Whittaker leads Vikings to ECC boys' cross country crown

East Lyme's Sam Whittaker leads as he approaches the finish line at the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. Whittaker won the individual title and led the Vikings to the team title. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
East Lyme's Sam Whittaker leads as he approaches the finish line at the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. Whittaker won the individual title and led the Vikings to the team title. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

Norwich — There is inherent pressure in the task: one day, one race, one chance and a whole lot of people to defeat. Then there was the plight of Sam Whittaker, who not only ran the risk of losing Thursday but also to get needled about it from the family.

A few minutes before Whittaker embarked on his 5,000 meters, he’d just watched, quite happily, his cousin Mady Whittaker of Montville, win the girls’ race.

But then … have cousin Mady be the lone victorious family member?

“I’m thinking, ‘I have to win now,’” Sam Whittaker said smiling.

And he did.

Whittaker’s time of 17 minutes, 12 seconds helped the Vikings not only win the day at the Eastern Connecticut Conference championships, but the outright Div. I title as well.

Whittaker finished in front of Zak King (Ledyard, 17:17), Silas Olsen (Lyman Memorial, 17:28); Andrew Janus (Bacon Academy, 17:31) and Joshua Cardinal (Lyman Memorial, 17:33).

Whittaker became the first East Lyme runner since Jeff Novak (1992) to win the ECC race. Mady Whittaker became the first girls’ runner at Montville to win an ECC title since 1985. Big day for the Whittakers.

East Lyme won the overall team race in front of Lyman, Waterford, Bacon and Fitch. Lyman won Div. III while Waterford (Sam Lenes, Joe Carano, Eric Zane, Derrick Agsalud, Christian Montoya, Aidan Pepin, Caleb Zane) won Div. II.

Whittaker’s teammates, Chris Abbey, Ryan McCauley, Fisher Macklin, Noah Barnhart, Elijah Montleon and Eain Goolsbey completed quite the satisfying accomplishment. Not only did the Vikings snap NFA’s 60-race win streak last week, but the win over Lyman completed the revenge tour.

“We were very concerned about Lyman. They’ve been on our minds all year,” East Lyme coach Sam Harfenist said. “At the beginning, it looked a little shaky.”

“The first part of the race I was (focused on) beating Silas,” Whittaker said of Lyman’s Silas Olsen. “He was in the lead for the first two miles.”

Whittaker eventually won, completing wins over all the teams that defeated East Lyme last year: Fitch, NFA, Ledyard and Lyman.

“Lyman beat us last year. They’ve been winning invitationals,” Harfenist said. “Our goal was to beat all the teams that beat us last year.”

Whittaker finished 10th in the ECC race last year.

“This is pretty big,” he said. “Last year and the year before, our team hadn’t done that well. But we trained hard in the summer.”

Harfenist said, “This was something of a goal for Sam. No runner from East Lyme had done it in 25 years. It’s awesome for him to accomplish it.”

m.dimauro@theday.com

 

Fitch's Ian Poe, right, keeps an eye on Waterford's Samuel Lenes as they approach the finish line at the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fitch's Ian Poe, right, keeps an eye on Waterford's Samuel Lenes as they approach the finish line at the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A Ledyard fan cheers on a runner in the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
A Ledyard fan cheers on a runner in the ECC boys' cross country championship meet on Thursday at the Norwich Golf Course. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

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