MANCHESTER >> Coming into Saturday’s Wickham Park Invitational, Cheshire’s Brendan Murray had one goal in mind.
“I didn’t really care about placement, more so about time. Sub-16 was what I was looking for,” Murray said.
The standout sophomore easily achieved that goal as he blew away the field on the 5,000-meter course to win the boys’ championship cross country race in 15 minutes, 56 seconds.
Murray’s time was nearly 20 seconds better than second-place finisher Sam Toolin (16:14)of North Kingstown, Rhode Island. Murray was the only runner to clock under 16 minutes and his time tied for the 41st fastest time on the new Wickham course that was altered in 2008.
“I thought the Rhode Island kid went out way too fast, so I kind of kept like a 50-meter gap on him so I didn’t completely lose him,” Murray explained. “Once I went up the Green Monster I knew the race was going to start, so I attached to him and tried to take the lead and that’s what I did.”
Murray’s time was 35 seconds faster than last year when he placed third.
“Getting 15:56 mostly by myself is an extreme confidence booster,” Murray said.
Locally, Fairfield Prep’s Drew Thompson placed fifth (16:32).
Staples, the No.1 team in the state coaches’ poll, won the boys’ championship title for the second straight year with 65 points.
“I don’t think we raced particularly well today, we raced well enough to win,” Staples head coach Laddie Lawrence said. “We’ve run better.”
In the girls’ championship race, Tolland junior Katherine DeLoreto won in 18:45, as she was the only female runner to go under 19 minutes. Tolland won the team title with 54 points.
“Today was kind of like a feel-out day,” DeLoreto said. “I was going to do what I could, but for me it was mostly about the team.”
Mercy senior Mackenzie Pias finished in second (19:03) and teammate Bridgid Selfors was third (19:10).
Pias said she was hoping to break 19 minutes, but her time was a two second personal record on the Wickham course.
“I was excited going into it,” Pias said of the race. “I think it went well.”
Mercy, which has battled some injuries, only raced six on Saturday, but Pias said they did well despite the circumstances, and feel good going into the championship part of the season toward the end of the month.
In the seeded varsity races, Guilford’s Ben Siciliano finished in second (16:22), while Coginchaug’s Sam Drop won the girls race (19:23), as Blue Devils finished in fourth as a team.
“I just wanted to see how fast I could go today,” Siciliano said. “I’m still trying to break 16 (minutes), but this season has been going well and the team is looking strong.”
Drop, a senior, who recently committed to run for the University of Georgia, said she thought there would be a bit more of a competitive field.
“It didn’t happen, so I just tried to run as fast as I could and push it for training purposes,” Drop said.