Fall Previews / Cross Country

GIRLS

ECC Large

East Lyme

Coach: Dave Sdao (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Eva Christensen, Sr. Zoe Smallidge, Sr. Megan Stoddard, Jr. Sarah VanAlsten, So. Becca Alaimo.

Top newcomers: Jr. Emily Kollmer, So. Kendall Roberts, Fr. Kirsten Smallidge, Fr. Cassidy Abdeen, Fr. Olivia Gellar, Fr. Dana Lilienthal, Fr. Kirsten Thompson.

Outlook: The Vikings (6-2 regular season) lost eight of their top 10 runners to graduation, including four of whom are running in college. Christensen is East Lyme's No. 1, finishing fifth in the ECC last year and sixth in Class L to qualify for the State Open. She also won the Class MM state championship in the 3,200 meters during outdoor track. Sdao said the newcomers to the team will be led by Thompson, a freshman.

Fitch

Coach: Shawn Towne (19th year)

Key returnees: Jr. Daria McKenna, Jr. Sarah Parizo, Jr. Sarah Dinovelli, So. Morgan Tess, So. Alana Olendorf.

Top newcomers: Fr. Alicia Moroyoqui, Fr. Vineela Kanagala.

Outlook: The graduation of Brandy LeClair, who was fifth in the State Open last year, leaves the Falcons (7-3) without a true frontrunner. Some of the younger runners on the team got experience last year, though - Tess was Fitch's No. 2 runner at the ECC meet last year as a freshman - which could carry over to this season. Dinovelli, originally the Falcons' No. 2, missed the bulk of last season with a hip injury.

New London

Coach: Bob Castronova (1st year)

Key returnees: So. Deanna McCarvell.

Top newcomers: Sr. Pattie Poitras, Jr. Jailene Ortiz-Clinton, Jr. Asia Jefferson, So. Alyssa Manso, So. Phoenix Mitchell, Fr. Mimi Frontal, Fr. Rebecca Weigel.

Outlook: The Whalers' future gets brighter as they go from having a club team with three runners a year ago to fielding a full varsity squad. Castronova said he's excited about having a few younger runners to help build the program.

NFA

Coach: Kara Kochanski Vendola (7th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Brianna Lenehan, Sr. Tori Porter, Jr. Samantha Trombley, Jr. Stefanie Bromley, So. Alyssa Field, So. Evelyn Cournoyer, So. Henley Smith.

Top newcomers: Sr. Dyshelle Pemberton, Jr. MiaLynne Park, So. Lauren Knerr, Fr. Reide Jacksin, Fr. Taylor Smith.

Outlook: Lenehan is one of the state's top returning runners after placing third in the ECC meet, second in Class LL, seventh in the State Open and 55th at the New England meet. The ECC champion Wildcats (8-0) are younger, but three of newcomers - Pemberton, Park and Knerr - played major roles last spring when NFA won the Class LL outdoor track and field title. Smolenski was 11th at last year's ECC meet and an all-league pick.

ECC Medium

Ledyard

Coach: Bruce Douglass (40th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Minnie Zhang, Jr. Jordan Houdeshell, Jr. Leslie Rowland, Jr. Justine Wheeler, So. Emmie Cronin.

Top newcomers: Jr. Alix Lee, Fr. Carina Mitchell, Fr. Katherine Woodmansee, Fr. Megan Brawner, Fr. May Zhang, Fr. Julianna Carroll, Fr. Samantha Henry, Fr. Olivia Lyon.

Outlook: The team moved down to the Medium Division last year and won it, the Colonels' first ECC title since 1992. Ledyard (9-1) was also second to NFA at the ECC championship meet. The team has grown by nearly one-third since then, with 23 runners out this year. Douglass, though, who lost No. 1 runner Cedar Nelson to graduation, said it's too early to tell whether Ledyard will repeat its success from a year ago. Houdeshell, sixth at the league meet, was an All-ECC and All-Area selection.

Stonington

Coach: Jenna Ross (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Joni Moody, Sr. Theresa Reynolds, Jr. Laura Gallicchio, Jr. Katie Brandon, So. Margaret Rolfe, So. Antonia Reynolds.

Top newcomers: Fr. Anna Bornstein, Fr. Serena Monteiro, Fr. Elise Huysman.

Outlook: An All-ECC selection, Reynolds is the clear leader of the pack for Stonington (5-4). She was the team's best runner at the ECC Open, placing 12th. The Bears are focusing on developing depth and improving their times.

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (6th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Sara-Caitrin Mandelburg, Sr. Lilly Lenes, Jr. Genevieve Nuttall, So. Emily Pyka.

