By its own lofty standards the Xavier boys cross country team got off to a pretty slow start in 2018. An injury to one of the squad’s top runners — Robbie Cozean — led to a couple of uneven performances in two of the bigger meets on the calendar.
That’s far in the rear-view mirror now for Xavier, which is coming off a stellar State Open championship.
It’s the beginning of the most exciting time of the year for the Falcons.
The New England championships are set for Saturday at Derryfield Park in Manchester New Hampshire. From there Xavier will compete in the Northeast Regional qualifier at Bowdoin Park in Wappingers Falls, New York on Saturday, Nov. 24, with the hope of reaching the NXN Nationals later this month
Cozean, Peter Schulten, Dillon Selfors and Will Curran all finished in the top 14 last week, boasting one of the best quartets in the region.
Rhythm at the bottom of the lineup is the last puzzle piece for the Falcons, who will face several strong squads in New Hampshire. A pair of Rhode Island schools in Bishop Hendricken and LaSalle Academy will try to dethrone Xavier, which won the event last year.
“Having our top four up where they are, that’s obviously the foundation of this team,” Xavier coach Chris Stonier said. “We still need to work on establishing a fifth guy. Our spread needs to close up a bit before we get to the bigger meets because teams like Bishop Hendricken are six guys deep. We’re going to require a fifth guy to move up.”
The New England meet will feature the top six teams from both the boys — Xavier, Staples, Hall, Tolland Suffield and Danbury — and girls — Danbury, Immaculate, Ridgefield, Trumbull, Glastonbury and Greenwich — State Opens. The top 25 individual finishers from each race will also be present. State Open champion Danbury finished eighth in the event last year while Glastonbury finished third.
Immaculate finished one point behind the Hatters for the team title and will be hungry to return the favor up north.
“For the kids I like it because I can explain it to them that it’s a team thing and anybody here could have got one point,” Immaculate coach Brian Hayes said. “So that one runner doesn’t feel like it’s their fault; anyone here could have got one runner. But, hey, we’ll beat them at New Englands.”
Pomperaug sophomore Kate Wiser has hopes of winning the girls race after turning in a dominating performance at the State Open, winning in under 18 minutes. A pair of runners from New Hampshire — freshman Sophia Reynolds and last year’s winner Julia Robitaille — will challenge the Panther for the title.
“(The key is) to recover and have one harder workout,” said Wiser after the State Open. “Just probably easier runs until the race.”
New Milford’s Eli Nahom won last week’s State Open and will hope to compete for a title on the boys side. Shelton senior Robert Dillon finished sixth at New Englands last year and is one of the top returners to the race. Connecticut runners took eight of the top 13 places at the race a year ago.