WINDSOR LOCKS >> For three years, Rachael Rosow was the undisputed leader on the Avon High girls cross country team. With a fierce, aggressive pace from the start of each race, she dared her opponents to stay with her. Few did.
She went 14-1 in dual meets, won a Class MM championship as a sophomore and was second in Class MM in 2012. She won five invitational meets, including three a year ago. She helped lead Avon to a pair of NCCC championships along with a Class MM state title, a second place finish at the State Open and a berth in the New England championships last fall.
But time waits for no runner.
Rosow has been slowed by injuries this fall. Junior Maddie McHugh has taken the mantle of the No. 1 runner with a similar driving style. Junior Molly Hamel and senior Sara Stokesbury have passed Rosow, who had to adjust to a new role.
Rosow isn’t winning races this season. But without the senior, the Avon girls cross country team may not have won its third straight NCCC championship last week.
Her 16th place finish helped Avon outlast the upset-minded Wildcats by a score of 41-49 at the NCCC championship meet. A week earlier, Rosow helped the Falcons slip past Suffield in the final dual meet of the season, 27-29.
Teams earn one point for each dual meet victory and one point for each team they beat at the league championship meet. Avon, which went 13-0 in the dual meet portion of the season, earned 13 points to finish with 26 points. Suffield (12-1) finished with 24 points. If Suffield had won, the two teams would have been tied and the tiebreaker is the team that wins the league championship meet.
Take Rosow out of the race and Avon probably would have scored 48 points – hardly a safe margin of victory. But Rosow did her job – as did her Avon teammates.
McHugh became the fourth Avon High runner in the last six years to win a NCCC championship with a dominating performance, winning the race with a whopping 39-second margin in 18:57.66. Hamel was fourth in 19:37 while Stokesbury was fifth in 19:45.
McHugh is just the second girl to finish the 5,000 meter course at the NCCC championship meet in less than 19 minutes. The only girl to accomplish that feat was course record holder Claire Smith of Avon, who won the 2009 NCCC title in 18:53.
Avon had three runners across the finish line before Suffield began to roll in. The Wildcats had upset Avon four days earlier at the Wickham Invitational in Manchester by 20 points in the seeded race. At the NCCC meet, Suffield had six runners finish in the top 13, taking seventh, ninth, tenth, 11th, 12th and 13th place.
However, Avon freshman Christina Martin was 15th and Rosow was 16th to close out the scoring for the Falcons.
“I’m ecstatic on how they ran today,” Avon High coach Al Dadario said. “I was expecting a dogfight. I thought (Suffield) would throw everything they had at us. But we responded. I told them to run with heart. And without all of them doing what they did, we would have lost.”
Suffield High coach Linda Begley admitted that her team was disappointed. “But Avon was on fire,” she said. “They had their act together.”
McHugh’s strategy this season has been to sprint to the front and take command. It worked in all five dual meets she ran this season and in the seeded race at the Wickham Invitational. It’s a strategy she developed after attending Team Prep USA, a high altitude running and training camp, in Colorado for a few weeks this summer.
Hamel ran most of the race with Granby’s Catherine Pinson before Bolton’s Samantha Nyser pulled away from Stokesbury in the final 800 meters of the race to finish second for the second straight season.
Dadario said this NCCC championship was the more satisfying than winning in 2012 and 2011. “All of them are tough to win but this one we were challenged the most,” he said. “This is the sweetest of the three.”
Canton finished sixth and was led by Eliza Chekas, who finished 17th in 20:55. Emily Briggs was second for the Warriors in 21:40 in 24th place. She was among the top five freshmen in the race.
In the boys race, Ellington outdueled Suffield, 43-66 to win its second straight NCCC championship. The Purple Knights had three runners in the top 12 and five in the top 17 finishers. Suffield was led by champion Patrick Begley, who won the race in 16:21.63, and Kevin Powell, who took seventh. But the next three runners for the Wildcats finished 16th, 20th and 22nd.