Outlook: Mandelburg, who finished ninth in the ECC meet and 12th in the Class M state meet, qualified for the State Open a year ago and gives the Lancers (5-7) a strong threat at the front of the pack while Lenes, Nuttall and Pyke all have varsity experience. If some of Waterford's new runners come along, Gamble expects the Lancers to be competitive in the division.

ECC Small

Montville

Coach: Tim Egan (18th year)

Key returnees: So. Taylor Lavallie.

Top newcomers: So. Sierra Baker, So. Aidrienne Foret, Fr. Suzanna Fitzgerald, Fr. Jessica Armstrong.

Outlook: The Indians (1-9) haven't been able to field a team in the recent past, giving them something to look forward to this season as Lavallie is joined by what Egan calls "a promising new group." Baker had a solid freshman season in outdoor track.

St. Bernard

Coach: Susan Griffin (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Claire Bowdy, So. Kaitlyn Berkel, So. McKenzie Coughlin, So. Kathryn McKinley, So. Heather Wallace

Top newcomers: Fr. Corrie Meehan, Fr. Kaelin Smith

Outlook: The Saints (5-4) are rebuilding after graduating five of their top seven runners. Griffin is encouraged by the early training of the returning sophomores and excited about the talent of the new freshmen and team depth. Coughlin was an All-ECC pick last year.

Wheeler

Coach: Diane Kodama (9th year).

Key returnees: Sr. Jessica Gray, So. Kelsey Melinosky, So. Sarah Volack.

Top newcomers: Jr. Katrina Fedors, Fr. Lea Janz, Fr. Eva Zheng.

Outlook: Melinosky and Volack went back and forth as the Lions' top two runners a year ago, with Melinosky coming in as the top finisher for the team in the ECC meet. Kodama said the returnees have put in a lot of work over the summer. Wheeler lost three potential returnees, but gained three newcomers, giving it a roster of six.

Others

Williams

Coach: Bob Stack (18th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Sarena Shafner, So. Maddy Lahm

Top newcomers: So. Cassandra Lin

Outlook: This is a rebuilding year for the Blues, whose goal is for improvement from their individual runners.

BOYS

ECC Large

East Lyme

Coach: Sam Harfenist (5th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Ben Ostrowski, Sr. Jon Combies, Sr. Scott Butler, Sr. Tim Myers.

Top newcomers: Jr. Andrew Handfield.

Outlook: The Vikings (7-1 regular season) return four of their top six runners from last season's team which finished third in Class MM and narrowly missed qualifying for the State Open as a team. Ostrowski is one of the area's elite runners, reaching the State Open as an individual during cross country and earning All-Area Athlete of the Year honors in indoor track. Butler, Combies and Ostrowski were all-conference picks.

Fitch

Coach: Rich Kosta (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. Tyler Ackley, Jr. Jesse Moroyoquil, So. Conor O'Donnell.

Top newcomers: Sr. Steven Boring, Sr. Cam Greer, Jr. Joseph Conahan, Jr. Mark Dunning, So. Adam Reinhold, So. Cameron Wilhelm, Fr. Aaron Panciera.

Outlook: Kosta inherits a team that has just two seasoned veterans. "This is a very young team," Kosta said. "The team training so far has progressed very well, and we will be looking to gain some experience in the early dual meets and invitationals. The goal is to enter the postseason races with confidence and the experience to greatly improve on the seventh- (ECC) and 15th-place (Class L) finishes of last season." Fitch was 4-6 last year.

New London

Coach: Bob Castronova (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. Dacoda Queenan.

Top newcomers: Sr. Eric Leuze, Jr. Ethan McDowell, So. Xavier Jones, So. Jonathan Castiblanco.

Outlook: The Whalers were a club team last year and are looking forward to "competing and getting some experience in competition, especially for our younger runners," Castronova said.

NFA

Coach: Chad Johnson (7th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Kyle Liang, Sr. Dustin Plourde, Jr. Niceforo Reyes.

Top newcomers: Sr. Aaron Bosse, Sr. Preston Spicer, Jr. Will Strong, Jr. Jacob Smith, Fr. Tyler Sholes.

Outlook: The three-time ECC champion, NFA (8-0) graduated eight seniors from a team that went on to finish seventh in the State Open, so the Wildcats might be a bit vulnerable until some of their younger runners come along. Liang, one of the top returning runners in the ECC, will lead the way. He was sixth in the ECC last year as the Wildcats' No. 4 runner and a member of The Day's All-Area team.

ECC Medium

Ledyard

Coach: Art Marrero (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. Tyler Torelli, Jr. Max Armstrong, Jr. Nick Lauer, So. Bryce Hedman.

Top newcomer: Fr. Aaron Norica.

