MANCHESTER >> RHAM’s Chrissy Bendzinski captured the Central Connecticut Conference cross country championship for the second consecutive year Tuesday at Wickham Park.
The team championships were won by Hall (boys) and Tolland (girls). Hall was led by Ari Klau, who placed first in the boys race, while Tolland’s Caitlyn Swanson was the runnerup on the girls side.
Bendzinski, a senior, took the lead at the one mile mark of the 5000 meter race and never looked back.
“I put pressure on myself, but once the gun goes off, I don’t really think about the pressure around me, I just focus and run my race,” said Bendzinski.
The first time through the crowd, Bendzinski held a considerable lead over Swanson and Glastonbury’s Allison McArdle. As the lead cart came around the corner, Bendzinski had all but won the race. She crossed the finish line with a time of 19:05.75, more than 10 seconds ahead of second place Swanson (19:15.98) and third place McArdle (19:16.64).
“I was a little apprehensive about running four days apart, but it definitely gave me confidence,” said Bendzinski, who just competed in the Wickham Invitational last Saturday, setting a personal record.
Klau made the boys race look just as easy.
The Hall junior knew he needed a big kick to beat out Matthew Chisholm of Farmington. And he did that and more.
“I knew it was going to take a phenomenal day to beat him and I’m surprised with the time too, I didn’t think it was going to be that fast,” said Klau, still breathing heavy after the race.
Klau finished with a time of 16:11.20, which wasn’t even his best time in the last five days on this Wickham Park course. Klau said that he ran a sub-16 minute race last Saturday at the Invitational.
Chisholm finished second with a time of 16:20.53, followed by another Hall runner, Zach Magin (16:23.22). The Warriors took four of the top nine positions in the boy’s championship, securing a team victory as well with 44 points. Simsbury was the runnerup with 97, while South Windsor (128) placed third.
When it came to the girls’ team results, no one was surprised. Tolland soared to the top with four runners placing in the top seven (Swanson, second; Courtney Akerley, fifth; Megan Steinhilber, sixth; and Katherine DeLoreto, seventh).
Tolland coach Judi Lafontaine is very confident in her team heading into states saying they “will win class M” and hope to win the state open as well.
The Eagles used their dual meets all season as training for the championship meets and thus far it looks like it’s paying off.
Glastonbury finished second with 66 points, while Conard placed third with 105.
The Middletown boys cross country delegation was led by Mateo Alvarez (17:29.20) and Ben Schaff (17:49.82), who finished 19th and 33rd respectively, while helping the Blue Dragons to a 10th place finish in the boys championship.
“Most of the guys on our team ran personal bests, they ran really great today,” said Middletown coach Robert Weston. “Overall, our guys ran better than they have in any meet this season.”
The Middletown girls did not fare as well overall, but coach Jenn Price was very pleased with how her team competed.
“Our top girls dropped time from Saturday, the Wickham Invite, and that was one of our main goals today,” said Price.
The Lady Blue Dragons finished 18th out of 22 schools with 520 points. They were led by Ashley Comeau (22:56.91), Jamie Gassman (23:13.67) and Courtney Pusz (23:49.40). Comeau and Pusz were named All-Conference after the meet.