Cross country: Runners hit the wall at Class LL race

Ryan Slesinski charges up the hill at Wickham Park in his final varsity race. Slesinski was Southington’s lone senior at the Class LL boys race. (Photo by John Goralski)



Illness and a strong Class LL field conspired against the state open aspirations of the Southington girls cross country team. The Lady Knights competed at Wickham Park in Manchester on Oct. 26 and turned in a 12th place performance.

“I know they had high expectations. The girls were hoping for the state open, but it would have been a stretch,” coach Dan Dachelet said. “We would all have to be firing.”

There were still good efforts from Southington’s runners, both the girls and the boys, who took 18th place in Class LL.

Dachelet said that there were a lot of great efforts in both races with a lot of personal bests, and that’s the goal at the state meet.

“You’re all trying to be on for that one specific day, and it happens,” Dachelet said. “There are other teams out there. Hall was considered one of the best teams in the state on the girls side, and they finished sixth. It’s about experience, and we had our upperclassmen step up today.”

For the girls, senior Kate Kemnitz had a Wickham personal best time of 20:53 on her way to a 30th place finish, which led the Lady Knights. On the boys side, junior Matthew Penna also had a Wickham personal best time of 17:15. Natalia Adamczyk (21:33), Kailey Schmarr (21:54), and Diane Pillsbury (21:38) each set personal records on Wickham’s challenging, hilly course.

Natalia Adamczyk was one of four girls to run a season best time at the Class LL meet. (Photo by John Goralski)

Kemnitz was followed by Adamczyk (60th place), Pillsbury (65th), Schmarr (73rd, 21:54) and junior Meghan Sheline (104th, 23:09). Senior Taylor Borla was the sixth Southington girl to cross the finish line. Freshman Jackie Izzo started the race for Southington but didn’t finish.

“We had a handful of people that just weren’t feeling it today, coming off of illnesses,” Dachelet said. “They went out there and gave it a shot, and it just wasn’t there.”

Penna was followed by the lone Southington boys senior Ryan Slesinksi (92nd, 17:59). After Slesinski, it was junior Lucca Riccio (98th, 18:03), sophomore Jared Rivera (105th, 18:12) and freshman Grayson Borla (120th, 18:25). Sophomore Jackson Landino was the sixth Blue Knight to cross the finish line. Junior Ryan Asido didn’t run for the Blue Knights.

Dachelet was particularly happy with the effort from Rivera.

“He kind of started the season out with a bang, and we’re expecting great things, and then he just kind of rode the wave for the middle of the season,” Dachelet said. “I think he figured it out today, which is great because he’s a sophomore.”

Neither team advanced to the state open, and no Knights qualified as individuals. So the Class LL championship marks the end of the winter campaign. Dachelet said that leadership, personality and camaraderie are the legacies of this year’s senior class.

“I’ve taken most of these guys from freshman year to senior year, and they provided leadership at a younger age, even though they weren’t captains,” coach Dan Dachelet said.

Just from a pure numbers standpoint, the graduation losses will be heavier for the girls. Kemnitz, Adamczyk, Schmarr and Borla each ran in their final meet for the Lady Knights. The boys lose just one senior, Slesinski, to graduation. On both sides, a large crop of freshmen fit in well with their new teammates.

Izzo will be one of the lead runners for the girls in 2019. Diane Pillsbury could prove to be another lead runner for the Lady Knights next year. The boys will return a number of experienced upperclassment, including Penna, Asido, and Ricco. Jackson Landino and Jared Rivera will be juniors, and Grayson Borla will be a sophomore who had some great runs as a freshman.

In fact, Dachelet said that this year’s freshmen could offer good depth for next year’s squads.

“I think they all really enjoyed each other’s company,” said the coach. “We had a very mature group of freshmen across the board for the boys and the girls.”

Dachelet said that the key to next year’s success will be determined by the commitment in the off-season.

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