NEW HAVEN — Robbie Cozean of Xavier believes a big key to his success this season in boys cross country is his mental toughness.
It contributed to his recent win in the championship race at Wickham Park (15:35) and a win at the Bowdoin Invitational (16:03). Dealing with a constant 30 mile-per-hour wind and soggy course conditions due to a downpour the night before, the mental toughness played its part again at the Southern Connecticut Conference championships at East Shore Park on Thursday.
Cozean ran with the front pack early in the race and then he and Brendan Mellitt of Cheshire surged ahead together after the first mile. With about a mile and a quarter to go in the 3.1-mile race, Cozean decided to make his move. He surged ahead and won the race by 35 seconds in 16:03. Mellitt was second in 16:38 and Mason Beaudette of Amity was third in 17:08.
Cozean led a strong Xavier team that went on to win its fourth straight SCC title with 42 points. Guilford was second with 96 points, Amity was third with 124 points and Cheshire was fourth with 127.
“In cross country you run on your own and there are no time outs,” said Cozean, who recently committed to the University of Notre Dame. “You learn to be tough, to have mental toughness, and that’s what gets you to the finish line. You don’t let a strong wind or wet conditions play a part. There is no time to think about it, you just have to go for it and that’s what I did today.
“Mellitt and I were running together early on. But right after the first mile I decided it was time to make a move and took the lead one and a quarter miles into the race. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get where I am today. This is my last SCC cross country race and it was great to win. It gives you momentum heading into the state meets (CIAC Class L and State Open).”
Mellitt was happy to end up second in the race.
“I know Robbie and it was going to take an incredible effort in order to beat him,” Mellitt said. “I’m happy for second because with Robbie in the race it was all I could hope for. Early in the race we ran together. I felt if I was going to have a shot at having a good finish I needed to stay with him. We both started surging ahead, but Robbie took off about halfway into the race. I tried to keep up but I didn’t want to push it too hard and lose second place.”
In addition to Cozean, also contributing to the Falcons’ team title were Eamon Burke (seventh, 17:33), George Luke (ninth, 17:35), Brody Santagata (11th, 17:38) and Nick Cassarino (14th, 17:42).
“When you go into a season every team is different,” Xavier coach Chris Stonier said. “This year in the SCC meet underclassmen came through for us. Eamon Burke and Brody Santagata are sophomores and Nick Cassarino is a freshman. Nick wasn’t even supposed to run in that race. We let him know about a half hour before the race that he was replacing Adam Anziano who was injured (hip). He’s still learning but he’s becoming a special runner.
“Our seven top places in the boys varsity race we had four sophomores and a freshman. The thing is, having that many underclassmen doesn’t make it a challenge. It makes it a lot of fun. The bottom line is at this stage of the season you know what you have for talent. It was great to see our runners do well today.”