In a remake of some great battles three decades ago, Xavier
and Staples boys renewed their rivalry at the State Open on Friday. The race came down to the wire and at first
Staples was declared the winner but after further review of the finish video,
officials determined the race to be a tie 61-61. The championship was then determined by the 6th
man tie breaker rule, which went to Xavier whose 6th man finished
four places and four seconds ahead of Staples 6th man.
This year's team was inspired by some of the great athletes from Xavier's past. Rich Anzio and Ron Cozean, two great runners from the 80s both have sons on the team and two time and Kinney (now Footlocker) qualifier JT Burke sent the team a motivational email. It's no wonder the Falcons were able to take their 12th State Open title.
Each team has their own unique story which makes their accomplishments on Friday, that much more meaningful. Two years ago, Haddam-Killingworth's boys and girls team finish 7th at the State Open just missing qualifying for New Englands by a few points. Last year, both teams took 10th place and also came close to making the trip. Few Class S or SS teams have ever qualified for the regional meet but to come so close two years in a row must have been frustrating for Coach Matt Diglio's army of runners. But it looks like the third time is the charm. Both Cougar teams took 5th place on Friday and punched their tickets to Maine.
Glastonbury girls are easily one of the best cross country programs in Connecticut over the past decade and a half. They have won four State Open titles with four runners up finishes in that time. On Friday, they won convincingly 80- 128 over Danbury. As an example of their depth, they did it without Erin McGill, their top runner who has been sidelined with tendinitis.
The heat on Friday really took its toll on the girl's race. Several runners dropped out of the race and the finish chute was littered with girls being treated by medical personal. At least three girls were seen literally crawling toward the finish. If anyone thinks runners aren't tough, just watch Hall's sophomore Rose Kitz crawling on her knees over the finish line. The talented 10th grader will have other chances to make New Englands, but this might be her most memorable race ever.
Last year Morgan McCormick of Wilton, was a relative unknown at the beginning of the season and surprised many by defeating Tolland's duo of Hayley Collins and Katherine Deloreto. She went out with the pack and just crept up on the leaders later in the race where she let her endurance take over. A year older, the senior is now able to take the lead from the gun and set a hard pace for others to follow. McCormick's lead was so great coming out of the woods with 600m to go, some fans were heard asking if the rest of the field had gone off course. While she was hoping to break 18 minutes at Wickham, the recent rain making the course soft and the heat prevented that from happening. But under better conditions, cracking 18 minutes should be possible in the next couple of weeks.
The boys race came down to the last 600m as Drew Thompson of Fairfield Prep and Cheshire's Brendan Murray came out of the woods together. They have both battled each other the past few years and have had great high school careers. They will most likely continue their rivalry as Thompson has verbally committed to Dartmouth and Murray has done the same with Yale.
Looking ahead to next year, you can never discount Glastonbury. They have two All State runners returning, but Danbury has their top six returning including Lauren Moore and Alexandra Chakar, who broke into the top 10 runners coming back. Third place finisher Pomperaug has the top returner, Kate Wiser and four others from their top 7 plus injured Ivy Walker who was 9th in 2016.
Trumbull girls never came close to cracking the top 10 in the CT Coaches Poll all season, surprised many and took 6th place to grab the last qualifying spot for New Englands. The future looks even brighter for the Golden Eagles as they return their top five.
On the boy's side, Xavier has four top 20 runners coming back, plus a deep JV squad. This could be the rebirth of the Xmen dynasty that dominated the state for so many decades.
Tolland boys were State Open champions in 2010 and had won four straight Class meet titles leading up to that. Well, they just repeated as class champions and while they were disappointed in their 8th place finish, they have six returners. Among this group are two freshmen and two sophomores so you know the Eagles will be a factor for years to come.
Perennial contender Danbury was down this year after graduating a very strong senior class last year. But as they usually do, they performed their best when it counted and finished in 7th, just 13 points off sixth. The good news for the Hatter is that they have five runners coming back and maybe be in the mix again next year.
The top 25 individuals and the top six boys and girls' teams will continue their season at the The New England Championship at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast, ME on Saturday, November 11, 2017. For more information click here.
Complete Results of the State Open