2018 H.S. boys' and girls' cross country preview capsules

BOYS

ECC Division I

East Lyme

Coach: Sam Harfenist (11th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Sam Whittaker, Jr. Chris Abbey, So. Fisher Macklin, Sr. Noah Barnhart.

Top newcomers: Sr. Luc Folz, So. Ben Rukundo, So. Magum Brandt.

Outlook: The Vikings had a memorable 2017 season, winning the ECC championship meet and following that up by capturing the Class MM title, East Lyme's first state championship since 1970. Harfenist must replace his No. 2 runner, Ryan McCauley, but returns Whittaker, the reigning ECC champion and The Day's All-Area Athlete of the Year, All-Area pick Abbey and Macklin and Barnhart, who placed among the top five for the Vikings in the state meet. That kind of quality should make the Vikings a threat to repeat.

Fitch

Coach: Rich Kosta (7th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Dan Gaiewski, Sr. Ian Poe, Sr. Ryan Poe, Jr. Cole Aristi, So. Simon Chidley.

Top newcomers: Sr. Aidan Sullivan, Fr. Carson Riley, Jr. A.J. Brown, Fr. Ben Chidley, Sr. Shea Kenney.

Outlook: Ian Poe, a member of The Day's All-Area team last year, returns along with his twin brother Ryan and Gaiewski to give the Falcons a solid top three. Kosta said there is plenty of competition to see who cracks the varsity top seven and their development will determine whether or not they can challenge East Lyme in the ECC.

NFA

Coach: Chad Johnson (13th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Christian Dubreuil, Jr. Aidan Brown, Jr. Digby Ludlow.

Top newcomers: Jr. Dylan McGuire, Sr. Aidan Gallagher, Fr. Tyler Crabbe, Sr. Evan Carney, So. Peyton Ramsey.

Outlook: Johnson thinks the Wildcats may be a year away from challenging for a division title, but Dubreuil provides senior leadership and McGuire, Brown and Ludlowe have been impressive during the preseason. Johnson also expects Crabbe to be a factor at the varsity level as NFA tries to chase down East Lyme in Division I and be a factor in the Class LL meet.

ECC Division II

Ledyard

Coach: Tim Strong (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. Dominic Murray, Jr. Jacob Roediger, So. Nicholas Smith, So. Christopher Evans, Sr. Jaden Palombo.

Top newcomers: Jr. Simon Reichert, Fr. Connor Doran, Fr. Albert Franck, Fr. Nick Johanson, Fr. Christopher Houdeshell.

Outlook: The Colonels graduated two of the ECC's best runners in Zak King and Jacob Money, so Strong will feature a young team in his first season as Ledyard's head coach. But Strong said there is plenty of talent, enough to allow the Colonels to compete for a Division II title. Strong said four of the top seven runners will be freshmen, with newcomers Reichert and Doran off to strong preseason starts and Murray and Roediger providing leadership for the younger runners.

Stonington

Coach: Jenna Ross (10th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Andrew Connelly, Sr. Mark Costanzo, Sr. Kyle Remmert, Jr. Daniel Robinson, Sr. Keegan Reck, Jr. Filip Aubrecht, Sr. Christian Montalto.

Top newcomers: So. Nathan Gonzalez, So. Nikhil Desai.

Outlook: The Bears suffered through a couple of difficult seasons, but return virtually their entire team this fall and look to not only contend for the Division II title but be a factor at the state meet, too.

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (12th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Sam Lenes, Sr. Eric Zane, Sr. Derrick Agsalud, So. Christian Montoya, So. Aidan Pepin, So. Caleb Zane, Sr. Ben Stilphen, Jr. Kris Dow.

Top newcomer: Jr. Owen Seltzer.

Outlook: The Lancers return six of their top seven runners from a year ago, including ECC all-stars Lenes and Eric Zane, which makes Waterford a threat to win Division II and perform well at the state level. Lenes, Zane and Agsalud will provide senior leadership for a strong sophomore class that gives the Lancers talent and depth.

