecticut runner behind Gavin Sherry.
“I am definitely happy with my performance, but I know I can do better,” Bendtsen said after the race. “I feel like I ran well, but I wasn’t really focused because it was my first big race of the year. I hadn’t really tuned into racing mode yet.”
Bendtsen turned into racing mode on in round two, showing improvements he made.
“I was a lot stronger coming into these races than I was last time I saw these guys,” Bendtsen said.
“Strengthening was definitely a big part of it, but more importantly I think I was much more focused and relaxed going into it. I felt like the race went by really fast because I felt like I was in the zone.”
Harnessing his focus, Bendtsen stuck with Sherry until the very end.
“I was able to stick with him and then the last 800 meters or so were all downhill. We were basically sprinting down the hill because we were going so fast,” Bendtsen said. “Coming out of the woods with 200 meters left I realized I could win this thing, so I gave it all I had.”
Bendtsen crossed the finish line in 15:40.0 compared to Sherry’s 15:40.5 in a perfect ending to an imperfect season.
“I am so happy I got an opportunity to run a couple times against some of the top guys in the northeast,” Bendtsen said. “And it feels so good to get a win in my last high school cross country race.”
Kate Wiser ended her senior cross country season in predictable fashion, with a championship.
The GameTimeCT Runner of the Year won every race she competed in this fall, claiming the SWC title, CTXC Club title and now the East Coast XC Championship.
“It is definitely bittersweet,” Wiser said. “I was happy with the race, but knowing that this was the end of my high school cross country career was a little sad. But I am looking forward to the future.”
Wiser’s 17:25.9 first place finish represents her last high school level cross country race before joining Notre Dame next fall.
“There are so many people that I have to thank for helping me get to this point,” Wiser said. “I am very grateful to have had any races this year and certainly these last two races, which have been a lot of fun.”
In addition to Wiser taking the individual title, a somewhat spontaneously created All-Star squad from Connecticut outpaced the meet’s hosts for the team title.
Chloe Scrimgeour, Mari Noble, Katherine Sanderson (Hall), Nora Holmes (Hall) and Grace Michaud (Southington) pulled together for the first time as the Nutmeg All-Stars.
“It was such a cool experience because this was my first time having teammates in a cross country race like this,” Scrmigeour said. “It was also with girls who I competed against, like Mari is one of my biggest competitors and she was so nice and it was so great to run with her and push each other during the race.”
It was a battle from the beginning for Scrimgeour, who slipped and fell at the starting line.
“It kind of threw off my whole race,” Scrimgeour said. “At the beginning there is a hill so I had to work my way back, so I didn’t really catch up until the end.”
Scrimgeour (18:48.1) battled to earn a seventh-place finish, and was followed by Noble’s (18:51.7) ninth-place performance.
Sanderson (19:19.9) finished 21st with Holmes (19:25.1) in 25th and Michaud (19:41.9) in 32nd.
Together the group of five outscored the Garden State Track Club by just three points to take the title.
“It was a last-minute thing where we just kind of threw together a team, but it worked really well,” Scrimgeour said. “Although I didn’t have the best race, the team win made it worth it.”
NOTABLE BOYS FINISHERS
1st: Nicholas Bendtsen, Sr. (Wolcott) 15:40.0
2nd: Gavin Sherry, Jr. (Conard) 15:40.5
3rd: Callum Sherry, Jr. (Conard) 16:00.3
7th: Aidan Puffer, Jr. (Manchester) 16:11.7
11th: Charles Namiot, Sr. (Ridgefield) 16:23.6
27th: Eamon Burke, Jr. (Xavier) 16:50.5
34th: Justin Cascio, Jr. (Lewis Mills) 17:00.5
NOTABLE GIRLS FINISHERS
1st: Kate Wiser, Sr. (Pomperaug) 17:25.9
7th: Chloe Scrimgeour, Sr. (Conard) 18:48.1
9th: Mari Noble, Sr. (Greenwich) 18:51.7
20th: Anna Steffen, Sr. (Hand) 19:19.2
21st: Katherine Sanderson, Jr. (Hall) 19:19.9
25th: Nora Holmes, Jr. (Hall) 19:25.1
28th: Ava Graham, Jr. (Bethel) 19:33.4
33rd: Grace Michaud, Sr. (Southington) 19:41.9