Fairfield Prep coach Bob Ford said he told his team to worry about what they do, not what their competitors do.
With the challenges Wickham Park’s hill-laden course will present in the cross country state championship meets on Saturday, namely the large grassy hill dubbed “The Green Monster,” the runners won’t have much of a choice.The state-meet races begin at 9:15 a.m. with Class S and continue throughout the day. The Green Monster looms about two miles into the course and ascends about 100 yards up. Although it is the trademark of the Wickham Park course, Ford said it is not the toughest hill to run.
“I think Wickham’s a very fair course,” Ford said. “That hill is tough, but it’s not brutal.”
Branford coach Kevin Connell said the Green Monster does pose a threat and can possibly make or break a runner’s time.“If they can get through that, they should do pretty well,” Connell said.
The Hornets enter the Class MM meet looking to place well, despite a tough field.
“Guilford is probably the best team in MM and probably New Fairfield is after that,” Connell said. “I’m hoping we’re the next team.”
The Cheshire girls are in a loaded field in Class LL. To ensure his girls place well at Wickham, Rams coach Rob Schaefer said his team took a pre-race trip to visit The Green Monster.
“We practice on the Green Monster a day or two before states,” he said.
“I have my kids stand right in the middle of the hill and look up. When you’re standing on the hill, it’s not that big.”
And after running the hills at the Cheshire High course, the psychological effect of a monster hill isn’t scary, either. “Obviously the name is out there to try to set kids up,” Schaefer said. “We call our hill at our course ‘Agony.’”
Schaefer said the toughest part of the course is actually the finish line.
“The make-or-break part is the finish goes uphill,” he said. “So the kids are running uphill more than they are downhill.”
Ford agreed the finish can be tough on runners and said there is no fool-proof strategy for success at Wickham, or in dealing with The Green Monster. He said most of the time the end result comes down to the way the runners begin.
“We tell the kids,” Ford said, “‘The worst mistake you make in a race will happen in the first minute.’”