Canton was third in the race, led by twin brothers James Yost, who was fifth in 16:49, and Dean Yost, who was sixth in 17:11.72. Jacob Whittingslow finished 15th in 17:27, giving the Warriors three runners who earned All-NCCC honors. Avon finished sixth, sparked by Collin Pritchard, who earned All-NCCC honors by finishing ninth in 17:19.
Avon had seven of the first eight runners in the girls junior varsity race, led by Hannah Fusaro, who won the race for the second straight season.
2013 NCCC championship meet
At Windsor Locks
Team results – 1. Avon 41, 2. Suffield 49, 3. Bolton 106, 4. Granby 112, 5. Ellington 119, 6. Canton 147, 7. Coventry 199, 8. Somers 232, 9. Stafford 238, 10. East Granby 267. Did not score (not at least 5 runners): Windsor Locks, Enfield, SMSA, East Windsor
1. Maddie McHugh (A) 18:57.66 for 3.1 miles at Windsor Locks, 2. Samantha Nyser (B) 19:32.26, 3. Catherine Pinson (G) 19:32.81, 4. Molly Hamel (A) 19:36, 5. Sara Stokesbury (A) 19:44, 6. Leah Cawthorn (Ell) 19:57, 7. Monique Labarre (Su) 20:03, 8. Alexa Cipkas (G) 20:10, 9. Nina Begley (Su) 20:12, 10. Lauren Izabel (Su) 20:14, 11. Katie Baker (Su) 20:22, 12. Laura Sweeney (Su) 20:30, 13. Erin Kost (Su) 20:31, 14. Christina Langton (B) 20:37, 15. Christina Martin (A) 20:41
League standings (dual meet record, total points earned): 1.Avon 13-0, 26; 2. Suffield 12-1, 24, 3. Bolton 11-2, 22; 4. Granby 10-3, 20; 5. Ellington 8-5, 17; 6. Canton 9-4, 17; 7. Coventry 6-6, 13; 8. Somers 6-6, 12; 9. Stafford 4-9, 9; 10. East Granby 4-7, 8; 11. Enfield 2-10, 2; Windsor Locks 0-11, 0; SMSA 0-11, 0; East Windsor 0-11, 0
Team results –1. Ellington 43, 2. Suffield 66, 3. Canton 88, 4. Coventry 114, 5. Bolton 132, 6. Avon 141, 7. Somers 186, 8. East Windsor 193, 9. Granby 232, 10. East Granby 313, 11. Stafford 340, 12. Enfield 346, 13. Windsor Locks 382. Did not score (not at least 5 runners): SMSA
1. Patrick Begley (Su) 16:21.63 for 3.1 miles at Windsor Locks; 2. Jordan Dixon (Ell) 16:36, 3. Alex Norstrom (Cov) 16:39, 4. Spencer Lebel (Ell) 16:47, 5. James Yost (Can) 16:49, 6. Dean Yost (Can) 17:11, 7. Kevin Powell (Su) 17:14, 8. David Clavet (Ell) 17:18, 9. Collin Pritchard (A) 17:19, 10. Evan Jaworski (B) 17:20, 11. James Fritsche (B) 17:21.45, 12. Timothy Daigle (Ell) 17:21.82, 13. Hunter Bryam (Cov) 17:21.85. 14. Ryan Lynch (So) 17:26, 15. Jacob Whittingslow (Can) 17:27
League standings (dual meet record, total points earned): 1. Ellington 13-0, 26, 2. Suffield 12-1, 24, 3. Canton 11-2, 22, 4. Coventry 8-4, 18, 5. Avon 9-4, 17; 6. Bolton 7-5, 16; 7. Somers 6-7, 13; 8. East Windsor 8-5, 13; 9. Granby 5-8, 10; 10. East Granby 4-6, 8; 11. Stafford 2-11, 5; 12. Enfield 3-10, 5; 13. Windsor Locks 1-12, 2; 14. SMSA 0-13, 0