By John Goralski
The Lady Knight’s No. 2 runner was perched on crutches at the finish line as her teammates navigated the 5K course at Wickham Park. Southington’s top runner was beginning to fade into the pack. One varsity runner learned about her start just a few days before the race. All of them were charged with erasing the nearly 40 second gap caused by the injury.
With such adversity, Southington had no chance for a state open championship. Right?
If not, nobody told the girls.
“They ran tough. They ran as a tough-knit group, and we had some kids move up from the back that have never done this before,” said Lady Knight cross country coach Dan Dachelet. “At the beginning of the year, I said that I wanted to start a culture of winning, an attitude on the team where they’re focused on winning. We didn’t make it to the state open, but that atmosphere is there right now. I think they’ve tasted a little bit of the success that they can have here in the future.”
Catherine Myers (21:33) was third for the Knights at the conference meet, but she trimmed more than five seconds off her time to pace her team at the state meet. Lauren Perkowski (21:46) finished under 22 minutes. Amanda Hamel (21:46) trimmed 11 seconds off of her previous time, and that wasn’t even the biggest jump for the Knights.
Freshman Sarah Minkiewicz (22:02) trimmed almost 40 seconds off her previous time. Katherine Mellitt was pulled up to the varsity roster just a few days prior to the race, and her time (22:23) was fifth overall for the Knights. Megan Albert (22:43) didn’t score, but she trimmed almost a minute off her previous time.
“Sarah and Katherine both ran personal records,” said Dachelet. “We ran tight, and I think there was only about a 40 something second gap between our No. 1 and our No. 5. Now, we just have to move that group up a little bit farther. Now that they understand what they’re capable of doing, they just have to come out and do it next year.”
Southington finished four girls in the top 50, and all seven in the top 100. Glastonbury (56) ran away with the overall title, beating Staples (91) and Ridgefield (99) at the top of the team standings, but Southington (235) edged Cheshire (239) for eighth place overall. The Knights were within striking distance of Newtown (220) and Amity (228).
Nobody advanced to the state open, but the Knights will return four of their top seven next fall.
“I’m really excited,” said Dachelet. “Sure, it’s tempered a little bit today, but I think we’ll use this next year for motivation.”
Southington’s biggest success came in the boys race where Sean Garrison (17:21) out-distanced 129 runners to finish 37th overall. In the five other divisional races, only 35 runners managed to eclipse Garrison’s qualifying time, so the Knight will advance to the next round. Garrison is the first Southington runner to advance to the state open in three seasons.
“I think a sub-17 performance is a legit goal for him,” said Dachelet. “We’ve just got to give him fresh legs for the race. He just has to believe that he can do it and stick out his neck and run with those guys up front. He’s going to get jostled around, but he’s a nice, steady runner. As long as he runs his race plan, he’ll do well.”
As a group, the boys fared well. Mark Murdy (17:57) and Brandon Bayron (18:04) placed in the top 100. Tom Murdy (18:41) and Jack Myers (18:50) scored with alternates Adam Theriault (18:56) and Dylan Breutzmann (18:59) right on their heels.
Amity (90) edged Danbury (95) and Ridgefield (106) atop the team standings, but Southington (417) finished ahead of Xavier (453) and Greenwich (462).
“We had some good performances and some not-so-good performances,” daid Dachelet. “Some of the guys are disappointed with what they did today, but we had two young runners out there that were sophomores and have never run this race before. We just didn’t have those five runners like we wanted to have.”
The race marked the end of Southington’s team competition, but Garrison will return to Wickham Park this Friday. The state open is schedule for 2:45 p.m. and real time results will be posted at www.ciacsports.com.
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By John Goralski