East Lyme girls win third straight ECC cross country title

Norwich — Mike Flynn, the East Lyme High School girls' cross country coach, was looking for his team Thursday afternoon, which by then had claimed the title of Eastern Connecticut Conference overall champion.

He tried texting one of his runners, then calling. Nothing. So he began looking, finding his small but united pack of six just beyond the crest of a hill.

“They're singing,” Flynn said, feigning shock. “Who would have thought?”

Flynn used a number of superlatives to describe East Lyme, which finished with 57 points, topping Woodstock Academy (83) and Norwich Free Academy (95) to lead the team standings.

He called it one of the closest teams he's coached. He termed it one of the funniest — “a comedy-fest every day at practice,” he said.

And it was perhaps for those reasons that Flynn trusted the Vikings implicitly Thursday, as Gilly Goodwin, Madison Sjostrom, Sam Lyster, Brie am Ende, Sydney Sager and Karena Kung locked up East Lyme's third straight ECC championship.

Goodwin was seventh in the 5,000-meter race in 21 minutes, 17 seconds, Sjostrom eighth in 21:31, Lyster 12th in 21:55, am Ende 14th in 22:00 and Sager, a freshman, 16th in 22:30, all scoring for the Vikings.

Bacon Academy freshman Jordan Malloy was the overall winner in 20:25, with defending champion Mady Whittaker, a senior, coming in second in 20:29. Woodstock freshman Linsey Arends was third (20:54), St. Bernard's Brigid Kunka fourth (21:02) and Woodstock's Stella DiPippo fifth (21:07).

East Lyme topped ECC Division I teams with 30 points to finish unbeaten and capture the division title, while Bacon Academy edged Stonington 30-32 in Division II and tied the Bears — who won the regular-season meeting — for the championship.

Montville and Lyman Memorial were tied atop Division III with 38 points, giving Montville the crown by virtue of its regular-season win. It was the Indians' first league championship since 2000. Wheeler was the top team in Division IV and earned the ECC title.

This, meanwhile is how Flynn sees his team every day:

“They sing and dance. Taylor Swift songs. Avril Lavigne songs. Five minutes before their races. Last night, right after I left the pasta dinner, they got out the karaoke machine. They like to have a lot of fun.”

And yet, despite East Lyme's inexperience and its somewhat compact numbers, Flynn called himself “100 percent confident” that his team would at least put in its best effort Thursday.

“They're so close in talent, it works really, really well,” he said. “It depends on the course (which one of them leads the way), it depends on the day. They're all so close in talent and we don't have the depth, so that's a comforting thing.

“… They're very vocal with each other, so if they know they're supposed to move on the hill or on the back half (of the course) they're supposed to surge, someone will say, 'OK, let's go' or make eye contact. They're like mini-coaches. Which is good since I can only see them for about 10 seconds (of the race).”

East Lyme lost its first, second, fifth, seventh and eighth runners to graduation from last year's championship team. Goodwin, meanwhile, finished 62nd in the ECC last season, affected by injuries and illness.

“We are extremely close this year,” Goodwin said. “We know each other's lives. During a race, we talk to each other. We have a group chat 24-7. We all know everyone's whereabouts. … We've realized there's a time and a place (for joking around). We knew there was going to be some good runners here today.”

“I like that (Flynn) is confident in us,” Lyster said.

Whittaker, looking to become the first girl to repeat as ECC champion since Griswold's Shelby Donahue in 2005-06, pushed the tempo of the race early and led until there was about a minute and a half to go. Malloy said she saw her opportunity to pass Whittaker on a slight uphill stretch.

“It feels amazing,” Malloy said. “A dream come true. I didn't think it could even happen. I let (Whittaker) go a little (at the beginning). I think she was trying to lead them out so they got tired. … I knew she was slowing down a little, so I dug deep inside.”

“Honestly, I was just focused on my own race,” Whittaker said. “I went out hard in the beginning to kind of send a message, 'If you want to run with me, run with me.' … Best to (Malloy). She had a good race today. I had my moment last year and she gets hers this year.”

v.fulkerson@theday.com

ECC CHAMPIONSHIP MEET

At Norwich Golf Course

Team results

1. East Lyme, 57; 2. Woodstock Academy, 83; 3. NFA, 94; 4. Bacon Academy, 117; 5. Stonington, 127; 6. Montville, 146; 7. Lyman Memorial, 165; 8. St. Bernard, 177; x-9. Fitch, 195; 10. Ledyard, 195; 11. Griswold, 349; 12. New London, 374.

x-won tiebreaker.

Individual Top 50

1. Jordan Malloy (B), 20:27; 2. Mady Whittaker (M), 20:31; 3. Lindsey Arends (WA), 20:56; 4. Brigid Kunka (SB), 21:04; 5. Stella Dipippo (WA), 21:09; 6. Eve Buckridge (NFA), 21:19; 7. Gillian Goodwin (EL), 21:19; 8. Madison Sjostrom (EL), 21:33; 9. Jessica Casey (LM), 21:41; 10. Lily Anderson (S), 21:51; 11. Maddie Gould (M), 21:56; 12. Samantha Lyster (EL), 21:57; 13. Serena Britner (SB), 21:58; 14. Brianna Am Ende (EL), 22:01; 15. Lindsey Orr (S), 22:05; 16. Sydney Sager (EL), 22:32; 17. Ally Tran (L), 22:38; 18. Madison Martin (NFA), 22:41; 19. Emma Grace Ricketts (NFA), 22:41; 20. Lexi Peck (M), 22:47; 21. Erin Mathieu (B), 22:55; 22. Iris Bazinet (WA), 22:56; 23. Catherine Saucier (Wateford), 22:56; 24. Kaleigh Vertefeuille (LM), 22:57; 25. Sophia Jones (NFA), 23:09;

26. Shannon D'Allesandro (WA), 23:18; 27. Julia Adrian (F), 23:25; 28. Tessa Hospod (NFA), 23:28; 29. Megan Gohn (WA), 23:35; 30. Madeline Hamm (S), 23:37; 31. Ann Hageman (B), 23:37; 32 Julia Theriaque (WA), 23:41; 33. Taylor Rochette (B), 23:44; 34. Astrid Lorenzen (B), 23:45; 35. Ava Paprocki (F), 36. Makayla Kelley (NFA), 23:56; 37. Chloe Morehouse (S), 24:00; 38. Lauren Turgeon (S), 24:01; 39. Katherine Harren (L), 24:01; 40. Rachel Breault (LM), 24:05; 41. Paige Martin (NFA), 24:06; 42. Janeesa Nelson (F), 24:06; 43. Emma Chin (L), 24:09; 44. Mary Gray (S), 24:13; 45. Morgan Stewart (LM), 24:17; 46. Lily Cariter (F), 24:19; 47. Lillian Turner (SB), 24:40; 48. Victoria Schweitzer (L), 24:21; 49. Emily McClure (WA), 24:23; 50. Gabriella Cardona (F), 24:23.

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