HIGGANUM >> It was one of the few times this season that the East Hampton girls cross country team had its top seven runners ready to take flight at the starting line. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.
Powered by the first team all-league performances from sophomore Sydney Georgiades and junior Mckenzie Boyce, the Bellringers captured their second consecutive Shoreline Conference championship Thursday at Haddam-Killingworth High School.
East Hampton outdistanced Old Saybrook, 68-80. Haddam-Killingworth, behind individual champion Maddie Brandon, placed third (103 points), while Portland finished fourth (112).
“We kind of knew it was going to be between Saybrook and us,” said East Hampton coach Bill Wilkie. “We’ve seen each other enough during the year to know but we haven’t been at full strength in almost three weeks. We knew we had a chance and they were all here today.”
Timing is everything, indeed.
Georgiades placed third over the 5K course in 20:37.4, while Boyce was ninth (21:16.7).
Bellringers junior Madison Boyce earned second team all-league honors by finishing 11th (21:36.0). Freshman Madison Roberts (22nd) and senior captain Hannah Cook (23rd) completed East Hampton’s scoring.
“They came in wanting to do the repeat thing and they did a great job,” said Wilkie, now in his 16th season. “I’m proud of them. This is an incredibly hard league and anyone that takes winning a Shoreline championship for granted is being a fool because there’s always really good teams. Teams that win here are usually contenders for the state championships.”
Sophomore Erin Provost (27th) and junior Taylor Muncy also ran for the Bellringers.
“I don’t want to say it was expected but we knew that we definitely could do it,” said Cook. “It’s really exciting, especially since it’s my senior year and we finally did it again.”
The final team results also included Lyme-Old Lyme (fifth, 114), Coginchaug (sixth, 125), Cromwell (seventh, 144), Valley Regional (eighth, 184), North Branford (ninth, 250), and Morgan (10th, 283).
Brandon, an H-K sophomore who was the runner-up in last year’s championship, won the girls race in dominating fashion. Brandon’s winning time was 19 minutes and 56.4 seconds. Old Saybrook junior Mahlah Givehand was a distant second in 20:32.2. “Mahlah’s a friend and I’m happy for her too,” said Brandon.
Brandon hails from a running family. Her brother Peter, now at UConn, won the SLC boys’ championship last year, and her father, Patrick, was a cross country runner at a Massachusetts high school, as well as in college.
“I say this a lot to people, but I like to continue my family’s legacy and seeing Peter win last year and now me, it makes me thrilled,” Brandon said.
Brandon, who was undefeated in dual meets this season, entered the race with a simple plan.
“Usually in races I have a strategy in mind but this race I just decided to run it for myself and decided to just go and see how far I could push myself,” Brandon explained. “This time I decided to go right from the beginning.”
Running on H-K’s course also helped Brandon.
“We added the back trail and I really like it,” said Brandon, who has her sights on the Class SS meet (Oct. 26) where she placed fifth a year ago. “I just like running on my own course because it’s kind of like the home feeling and it makes you relaxed. It never really felt like Shorelines because we were home.”
Coginchaug’s Christian Alberico was one of the favorites in the boy’s race and the Blue Devils junior rose to the occasion, capturing his first SLC title with a course record time of 16 minutes and 52.2 seconds.
“It feels awesome,” said Alberico, who coming off a runner-up finish at the Wickham Invitational. “It’s just a great feeling. It’s what you work all summer and all season for and there’s nothing more satisfying.”
Morgan junior Brian Gendron edged Old Lyme junior Ross Golebiewski for second place. Gendron’s time was 16:56.2, while Golebiewski, who led most of the way, placed third in 16:56.7.
“Christian was trying to pass me and I was trying to stay in front and he just kicked it in,” said Golebiewski. “It was a great race.”
“Ross has been a great competitor all year,” Alberico said. “He didn’t want to let up and I knew I needed to go so I went and made my move and didn’t look back. I’m just glad I was able to bring this back to our school. It’s something that hasn’t happened in awhile.”
Golebiewski and his Old Lyme teammates prevented Haddam-Killingworth from winning a fourth straight SLC crown with a stunning runaway performance. The Wildcats, who edged H-K by a single point in last week’s SLC Mega Meet, topped the Cougars, 32-55.
It was Old Lyme’s first SLC boys’ title since 1996.
“They came to run and it was their day today,” said Old Lyme coach Bill Rayder. “They worked hard all year. We respect H-K and all the teams very much. We just happened to have a great race. I couldn’t tell you why. Maybe they slept well, who knows, sometimes all the stars align and you have a great race.”
Besides Golebiewski, the Wildcats had three other runners earn first team all-league honors: senior Stuart Ross (fourth, 17:13.0), senior Cole McKnight (17:18.8), and senior Jake Watts-St. Germain (17:37.4).
Old Lyme junior Jeff Davis made the All-SLC second team by placing 13th (18:01.2). Also running for the Wildcats were senior Jack Castonguay (20th), who also made the All-SLC second team, and senior Nick Milazzo (22nd).
“They deserved everything they got,” said Rayder, now in his 34th season. “We knew they were going to have a good year but anything can happen. We have another big race coming up next week (states) and hopefully we can go on from this and use this as a stepping stone to the next level.”
The boys team results also included Old Saybrook (third, 128), East Hampton (fourth, 165), Portland (fifth, 166), North Branford (sixth, 172), Morgan (sixth, 172), Hale-Ray (eighth, 190), Valley Regional (ninth, 193), Cromwell (10th, 228), Coginchaug (11th, 258), and Hyde (12th, 395).
Also earning All-Shoreline Conference first team honors for the boys were junior Jonathan Dolan (Portland, sixth), junior Pat Fitzgibbons (H-K, eighth), sophomore Cameron Garrelts (H-K, ninth) and freshman Connel Henderson (Old Saybrook, 10th).
The All-Shoreline Conference boy’s second team also included junior David Baird (H-K, 10th), junior Mike Rutledge (H-K, 11th), junior Sean O’Connor (North Branford, 14th), senior Ian MacDonald (H-K, 15th), junior Dan Klemonski (East Hampton, 16th), freshman Thomas Barlow (Hale-Ray, 17th), junior Randin Manzi (H-K, 18th), and senior James DeAntonis (Old Saybrook, 18:25.2).
Also earning All-Shoreline Conference first team honors for the girls were freshman Nicole Bitinaitis (Cromwell, fourth), freshman Samantha Drop (Coginchaug, fifth), junior Nicole Faucette (Cromwell, sixth), sophomore Brooke Townsend (Portland, seventh), freshman Samantha Vigue (Coginchaug, eighth), and sophomore Everest Peacock (Hale-Ray, ninth).
The All-Shoreline Conference girl’s second team also included junior Molly Riccitelli (Valley Regional, 11th), senior Kelsey Sparrow (Old Saybrook, 13th), sophomore Amy Sparaco (Westbrook, 14th), sophomore Rachel Osak (Portland, 15th), sophomore Bailey Thayer (Coginchaug, 16th), senior Jenna Duxbury (Old Lyme, 17th), sophomore Megan Delaney (Old Saybrook, 18th), freshman Rachel Vandette (Old Lyme, 19th), and sophomore Gianna D’Angelo (Portland, 20th).