Pre meet favorites Xavier boys and and Eli Nahom of New Milford win the CT State Open at Wickham Park in Manchester. With four runners in the top 14 the Falcons repeated as champions by 46 points over Hall High School. In the close battle for 2nd Hall scored 121 points with Tolland taking 3rd in 122 and Staples in 123.
Suffield and Danbury also earned their spots at next Saturday's New England championship by taking 5th and 6th place.
Nahom, the senior from New Milford had the fastest time of the day from the state class meets the week before. His time of 15:54 was 12 seconds in front of freshman Gavin Sherry of Conard who ran 16:04 who took second.
This win marks Xavier's 13th State Open cross country title since 1970, which is the most of any school in the state. It is also the first time the Falcons have repeated since the 1985-86 "Dream Teams". In fact, this year's team also tied the 85 team's class meet record of 26 points. (Although the 85 team was in Class LL and this year's team moved down to Class L.) On top of all this, it is also Xavier's 25th trip to New Englands since 1986, which is an all time Connecticut record for regional appearances.
Hall's journey to their first State Open trophy in school history began four years ago, when this group of seniors won the Wickham Invitational freshman meet. Then in 2016, after a self described "bad day" they finished a heartbreaking 3rd place in the Class L meet and failed to advance to the State Open. Last year the Warriors finally reached one of their goals by making New Englands with a 6th place finish.
This year, only three points separated 2nd- 4th and every point mattered. Hall captain Josh Fernandes has not had a very good senior and was left off the varsity top seven for the CCC and Class LL meets. When Hall's 6th and 7th runners developed small injuries, Fernandes got his chance.
Suffield boys earned their first trip to New Englands with their 5th place finish. This is another team who has worked for this day for several years. In 2014, the bulk of this year's team was part of Suffield's Middle School team that was 3rd at the CT Middle School championships. They have stuck together and continually improved to make their way into one of the top teams in the state.
Danbury Hatters have earned their 23rd trip to New Englands and just passed over Manchester to be the school with the 2nd amount of appearances at New Englands. The Danbury- Xavier rivalry has been going on since 2000 when the orange and blue defeated the all black for the first time at the Open. This is a battle that will be sure to continue in the coming years with the lead for most appearances going back and fourth.
Ridgefield boys didn't get a single vote in the CT Coaches Poll and yet they finished 7th at the Open, only 20 points off that coveted spot to New Englands. The conditions on Thursday were an average of 18-20 seconds slower than at the Class meet and most teams were 1:30-1:40 slower this week. Ridgefield was only 40 seconds slower which is the least drop off of any team. With the entire top seven returning and including three sophomores and a freshman, the glory days of the Tigers look like they will return next year.
Speaking of freshman, there is an old adage- "freshman are seen but not heard." Well the class of 2022 is making a lot of noise. The most notable of course is Gavin Sherry who finished an incredible 2nd on Thursday and was the first freshman to break 16 on Wickham's 5000m course. Then there is his brother Callum who was Conard's #2 runner and finished 42nd to help lead their school to an 8th place finish.
Its extremely rare for any boy freshman to make New Englands, but Manchester's Aidan Puffer got the dreaded 26th place and just missed it by two seconds. Its heartbreaking for a senior to get that spot, but for a freshman, its an indication of a bright future.
Lets not forget Xavier's Eamon Burke who has been the team's number five runner most of the season. While he fell back to 6th man at the Open he was instrumental in Xavier's meet record 26 points at the Class L meet. He, along with his classmate Noah San Vicente will have to maintain the standards for the X-men next year since four of their top seven are seniors.
New Milford's Nahom kept a low profile this season only running the Amheart Invitational in Mass and his dual meets. The lack of top notch competition obviously didn't affect him at all since he came in with the fastest time of the day from the class meets and held up to the pressure and won his first State Open title. New Milford has always had an outstanding tradition of cross country, but Nahom has taken over the spot as the Green Wave's most accomplished runner. He has had the benefit of advice from his parents, Mike and Michelle who were both All Americans at the University of Colorado and from his sister who dominated the state in the 1600m her senior year and is now currently a sophomore at UConn.
Next up for the top 25 finishers and the top six teams will be the New England championships held at Derryfield Park in Manchester, NH. For everything you need to know check out Milesplit's New England Information page.