NEW CANAAN >> For the Danbury boys cross country team, they know exactly who they are racing against.
The same can be said for Staples.
Wednesday afternoon at Waveny Park, the two squads duked it out once again, writing another chapter in the conference rivalry.
Danbury claimed its second straight FCIAC title with 74 points, edging out Staples (71).
“It’s a collective group effort,” Danbury head coach Rob Murray said his team’s win today. “Staples is very interchangeable, if you look at the way those guys race. And we’re the same way with our personnel. We knew coming into the race that Staples was a very dangerous team. We knew that it would come down to running 5,000 meters. I’m just proud of the way our guys ran a full 5,000 meters and particular the last quarter mile. They all ran hard to the line.”
The Hatters, ranked No. 3 in the state coaches poll, placed five runners in the top 20 to secure the victory.
For Staples, head coach Laddie Lawrence was pleased with the way his team responded given everything they were up against.
The Wreckers were without their No. 2 runner, Chase Gornbein,who was out with an ankle injury, and the team has been dealing with the loss of a teammates father.
“We knew it was going to be close,” Lawrence said. “Ben Foster’s dad passed on Friday, Saturday’s practice was one of the worst we ever had. We had a lot of emotion to deal with. This team has responded extremely well and been supportive of the Fosters. Couldn’t have been prouder of the way they conducted themselves.”
Staples, currently ranked No. 1 in the state coaches poll, was led by Zakeer Ahmad (15:54) fifth place finish.
Senior Ben Foster said the runner-up finish on Wednesday is good motivation going into the state meet next weekend where they will race Danbury again.
“It shows that we stay together and we’re not going to dwell on it,” Foster said. “We’re a mentally tough team. It’s just tough to lose to Danbury again, but I want to beat them next week.”
Individually, Brien McMahon’s Eric van der Els won his fist ever and the program’s first FCIAC title, crossing the finish line in 15:24.
“Game plan was to go out fast, go hard and go out with cart, and just push it,” van der Els said.
Van der Els said he was pushed the entire 5,000 meter course by Ridgefield’s Gabe Altopp, who placed second (15:39).
Van der Els, said he’s excited about the win and looking forward to the Class LL meet next Saturday.
“There’s definitely going to be a tougher course, but I’m ready for it and definitely running hard,” he said.
Ridgefield girls claim crown
If there was any doubt of how strong the Ridgefield girls cross country team is, Wednesday answered any and all the questions.
Led by Kasey McGerald fourth place finish (15:05), the Tigers, ranked third the state coaches poll, placed six runners in the top 10 scoring 33 points. Staples, the 2014 winner, finished runner-up with 70.
“What Ridgefield did today, those were outstanding times,” Staples head coach Amanda Morgan said.
Staples was paced by Hannah DeBalsi, who recently committed to run for Stanford next year, as she won her third straight FCIAC title, finishing in 14:05 on the 4,000-meter course.
DeBalsi became only the third runner in FCIAC history to win three straight conference crowns.
“I’m just happy that I won,” DeBalsi said.
DeBalsi, whos’ racing plan is to build each week leading to a hopeful Foot Locker National trip in December, said she feels a lot better than last year.
“Step by step, just pushing harder each week,” she said.
Added Morgan: “I think the thing that’s been most impressive is how level-headed she’s been about it. I think she’s just on top of her mental game.”
The Wreckers second place finisher was Susannah Martin (14:52), who has quietly put together an impressive resume of her own.
“Susie is just tough,” Morgan said. “I have never seen her have a bad race at a big meet. She’s a smart runner.”
The Wreckers, ranked seventh in the state poll, head into the Class LL state meet with an idea of what they are capable of and what they need to focus on.
“There’s definitively things that did not go ideally,” Morgan said. “There are things we need to work on going into next week, not necessarily because we lost to Ridgefield but things like getting out more aggressively, making contact with the lead pack sooner.”
- Danbury 71; 2. Staples 74; 3. Warde 99; 4. Ridgefield 131; 5. Trumbull 164; 6. Darien 174; 7. Wilton 225; 8. Greenwich 246; 9. Ludlowe 253; 10. New Canaan 263; 11. St. Joseph 263; 12. McMahon 321; 13. Stamford 366; 14. Norwalk 383; 15. Bridgeport Central 430; 16. Westhill 466
Top 30 Individual Results
(5K course at Waveny Park, New Canaan)
Note: Top 15 finishers are All-FCIAC. Lower 15 are All-FCIAC second team.
- 1. Eric van der Els (McM) 15:24
- 2. Gabriel Altopp (RFD) 15:39
- 3. William Brisman (WAR) 15:47
- 4. Justin Hoelzl (WIL) 15:52
- 5. Zakeer Ahmad (STP) 15:54
- 6. Trevor Reed (DAN) 16:00
- 7. Ian Mickool (RFD) 16:01
- 8. Gilmar Barrios (STM) 16:08
- 9. James Mas (SJ) 16:09
- 10. Jack Adamski (DAN) 16:10
- 11. Benjamin Foster (STP) 16:14
- 12. Aaron Breene (WIL) 16:18
- 13. Charles Kieffer (WAR) 16:19
- 14. Brandon Harrington (STP) 16:21
- 15. Charlie Taubl (TRU) 16:26
- 16. Andrew Kates (GRN) 16:28
- 17. Terrell Cunningham (DAN) 16:33
- 18. Jake Roberts (DAN) 16:36
- 19. Sunil Green (STP) 16:37
- 20. Dan Nichols (DAN) 16:39
- 21. Alex Mocarski (WAR) 16:40
- 22. Bradford DeMassa (RFD) 16:41
- 23. Ajax Diamandis (McM) 16:45
- 24. Tim Moore (DAN) 16:46
- 25. Benjamin Seiple (STP) 16:48
- 26. Chris Alegi (TRU) 16:48
- 27. James Lewis (STP) 16:49
- 28. Jackson Stearns (WAR) 16:49
- 29. Pedro Pereira (DAN) 16:53
- 30. Alex Klarer (DAR) 16:54