CROSS COUNTRY 2018: Area runners ready for the long-distance call

CROSS COUNTRY 2018: Area runners ready for the long-distance call



The heat has broken just in time for the start of the scholastic cross country season, which opens Friday and Saturday with invitationals.

Maloney, Lyman Hall and Sheehan will be in Middletown on Friday for the Blue Dragon Invitational. Cheshire heads east Saturday for the Windham Invitational, while Southington lopes northward for the Big Red Invitational in Somers.

There are new coaches at Sheehan, where assistant Frank Mohr takes up the reins from Carrie Palange, and at Cheshire, where longtime track coach Pam Gunneson takes over for Will Lathrop.

A date to circle is Friday, Sept. 21. That’s when Southington hosts the Sloper Relays at Camp Sloper. Ditto for Wednesday, Oct. 3. That’s when Sheehan hosts its annual Neubauer Invitational.

The rivalry meets come the second week in October. The Meriden schools run at Hubbard Park on Tuesday, Oct. 9. The Wallingford schools tangle two days later at Sheehan.

Everything builds to the state meets on the last Friday of October at Wickham Park, which also hosts the State Open on Nov. 2.

Here’s the early run around the block with the area teams.

Southington

Dan Dachelet enters his fifth year as coach and he’s maintained an ambitious schedule. Along with meets against stout CCC West rivals, the Class LL Blue Knights will run the Briarwood Invitational in Philadelphia next weekend and the Wickham Invitational on Oct. 6.

Dachelet’s boys team, 11-4 a year ago, lost five seniors, including the All-Conference twins, Conner and Shane Leone. (Conner is now running at Southern New Hampshire.) 

Ryan Slesinski returns to captain the team with fellow senior Tyler Strong. Slesinski ran a personal-best 18:08 last year at Wickham.

There are two juniors to watch. Matt Penna has logged a 17:38 at Wickham. Lucca Riccio, coming off a strong summer of training, is on the verge of a breakout season.

“We have a talented group of young athletes that are in unknown territory,” Dachelet said of the boys. “We lost the bulk of our varsity last season and the young group is definitely motivated to step up. They logged the miles this summer, so we’ll have to see if this translates into fast times on the course.”

The girls, 3-4 last year, graduated three seniors and return a number of top runners, led by Kate Kemnitz.

A team captain along with fellow senior Taylor Borla, Kemnitz is coming off an All-Conference season in which she was consistently her team’s No. 1 or No. 2 runner.

Natalia Adamczyk is another leading senior. Like Kemnitz, she’s run a 21:12 at Wickham.

Yet another senior, Kailey Schmarr, is high in the mix. She ran a 21:39 at Wickham last year, her first in cross country, and has established a good mileage base this summer.

Dachelet also speaks highly of sophomore Grace Michaud and freshman Jackie Rizzo. Michaud projects as a top-three runner and Rizzo was in the top three at last year’s Sloper Relays.

“This is a very solid ladies team that has the potential to be a top 20 team in the state,” Dachelet said. “They are not very deep right now, so if someone has an off day or an injury, there’s not a lot of room to cover that.  It should be exciting to see what they can put together.”

Cheshire

The Rams just graduated one of their best distance runners ever in Brendan Murray, who is now running at Yale.

His heir apparent, junior Brendan Mellitt, now steps to the fore as Pam Gunneson takes up the coaching mantle.

Mellitt will be the lead runner on a squad that went 5-4 a year ago and placed fifth in the SCC and 13th in Class LL.

Returning seniors Justin Grove and Richmond Le are the captains. Sebastian Pepe and Yasin Tarabar are also back for their final season. Charlie Pettit and Francis Simpatico are the juniors along with Mellitt.

“With a strong group of returners we hope to maintain our record from last season and improve our finishes at the championship meets,” Gunneson said.

On the girls side, Rob Schaefer is back for his 31st season.

He’s got some work to do. All-SCC runners Lauren Daddi, Rachel Kaplan and Emi Schwab have graduated from the 2017 team that placed second in the SCC, fifth in Class L and qualified for the State Open.

Amanda Addesso and Emmy Longmore are back, and they’ll be captains with fellow senior Rosie Marquez.

Senior Aliza Taylor, junior Samantha Hines and sophomores Elizabeth Addesso and Brooke Daddio are ready to move up in the pack.

“We are in rebuilding mode this year,” Schaefer confided. “We lost three All-SCC runners and, due to a possible injury, we may be returning only three starters this year.  We have a program with a long-standing tradition of winning and I know my girls will give everything they have to do so.”

Both teams host Hamden in the home opener Wednesday at Cheshire Park. Winding Trails (Sept. 22), Nonnewaug (Sept. 28) and Wickham (Oct. 6) are on their invitational docket.