ECC Division III

Montville

Coach: Steven LaBranche (3rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. Jayden Colon, Jr. Sean Ventresca, Jr. Chase Swinburn, So. Nathan Bedingfield, So. Jack Marquand, Sr. Ian Anderson.

Top newcomers: Sr. Rishi Iyer, Jr. Taevis Kolz, So. Jack Marquand, So. Alex Edwards, Fr. Ethan Thomas.

Outlook: Colon returns as the Indians' top runner, but will have company in Iyer, coming off a solid track season in the 1,600. Ventresca, Anderson, Bedingfield and Kolz are closing the gap on the lead pack and LaBranche said Montville has the ability to challenge for a Division III title.

St. Bernard

Coach: Bill Schwarzenbach (3rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. Sam Davis, Sr. James Light, Jr. Sean Power, Jr. James Babinski, So. Jack Zachem.

Top newcomers: Jr. Toby Xu, Jr. Liam Power, Sr. Josh Terry, So. Brendan Hird, So. Andrew Grave, Fr. Jess Antupit.

Outlook: The Saints return five of their top six runners with Davis leading the pack. Newcomer Xu has also been a pleasant surprise and the depth should make St. Bernard a competitive team in Division III and also in the Class S state meet.

ECC Division IV

New London

Coach: Bob Castronova

Key returnees: Sr. Luke Waterman, Sr. John Mateo, Jr. Rashawn Wright, So. Bryson Doughty.

Top newcomers: Sr. Lorenzo Blanco, So. Jared Houle.

Outlook: The Whalers return one of their most experienced teams. They have also moved to the ECC's new Division IV with Plainfield, Putnam, Tourtellotte and Wheeler, which should allow them to enjoy a competitive season and possibly even challenge for a divisional title.

Wheeler

Coach: Marc Tardiff (18th year)

Key returnees: Jr. Michael Carroll, Jr. Cameron Reyes.

Outlook: The Lions were hit hard by graduation, losing six runners, including All-Area pick Teddy Nosiku, so there will be opportunities for some of Wheeler's younger runners. "We are focusing on speed and our endurance," said Tardiff, "and look to finish high in the division."

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: Matthew Zagura (6th year)

Key returnees: Sr. James Burton, Jr. Houston McBride, Sr. Nathan Marceau, So. Ryan Nix.

Top newcomer: Alex Potochniak.

Outlook: The Eagles went 2-6 last year in their first Connecticut Technical Conference season and, with the loss of only two seniors, Grasso Tech has the ability to bounce back with a winning season.

 

GIRLS

ECC Division I

East Lyme

Coach: Mike Flynn (3rd year)

Key returnees: Jr. Gilly Goodwin, Jr. Samantha Lyster, Sr. Katrina Schlesselman, So. Brie Am Ende, Sr. Aleisha Price, So. Madison Sjostrom.

Top newcomers: Fr. Julia Giegel, Fr. Sydner Sager, So. Karena Kung, Jr. Julia Walker.

Outlook: The two-time ECC champions must replace four of their top seven runners, so a three-peat will be a difficult chore. Am Ende finished 10th in the ECC meet as a freshman and will be one of the Vikings' frontrunners along with Goodwin and Lyster. Flynn has also been impressed with Sjostrom and all of the newcomers. "The team needs someone to emerge as the frontrunner, but looks to have a strong pack," Flynn said. "It will be a work in progress, but the goals remain the same."

Fitch

Coach: Shawn Towne (24th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Julia Adrian, Jr. Gabby Cardona, Jr. Emma Smith, Jr. Ava Paprocki, Jr. Graysen Scherer.

Top newcomers: Fr. Lily Cartier, So. Kathryn Barnes.

Outlook: Adrian, who placed seventh in the ECC meet last season, returns for her final season and Towne expects her to be one of the conference's top runners. She will lead a group of younger runners who hope to improve this fall.

ECC Division II

Ledyard

Coach: Denise Descheneaux (2nd year)

Key returnees: Sr. Jade Dessaint, Jr. Ally Tran, Sr. Savannah Houdeshell, Jr. Emma Chin.

