MANCHESTER >> Saturday afternoon was an emotional day to say the least for the Branford girls’ cross country team.
Cyrene Nicholas was all smiles as she crossed the finish line at Wickham Park and head coach Kevin Connell was fighting back tears at the end as the Hornets won their first ever Class MM title with 117 points.
“Emotionally it’s one of those things you always hope will happen, but when it finally happens you’re kind of like overwhelmed,” Connell said. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this one.”
It was an all-around team effort for Branford as Nicholas, who was coming off a personal best last week at the SCC Championships, kept the momentum going. She finished in third place in a time of 19 minutes, 43 seconds.
New Fairfield (127) took second and Joel Barlow (153) was third.
“I’m so proud of all of my teammates,” Nicholas said. “They all did so much better than I expected them to do.”
Gabrielle Richichi of New Fairfield won the race (18:28) and Chrissy Bendzinski of RHAM took second (19:34). Danae Rivers of Wilbur Cross was fourth (20:11).
“I did everything I wanted to do,” Nicholas said of the race strategy. “I just wanted to run evenly and consistently. One thing we focused on was not psyching yourself out on the hill. It’s more than it’s cracked up to be.”
Branford put together an impressive team performance as Anneliese Troidle was ninth (20:26) and the third through seventh runners for the Hornets finished strong.
“To win was really surprising, not that we didn’t have the people,” Connell said. “These guys rose to the occasion and they really had a great day. All the work they did in the summer…the result today was a result of all the hard work.”