CROSS COUNTRY: Led by Oliveri & Kicklighter, Maloney sweeps Meriden city championship

CROSS COUNTRY: Led by Oliveri & Kicklighter, Maloney sweeps Meriden city championship


MERIDEN — Maloney boys and girls cross country coach Derek Destafano knows something about the prestige of winning the city championship. He won it as a Platt Panther in 2006 and 2007.

He tried to instill that importance into his runners in Monday’s practice. “Two runners here today could be city champs,” he told his team.

The Spartans took him up on the challenge and claimed both individual championships on Tuesday afternoon at Hubbard Park. Maloney also swept both team titles for the second year in a row.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this team this year,” Destefano said. “They believe in themselves and work hard every day. They don’t give up.

“Wilcox was so good today and we knew they were going to be tough,” Destefano added. “We saw that they were undefeated in their conference and that they have some really good runners. We knew we had to be strong today.”

The Maloney boys defeated Platt (15-39) and previously unbeaten Wilcox Tech (25-30). The Indians defeated Platt 19-39.

In the girls race, Maloney topped Platt (15-39) and Wilcox (19-36). Wilcox Tech swept Platt 15-50.

A pair of underclassmen led the way for the Spartans. Sophomore Dominic Oliveri won the boys race in 18:24. Freshman Morgan Kicklighter flamed her way to the front of the girls field and led the entire race inn winning in 22:55.

“She’s got a natural talent and works hard to get better and better, and she’s a freshman,” Destefano said. “She’s gotten so much better and I’m excited about her future.”

Kicklighter crossed the finish line 55 seconds before second-place finisher and fellow freshman Shalyn Noble of Wilcox Tech.

“This means a lot and it’s big to win as a freshman,” said Kicklighter, who has two other wins on her rookie resume this season. “I tried my best and did all that I could do. But this was a good race. I was just trying to do the best that I could.”

Oliveri, meanwhile, earned his second win of the season in grabbing gold in the boys race. He was seventh in last year’s city championship as a freshman.

“This means everything,” Oliveri said. “All of the hard work and training paid off. I’m so happy. I really pushed myself.”

Teammate Reynaldo Torres, a freshman, stayed with Oliveri the entire race and nabbed second in 18:42.

Also scoring for Maloney (5-5) were Spencer Santagata (6th, 20:22), Simon Santos (7th, 20:36) and Jack Flores (10th, 21:21).

“Our first two guys did their job,” Destefano said. “Those second two guys, both captains, they broke up that Wilcox Tech core and that’s how we got that victory. They worked that last mile. They are the leaders on this year and I’m just so proud of everyone. They don’t give up.”

Wilcox Tech (7-1) showcased the 3-4-5 runners, paced by junior Donny You (3rd, 19:30).

“This is my first season ever doing cross country,” You said. “I usually just play basketball. But my friends told me to come out.

“I was trying really hard to stay with the leaders,” You added. “At one point I got closer, but then they pulled away again. I will come back better next year.”

In You’s footsteps were teammates Jared Rivera (4th, 19:50), Bryce McClendon (5th, 20:22), Israel Arce (8th, 20:40) and Luis Hernandez (12th, 21:48).

“This was about what I expected, time-wise,” Wilcox Tech coach Dave Cronin said. “I was very happy with our guys.”

Arce’s twin Isiah, who runs for Platt, finished right behind his brother in ninth place with a 21:12.

“I caught a little cramp, but I tried to stick it out,” said the top Panther male finisher. “I tried to finish hard and get a good place and a good time.”

Platt’s Arce ran a personal best on Tuesday.

“He is our fastest runner,” Platt coach Samantha Randall said. “He’s got a lot of natural talent. We are building him up week by week. As a team, we are hoping to build it up next year and continue to grow the team.”

Also scoring for Platt was Dallas LaComb (11th, 21:36), Jacob Parker (22nd, 24:07) and Aiden Annino (24th, 24:38).

In the girls race, the Spartans (5-4) were strong behind Kicklighter, with Charlisse Levesque taking third (24:25), Britney Felix nabbing fourth (25:35) and Kristen McCormack rounding out the top five with a 27:10. Julie Burness finished the Maloney scoring with a seventh-place finish in 27:33.

Behind Noble, Wilcox Tech (5-3) was paced by Maegan Griffin (10th, 27:54), Dayshanae Otero (13th, 30:35), Yamelette Calderon (14th, 30:40) and Jian Chen (17th, 32:49).

“Shalyn ran a good race today, but the Maloney runner was very good. That’s going to be fun down the road with both of them being freshmen,” Wilcox Tech girls coach Rob Janiga said.

“I had a lot of anxiety racing today, but once I started going, I started to feel pretty good,” Noble said.

The Platt girls (0-8) featured three runners: Angelie Medina (6th, 27:12), Ashley Zuniga (23rd 40:31) and Krystal Vargas (24th, 42:51). All three are freshmen.


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