WATERTOWN >> The NVL’s two undefeated regular-season cross country girls and boys teams held their top spots in the NVL championships at Watertown’s 3.1-mile Veteran’s Memorial Park course Wednesday afternoon.
Derby, 13-0, took the girls race 41-50 over second-place Watertown. Naugatuck, 15-0, won the boys race 54-85 over Woodland.
Derby’s Red Raiders claimed their first NVL girls championship in any sport since joining the league eight years ago.
“Every girl ran their personal best. It was a coach’s dream,” said Coach Nick DiLuggo. “We expected our best race to be next week (at the CIAC class meets).”
Better still, the top Raiders did it in the face of adversity. Junior Kiley Rodriguez finished second overall in spite of twisting her ankle twice on the course, hurting badly enough to collapse just past the finish line.
Gabby Prizzio, right behind her in third, ran her best time with a bad cold.
Nevertheless, nobody knows adversity quite like overall winner Kristen Barbaris (19:30.60).
“This is my first championship race,” said the Oxford senior. “My freshman year, I had a herniated disc, so I was the team manager. As a sophomore, I had a torn groin, so I couldn’t run that year or the next.”
Finally getting her chance this year, Barbaris lost to Derby’s Prizzio in the team’s first dual meet, then won everything else in her way.
“She went out so strong I couldn’t catch her, but I was moving up the whole time,” said Derby’s Rodriguez, trailing by 50 yards mid-race, then narrowing it to 20 at the finish line.
Naugatuck had two leaders for the entire boys race. Grady Beasley (16:30.83) and Mark Zamani ran one, two, with a wide gap between them and third-place runner Kyle Hotchkiss from Kennedy.
Though sometimes alternating their positions in the regular season, the two are undefeated this year as a pair, leading the Greyhounds to their third straight NVL boys championship.
“These guys were in the shadows last year behind two other strong runners,” said Naugatuck coach Bill Hanley. “This year, they came into their own. But we weren’t on anyone’s radar coming into this season. We found our answer in the marching band with No. 4 Dave Kerns and No. 5 Luis Garces.”
Torrington, at the bottom of both races, had opposite luck. The girls, 9-5 in the regular season, ran strong behind two top runners. Then, a week before the NVL championships, two of the six-girl team members were unavailable. Without them, the Torrington Red Raiders lacked the numbers for an official team (five).
The remaining four did their best to make up for it. Gabby Vega finished eighth overall, earning All-NVL honors. Ashlynn Cook was 18th, making the All-Iron Division team.
“I was behind the Oxford girl and the Derby girls (in ninth place). Then I passed a Woodland girl in the second lap,” said Vega.
Cook was injured most of the season.
“I was just trying to keep up with Gabby,” she laughed.
Shadow Pereira led the Torrington boys (2-12 in the regular season), in 27th place.
“I was trying for 20th, but I didn’t go in confident enough,” he said.
Everybody gets another chance at the CIAC Class Meets next Saturday at Manchester’s Wickham Park.
NVL Cross Country Championships
At Veterans’ Memorial Park, Watertown (3.1 miles)
Girls: 1. Derby 41; 2. Watertown 50; 3. Woodland 80; 4. Oxford 128; 5. Naugatuck 160; 6. Sacred Heart 163; 7. Holy Cross 167; 8. Wolcott 192; 9. Seymour 228; 10. St. Paul Catholic 275; 11. Kennedy 291; 12. Wilby 331; Torrington (Incomplete team).
Boys: 1. Naugatuck 54; 2. Woodland 85; 3. Watertown 122; 4. Crosby 147; 5. Wolcott 160; 6. Derby 175; 7. Oxford 189; 8. Holy Cross 201; 9. Seymour 207; 10. Kennedy 241; 11. St. Paul Catholic 265; 12. Sacred Heart 268; 13. Torrington 332.
All-NVL (top eight individual finishers)
Girls: 1. Kristen Barbaris, Oxford, 19:30.60; 2. Kiley Rodriguez, Derby, 19:35.74; 3. Gabriella Prizio, Derby 20:02.67; 4. Nicole Rizzo, Derby 20:22.88; 5. Bethany Ottowitz, Watertown 20:49.98; 6. Sophia Guerrera, Watertown, 20:53.50; 7. Kelsey Mitchell, Woodland 21:05.73; Gabrielle Vega, Torrington 21:16.85.
Boys: 1. Gradey Beasley, Naugatuck, 16:30.83; 2. Mark Zamani, Naugatuck, 16:45.01; 3. Kyle Hotchkiss, Kennedy 17:04.71; 4. Kevin Koval, Seymour 17:18.62; 5. Bryan Oliveira, Wilby 17:22.75; 6. Ethan LaFrance, Oxford 17:26.92; 7. Brian Sardinskas, Woodland 17:41.72; 8. Ryan Robert, Wolcott 17:47.38.