The Granby High girls cross country team faces top-notch competition in the NCCC with defending Class MM champion Avon and Suffield, who have each been getting votes in the weekly top 10 state coaches poll.
Avon has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the state while Suffield is getting votes, especially after a fine performance at the Stratton Brook Invitational in Simsbury winning the Small Division race.
Granby coach Wally Hansen is pleased with the progress of his Bears, who were 7-2 after last week’s action. Suffield beat the Bears, 22-39 on opening day and Avon outran everyone with a 21-40 decision over the Bears in a four-team meet last week in Granby.
“We’re doing great and we’re improving every meet,” he said. “We’re improving at a rate quicker than I thought we would.”
The Bears are led by seniors Alexa Cipkas and Katie Pinson. Cipkas won a dual meet in week two. Against Avon last week, the two ran with each other for virtually the entire race. Pinson finished third overall, two seconds ahead of Cipkas.
“Both of them put in a lot of miles (running) this summer,” Hansen said.
The goal is to bring their teammates closer in terms of time. Sophomore Amanda Rackliff, freshman Emma Sheehan and senior Lauren Sannizarro round out the top five runners on the squad. All three are close in time with each other but they are a bit behind Cipkas and Pinson.
Hanson hopes the Bears can finish among the top four or five in the NCCC and the top four or five at the Class SS state championship meet.
The Granby boys are one of the younger teams that long-time coach Dennis Lobo has led in his 47-year coaching career that began in 1967.
Lobo’s team has no seniors, four juniors and 19 freshmen and sophomores on the roster. “Everything that is green grows,” he said with a twinkle. “It’s a great group of kids. The future looks really good.”
The team is led by junior co-captains Jeremy Ray and Dan Jacobs. Ray was Granby’s top runner in the four-team meet with Avon, Enfield and Ellington last week, finishing 17th overall with a time of 19:00 over the 3.0 mile course in Granby.
Jacobs was ill and didn’t run and neither did Granby’s No. 3 runner, sophomore Ray Mooney, who had a sore knee on this sunny Wednesday afternoon.
Sophomore Zach Ziemnicki, freshman Blake Wickham, sophomore Will Rice and freshman Grant Kimble round out the top seven.
Granby (4-5) beat Enfield by a score of 19-48. But the Bears lost to Ellington and Avon by scores of 15-50. Ellington had a pack of six runners that finished ahead of Avon’s pack of six runners to enable the Purple Knights to remain undefeated with a 19-44 decision over the Falcons. Ellington also swept Enfield and Granby, each by scores of 15-50. Avon (5-2) also blanked Enfield and Granby, 15-50.
Ellington’s Spencer Label beat Avon’s Collin Pritchard in the final 100 meters to win the race in 18:00 minutes. Pritchard was two seconds off the pace. Ellington by placing the next six runners in the race after Pritchard before Avon could get a runner across the finish line. Those six runners all finished within nine seconds of each other.
In the girls race, Avon junior Maddi McHugh won her third dual meet of the season with a 34 second win over her teammate Molly Hamel as Avon remained undefeated with three wins over Granby, 21-40, Ellington, 19-40 and Enfield, 15-50. Avon (7-0) placed five runners in the top 10 to sweep the meet.
Granby improved to 7-2 with a pair of victories including a 27-29 win over Ellington thanks to the tough running of Pinson and Cipkas, who took third and fourth, respectively, beating the top two runners from the Purple Knights.
Granby will be competing at the NCCC championship meet in a little less than two weeks on Wednesday, Oct. 16, at Windsor Locks. The Class SS championship races will be Saturday, Oct. 26 at Wickham Park in Manchester.