By BRIAN JENNINGS
Southington’s cross country program left town this past weekend for their final out-of-state meet of the regular season. The Knights traveled to the legendary course at Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, NY to compete in the largest race on the eastern seaboard that featured over 10,000 runners and 450 teams in an array of 2.5-mile races.
“In my 22 years in the sport, I’ve never seen a meet this large,” said Southington coach Dan Dachelet. “It was quite a show. Our runners had some great races as well. It’s hard to judge on a new course, but all in all, I think most were happy with their performances.”
There were six different varsity races for the girls and seven different varsity races for the boys. The girls team placed 10th out of 27 teams in the E race. Isabella Scalise (16:56.0) powered the Lady Knights by finishing 45th out of 191 runners. Marisa Mathews (17:12.7), Kate Kemnitz (17:36.0), Sarah Minkiewicz (17:50.0), Natalia Adamczyk (17:56.3), Laini Pizzitola (18:02.9), and Catherine Myers (18:28.3) contributed as well.
Dachelet said it was the second flattest course of the year, next to the early season meet in Martha’s Vineyard.
“My ailing memory remembered the course as entirely flat, so some of the goals and times may have been off a bit when we were using Martha’s Vineyard as a reference point,” the coach said. “I think I was focused on Cemetery Hill being the only real hill on the course and forgot about the back hills being challenging.”
The boys team placed 13th out of 30 teams in the E race. Mark Murdy (13:35.9) paced the Blue Knights by finishing 29th out of 212 runners. Conner Leone (13:51.3), Shane Leone (14:17.1), Tom Murdy (14:30.6), Ryan Slesinski (14:33.2), Jeffrey Hannigan (14:38.1), and Jordan McMeans (14:42.1) contributed as well.
Other than competing in the Manhattan Invitational, Southington’s cross country program took a trip to Ellis Island and toured national parks, but Dachelet said that the overnight meet is also designed as a motivator for the harriers to train over the summer.
“That’s why we initiated it from the get-go,” said Dachelet. “It’s a reward for the kids who train over the summer and run fast at the time trial, and this is that reward.”
Other than using out-of-state trips as a reward, Dachelet said that he also tries to expose his runners to a variety of different courses.
“This is certainly one of the premiere courses in the Northeast,” the coach said. “This and Franklin Park in Boston are the biggies. You get kids coming from all over the region to race it. It was an opportunity for them to see something that’s historic where they’ve been running cross country on that course since 1913. It’s a bucket-list-type thing.”
Both cross country teams are currently 2-2 overall and in the CCC Central Blue. Southington is scheduled to run in their last dual meet of the regular season this week on Thursday, Oct. 13 at Elizabeth Park in West Hartford against Hartford Public and New Britain.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at email@example.com.