MANCHESTER >> It would be an understatement to say the Tolland girls were a bit nervous coming into the State Open on Friday.
The night before, one of the Eagles’ top 3 runners, Caitlin Swanson, passed a kidney stone.
“I was freaking out last night,” head coach Judi Lafontaine said. “But we came up with a game plan if Caitlin could not compete. But everybody had a job to do today and they executed it. Caitlin came through.”
Swanson more than came through as the senior battled through and finished the race in the top 25 and led her team to a third straight Open crown at Wickham Park.
The Eagles scored 97 points as four runners placed in the top 30. Glastonbury was second, Ridgefield was third and Staples was fourth.
“She is an amazing kid,” Lafontaine said of Swanson. “She is very tough.”
Tolland was paced by junior Katherine DeLoreto’s second place finish (19:01).
“Today we wanted to run for the team and get the points to go for the Open,” DeLoreto said.
Individually, Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi won her third straight Open title in 18:08. She became only the fourth female runner in state history to win her straight divisional and Open titles.
“It’s definitely very special,” DeBalsi said.
DeBalsi hasn’t lost a cross country race in the state of Connecticut since finishing her freshman year.
“She’s really collected and mature,” Staples girls head coach Amanda Morgan said of DeBalsi, and the pressure of what she accomplished in her career.
Locally, Coginchaug senior Sam Drop continued her tremendous championship season as she followed up her Class S title with a third place finish (19:13).
“My goal was to get top 10, but I kind of just stuck with the pack,” Drop said. “Up the hill I tried to pass as many people as I could. I just pushed it at the end and gave it all I got.”
Drop, who didn’t even make the Open her freshman year, said she’s been motivated the last few races by her runner-up finish at the Shoreline Championships in October.
“Shorelines were a disappointment that I didn’t win, but it kind of gave me something to work for,” she said.
Mercy’s Mackenzie Pias placed sixth overall in 19:21. Pias, who won the Class L and SCC titles, said the warmer conditions today were a bit of a challenge on the course.
“It was a really tough race,” Pias said. “I’m a little disappointed because I wasn’t under 19 minutes in my last race here, but it’s OK; we’ll move forward from here. It was obviously really hot and humid, and it just didn’t go my way.”
Despite the finish, Pias said she’s happy with the way her racing career in Connecticut has gone.
“It’s really crazy, last night I was looking at pictures from when I first started racing here in sixth grade, and I’ve come a long way. I never thought I’d be in the position I am now.”
Haddam-Killingworth’s Maddie Brandon captured eighth place and Mercy’s Bridgid Selfors was 11th. Cheshire’s Lauren Daddi was 19th.