NEW HAVEN — Entering the Southern Connecticut Conference Girls A Division Cross Country meet at East Shore Park, Anna Steffen of Hand was happy just to run and compete in the last meet of the season for SCC teams.
There were no thoughts of records or where she would finish in the 3.1-mile race — just run.
By the time she put the first mile in the rearview mirror, it was evident Steffen was going to do more than just run as she put substantial distance between her and all other runners. She ended up winning the SCC Girls A Division race in a course record 18 minutes, 46 seconds, breaking the mark of 19:10 set by Emily Criscuolo of Amity in 2016.
The record time also gave her the overall SCC Girls Cross Country title.
“Dealing with the pandemic and not knowing if there would be a cross country postseason, with the CIAC canceling state championship races, all I wanted to do is go out there and just run and have fun today,” Steffen said. “The weather was great, I felt good so I went out as hard as I could for as long as I could.
“This is crazy. I didn’t think I would set a course record. I wanted to stay consistent during the race. There were a lot of good runners here including the girl from Guilford (Julia Antony). This is so exciting, I’m so happy right now.”
Antony ended up second in 19:54.
“I was close to Anna Steffen early on and I was debating whether to stay with her,” Antony said. “But when she made a move and pulled away, I just decided to stay back and run my race. I thought it was better for me to stay back and have a high finish.”
The SCC Girls Cross Country meet had four divisions with teams competing against teams placed in their specific regions as a way to mitigate the COVID-19 virus. When the four divisions were completed all the times were merged to come up with an overall individual winner and overall team winner.
Guilford earns SCC A Division title
Antony’s second-place finish contributed to the next best thing to an individual win, leading Guilford to the A Division team title with 20 points. Hand was second with 48 points and Branford third with 80. Guilford also won the overall team title with 45 points and Amity was second with 58.
“We have a great group of girls who work hard and run hard in every race,” Guilford coach Jim Ford said. “That makes my job so much easier. It’s always exciting when you win a team title.”
Grant, Amity win SCC Girls B titles
In the SCC Girls B Cross Country race, it was billed as a race between Lauralton Hall’s Kelly Jones, who entered the race 5-0 this season, against a very deep Amity team.
Nell Grant of Amity went out strong and led start to finish to win the B Division race in a personal best 20:47. Jones ended up second in 20:55 followed by four Spartans. For Amity, Aviva Wyner was third (21:04), Ariana Garay was fourth (21:15), Mackenzie Martin was fifth ( 21:47) and Caroline Chen was sixth (22:05).
“We talked with our coach and we decided to stay together during the race and use each other to push each other,” Grant said. “Kelly was our top challenger and we knew she would have a strong race. The coaches prepared us to do well in this race. Despite COVID our coaches did their best to keep things normal.
“We trained hard and we had good recovery time between our regular season races. We raced against Lauralton Hall last week and I was fourth and Kelly won. It’s amazing to be able to come back, our whole team was amazing, and win our division.”
The strong finish led Amity to the team title with 19 points and Law was second with 56.
“Kelly Jones was going to be a tough challenge, but Nell just went after it today,” Amity coach Sean Mahon said. “We were lucky and fortunate to have a 10-week season despite the pandemic. All our girls worked hard every day and they were thirsty for this team title. We had to focus and bring it all together and they did that today.”
Cannon, Sharks dominate C Division
Sophomore Julia Cannon decided to try out for the Sacred Heart Academy girls cross coutry team for the first time. In the fourth race of her cross country career, Cannon led start to finish to win the SCC C Division race in 20:43. She won the event despite losing two weeks of training. She never had COVID-19, but she exposed to someone who did and had to go into quarrantine for two weeks during the regular season.
“This is so much fun, it’s so great to come back to win a significant race,” Cannon said. “Our entire team worked so hard and we wanted to come out and end the season with a bang today. With about a mile left I decided to make a move and started pulling away. It’s a great win for me.”
The Sharks depth also kicked in and they ended up with the team title with 25 points. Hillhouse was second with 48 points and Wilbur Cross third with 58.
“We have a young, enthusiastic team that likes to work hard,” Sacred Heart Academy coach Pat Redding said. “This is our second team title and our first since 1996.”
Brown second no more, wins D Division
Lizzy Brown of Sheehan was second at the SCC Girls Cross Country Championships the last two season. The third time was the charm with Brown coming away with a win in the SCC Class D Division in 20:18.
“Going into this race, I wanted to go out hard and get out quick,” Brown said. “It was a close race early on. But after the first mile I started pulling away. I wasn’t thinking about winning as much as I was about running a fast time. There were some strong runners in the race. But I went out fast and it all came together for me today.
“It feels special to get the win.”
Hamden came away with the team title with 48 points and Cheshire was second with 53. The top finisher for Hamden was Georgia Kirkendall who was sixth in 22:33.
“We’re really happy with this win, especially how hard this group worked all season,” Hamden coach Mike Migliore said. “This team win was definitely a group effort. It’s our first SCC title and I’m so proud of all the girls.”