It was a better start for Nelson, who's now looking to close her Ledyard career in style

Last time Cedar Nelson ran at Wickham Park in Manchester, at last season’s State Open girls’ cross country championship, she was aiming for a top 25 finish to qualify for the New England meet. Only when the starter’s gun went off, Ledyard High School’s Nelson found herself in a precarious position.

“Dead last. Boxed in,” she said, although she did recover to finish 14th in that race and reach her goal. “I was like, ‘I can’t have lost it already.’ … I just had to push it.”

This time, Nelson got out quicker – although the starter never said “on your mark” before firing the gun, confusing some of the runners, she said – and finished third in the unseeded race in 19 minutes, 59 seconds. Ledyard was second as a team.

Earlier this season, Nelson didn’t feel well and wasn’t running her best, she said, but has felt considerably better her last two races.

She’ll be among the favorites at next week’s Eastern Connecticut Conference meet in a field which will include Griswold’s Alyssa Brehler (first in yesterday’s seeded race in 19:41), Plainfield’s Kerri Ruffo (first in the championship race in 19:45), Norwich Free Academy’s Briana Lenehan (20:08), Fitch’s Brandy LeClair (20:23) and East Lyme’s Eva Christensen (20:33).

Nelson was second in the ECC last year behind LeClair.

Nelson, a senior captain for the Colonels and a member of the National Honor Society who is ranked fourth in her class, is looking to attend either the University of Pennsylvania or Boston College.

“It’s great being a captain; it’s been such a wonderful experience,” Nelson said of the impending close to her cross country career. “It’s pretty stressful though (this year) with SATs, applying to colleges, taking AP classes.”

“It’s always a sad day when they leave,” Ledyard coach Bruce Douglass said. “But like Paul Bossardet is running for the boys’ cross country team and I get to see Katherine (a former runner for Douglass) at all the meets. And with the advent of Facebook, it’s easier keeping in touch with them all.”

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