Top newcomers: Fr. Katherine Harren, Fr. Victoria Schweitzer.

Outlook: The Colonels went 8-5 in Descheneaux's first season and placed a solid sixth in the ECC meet. They lose their top runner, Averie Greeley, but return a veteran cast led by Dessaint and Tran, and Descheneaux expects her freshmen to be a factor, too. "We hope to keep building and moving up the ranks in the ECC," she said.

Stonington

Coach: Jenna Ross (10th year)

Key returnees: Jr. Lily Anderson, Sr. Lindsey Orr, Sr. Caroline Morehouse, Jr. Abby Remmert, Jr. Mary  Gray, So. Sasha Oakes.

Top newcomer: Fr. Maddie Hamm.

Outlook: The Bears went 11-1 in 2017, their lone loss to ECC champion East Lyme, and won the Division II title before placing third in the ECC meet. Anderson was the ECC runner-up and Gray (sixth) and Orr (15th) also placed in the top 15. Stonington should challenge for an ECC title this year improve its standing in the Class M state meet.

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (12th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Catherine Saucier.

Outlook: Saucier, last year's top runner, returns and will be the leader on and off the course, Gamble said, because the 2018 Lancers have a young, small team that is rebuilding. "Achieving personal bests throughout the season will make it a successful one," Gamble said.

ECC Division III

Montville

Coach: Steven LaBranche (3rd year)

Key returnees: Sr. Mady Whittaker, Jr. Abby Rasmussen, So. Lindsey Beavan, Sr. Emma Giurleo, Sr. Morgan Orr.

Top newcomers: So. Maddie Gould, Jr. Lexi Peck.

Outlook: The Indians are ready for a breakout season, returning virtually their entire varsity, including reigning ECC champion Whittaker, a three-time all-state pick and The Day's 2017 All-Area Athlete of the Year. LaBranche expects Rasmussen, Bevan, Giurleo and Orr to push each other to new levels and has been encouraged by the addition of Gould, who won the ECC indoor title in the 3,200. Montville expects to challenge for a division title and make some noise at the ECC and state meets.

St. Bernard

Coach: Juliana Bassett (2nd year)

Key returnees: Jr. Brigid Kunka, So. Serena Britner, So. Rachel Kunka, Sr. Payton McCauley, Jr. Hope Geise.

Top newcomers: Jr. Grace Reilly, Fr. Lillian Turner, Fr. Ana Graul.

Outlook: The Saints went unbeaten and won the ECC Division III title in Bassett's first season, following that up with solid fourth-place finishes in the ECC meet and Class S state championship meet. They must replace their top runner, Christina McCaffrey, but Brigid Kunka has emerged as St. Bernard's top runner with Britner and Rachel Kunka running close behind. Expect the Saints to challenge for another division title.

ECC Division IV

New London

Coach: Bob Castronova

Key returnees: So. Gillian Melville, So. Alexandria DeGuinia.

Top newcomers: So. Sophie Holdridge, Sr. Jazmine Silva.

Outlook: The Whalers, who struggled in Division I, move down to the newly-realigned Division IV with Plainfield, Putnam, Tourtellotte and Wheeler, where Castronova expects New London to be more competitive and enjoy some success.

Wheeler

Coach: Shannon Curioso (1st year)

Key returnees: Sr. Brittney Riggins, Jr. Bridget Riggins, So. Miranda Pabst.

Top newcomers: Jr. Kristiana Ram, Fr. Madelyn Gauthier.

Outlook: The Lions revived their program a year ago and look for more improvement this year under Curioso. Riggins is the top returning runner for Wheeler, which will compete in the new Division IV with New London, Plainfield, Putnam and Tourtellotte.

Others

Grasso Tech

Coach: Thomas Allen (6th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Lucy Driscoll, Sr. Tia DeWolf, Jr. Gladys Alarcon.

Top newcomer: Gabriela Cabrera.

Outlook: The Eagles, who moved to the Connecticut Technical Conference last year, look forward to more growth in 2018 with the return of some veterans runners.

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