Outlook: With four returning, experienced runners, three of whom were in the top seven for the Colonels in the ECC championship last season, Marrero said the Colonels' goal in 2012 is simple: win the ECC Medium Division and overall championships. Ledyard (9-1) won the Medium Division last year and was third overall at the ECC meet, placing five runners in the top 36. Torelli earned All-ECC honors.

Stonington

Coach: Jenna Ross (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Teddy Peglow, Sr. Ryan Crowley, Sr. Cameron Lyon, Sr. Andrew Rathbun, Jr. Frank Sternberg, Jr. Will Robinson, So. Jacob Aubrecht., So. Marc Bibeau.

Top newcomers: Fr. Kieran Thornell, Fr. Sean Crowley, Fr. Nick Robinson, Fr. Owen Smith.

Outlook: Peglow, an All-ECC Medium selection, headlines an experienced top seven. The Bears (4-5) added some young talent and depth to an improving team.

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (6th year)

Key returnees: Jr. Matt Labrecque, Jr. Justin Lindblom, So. Dan Clark, So. Brian Roscover.

Outlook: The Lancers will rely on their four veterans to lead the way, but Gamble is also excited to see how a group of new young runners fit in to fill the remaining varsity spots. Gamble believes Waterford (4-8) has the potential to better last year's finishes in the conference and state meets.

ECC Small

Montville

Coach: Tim Egan (18th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Jesse Joseph, Sr. Joe Rainville, Sr. Aaron Sheldon, Jr. Dan Linkinhoker, Jr. Kevin Fitzgerald, Jr. Neil Schneeberg.

Outlook: The Indians (6-4) were one of the up-and-coming teams last year, finishing second to Griswold among Small Division teams at the ECC meet. All-ECC picks Joseph and Linkinhoker were also one of the league's 1-2 tandems with the most potential and Egan is looking for that promise to come to fruition this year as Montville takes on favorites Griswold, St. Bernard and Lyman Memorial for bragging rights in the Small Division. The Indians return their top five runners.

St. Bernard

Coach: Brad Columbus (3rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. Alex Davis, Sr. Joey Ferraro, Jr. Charles Rose, So. Ryan Londregan, So. Jon Burianek.

Top newcomers: Fr. Connor Gralton, Fr. James Rose.

Outlook: St. Bernard (3-6) returns all its varsity runners from last season and should in the conversation for the Small Division title. Columbus said Londregan, Rose and Gralton will be among the top runners in the conference and likes the leadership of Davis and Ferraro.

Wheeler

Coach: Marc Tardiff (11th year).

Key returnees: Sr. Asa Palmer, Jr. Troy Stefanski, Jr. Joe Dellaporta, Jr. Steven Bossie, So. Max Reck.

Top newcomers: Sr. J.R. Owens, Jr. Billy Grigg, Fr. Henry Smith, Fr. Tyler Dibrino, Fr. Mike Rusich.

Outlook: Palmer was 20th in the ECC meet last year, an All-ECC Small Division selection, and comes back strong this year with plans on how to move up even more within the conference. Palmer, Stefanski and Reck were the Lions' top three runners a year ago at the ECC meet. "The year looks pretty good for us," said Tardiff, whose team was 4-7 last season. "The way they came back, we're a lot further along this season than we have been in the last four or five years. The team wants to be in the top 10 in states."

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: Jeremy Beebe (8th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Connor Donley, So. Zach Rand

Top newcomers: Sr. Connor Jackson, So. Mack Foster, So. Jon Woodard, Fr. Derek Stearns, Fr. Austin Bestwick

Outlook: The improved Eagles expect to be better than last season when they underwent a rebuilding process. The arrival of young talent should help them rise in the CSC standings.

Norwich Tech

Coach: Adam Lachendro (4th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Chris Plympton, Jr. Carl Feder-Craney, Jr. Jason Vertefeuille, Jr. Eric Quinones, So. Aaron Pelletier, So. Joseph Williams

Top newcomers: So. Mike Froscello, Fr. Troy Anderson

Outlook: The Warriors are looking to make big strides this fall. They have a lot of potential to run excellent times, according to Lachendro. Quinones and Vertefeuille are team captains.

Williams

Coach: Bob Stack (18th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Chris Ivimey, Sr. Nathaniel Ryan, Sr. Tim Marcinek, Jr. Brien Bradley, Jr. Adam Verhoeff, Jr. Russell Parker, Jr. Josh Powell, Fr. Justin Shafner.

Top newcomers: So. Ben Lahm.

Outlook: With strong returning core of runners, the Blues hope to improve on last year's efforts. They lost only one senior from last year's top seven while Lahm is competing for a spot in the top five.

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