Boys Cross Country: Knights tested from the starting gate

Above, the Nafis brothers, Jake and Drew, face a trial by fire. The freshmen twins held their own against top varsity competition.

By KEVIN ROBERTS

STAFF WRITER

Southington boys cross country started the season strong with a first place finish in Division I at the Somers Big Red Invitational on Sept. 7 in Lincolndale, N.Y. It may not have counted toward the CIAC portion of the schedule, but the Blue Knights put together a strong effort.

Southington began the dual meet season with a tri-meet at J.B. Williams Park in Glastonbury against the host Tomahawks and Farmington on Sept. 10. The boys defeated Farmington, 17-46, and lost, 18-40, to Glastonbury. Dual meets aren’t what coach Dan Dachelet has his team focused on.

“The way we’re approaching it with the athletes is that we’re not going to worry about the regular season wins and losses and come [out] strong at the CCC meet,” Dachelet said. “From our perspective that race will define what we’ve done over the course of six or seven weeks.”

Southington was aggressive at the Big Red Invite, and it showed in the results.

“This was a big day for quite a few members of the team,” Dachelet said. “We learned that we have an incredibly deep group of freshmen boys that will be the future (and maybe the present) of our program. We validated the importance of not just a summer of solid mileage but a summer full of training with your teammates at a legit pace.”

The hundreds of miles put in by Southington runners paid off at the Big Red Invite.

“I knew the varsity boys were going to be fit, but I honestly didn’t expect them to be that fast day one,” Dachelet said. “In my tenure, this was the fastest top five I’ve had at a course that was legitimate, hills and all.”

Matt Penna finished second in Division I behind winner Daniel Caso of Arlington, N.Y. Caso ran 16:18.1 while Penna came in at 16:30.4.

“Matt Penna is also being very aggressive this year,” Dachelet said. “I know he has some lofty goals and he’s confident in his fitness. He didn’t hesitate to go after the leaders of the race at Somers.”

Lucca Riccio took fifth with a time of 17:11.1 while Ryan Asido placed 15th in 17:37.3. Penna, Riccio and Asido combined to give the Knights 22 points. That put Southington in good position against the other nine teams competing in Division I. The Knights finished at 63, two ahead of second place John Jay-East Fishkill (65).

“Right now, we have a solid top three on the guys side, but the next 10 runners or so are incredibly evenly matched,” Dachelet said. “I think it’s going to be tough to make the varsity this year and it will be seconds between runners.”

Grayson Borla finished 19th (17:48.2), followed by Jackson Landino in 22nd (17:55.3).

Glastonbury tri-meet

SEPT. 10—When it comes to the season overall, the Knights want to race less.

Just three days after the Big Red Invite, Southington had a tri-meet against Glastonbury and Farmington.

“Ideally we’d race once every other week and no more than once every seven days,” Dachelet said. “We’re almost at that schedule now with the exception of two weeks where we have an invitational on a Saturday and a dual on a Tuesday. When we step on a start line, we want the athlete to know that it’s go time and get pumped for that race.  You can only go to the well so often from a mental and physical perspective.”

Dachelet rested his top six boys in the Glastonbury tri-meet. The top finishers for the Knights were freshmen Jake Nafis and Drew Nafis. Jake Nafis finished fourth in 15:17.37 while Drew Nafis was sixth in 15:41.41.

“Drew and Jake Nafis showed that they can handle the longer distances,” Dachelet said. “Until this point, the farthest they’d raced was two miles on the track. Hanging in there behind Glastonbury’s No. 4 runner was solid.”

There were some solid efforts in the first week of the season, and Dachelet will be looking for more.

Up next: The Knights hosted Conard and Avon in the home opener on Tuesday at Camp Sloper.

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com

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