With four freshmen, one sophomore and one eighth-grader on its 11-athlete roster, Greenwich Academy has one of the youngest cross country teams in the FAA.
It also has one of the most successful squads.
Greenwich Academy has run away from most of its opponents so far, posting a record of 13-1 with two meets remaining in its regular season.
In GA’s first FAA meet, which was held at Sherwood Island State Park in Westport, it finished ahead of Greens Farms Academy, Sacred Heart Greenwich, Rye Country Day School, Holy Child, King and St. Luke’s. Defending FAA champion Hopkins School was the only team that finished ahead of the Gators in the team standings.
“The season has been exciting,” GA coach Jane Finch said. “The first FAA meet at Sherwood was an eye-opener to see how strong all the FAA teams are. We know we have the potential to do really well, as long as the top, seven, eight girls stay healthy and injury-free.”
Co-captain Sydney Pittignano, one of three seniors on the squad, has been impressed with what she’s seen from the team from the outset.
“We have a really good team dynamic going,” Pittignano said. “Everyone has been pushing each other really hard and we have good team spirit.”
Currently, GA is tied atop the FAA standings with Hopkins, which also boasts a 13-1 record.
“We want to perform well at the FAA Championships,” Pittignano. “That’s what we’re preparing for. We are tied at No. 1 with Hopkins, so that’s will be a big race for us.”
At Greenwich Academy’s first FAA meet at Sherwood Island, eighth-grader Maddy Lee gave the Gators a first-place finish. Lee won the race with a time of 19:28.
She also finished first overall at the Gators’ second race at Purchase College (Purchase, N.Y.), crossing the finish line in 21:09.
“My first season on the team has been really fun,” Lee said. “Everyone is really nice and it’s been a good learning experience so far.”
Indeed, Lee has sparked Greenwich Academy’s lineup in her first season on the squad.
“Maddy Lee thrives on the tougher competition,” Finch said. “She’s been so impressive.”
Sophomore Emily Greenhaw has also been a difference-maker in her first season with the Gators. Greenhaw, who is also a goalie on the school’s ice hockey team, finished third in GA’s first FAA meet at Sherwood Island — a race that was just under three miles — clocking in at 20:03. She placed fourth in the second FAA meet at Purchase College, posting a time of 21:53.
“It’s been really fun, this is my first year doing cross country, so I didn’t really know what to expect going into it,” Greenhaw said. “The team dynamic is awesome and everyone is really supportive, which is great.”
Said Finch: “Emily has consistently come in second for us, in practices, she is right there with Maddy. She’s an ice hockey goalie, who also plays lacrosse, so she’s gritty, tenacious and she knows how to push through races.”
Elena Tan, a junior co-captain, was Greenwich Academy’s third runner that placed in each of its FAA meets. She was 12th at Sherwood Island (20:57) and placed sixth in the meet at Purchase College (22:21).
“It’s really exciting, I was a little bit nervous coming in as a junior captain, especially with a young team,” Tan said. “But we really jelled quickly.”
Along with Pittignano, Tan enjoys helping keep the team focused and inspired.
“Keeping everyone positive and on the same page is important,” Tan said. “We want to make sure everyone is getting enough rest and that we have a good team dynamic in and outside of practice. One of our goals is to run for each other, not individually.”
Emily Goodman and Grace Crookenden, both freshmen, have each posted solid times in each of their races, while Pittignano, Emily Fernandez (senior), Gabby Mullen (senior), Clea Ramos (junior), Chloe Castro (freshman) and freshman Catherine Erol have also performed well for GA.
Greenwich Academy also finished 6-1 in its second FAA meet, bringing its mark to 13-1.
“That course at our first meet at Sherwood Island was shy of 5K, so it was hard to tell how fast their 5K times were,” Finch said. “But when we went to the second FAA league meet over at Purchase, that was terrific. This is a gritty group, they’re tough and hard-working.”
Greenwich Academy will run against host Loomis Chaffee School on Saturday, then will compete in the FAA Championships at Waveny Park on October 28. The NEPSAC Championships is scheduled for Nov. 9 at Northfield Mount Hermon School. The Gators also have one more regular season FAA meet, which takes place on Wednesday.
“Just staying consistent, making sure we don’t get too comfortable are going to be important for us,” Tan said. “We have to stay on top of injuries, because we have a small team, so we can’t afford for anyone to get hurt.”