Cross country thrives in Litchfield County for lots of good reasons.
It’s a sport that doesn’t require mass numbers or equipment; the area comes with the hills necessary to give runners an edge on flatter courses; and the Berkshire League, in particular, has a winning tradition that keeps incentive flowing in the league.
Those who do well in the Berkshire League are almost guaranteed a good finish at state meets.
Shepaug’s boys were state champions in Class S last year. Nonnewaug’s girls were third in Class M.
Other BL schools dotted the top 10 in various divisions: Housatonic’s girls, fifth in Class S; Lewis Mills, eighth in Class M.
Thomaston’s boys were fifth in Class S; Litchfield, seventh; Terryville boys, fifth in Class SS; Northwestern’s, sixth in Class M.
Success breeds success for leagues as well as schools.
On the other hand, a few kids, one way or the other, make a huge difference.
Housatonic’s girls were undefeated in the regular season, then came up with injuries in two key spots. Nonnewaug passed the Mountaineers in the Berkshire League championships for the title.
While Torrington’s boys team struggled with youth and inexperience in the NVL, the girls team shriveled to six members, then lost two for the NVL Tournament, meaning the Red Raiders couldn’t field the necessary five girls for an official team.
But youth can work in the sport’s favor as well.
This year, Terryville’s boys team came up with a freshman and sophomore who helped the Kangaroos to an eye-opening performance at Tuesday’s Berkshire League scrimmage.
Lewis Mills girls coach Kattie Pratt has two freshmen who might move the Spartans into contention.
In the end, it’s a sport that, perhaps more than any other, shows off the work athletes put in on their own in the offseason.
In the Berkshire League, Housatonic and Nonnewaug bring back most of the teams that battled a year ago.
Shepaug graduated key runners, but that likely only settles the Spartans back to a three-way race with Northwestern and Terryville.
In the NVL, Derby’s girls team won its first league championship in any sport last year with the NVL Cross Country crown.
Naugatuck won its third straight boys title.
For Torrington, senior Gabby Vega, eighth at the NVL championships, is the biggest hope to lead the Red Raiders into a winning tradition of their own.