With the amount of postseason meets from conference, class, state, New England and potentially nationals for some, the cross country season needs an extra week to begin.
Fortunately for fans across the state, that means the first races of the season are set to go on Friday.
According to the CIAC, once the New England meet is arranged — this year it’s November 9 — the state works back and counts participation weeks from there.
5 storylines to watch
Unlike the boys side, there are plenty of girls who are back from last year’s action. All six Class winners and the State Open champion are back to defend their titles, as well as a host of league winners.
This makes projecting the field even more intriguing. Who has gained the most since last October? Second-through-10th were separated by 26 seconds at last year’s State Open, and nine of the fastest 11 return this fall.
Can Danbury repeat?
The Hatters had a year for the ages in 2018. Danbury captured its first ever FCIAC title, and that was the beginning of an unbelievable run that ended with winning the State Open by a single point.
Though Danbury did graduate two of its faster runners — Lauren Moore and Cassandra Sturdevant — it has plenty of depth to challenge for another state title. Junior Daniella Grullon-Pena and senior Meilee Kry lead another group that’s capable of going back-to-back.
A year Wiser
Pomperaug junior Kate Wiser burst onto the national scene after just missing the cut as a freshman. The SWC, Class MM, State Open and New England champion qualified for Foot Locker nationals, and finished seventh there to earn All-American status. Wiser was ranked No. 22 on MileSplit’s top 50 runners list for this fall.
Backing up that would be a remarkable accomplishment when the bar is set that high. No runner has ever won four straight SWC/WCC titles going back to 1979; Wiser is halfway there.
Last year’s weather pattern of heavy rain led to a wounded Wickham Park course and a slew of postseason postponements. While weather is always a factor during the fall and spring seasons, 2018 was unusual by even those standards.
Wickham will be busy this year with the New England championships being held at the site.
Though Wiser and New Milford’s Claire Daniels went 1-2 in last year’s State Open, five of the top 10 runners were out of the FCIAC. Three of those — Trumbull’s Alessandra Zaffina, Ridgefield’s Tess Pisanelli and Greenwich’s Mari Noble are back to race for a league title. Pisanelli finished fourth in the race, while Noble won the Class LL championship. Add in Darien sophomore Mairead Clas and the race for the title should be close once again.
Greenwich, Ridgefield and Danbury have won the last three FCIAC titles and will all be in the mix once again this year. Trumbull also has a great chance to claim the trophy.
10 meets to watch
Haddad Windham Invitational, Sept. 7: One of the most popular meets in the state will feature several of the state’s best. Hall’s Jenna Zydanowcz won the race last year as runners get their first taste of competitive action.
Wilton Invitational, Sept. 14: Pomperaug’s Kate Wiser won the 4k event in 14:21 last year and the Panthers will compete at the event, along with SCC favorite Guilford.
Glastonbury, Hall at Avon, Sept. 24: Arguably the two best teams in the CCC will square off early in the season. The Tomahawks have won four straight conference titles.
Bunnell, Immaculate, New Fairfield at New Milford, Sept. 24: Several outstanding individuals set to race in this matchup between SWC rivals. New Fairfield will be in the hunt for a second straight state title.
Danbury, Trumbull, Wilton at New Canaan, Sept. 24: The two favorites to win the FCIAC will get a first look at the site of the championship race, New Canaan’s scenic Waveny Park.
Ocean State Invitational, Sept. 28: Many top teams including Hall will cross the border into Rhode Island to take on top talent from across the region.
Nonnewaug Invitational, Oct. 5: New Milford sophomore Claire Daniels is the defending winner of the race.
Darien, Ridgefield, Danbury at St. Joseph, Oct. 7: The Hatters and Tigers have built an excellent rivalry across the three running seasons. That will continue before the postseason heats up.
Immaculate, Newtown at Pomperaug, Oct. 7: Three of the stronger squads in the SWC meet in Southbury. The three schools have combined to win seven of the last three conference titles.
Wickham Park Invitational, Oct. 12: With the New England championships being held at Wickham, some runners will tackle the green monster five times in the span of a month. The CCC championship is annually held here.