NEW CANAAN — On the surface it was a bit of a disappointing afternoon for the Staples girls’ cross country team. The Wreckers finished in second place with 57 points, as a strong Ridgefield team barely edged them for the FCIAC Championship Cross Country team title with 52 points at Waveny Park.
But dig a little deeper and Thursday was filled with many highlights for Staples. Sophomore Hannah DeBalsi continued her undefeated season as she won the girls’ 4K title in a time of 13 minutes and 29 seconds. Westhill’s Claire Howlett was second (13:41), while Fairfield Warde’s Cate Allen was third (14:33).
Wilton took third as a team.
Staples’ Erica Hefnawy, who a year ago finished in 22nd place, clocked almost a minute faster time (14:48) and took fifth place. Add in the fact Staples’ senior Caroline Koenig (who was unable to run last year after a serious leg injury) was 29nd (16:19) will extend her season another week, it turned out to be a good day for the Wreckers.
“Caroline…I was really glad to see she’s back, she’ll be racing with us next week which is really nice to see,” Staples girls’ head coach Amanda Parrish said. “(With) Hannah winning the race and Caroline being back there in the top seven…I was also impressed with Erica’s time.”
Added DeBalsi of Koenig’s finish: “That’s also very inspirational…if she can be that strong, than we all should be that strong.”
Hefnawy said after the race her finish was a personal accomplishment for her, considering she was more of a track runner coming into the sport.
“I really got serious about cross country this year, she said. “I really found a love for it through the summer and I really liked it.”
DeBalsi’s time was a course record as she extended her streak of breaking a meet/course record each race this fall.
“I wanted to get the course record,” DeBalsi said with a smile. “I really thought at the beginning of the season after I got the first record, hmm let’s keep going.”
Warde’s Allen, who was the defending FCIAC champion, helped the Mustangs to a fourth place finish (91). Teammate Hannah Doughtery was 18th (15:56).
“I think they ran hard,” Warde head coach Tim Foster said. “We have a little bit of sickness going on in the team. Coming in we knew five strong teams up front and we placed fourth, and not necessarily surprised by the finish. There’s a lot of talent there now in the conference. How did Cate run? I think she had a gutsy performance.”
Allen said individually she could have ran better, but was proud of the way her team performed.
“I think when we have our whole team back and healthy we can do a lot better in states,” Allen said.
Ludlowe finished 10th as a team. Kelly Walsh was the op finisher in 31st (16:24).