Lyman Hall

Coach Mike Addorisio has parted ways with some fine distance runners. Brian Oliveira and Alex Fishbein-Ouimette were both All-SCC Second Team last year. Veterans R.J. Ottens and Lindsay Navickis also graduated.

Yet the veteran skipper, now in his fourth decade with the program, isn’t relaxing the pace.

“We lost quality athletes last year, but this year looks very promising, as we picked up a few talented newcomers to go along with a solid core of returnees,” Addorisio remarked.

The boys team, 6-4 last year, will regroup around seniors Eric Lipka and Sidney Mautte. Junior Michael Toppin and sophomore Aidan Weir lead the incoming wave.

Juniors Conner Caines and Tucker Fredricksen are in the mix with sophomores Aydan Durant, Sean Formantes and Jack Murphy. Arriving freshmen are Blair DeNegris and Grady Yocker. 

The girls, coming off a 4-5 campaign, are led by two-time team MVP Rachael Ruggiero and fellow seniors Alyssa McComb and Kailey Lipka. Junior Emily Ottens also returns.

Sophomore Caitlyn Hughes and freshman Olivia Weir head the promising newcomers. They are joined by sophomore Savannah Mangini and freshman Jewel Beaty.

The LH boys are classified in Class MM, the girls in Class L. With the storm damage sustained at Wharton Brook State Park in the spring, the Trojans won’t be running any home meets this year. Along with Friday’s Blue Dragon Invitational, they’ll compete in the Neubauer Invitational and Wickham Invitatational.

Sheehan

Coach Frank Mohr takes up a program that features the area’s best underclass runner: Lizzie Brown.

Last year, as a freshman, Brown launched her high school career with victories at the Neubauer Invitational and the Wallingford meet. She went on to place second in the SCC, fourth in Class M and qualified for the State Open.

Another solid returner for the girls team is senior Sydney Carim, the No. 2 runner who became a captain last year with fellow junior Maggie McComish

They’ll lead an experienced squad in 2018. Only one senior (Sophia Franzik) graduated. Anna Thai, Julia Mansfield, Julia Hilinski, Claire Viola and Isabella Welch are due back as seniors, Allyssa Cassella, Miranda Navarro and Grace Young as juniors. Amelia Mansfield is a strong sophomore.

The boys lost their No. 1 runner, Stephen Fengler. The All-SCC Second Teamer led the Tians and a sixth-place finish in Class M.

Sheehan also graduated No. 2 man Ben Gardiner. The leading returners are senior Chris Fonteyn and juniors Tyler Carmen, Derrick Arnold and Ethan Venoit.  

The Titans open with a SCC quad meet Wednesday in Shelton. Their invitational calendar is booked from the Blue Dragon through to the Wickham. Along with hosting the Neubauer on Oct. 3, Sheehan will visit Cromwell for the Connecticut River Invitational (Sept. 15) and East Hampton for the Bellringer Invitational (Sept. 28).

Platt

Coach Samantha Randall heads into her second season looking to get the Panthers heading back up the CCC South ladder. Up is the only way the Panthers can go. They were 0-6 last year.

It starts with building the roster, and in that regard Platt is making progress.

While the boys graduated Jacob Parker, they return senior Isaiah Arce and junior Aiden Annino. The wave of incoming runners includes sophomores Rafi Mahario and Dan Krosz as well as freshmen Alexzander Hernandez-Cruz and Josh Gonzalez.

The girls will build around sophomore Angie Medina and freshmen Keilani Perez, Jaliz Cordero and Amelia Tran. 

Both teams are Class MM.

“As we are building up our program we are looking forward to improving from last year,” said Randall.

Maloney

Coach Derek Destefano and his Spartans stride into 2018 led by reigning city champions Dominic Oliveri and Morgan Kicklighter

Get used to those names. Oliveri, who holds Maloney’s indoor track distance records, is still only a junior. Kicklighter is only a sophomore.

Maloney has another strong young runner in sophomore Reynolso Torres. The elder statesmen are returning seniors Simon Santos and Jack Lopes.

For the girls, junior Charlisse Levesque is coming off a solid sophomore season.

After running in Friday’s Blue Dragon Invitational, the Spartans will open the CCC South season on Tuesday at Pistol Creek against Bristol Central and host Berlin.

Wilcox Tech

There’s reason for optimism here. The Indians return the reigning Connecticut Technical Conference champions, senior Donny You and sophomore Shalyn Noble. 

On top of that, coach Dave Cronin’s boys team returns the No. 2 finisher in last year’s CTC Championship meet. That’s senior Luis Hernandez.

Girls coach Rob Janiga, meanwhile, lost his No. 2 runner from a year ago. That was Maegan Griffin, who graduated.

The boys have taken no graduation hits. They are back intact. The girls lost only Griffin.  Perhaps CTC team titles are in the cards this year.

Like Platt and Maloney, Wilcox runs its home meets at Hubbard Park. The Indians open Tuesday against Kaynor Tech.


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