WOODBRIDGE >> Amity boys cross country coach Bob Orgovan still remembers something he said more than 30 years ago.
Just a few seasons into his coaching career, and without much on his résumé, he was witnessing Xavier’s run of State Open titles. He recalls one particular fall where the Falcons had won for ‘like the fourth or fifth time in a row.’
“I said to (now assistant xc coach Thom Jacobs), ‘I’ve got to admire that coach (Bob Michalski), because I will never win a Connecticut State Open,’” Orgovan said.
The coach is now in his 38th year at Amity. Friday at Wickham Park in Manchester, the Spartans have a chance to win their first State Open.
“I would like to do it just because of what I had said then,” Orgovan said.
Amity enters the meet as one of the favorites among 20 teams. It’s been a special season for the Spartans, who started out cautiously optimistic.
The team began the year ranked sixth in the state coaches poll and have slowly progressed from there.
Led by sophomore Kyle Beaudette — one of the state’s best runners — Amity won the Housatonic Division title for the seventh straight year, claimed the Southern Connecticut Conference crown by more than 40 points and edged out Danbury 90-95 last weekend to win the Class LL state title.
“It’s been a very good season,” Beaudette said. “It’s very exciting. There’s almost an electric atmosphere around practice.”
Amity knocked off Danbury and climbed into the No. 1 spot in the poll this week. Ridgefield, the preseason favorite and defending Open champ, fell victim to a few untimely setbacks, which has ultimately made for a more balanced field.
“I think it comes down to a yearly thing,” Orgovan said. “Some years there’s a team that’s so much better than everyone else, that wherever you happen to be, you’re not going to beat them. This year, Ridgefield had some bad luck.
“What are the chances of beating four really good teams two weeks in a row when there’s hardly any difference? It’s tough, but our kids are going to try and raise their level.”
Amity will be challenged by Danbury, Ridgefield, Hall and Staples, the top five teams in the state. The last time the Spartans came close to winning an Open title was in 2005, when they lost to Newtown by 10 points.
“It’s definitely going to be a tight race,” Beaudette said. “Whoever wins, it’s not going to be by 20 points. It’s going to be a very small margin. We’re just going to try and do the best we can. And hopefully our best is better than their best.”
The Spartans found a little extra motivation to get back on top after failing to qualify for the New England Championships last season for the first time in 10 years.
“The end of our cross country season was little bit disappointing for a lot of people,” senior Brendan Purcell said. “We knew our team was going to be decent, but we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to push past that and be the team that can do all the things that we can do right now.”
Amity now has a chance to achieve something Orgovan once thought was impossible.
“It’s so great because I know that it’s not just me, it’s not just everyone here, it’s everyone in the past that’s been looking toward this moment,” senior Alex Bunnell said. “I think it’d be amazing to bring the title home to Amity for the first time. To be a part of the team that did it would be so special.”
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