MANCHESTER >> For the second straight year the Mercy cross country team found itself in a familiar position Saturday afternoon at Wickham Park, and one it was hoping to avoid.
The Tigers scored 67 points but were edged out by Darien’s 65 to finish as the Class L runner-up for the second year in a row.
“Everyone ran a great race, but two points hurts really badly,” Mercy head coach Kathryn Schumann said.
Mercy’s Mackenize Pias led a strong showing from the Tigers, finishing in second place in 19:29, while Anne Johnston of Darien won in 19:26.
“I wanted to go out fast, because I have been, but maybe not as fast because I knew it was going to be tough with Anne,” Pias said. “At the end she really gave it her all. It was a great race.”
Pias, who won the Southern Connecticut Conference crown a week ago, took nearly a minute off her time from last year.
“I’m definitely happy with my place. It’s a good mental boost going into Opens,” Pias said.
Mercy, the SCC champ, placed three girls in the top 10 as Bridgid Selfors was sixth in 20:16 and Hannah Albert was 10th. The Tigers had four girls finish in the top 20.
“I think in a week we’ll have a better kind of perspective, but two points really does hurt,” Schumann said. “But we’ll move on to Opens.”
Also finishing well was Danae Rivers of Wilbur Cross, who captured fifth place.
Class LL: Glastonbury girls, DeBalsi repeat
Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi won her second straight Class LL title in a time of 18:14, leading her team to a second-place showing with 91 points. Glastonbury won the team title for the second straight year with 56 points. Ridgefield was third. Locally, Amity placed seventh, while Cheshire was ninth.
“My goal was to win, but I wasn’t too concerned with the time,” DeBalsi said.
DeBalsi wasn’t challenged at all leading the pack of runners from start to finish on the 5,020-meter course. Mia Nahom of New Milford placed second in 19:30.
Erica Hefnawy of Staples finished third (19:45). Amity’s Emily Criscuolo finished in eighth place in 20:22.
Class MM: Richichi claims 3rd straight title
New Fairfield’s Gabrielle Richichi won her third straight Class MM state title with a time of 19:06. Haley Hasty of Rockville was second in 19:22.
Avon won the team title with 73 points, beating New Fairfield (73) in a tie as its sixth runner had a faster time.
“When I first started cross country I didn’t really expect (state titles), but this year it was kind of my goal; I really wanted to do it again,” Richichi said. “This
year our team is doing really well. It was really motivating doing it with the team.”
Locally, Branford’s Cyrene Nicholas was fourth and Guilford placed two in the top 10. Branford finished third as a team and Guilford was fourth.
“Our game plan was to compete with Avon and New Fairfield, so we all had a certain girl to go after,” said Guilford’s Kirsten Morro, who finished in eighth place. “Our goal was to hope to win or come in second, but it just didn’t go our way today. But we had a couple individual finishers that did really well.”
Class M: Tolland girls claim fourth straight
Tolland head coach Judi Lafontaine had an idea of what her team could accomplish Saturday morning, so she wasn’t the least bit surprised as the first five finishers in the Class M state championship race were wearing a Tolland jersey.
Led by sophomore Hayley Collins (19:10), the Eagles, ranked No. 1 in the state, won their fourth straight state crown with 15 points. Suffield was second with 60 points.
“Going in that was our goal since last year,” Lafontaine said. “Yes, I knew they could do it. Last night the nerves were starting to get the best of them and we were a little worried. But when that gun goes off they know what to do.”
Tolland’s second-place finisher was Caitlin Swanson (19:17), third was Katherine Deloreto (19:23), fourth was Courtney Akerley and fifth was Michaela Caron.
Class SS: Coginchaug claims first title since 2001
It was hard for Coginchaug head coach Lavinia Vigue to hide her excitement as she watched her team celebrate the program’s first state title since 2001.
“I was so incredibly proud of them and ecstatic,” Vigue said with a giant grin. “We knew we had a good group this year. They’ve been running really tight together and I was hoping they were going to have a good day.”
Led by Samantha Drop’s fourth-place finish (20:15), Coginchaug had four girls in the top 20 to score 71 points to win the title.
Haddam-Killingworth finished in second (89), while Old Saybrook was third (98).
“Our Shoreline Conference is incredibly tough,” Vigue said. “We knew H-K and Old Saybrook were going to be incredibly tough; we knew we had a lot of competition. They just did so fantastic.”
The top finisher was Elisabeth Jean of Coventry (19:16). Madeline Brandon of Haddam-Killingworth was second (20:07).
“I knew coming in from last year I was third. I thought, ‘Well, better do better than that.’ Second feels good,” Brandon said.
Class S: Portland captures crown
Portland placed two girls in the top 10 as it ran to a state title with 91 points. Derby finished second with 108 points.
Brooke Townsend paced Portland with a fourth-place finish (20:41) while teammate Shannon Dolan was fifth (20:42).
“It’s amazing,” Townsend said. “We’ve all worked really hard in practice. It’s just an amazing feeling.”
Sabrina Chester of Parish Hill won the Class S title in a time of 20:30, Diana Kirkman of Immaculate was second (20:34) while Thomaston’s Sammi Breier finished third (20:39).
Derby’s top finisher was Kiley Rodriguez in ninth.