By BRIAN JENNINGS
Connor Leone finished in the front pack of the boys race. Isabella Scalise paced the front group in the girls race. ON Tuesday, Oct. 17, Southington runners rallied for top-six finishes in varsity events at the CCC championship, held at Wickham Park in Manchester.
When asked how both Southington teams managed top-six finishes at the conference meet, Blue Knight interim coach Connor Green said that there were a few factors that went into such success. One of those factors happened to be the weather with temperatures hovering around 70 degrees on Tuesday.
“I know this goes across the state for other teams, but almost every meet we’ve had this year has been summer weather all fall, and it’s just been pretty brutal to deal with,” said Green. “So, a lot of our kids just haven’t run great in the humidity, but that little bit of cooler weather did us well.”
Southington’s strategy all season has been to pack it up and have runners get as close as they could to each other in races. The girls executed that strategy well at the conference meet with a difference of only 33.6 seconds between the first and fifth runners.
“We can’t ask for more than that,” the coach said. “It’d be great if we could do better than that, but it clearly helped us. We didn’t have a clear frontrunner like a lot of other teams did, and you don’t see a lot of top-scoring teams where their first runner is in 30th.”
The third factor brought the Knights closer to the other half of that shared vision between Green and Dachelet…a qualification for the state open after a solid performance at the Class LL championship.
“We were excited for the meet and have some pretty loft goals of making the state open,” said Green. “We showed up, were willing to put in the work, and take a little bit of a chance in the race. If we can make it as a team, that would be phenomenal, but we have to get through the class meet first.”
Whether it was averages or top five runners, coaches have been mapping out and studying the times of all the teams that have qualified for the state open over the years since 2010. At the beginning of the season, Southington runners set out to qualify as teams for the state open, and Green said that both teams are not viewing the upcoming Class LL championship as the end of their seasons.
“Our girls ran within one second of whatever that average was,” the coach said. “Basically, every guy needs to drop five to eight seconds in their race, which I think is completely possible for them to make the open.”
Conner Leone paced the boys teams to a fifth-place finish out of 30 teams at the conference meet, taking fifth out of 229 runners with a season best time of 16:40.
“I saw just determination,” said Green. “He went through the first mile at about 5:11. For him, that’s fast, but not out of touch with what he’s capable of doing. But when I saw him in fifth, I knew that he was taking a chance and really going for it.”
Leone’s time of 16:40 was second all-time for Southington runners at Wickham Park.
“Joe Pearl and Trey Cormier are both very familiar with being out in front and running their race, kind of just pulling others along,” the coach said. “The fact that Conner was willing to go up there and take a chance, still right in that fifth spot when he came through the second mile, I knew that he was in for a pretty special day.”
Shane Leone (17:30.4), Matt Penna (17:38.4), Sean Young (17:48.4), and Ryan Slesinski (18:01.3) also scored. Tanner Sperry (18:09.9) and Ben Palladino (18:21.2) contributed.
Hall’s Trey Cormier (16:13.1) beat out Manchester’s Joe Pearl (16:23.7) by a little over 10 seconds to win the boys varsity race, leading the Warriors to a conference title over Tolland.
The Lady Knights weren’t far behind, trailing behind RHAM by 11 points in sixth place out of 27 teams. Isabella Scalise paced the girls team with a 36th-place finish out of 203 runners and time of 21:05.8.
“She was pretty relaxed and felt good,” said Green. “Her being a senior, she’s been here before. You know Bella’s going to run well when she’s laughing and bouncing around before the meet, and that’s exactly what she was doing. Having that win against NW Catholic kind of bounced her spirits back about how the season is going.”
Natalia Adamczyk (21:12), Kate Kemnitz (21:12.2), Sarah Minkiewicz (21:34.2), and Kailey Schmarr (21:39.4) also scored. Julia Michnowicz (21:57.9) and Laini Pizzitola (22:50.1) contributed.
Hall’s Jenna Zydanowicz (18:28.6) beat out Manchester’s Kate Hedlund (19:10.5) by a little under a minute to win the girls varsity race, as Hall finished runner-up to Glastonbury for the conference title.
Southington will head back to Wickham Park for a fourth time this season for the Class LL championship on Saturday, Oct. 28. The girls race is scheduled to start at 1:00 p.m., and the boys race is scheduled to start at 1:35 p.m. The divisional start lists are to be posted by the CIAC by 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 24.
For this week’s box scores, click here: (southingtonobserver.com/2017/10/24/weekly-scoreboard-for-the-oct-27-edition). To contact sports writer Brian Jennings, email him at BJennings@SouthingtonObserver.com.