By KEVIN ROBERTS
The Southington girls cross country team had a solid finish to the 2018 season, and more good things could be in store in 2019.
The Lady Knights finished fifth overall in the CCC championship meet at Manchester’s Wickham Park. They were third in the CCC West in that same meet, which just shows how strong that region was. Southington claimed 12th as a team at the Class LL state meet.
The Knights did lose All-CCC West Region performers Kate Kemnitz, Natalia Adamczyk and Kailey Schmarr to graduation. Kemnitz and Taylor Borla were senior captains. Kemnitz, Schmarr and Adamczyk finished 10th, 18th and 23rd in the CCC West. Kemnitz is at Syracuse University, Schmarr is at Eastern Connecticut State University and Adamczyk is at Southern Connecticut State University.
Kemnitz was The Observer’s 2019 Female Athlete of the Year.
Happily for Southington, some youngsters picked up valuable experience in 2018. Jackie Izzo burst onto the scene with some great performances as a freshman in 2018 and figures to be a key cog as a sophomore. Izzo was an All-CCC West Region performer, as was Diane Pillsbury, a junior returnee. Izzo finished fifth in the CCC West and sixth overall in the CCC while Pillsbury was 28th and 51st.
Izzo ran the fastest 5k time in school history in 2018, and she had the fastest time in program history at Wickham Park. Part of why Southington finished 12th in the Class LL meet was because Izzo was unable to finish the race. Pillsbury is expected to make big improvements from last year to this year.
Making a big comeback is junior Grace Michaud, who missed the end of the 2018 cross country season along with all of indoor track. Michaud was barely edged out by Izzo at the end of the team’s preseason time trial.
“Jackie and Grace should have a breakout year and could very well be top 30 girls in the state,” coach Dan Dachelet said. “I think as a coach I’ll be in new territory with two girls gunning for winning races each meet or front pack runners in invites.”
Where Southington will need to step up is at the No. 4 and No. 5 spots. In the preseason time trial, it was Pillsbury in third, followed by senior captain Meghan Sheline in fourth, sophomore Emma Swindon in fifth, sophomore Isabelle Hoffman in sixth, freshman Emily Moskal in seventh, sophomore Lillian Gura in eighth, sophomore Claire Cavanaugh in ninth and freshman Hannah Cooley in 10th.
“We need to have some girls who either haven’t run varsity in the past or are new to the team to step up in that four and five spot,” Dachelet said. “We’re hoping that they’ll be ready by championship season.”
Dachelet believes Moskal, who finished in the Sloper Relays in 2018, could be a contributor by season’s end. Lili McKinstry joins Sheline as a senior captain for Southington. Big things could be ahead for the Knights if the chips fall the right way.
“We’re on the cusp of being a state open qualifier, but it’s going to depend on everyone staying healthy and a few athletes having breakout seasons,” Dachelet said.
Like the boys, the schedule for the girls is different in 2019 than in year’s past. That’s an intentional move by Dachelet.
“This year we’ve set up our meet schedule with less invites so that each week we’re focusing on just one race, whether it be a dual or an invite,” Dachelet said.
Hall, Glastonbury and Simsbury, all CCC West Region teams like Southington, will be in the mix at the top. Dachelet said that Avon may be on the rise as well. The West Region will be a tough ride, but Dachelet hopes the work put in by his runners translates when the postseason comes around.
Southington opens the season on Tuesday, Sept. 10, against Glastonbury and Farmington at Glastonbury’s JB Williams Park. The first home meet is Sept. 17 against Avon and Conard at YMCA Camp Sloper.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com