The Danbury boys and girls cross country teams will have the same goals once the postseason rolls around, but they spent their weekends in two different states tuning up for the championship season.
The boys squad ventured to the Shorelines Coaches Invite in Homdel, N.J., to race against several of the best teams from the Garden State. The girls participated in the Wickham Park Invitational, a competitive preparation for the Connecticut state meets.
Both squads are inside the top five of the latest MySportsResults/soundRunner top 10 poll; the girls sit second while the boys are fifth.
The boys team finished fourth in the top varsity race as Malcolm Going crossed the line in 10th place. Based on where his squad is in terms of training schedule, coach Rob Murray opted to take his squad to New Jersey instead of competing at Wickham.
“We’re in a heavy training mode right now,” said Murray. “At this point it’s better for our team to give our best race effort, and once they freshen up at the end of the season it will end in a faster place. I’d rather go out and run just against six or seven teams.”
Going, Jacob Hefele and Jack Watson have taken turns as the school’s No. 1 runner, forming a solid top three that should compete for the FCIAC championship. Conference favorite Staples defeated the Hatters earlier in the season, though the rivals were close throughout the Greenwich Point course.
The Wreckers have won the last two FCIAC meets; Murray believes the teams are evenly matched heading into the event at Waveny Park in New Canaan.
“I just feel like the characteristics of Staples teams and our teams are very similar,” Murray said. “We have great packs; we three really good runners who could be all-state. It’s going to come down to who can execute on that day. If you race 10 times I think you get five wins for Staples and five for Danbury.”
The girls team placed second at Wickham Park on Saturday, led by the stellar performance of senior Lauren Moore. Moore finished third overall with a time of 19:38. Teammates Alex Chakar, Cassandra Sturdevant, Valerie Fox and Meilee Kry have also been key to the successful season.
“We executed very well,” said girls coach Marsha Turek. “We’re just trying to get a better feel for the course because teams that live closer can run on it more often than we do, to build a little more confidence against the competition.”
The Hatters — who have hopes of winning their first-ever FCIAC title after finishing second last year — hope to be peaking at the right time.
“We’ve just been training together so much and making that a big goal, looking at our team goals and how each of us can work towards that,” Moore said. “FCIACs is constantly one of those team goals; through all of these races that’s the big thing we’re thinking about, how we’re making ourselves stronger for that.”
Both teams have thrived during the regular season; the boys finished 13-2 while the girls went 14-1. The girls team picked up a big win at Greenwich Point against the Cardinals and Ridgefield, two of the top league contenders.
“I have the same group for the most part as last year and they work hard for one another,” said Turek.
The weekend was the last competitive action before the postseason begins. The FCIAC championships kick off almost a month of high-intensity racing that ends with the New England championships in Manchester, N.H.