With last season’s Register Area MVP, Kellie Davis of Hillhouse, now running at Indiana University, the title of the New Haven area’s No. 1 female runner is up for grabs.
Mercy coach John Hastings said it’s too early to tell, but the race to the top is between his star, senior Kaleigh Roberts, and Wilbur Cross sophomore Danae Rivers.Rivers missed cross country season last fall due to injury, but quickly became a star in the spring for the Governors’ outdoor team. She turned heads by finishing second to Davis in the 800 (2:19.47) in the Southern Connecticut Conference final.
Roberts, an All-Area cross country pick last season, won the Mercy Invitational two weeks ago with a time of 20:19.02. She then topped Rivers on Tuesday, setting a course record at Mercy with a time of 19:04. Hastings said Roberts’ determination is unparalleled.
“I’ve coached a lot of great runners, and I think the thing Kaleigh has beyond any kid is she knows how to compete,” Hastings said.
Hamden coach Nils Leblang said Roberts is a tough competitor, but feels Rivers is the cream of the crop.
“The girl to watch in the area would be Danae,” Leblang said.
Leblang said in order to excel in cross country, runners have to have that extra gear to keep pushing and Rivers has it.
“She has a desire,” Leblang said.
Wilbur Cross coach Travis Gale agrees and said it is a continuation of the A-student’s work in the classroom.”She understands that the more work she puts in, the more she’ll get back,” Gale said.
Leblang coaches a reigning All-Area selection himself in senior Ashley Cambisaca. He said Cambisaca may not be better than Roberts or Rivers, but she’s in the conversation.”Ashley will be in the top five,” he said.
Leblang also said Cheshire’s Natalie Wickenheisser is a runner to watch. Hastings said sophomore MacKenzie Pias, who made All-Area as a freshman for the Tigers last year, and freshman Bridgid Selfors also have great potential.
And even though Hastings said it’s still early, he said Rivers’ performance during the spring caught his attention the most.”If you’re able to stay with Kellie, you’re pretty good,” he said.
The case for Rivers
Despite missing her freshman cross country season, Rivers proved she can run for distance when she finished first in her age group in the 5K portion of the New Haven Road Race.
The sophomore also finished first in the Governors’ first meet with a time of 19:07, leading Wilbur Cross to a sweep of North Haven, Foran and Guilford. Gale said Rivers is never nervous before a race.
“She’s in a world of her own,” Gale said.
The case for Roberts
Despite getting beat in last season’s SCC final, Roberts topped Davis earlier in the season when the Academic was just coming off an injury.
This season, Roberts has already set a course record en route to a win over Rivers. Mercy received two votes in the latest New Balance Running Academy cross country poll.
The case for Wickenheisser
Wickenheisser finished second both at the Bethel Invitational (21:11) and in Tuesday’s home meet (21:10). Coach Rob Schaffer said Wickenheisser is a team runner.
“Natalie cares a lot for her individual results, yet she cares more about how her teammates do and her team as a whole,” Schaffer said. “She takes running very seriously. I wish I had a whole team of Natalies.”