By BRIAN JENNINGS
The boy’s cross country team may be young coming into the 2015 season, but they are deep. Depth is the word that came to the second year coach’s mind when he stepped back with his arms folded for a moment, observing his boys pacing in packs around Hubbard Park in Meriden, one after the other.
“Come on, hit the hill when you sprint,” Southington coach Dachelet yelled out to his team.
The boy’s team finished the 2014 season with an 8-6 regular season record, finishing in fourth in the CCC West. The team finished ninth overall (fourth in West Division) out of 30 schools at the CCC Championship Meet, finishing two in the top 50. At the Class LL State Meet, the team finished 16th overall out of 22 schools, finishing just one runner in the top 50.
The Knights are only losing five seniors, but two of them happened to be one of the best runners on the team last year. Jack Myers was one of two all-conference runners on last year’s team. He had the team’s second-best time (18:00.38) at the conference meet and had the team’s fifth-best time (18:50) at the state meet.
Brandon Bayron had the team’s third-best time (18:58.38) at the conference meet and the team’s third-best time (18:04) at the state meet.
Senior Sean Garrison and junior Adam Theriault were voted by their teammates to be the team captains for the 2015 season. Garrison (17:30.32) led all Southington runners to a 13th-place finish (seventh in West Division) at the conference meet. He led Southington again to a 37th-place finish (17:21) at the state meet and is the only senior and all-conference runner returning to the team. He finished second in the team’s time trial during the offseason.
“Sean Garrison is going to be our frontrunner this year,” said Dachelet. “He made some dramatic improvements during the outdoor season. The sky is the limit for him this year. He’s put in a great summer, and we’re hoping that he’s not going to just do great individually, but also lead the team to success this year.”
Garrison led the team at the 2014 Class LL Track and Field State Meet in the 3200m run, finishing in 14th out of 40 athletes and qualifying for the open. In his high school career, Garrison has competed in 29 races with an average pace of 5:53, running most of his races during his junior year (12 races).
Theriault (19:43.24) had the team’s fifth-best time at the conference meet and had the team’s sixth-best time at the state meet. In his high school career, Theriault has ran in 19 races and has an average pace of 6:34, running most of his races during his sophomore year (10 races).
“He had a fantastic time trial two days ago,” said Dachelet. “We’re looking for him to be a solid two through four guy.”
Juniors Mark and Tom Murdy are some of the key returning varsity starters from last year’s team. Tom Murdy (19:33.75) had the team’s fourth-best time at the conference meet. Mark Murdy (21:07.55) had the team’s seventh-best time at the conference meet. Mark Murdy (17:57) also had the team’s second-best time at the state meet.
“Mark and Tom Murdy have put in a great summer as well,” said Dachelet. “They’re both healthy right now. I think the key to success is having all three of these guys [Mark, Tom, and Sean] healthy this year. They should be able to run in front of the conference pack.”
Sophomore Anthony Riccio (19:49.79) was ranked as the number one freshman in the conference last season and had the team’s sixth-best time at the conference meet.
Junior Jordan McMeans put in a lot of work over the summer and will also look to be a force in the starting lineup.
Newcomers to the team include sophomore soccer players Conner and Shane Leone. Sophomore Jeff Hannigan is another newcomer that has shown a lot of potential during the offseason. All three came out for the track and field team during the indoor season, showing that they had an aptitude for distance.
Other key returners that will look to contribute to the varsity lineup of the includes juniors Nicholas Benham, Dylan Breutzmann, and James Weil; and sophomores Teagan Duffy, Zach Burleigh, Mike Dorsey, Matthew Garry, Christopher McManus, Jacob Mohr, Nick Ragozzine, Ethan Rathbun, and Tanner Sperry.
One of the major changes to this year’s season was adding the Briarwood Invitational to the team’s schedule, which has been going on for about 30 years now. Dachelet plans to take the top 14 boys and top 14 girls from the two-mile time trials on an out-of-state trip to run at the invitational, which is held at Belmont Plateau, a historic course in Philadelphia.
“The idea is to expose these guys to great competition and facilities,” said Dachelet. “My intent was to try and add a bigger meet that was out of state, where we could go away to reward some of the kids that really busted their butts over the summer.”
Dachelet said that he wants to keep this idea going for years to come, maybe bring his runners to courses in Massachusetts or New York. Dachelet also said that they might try to do the Nike Cross Nationals.
Dachelet is in his second year as the head coach of the cross country teams and has been trying to help develop running programs through Southington’s youth. Dachelet has already helped start the Knight’s Cup for middle school runners over this past summer. Elementary schools in Southington have also started running clubs.
“The challenge is building a team, growing a team, and getting the kids to do mileage over the summer,” said Dachelet. “Building the dynamics and getting the middle school kids to come out for your team is how you grow a program. I think I’ve worked hard on that in some of the things we did in trying to get quality runners to say, ‘Hey, I want to be a harrier instead of a soccer player.’”
After the major realignment of the Central Connecticut Conference was announced in October of last year, the boy’s cross country divisions were reconstructed to the North, Central, and South Regions, a Blue and White Division within the regions. Southington is in the Blue Division of the Central Region, along with Conard, Hall, Glastonbury, and Simsbury. The White Division of the Central Region features Avon, Bulkeley, Farmington, Northwest Catholic, Weaver, and Windsor.
The Blue Division of the North Region contains East Catholic, East Hartford, Hartford Public, South Windsor, and Manchester, while the White Division contains Bloomfield, E.O. Smith, Fermi, RHAM, Rockville, and Tolland.
The Blue Division of the South Region includes Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, New Britain, Newington, and Wethersfield, while the White Division includes Berlin, Maloney, Middletown, Plainville, Platt, and Rocky Hill.
Comments? Email BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.