FAIRFIELD — After a season that saw the Fairfield Warde cross country team end with a 15-3 record, highlighted by both the girls and boys team’s placing fifth at the FCIAC Championships, a strong Class L showing and qualifying for the CIAC State Open, it’s safe to say, expectations are high entering this fall.
“I would love to continue the tradition if you will or expectation of, we can make the State Open, both teams, and you know I guess do very well,” Warde cross country coach Tim Foster said.
On the boys’ side, Warde returns its top two runners in senior captains Aidan Fiol and Nick Gans. Fiol placed 12th (16:32) at the FCIAC Championships last October, while Gans was right behind him 13th (16:33). Fiol followed that up with a second place finish at the Class L meet as Warde captured an impressive third place finish.
But the challenge they face this fall is replacing the remaining top five runners.
“We have a very young team this year,” Gans said. “We have a sophomore group of like five, a few freshmen. Once they adjust to the level of training I think the team will really see an improvement.”
Joining Fiol and Gans is senior co-captain Jack Ullman. He said during the offseason the team held captains practice’s and encouraged the younger runners to log mileage and become a little bit more familiar with the way things work.
“It’s a lot more responsibility and you have to lead and make sure everyone is doing their best,” Ullman said of being a captain. “I definitely think we can get pretty close (to match our success) of last season.”
Added Fiol: “I think it’s really dependent if this whole sophomore class can keep up the training. I think we’re going to see a lot of improvement as the season goes.”
For the girls, the headline is experience. The Mustangs return all but their No. 2 runner Caroline Keough, who graduated. The team features one of the conferences deepest rosters led by defending FCIAC Champion Cate Allen. Allen, a senior co-captain took top honors last October winning in 14:20 and then captured the Class L title. The Mustangs placed fourth at the class meet.
“We are in a really good position right now,” senior co-captain Kelly Powlishen said. “We’ve been training a lot. We did a lot of summer running so we came into this season prepared. I think we’re going to go far.”
There is no reason why the Mustangs shouldn’t succeed. Big numbers, experience and a strong bond amongst the girls is reason to believe they will contend for not only a conference title, but state as well.
“We have such a close team and we have so much team bonding which is good because it pushes everyone and we all want to get better together,” senior co-captain Sophie Flay said.
Rachel Maltz and Leah Epstein two other names that will pace the Mustangs this season.
Warde opened the season Tuesday and will have its first home meet on Oct. 8.
“We want to go as far as possible and think we’re going to surprise some teams this season,” Flay said.