Staples boys cross country Laddie Lawrence has taken teams to Wickham Park for decades for the Class and State Open meets.
More often than not he’s done so as FCIAC champions.
Lawrence will lead this version of the Wreckers on Saturday, not only bringing the FCIAC title but also defending the Class LL crown. In fact Staples has won the past three Class LL titles, but this time will be challenged by Conard, the No. 2 team in the latest MySportsResults/soundRUNNER Top 10 Poll.
“We haven’t gone there at all yet this year,” Lawrence said. “We were going to go to Wickham Invite but one of our meets got moved. So it will be interesting.”
The state championship meets are all day Saturday. Class S girls begins at 9:15 a.m., Class S boys at 9:50; Class SS girls at 10:20 a.m. and SS boys at 10:55; Class M girls begins at 11:25 a.m. and Class M boys at noon; Class MM girls is at 1 p.m. and MM boys at 1:35; Class L girls is at 2:05 p.m. and L boys at 2:40; And Class LL girls is at 3:10 p.m. and LL boys is at 3:45.
Wickham began hosting the event in the mid 1980s with Lawrence there with a blue crew each time. Sites at Berlin and Cromwell hosted the event in the past but the Manchester site has stood the test of time by being committed to the event.
“For one thing the park wants to have it there,” Lawrence said. “They upgraded the courses with all-natural terrain where they cross the road for only a few steps. It’s got rolling hills, it’s got flats and it’s got wide-openness to accommodate a lot of teams at the same time. I think it’s one of the finer facilities in New England.”
The Wreckers are led by senior Morgan Fierro, who is coming off a big win at the FCIAC championships at Waveny Park in New Canaan. He won the race by five seconds over Warde’s Austin Hutchens.
Fierro and Taubenheim form a dynamic 1-2 punch for Staples, which is ranked No. 3 in the state poll. Staples won back-to-back Open titles in 2015 and 2016.
— Dave Stewart (@DStewartSports) October 15, 2019
Fierro was near the top of the pile at Class LL last season, finishing in seventh place. As the second fastest returner in the race, he’ll have a chance to help the Wreckers defend their team title.
“This is a typical Staples team,” Lawrence said. “They work well together; we have to tighten up our pack, our spread between No. 1-5 if we’re going to be successful. Conard is very good up top, so are we.”
ON THE PROWL
Pomperaug junior Kate Wiser is about to embark on a five-week journey that she hopes to end at Foot Locker nationals in California for a second straight season. It started by winning the SWC crown for a third straight season last week, and continues with the Class L race Saturday.
Her SWC time set a record on the revamped course at Bethel, and she feels strong ahead of crunch time. She shook off several minor issues since the summer and hasn’t competed too much during the regular season. Her win at the Bowdoin Park Invite was a reminder to the region that Wiser will be a force to be reckoned with; she’s ranked No. 7 nationally but running site DyeStat.
“She’s running very good times solo,” said Panthers coach Mark Goodwin. “We’re going to start the hard races and each is going to get progressively harder. “She should be one of the favorites, she’s running with a lot of experience and confidence.”
The All-American hasn’t lost a race in state since finishing second at the State Open as a freshman in 2017. She’s carving out her niche as one of the top runners in recent history with so much in front of her.
The Class LL meet will include runners from a variety of conferences, but the head of the pack will likely be a duel between CCC runners. Manchester’s Aidan Puffer was injured during the conference meet last week but could return to battle Conard’s Gavin Sherry.
Sherry, a sophomore, won the CCC race by close to 30 seconds and finished second at both the Class LL and State Open last fall. The pair squared off at the opening weekend’s Haddad-Windham Invitational with Sherry winning by 19 seconds. The Chieftains hope to earn a first Class title since 2005 on Saturday.
The top runners elsewhere in both the boys and girls side are spread relatively even across the classes. FCIAC champion Mari Noble is the favorite to repeat in Class LL while Ava Graham of Bethel is in great position to be at the front of the pack in Class M. Kathryn Rodrigues of Wolcott will look to defend her Class SS crown.
In a statistical anomaly, all six girls who won class titles (Noble, Wiser, Daniels, Rodrigues, Kyle Raymond (Somers) and Elizabeth Stockman (Rocky Hill) will race Saturday, while the six boys races will feature new winners as all defending champions graduated.
Woodstock Academy junior Ethan Aspiras was more than a minute off the pace and finished 21st in last year’s ECC championships, but made tremendous strides in 12 months and took home the title last week. His time of 17:13 was more than a minute better than his 18:35 mark.