By BRIAN JENNINGS
The herd stampeded through a small opening of a gate into the fields like raging bulls in rush hour traffic, kicking up dust and scattering it throughout the air. A vast sea of spectators leaned over the fences with anticipation to see what color jersey came around the bend first.
On Wednesday, Oct. 21, schools from the Central Connecticut Conference gathered at Wickham Park in Manchester on a warm and humid day to compete for the conference title.
Southington’s boys team (172, 89:11.6) just missed placing in the top five, finishing sixth as a team (third in Blue Division of Central Region) out of 30 schools, behind Glastonbury (57, 85:36.3), East Catholic (143, 88:38.4), Manchester (155, 88:58.0), Tolland (158, 88:54.5), and Simsbury (158, 88:49.4).
“Yes it’s the same course, but temperature and weather affects you,” said Southington coach Dan Dachelet. “It was like 70 percent humidity at the start of the race with the temperature in the 70s. A 10-second difference on a nice, crisp day is about the equivalent performance of the week prior.”
Sean Garrison (16:48.9) headed the boys team with a top five performance, finishing in fourth (second in Blue Division of Central Region) out of 207 runners, behind Randy Neish (16:25.9) of Glastonbury, Michael Stoker (16:31.5) of South Windsor, and Patrick Briody (16:33.3) of E.O. Smith. Mark Murdy (17:31.8) earned a top 20 performance, finishing in 18th. Tom Murdy (18:04.5) and Conner Leone (18:14.8) both followed in the top 50, finishing in 40th and 47th. Adam Theriault (63rd, 18:31.6), Shane Leone (67th, 18:33.7), and Jordan McMeans (82nd, 18:45.3) contributed.
“If you look at the guy’s times, everyone was within five to 10 percent of their times the week prior at the Wickham Invitational. It was another good, solid effort by everyone on the team. They all ran within a few seconds of their previous times. It was their best finish in a while, as a team. They know that if they want to continue on in the season, every single person has to set a personal record by 10 seconds. It’s a good, deep year in the state for cross country.”
The girls team (174, 107:12.0) snuck into the top five with a fifth-place team mark (third in Blue Division of Central Region) out of 25 schools, behind Glastonbury (56, 101:55.4), Tolland (73, 100:44.6), E.O. Smith (123, 104:52.3), and Avon (150, 105:53.5).
Sophomore Isabella Scalise (20:53.0) stepped in to command the girls team with a top 25 performance, finishing in 22nd (ninth in Blue Division of Central Region) out of 174 runners, which was a personal best time for her. She ran a time of 21.10 the week before, which was a 17-second improvement.
“I know she wasn’t thrilled with her performance at the Wickham Invitational,” said Dachelet. “She was looking to pop a good one, and she did. She is a very young runner with a lot of natural talents that are coming to the surface. She hasn’t even run a full year as a trained distance runner. She didn’t join the team until outdoor track. We’re only talking about eight months as a trained distance runner. So for her to do this in this short of a time period is unusually. The sky is the limit for her.”
Lauren Perkowski (32nd, 21:17.2), Catherine Myers (35th, 21:23.5), Marisa Matthews (44th, 21:48.4), and Sarah Minkiewicz (45th, 21:49.9) followed in the top 50. Carson Stifel (65th, 22:25.2) also contributed. Gabi Napoli competed in the race, but was unable to finish.
“Lauren ran a great race,” said Dachelet. “She started out a little bit slower in the race and made her way through the pack. Catherine Myers ran a great time in the heats. We wouldn’t have finished where we did if it wasn’t for those two girls picking it up and really racing hard.”
Katherine DeLoreto (19:06.3) of Tolland won the girls race.
Southington’s boys JV squad (99) placed third out of 27 schools, behind Hall (23) and Glastonbury (96). Dylan Breutzmann (18:44.5) led the way with a sixth place finish out of 541 runners. Jeffrey Hannigan (19:03.9), Anthony Riccio (19:18.9), Ryan Slesinski (19:20.5), and Ben Palladino (19:43.9) scored. Tyler Strong (19:46.2) and Luke Tedeschi (19:48.9) contributed.
The girls JV squad (60) placed second out of 16 schools, behind Glastonbury (30). Julia Michnowicz (22:37.8) led Southington with a seventh-place finish out of 208 runners. Laini Pizzitola (22:50.6), Jami Pliego (23:21.6), Samantha Schiffer (23:22.1), and Natalia Adamczyk (23:41.1) scored. Kelly Koba (24:32.2) and Amanda Perkowski (25:08.8) contributed.
The Knights are set to return to Wickham Park where they will compete in the Class LL state meet on Saturday, Oct. 31. The girls are scheduled to run at 10:20am and the boys are scheduled to run at 10:55am.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI (Click to enlarge)