NFA boys sweep quad meet and run winning streak to 59
Norwich — When coaches talk about their teams running as a pack, this would likely be what they envision:
Norwich Free Academy's boys' cross country team, having already given up the top two spots in the race to Ledyard at rainy, windswept Mohegan Park on Tuesday, came filing across the finish line then, red jersey after red jersey.
Reno Sebastian, third; Nate Lieske, fourth; Aidan Brown, fifth; Christian Dubreuil, sixth; Digby Ludlow, seventh. All Wildcats.
And suddenly the outcome of the meet was in the books. NFA defeated Eastern Connecticut Conference Division opponents Ledyard (25-36) and New London (15-48) and topped Tourtellotte (15-50) to run its unbeaten streak to 59 straight dual meets, with the streak entering its fifth straight season.
And this one was entirely because of the pack.
"Chad (Johnson, head coach) teaches us our priorities are the program, the team, ourselves," said Lieske, the only senior among NFA's top seven. "That's the tier of what we care about. In practice and in workouts, it's always a pack coming together. It takes some getting used to. We're getting used to our roles on the team."
"We're always quick to quit on ourselves," Johnson said of the pack mentality. "It's different when you look to your right and left and see your teammates. They definitely executed that really well, those five guys in particular."
Jacob Money and Zak King, both seniors from Ledyard, finished first and second in 19 minutes, 6 seconds, and 19:07, respectively. NFA's top five crossed the finish line from 19:34-19:51. Rounding out the top 10 were New London's John Mateo, eighth (19:53); NFA's Aidan Gallagher, ninth (20:02) and NFA's Dylan McGuire, 10th (20:06).
Ledyard defeated New London (18-43) and Tourtellotte (18-43), while New London topped Tourtellotte 24-31.
NFA freshman Catie Shannon won the girls' race in 21:16, followed by teammates Eve Buckridge (22:22) and Emma Grace Ricketts (22:38), as the Wildcats defeated Ledyard, New London and Tourtellotte each 15-50. Ledyard, behind the fourth-place finish of Averie Greeley (23:08), beat New London (15-50) and Tourtellotte (20-41) and Tourtellotte toppled New London 15-50.
NFA's Sydney Kupis, fifth; Sydney Corl, sixth; Madison Martin, eighth; Tessa Hospod, ninth; and Kylie DiBernardo (10th) were also in the top 10.
As for the boys, Ledyard coach Bill Billing had seen two different types of NFA performances, a tight one at the Windham Inviational and then a more precarious 25-32 victory last week over Waterford.
"I didn't know which NFA would show up," Billing said. "I can't say that (the outcome) was unexpected. I was hopeful my pack could break up their pack, but I was really, really happy with the way they ran. I'm hoping they develop to where they have really strong performances (at Nos. 3-5) ... at the ECC meet and then at the state class meet. They have been improving as the season has gone on."
NFA's Sebastian, a sophomore, said the aim of the pack is for each person to take a turn leading, which happened Tuesday.
"I ran at the end," Sebastian said. "... When we first started running as a pack, for the first few times, it wasn't too good. Today, we had to stay ahead of (Ledyard's) third guy, so they wouldn't win."
"They ran like veterans today," Johnson said of his team, which this season includes his son, Elliott, a freshman. "In the past, they just had to go run and PR. This, you've kind of got to set yourself up in the first mile. ... We're trying to keep it going one meet at a time. I thought they ran within themselves today; against Fitch and against East Lyme (also in Division I), they're going to run outside themselves. Hopefully we keep getting better at a faster rate than the other teams."
Both NFA teams are 5-0 overall, 2-0 in the conference.
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