MANCHESTER >> Last weekend, Mercy’s Kaleigh Roberts was disappointed in her time and placement in the Class L state championship meet. On Friday at the State Open, she felt much better.
The senior set a personal record, running almost a minute faster at Wickham Park, and captured fifth place in 19 minutes.
“I knew the minute I finished I had a second chance, and I knew that I was going to get back into that top 25,” Roberts said.
Roberts, who qualified for the New England Championships next Saturday, said strategically she went out with a different plan after last week’s meet.
“Last week I felt like I went out way too fast; I was trying to be a contender for first,” she said.
“This week I tried to stay back. Around the mile my legs started to feel a lot better and stronger so I just went for it.”
Tolland took first place as a team (74), Glastonbury was second (136) and Staples was third (183). Individually, Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi continued her unbeaten streak as she won the race in 17:44. A year ago she took 16th place.
“I know the course better now,” DeBalsi said. “It’s kind of neat to see my times (from) last year to now.”
Branford’s Cyrene Nicholas also had a banner day as she qualified for New Englands for the first time. She finished in 18th (19:39).
“I’m just really excited,” she said. “This is a big thing for me. I was just really hoping I could make it.”
Branford coach Kevin Connell said it’s been a while since they’ve had a runner qualify past the State Open.
“(Nicholas) smiles through the race and everyone looks at her and they go, ‘How does she do that?’ And I go, ‘That’s who she is,’” Connell said. “I think she enjoys the experience of competition. She’s never really intimidated.”
Liz Fengler of Sheehan (19:43) was 23rd and Madeline Brandon of Haddam-Killingworth was 25th (19:48).
Mercy finished in 13th place as a team and Branford took 15th.