Dominant East Lyme boys end NFA cross country winning streak at 60

East Lyme's Sam Whittaker leads teammates Ryan McCauley and Chris Abbey during Tuesday's ECC Division I cross country meet against NFA at Mohegan Park in Norwich. The Vikings took the top six spots and ended NFA's dual-meet winning streatk at 60 with a 15-46 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
East Lyme's Sam Whittaker leads teammates Ryan McCauley and Chris Abbey during Tuesday's ECC Division I cross country meet against NFA at Mohegan Park in Norwich. The Vikings took the top six spots and ended NFA's dual-meet winning streatk at 60 with a 15-46 win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Norwich — A funny thing happened on the way to euphoria in the woods of Mohegan Park on Tuesday. Suddenly, the joy of snapping a 60-meet win streak carried another feeling with it for the boys' cross country runners of East Lyme High School:

"Their coach is really good," East Lyme junior and race winner Sam Whittaker said of Norwich Free Academy coach Chad Johnson. "He's really good for keeping them so good for so long. We've got a lot of respect for them."

Now, however, it's time to respect the Vikings as well. East Lyme runners occupied the top six spots and defeated NFA 15-46, whose streak of 60 went kaput.

Whittaker won the race in 17:35, followed by Chris Abbey (18:39), Ryan McCauley (18:39), Noah Barnhart (18:47), Fisher Macklin (18:52) and Eli Montleon (19:05). NFA's James Harrison finished seventh in 19:08.

"We're pretty proud of this," Whittaker said. "This year we saw a chance to actually win. It's special to make that dream come true."

East Lyme coach Sam Harfenist, tending to two injured NFA runners on the course, didn't see much of the race. But the looks on the faces of his runners told him a happy tale.

"We're very ecstatic. I thought it would be difficult. The boys were ready," he said. I didn't see any of it past the first mile. Everyone was very happy when I came back so I assumed things went well."

Harfenist, too, tipped his cap to his counterparts.

"Five years of dominance is quite a feat," Harfenist said. "It's good to see that someone like Chad's work ethic pays off. He's very respectful to everyone else that they can do this, too. On the other hand, it feels good to be the last team to beat them (2012) and beat them today."

East Lyme is 6-0 and 4-0 in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference. NFA is 6-1, 3-1.

"From my team's perspective, I'm going to go back and open my copy of The Day from March and re-read Geno Auriemma's speech that he gave his team (at the Final Four when the UConn women) lost to Mississippi State," Johnson said. "I loved what we said and I think it's what my kids need to hear. A little taste of what other teams have had to deal with is going to be good for the soul from our end.

"You don't want to get beat by a team that didn't work as hard as you did. We worked hard to get to this meet undefeated. But there wasn't going to be any beating East Lyme because it's blatantly obvious they put in the work all summer and all fall. There's a reason why every one of those varsity guys is significantly faster than last year."

m.dimauro@theday.com

East Lyme runners celebrate their 15-46 win over NFA in an ECC Division I cross country meet on Tuesday at Mohegan Park in Norwich. The Vikings ended the Wildcats' dual-meet winning streak at 60. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
East Lyme runners celebrate their 15-46 win over NFA in an ECC Division I cross country meet on Tuesday at Mohegan Park in Norwich. The Vikings ended the Wildcats' dual-meet winning streak at 60. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

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