THOMASTON >> Shepaug and Nonnewaug took the Berkshire League boys and girls cross country championships at Black Rock State Park’s 3.1-mile course Thursday afternoon.
For both teams, it was a bit of redemption. The Spartan boys were 9-0 in the regular season, but the same group was favored last year before disciplinary action took its core runners out of the race.
“They missed out last year, so they wanted to make up for it,” said Shepaug coach Tom Scarola.
The defending champion Nonnewaug girls lost to Housatonic by one point early in this year’s season after they lost their number three runner in the first meet.
“We were still adjusting,” said Coach Arleigh Duff. “They’re very young but the freshmen came up.”
Erik Quist, Ed Wolfe, Sean Parker, Chandler Wetherbee and Sean Welsh finished four, five, six, nine and 12 for Shepaug.
Northwestern finished a distant second (36-60) in the boys race, but Peter Bakker and Gavin Woodward earned honors for the defending league champions with a one-two individual finish.
Bakker (16:34.3), a senior, won for the second straight time after a back-and-forth battle with Terryville’s third-place Connor Levin. Woodward, a junior, stayed right with him, despite taking a fall.
“I wanted 16:00 flat (the course record),” said Bakker, who’s choosing between several Division I schools next year.
“Our strategy is to go out really hard to build a space, then back off until the end,” said Woodward.
A corner of the course, rutted out and muddy after the opening boys JV race, temporarily de-railed Woodward a little less than two miles into the race, but he was up and running with a layer of mud on his shin a split second later.
Nonnewaug’s Hanna Gregory, Sarah Wodward, Jacquelin Berger, Brooke Andrew and Greer Hanley were fourth, fifth, ninth, 14th and 17th for the girls title.
Thomaston’s Sammi Breier (20:17) shined the same light on the fifth-place Golden Bears with her individual win as Bakker and Woodward did for Northwestern.
“I knew I had to win,” said the defending girls champion, “because, if I didn’t, it meant I didn’t train right.
“I started slower because last year I started too fast.”
That put her behind five or six girls until half-way through the race. She kicke in second gear, finishing with a personal best by two seconds.
Despite Bakker and Breier’s back-to-back individual wins, nothing is guaranteed in cross country.
“Our win was a surprise because the competition in the league is so good,” said Shepaug coach Scarola. “We just went one meet at a time. Just last week, we had a close meet with Northwestern.”
For Nonnewaug’s Coach Duff, it was overcoming adversity.
“We found a way to do it,” he said, holding the girls team trophy for the second year in a row. “Hannah Gregory and Sarah Woodward are all-league for the second time, but (ninth-place finsher) Jackie Berger is a freshman. Brooke Andrew (14th overall) went from our eighth runner to our fourth.”
The bitter side of the sport’s uncertainties came for Housatonic, 9-0 in the regular season. Thursday, the Mountaineers finished third without their No. 3 and No. 4 runners. One couldn’t start; the other collapsed on the course.
“I’m the luckiest coach on the planet because they have more heart and soul than anyone,” said Coach Letitia Garcia-Tripp.
Ask Northwestern’s Gavin Woodward. It’s the nature of cross country runners to pick themselves up and carry on.
Everyone gets that chance next Saturday in the CIAC’s class meets at Wickham Park in Manchester.
Berkshire League Cross Country Championships
At Black Rock State Park, Thomaston (3.1 miles)
1. Shepaug 36
2. Northwestern 60
3. Thomaston 92
4. Litchfield 117
5. Lewis Mills 130
6. Terryville 136
7. Nonnewaug 157
8. Wamogo 207
9. Gilbert 280
10. Housatonic 317.
1. Nonnewaug 49
2. Lewis Mills 60
3. Housatonic 68
4. Shepaug 102
5. Thomaston 123
6. Northwestern 153
7. Litchfield 163
8. Terryville 189
9. Gilbert 269.
All-Berkshire League (top nine finishers)
1. Peter Bakker, Northwestern 16:34.3
2. Gavin Woodward, Northwestern 17:02.9
3. Connor Levins, Terryville 17:06.7
4. Erik Quist, Shepaug 17:07.2
5. Ed Wolfe, Shepaug 17:15.8
6. Sean Parker, Shepaug 17:20.3;
7. Noe Gaudette, Thomaston 17:46.2
8. Brandon Leclair, Wamogo 17:50.3
9. Chandler Weatherbee, Shepaug 17:51.2.
1. Sammi Breier, Thomaston 20:18.2
2. Mari Cullerton, Housatonic 20:47.7
3. Kaitlin Sulek, Lewis Mills 20:51.3
4. Hanna Gregory, Nonnewaug 20:53.0
5. Sarah Woodward, Nonnewaug, 21:00.5
6. Elizabeth Krenicky, Lewis Mills 21:19.8
7. Christina Gubetta, Northwestern 21:22.1
8. Eve Cullerton, Housatonic 21:25.7
9. Jacquelin Berger, Nonnewaug 21:56.6.