THOMASTON >> Northwestern’s boys and Nonnewaug’s girls won the Berkshire League Cross Country Championships while Thursday’s league meet at Black Rock State Park played out all the aspects of hard work, team spirit, success and disappointment that pours into the sport.
Shepaug’s Sean Parker and Housatonic’s Mari Cullerton, the individual champions, embodied most of the emotions with a long line of variations playing out behind.
“I put in a lot of work this summer,” said Parker, proving it this season in a perfect dual meet season.
He capped the hard work Thursday by shaving 1:15 off his time from last year while finishing the 3.1-mile course In 16:10.2, just 10 seconds off the league record set by Thomaston’s Rich Klauber in 2007.
“Preparing for a race in which you’re the hunted is really hard,” he grinned.
Not taking any chances, the senior bolted for the lead out of the opening pack.
“I knew the start would be tight,” he said. “I wanted to be in front before we got to the road. I heard (Northwestern’s Gavin Woodward) behind me for about a mile, then I dropped him.”
Woodward, also a senior, finished second for the second straight year. Disappointed? Maybe, but, for him, it was more about the team championship.
“Winning the title was our team goal this year,” said Woodward. “It’s been a really great team experience.”
The Highlanders were second last year.
Housatonic’s Cullerton proved you can win and feel crushed at the same time. She and her sisters led the Mountaineers to an undefeated regular season for the second straight year, only to miss the final heights again to the four-time defending champion Chiefs.
Last year, Housy runner Maggie Sullivan slipped on the course, shattering her hip. This year, a pair of dazzling Nonnewaug freshmen finished second and fifth for the end of the Mountaineer hopes.
“They wanted to win it for Maggie,” said Housy Coach Latitia Garcia-Trippp. “(Cullerton) gave it everything today. She can’t feel her legs and she’s wondering why her stomach hurts so much.
“They have so much heart, caring and passion for each other; they’re each other’s biggest supporters and biggest fans. To me, they’re winners.”
That spirit played out for Nonnewaug as well.
Senior star Sarah Woodward has been hampered all season with a hamstring pull. She finished thirteenth Thursday, but, more importantly, stayed on hand to lead the young Chiefs.
“The first time we faced Housy, our freshmen were nervous,” said Coach Arleigh Duff. “We figured if we could slip them between the Housatonic scorers, we could win.”
Thursday, freshman Helene Berger ran five seconds behind Cullerton for second place; freshman Carly Andrew was fifth in front of Housy’s Emily Sullivan and
Eve Cullerton in sixth and seventh.
“In my view, a coach’s first job is to teach their athletes to care for each other,” said Housy’s Garcia-Tripp.
Berkshire League Cross Country Championships
At Black Rock State Park, Thomaston (3.1 miles)
Boys: 1. Northwestern 44; 2. Shepaug 61; 3. Lewis Mills 92; 4. Nonnewaug 95; 5. Thomaston 120; 6. Litchfield 156; 7. Terryville 161; 8. Wamogo 203; 9. Gilbert 257; 10. Housatonic 291.
Girls: 1. Nonnewaug 38; 2. Housatonic 57; 3. Lewis Mills 92; 4. Shepaug 101; 5. Thomaston 155; 6. Northwestern 164; 7. Litchfield 176; 8. Gilbert 213; 9. Terryville 227.
Top 9 Individuals (All-BL)
Boys: 1. Sean Parker, Shepaug 16:10.2; 2. Gavin Woodward, Northwestern 16:58.9; 3. Stephen Scougall, Thomaston 17:20.5; 4. Chandler Wetherbee, Shepaug 17:23.5; 5. (tie) Corey Picard, Terryville; Sam Schiffer, Northwestern, 17:24.7; 7. Nicholas O’Brien, Lewis Mills 17:25.6; 8. Connor Spencer, Northwestern 17:25.6; 9. Dylan Geissinger-Tuttle, Nonnewaug 17:35.5.
Girls: 1. Mari Cullerton, Housatonic 21:01.1; 2. Helene Berger, Nonnewaug 21:06; 3. Christina Gubetta, Northwestern 21:25.1; 4. Hannah Curran, Litchfield 21:25.8; 5. Carly Andrew, Nonnewaug 21:27.4; 6. Emily Sullivan, Housatonic 21:33.3; 7. Eve Cullerton, Housatonic 21:38.6; 8. Jacquelin Berger, Nonnewaug 21:42.8; 9. Allison Moore, Lewis Mills 21:46.2.