MANCHESTER >> Friday’s State Open Cross Country Championships proved just how difficult it is to duplicate success.
With the sun slowly setting in the backdrop at Wickham Park in Manchester, the Staples boys ran across the park with a shout of jubilation.
A week after finishing second at the Class LL divisional meet, the Wreckers scored 102 points to win the program’s first Open title since 1990.
“It’s an amazing moment for all of us,” Staples senior James Lewis said.
A different scene was taking place in the far corner of the park, as the two-time defending LL champion Amity, packed up its gear and slowly made its way to the bus.
Coming into Friday, the Spartans had high hopes of winning their first Open title. Instead, they finished fourth.
“I’ve always said in order to win something really important you have to be good and you have to be lucky,” Amity head coach Bob Orgovan said. “Today we were not lucky.”
The Spartans ran into some troubles on the course, as one of their top runners, Matt Arovas, did not finish the race, as he collapsed right toward the finish. Orgovan said he is OK, but overall the victory today just wasn’t in the cards.
“It just wasn’t there for us today, and it wasn’t just one person,” Orgovan said. “It’s a character builder.”
Amity’s top finisher was senior captain Harrison Block in 10th.
For Staples, battling a year full of injuries and personal issues, it was an emotional win.
“I’m real pleased with today,” Staples head coach Laddie Lawrence said. “When Ben’s (Foster) father died, it hit everyone hard emotionally, but we got through that. It’s a great group of kids, they’ve worked really hard. I’m very pleased this is the way it ended.”
Staples was led by junior Zakeer Ahmad’s 11th place finish, as the Wreckers placed four in the top 35.
“Today, it was all about getting the win for the team and we didn’t care where we finished individually,” Lewis said.
Danbury finished runner-up, Glastonbury was third and locally, Fairfield Prep captured fifth. The top six teams and top 25 individuals advance to the New England Championships next Saturday in Thetford (Vt.).
The top individual winner on the 5,000-meter course was Brien McMahon’s Eric van der Els, who won in 15 minutes and 47 seconds.
The senior, who won his first ever Open title, had a finish line mishap last week at the Class LL. He joked he knew where he was going today.
“I know the course now,” he said with a laugh.
He was able to separate himself a bit from Glastonbury’s Randy Neish and Ridgefield’s Gabe Altopp during the hill portion of the course.
“From there, it was pretty much all downhill and then you got to hammer it home and do the best you can to hang on,” he said.
Altopp finished second (15:55) and Neish was third.
The top local finisher was Guliford senior Ben Siciliano, who captured sixth place in 16:18.
Fairfield Prep’s Drew Thompson was seventh (16:18) and Cheshire’s Brendan Murray was eighth (16:18).
“The (plan) was to finish top 10,” Siciliano said.
Siciliano was able to accomplish that and beat some fellow SCC runners that have beaten him the past.
“It’s a good way to go out,” he said with a smile.