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H.S. cross country: Turnaround from Monday to Saturday was 'not ideal' for ECC teams

East Hartford — East Lyme girls' cross country coach Mike Flynn had a couple words to describe running the Eastern Connecticut Conference meet Monday at Norwich Golf Course followed by the Class MM state meet Saturday at Wickham Park:

"Not an ideal situation."

"You come from an emotional high," said Flynn, whose team won the ECC meet, followed by a runner-up finish in the state meet. "They had Spirit Week this week (at school) so at least there was no crash, no focus on patting themselves on the back."

The ECC meet, originally scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 17, was moved due to a storm that hit the area the day before and caused flooding locally, including at the golf course. The meet was run Monday instead, with the East Lyme boys and girls both repeating as champions.

On Saturday, most local coaches and athletes said having two races in one week was OK.

Montville boys' and girls' coach Steve LaBranche said his teams ran better than he expected. Freshman Maya Suarez was 22nd in the Class SS girls' race in 22 minutes, more than two and a half minutes faster than her time at the ECC meet.

"I think there's enough of a break," LaBranche said of the two races. "One more day later (than Monday) would have been pushing the envelope. The only effect of having Monday-Saturday is trying to fit in some kind of workout. Norwich is the hardest course in the state. Tuesday we had a recovery day, of course, and Wednesday we had a short run and followed that with some 200s."

A few people who mentioned problems with the short turnaround were coaches of a few of the league's freshmen, who aren't used to the season's length perhaps.

Also, ECC girls' champion Jordan Malloy of Bacon Academy called Saturday's race "weird." Malloy, though, had suffered from an injury to her right ankle before the league meet.

"Today was just not a good race for me," said Malloy, who was 11th in Class M in 20:42. "My ankle was bothering me, but I don't know if that was it. Something happened where I just don't know. I still made the State Open, but it wasn't a good time."

Cool-hand Luke

East Lyme sophomore Luke Anthony was second in Class MM in 16:39, the best time of any ECC boys' runner in Saturday's state championship meets, helping lift the Vikings to the team title.

Anthony's dad, John, is a 1993 Norwich Free Academy graduate who is a member of the Norwich Sports Hall of Fame. John was 11th in the 1992 State Open, a race in which Luke will compete Friday.

"My parents have been the cornerstone of all of this," Luke Anthony said. "My dad asked my mom (Jennifer) out under a tree at this place (Wickham Park) before a class meet. She said, 'It depends on how you do in this.'"

Luke, who finished fourth in his age division this summer at the USA Triathlon Youth and Junior National Championships in West Chester, Ohio, will fly to Colorado Springs following this week's State Open to attend a Junior Olympic development camp for triathletes.

Wildcats of the future

NFA junior Catie Shannon has had an injury-riddled cross country career, beginning with collapsing during the ECC race as a freshman. Shannon has had success in track at NFA, but was injured again this season just as she was preparing for her first healthy cross country season.

NFA coach Kara Kochanski-Vendola said Shannon hasn't missed a practice and has taken some of the Wildcats' talented freshmen, such as Eliana Duclos, Anna Gosselin and Anna Ricketts, under her wing.

That has helped Kochanski-Vendola look to the future despite a rash of injuries that has disrupted the season.

"Our goal here was to get experience," said Kochanski-Vendola, whose top runner in Class LL was sophomore Sophia Jones, 41st in 21:13. "Our goal was to get there, get experience, see what it's about. I'd like to make the Open with this team (someday).

"(Having Catie at practice), it's uplifting, just her knowledge of the sport. She wants to lead the younger girls. ... (The team has) been responding. They're working to achieve what they can."


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