Vikings cross country teams sweep Wildcats, take control in ECC Division I

Norwich — Sam Harfenist, whose teams at East Lyme High School have won two straight state championships, looked out over the cross country course at Mohegan Park on Thursday afternoon and didn’t necessarily sound like the coach of two-time defending champ.

“It’s different being the hunted,” he said.

Happily, though, his runners relish the circumstance. The Vikings defeated Norwich Free Academy 23-33 in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference, looking very much like the program they’ve been in recent years.

And the girls were even better, winning 18-43.

Fisher Macklin (16 minutes, 58 seconds) won the race overall for East Lyme, followed by teammates Luke Anthony and Chris Abbey. Ben Rukundo was sixth overall for the unbeaten Vikings (5-0, 2-0).

“These kids never disappoint,” Harfenist said. “They always come through. Chris (Abbey) said the other day he’s the only person left on the team who’s ever had a loss. They don’t know all the years coming here getting walloped. Many, many years. We’re a team that had 42 years between ECC titles. It’s good that (expecting to win) is the philosophy now. It’s different, but a good different.”

Peyton Ramsey (fourth overall) was NFA’s top finisher.

Madison Sjostrom (20:35) won the girls’ race for East Lyme (5-0, 2-0), ahead of teammates Gilly Goodwin and Isabel Pazzaglia. Samantha Lyster, Belle Johnson, Kennedy Holsapple and Sydney Sager all finished in the top 10.

“I’ve been telling them for a couple of weeks that from a depth perspective, this is the deepest team I’ve ever had,” East Lyme coach Mike Flynn said. “We’ve been telling them for weeks they’re really, really good and with the ability to eventually be great if they keep working. For where we are in the season, things have gone pretty well.”

Flynn chuckled at Harfenist’s trepidation about suddenly becoming the “hunted.”

“To me, every year is different,” Flynn said. “We don’t really talk much about what happened last year or the year before. We try to set our goals and expectations for the current group. Honestly, this group is so loose and energetic, I think they’d just laugh and move on.”

Sophia Jones finished fourth overall to lead NFA.

“East Lyme is good,” NFA coach Kara Kochanski-Vendola said. “But I think we made them earn it today.”

m.dimauro@theday.com

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