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2020 H.S. boys' and girls' cross country preview capsules

BOYS

ECC Division I

Bacon Academy

Coach: Jay Lucas (18th season)

Key returnees: So. Ryan Moores, Sr. Kellen Paparella, Sr. Connor Wilcox, Sr. Luke Maynard, Sr. Andrew Smith, So. Brendan Reas, Sr. Nick Paggioli.

Top newcomers: Fr. Aaron Fidryck, Fr. Carson Brown, Fr. Logan Dimitri, Fr. John Ceruti.

Outlook: Moores was an All-ECC Division II pick last season and the Bobcats return plenty of experience. "We are looking for one or two runners to assert themselves as a true No. 1 and be willing to compete with the best the ECC has to offer," Lucas said.

East Lyme

Coach: Mike Flynn (1st season)

Key returnees: Sr. Fisher Macklin, Sr. Fred Rukundo, Sr. Griffith Posgay, Sr. Magnum Brandt, Jr. Luke Anthony, So. Brendan Fant, Jr. Noah Krishnaswami, So. Ted Bergman, Jr. Ilyas Syed, So. Will Potopowitz, Jr. Jon Dowd, Sr. Ethan Cooper, Sr. Cian Mansfield.

Top newcomers: Fr. Nathan Bergman, Fr. Campbell Posgay, Fr. Kai Ritz, Fr. Beck Schultz, Fr. John Whittaker.

Outlook: The Vikings return six of their top seven runners — losing former ECC champion Chris Abbey to graduation — from a team that won three straight Class MM championships under coach Sam Harfenist. Flynn, who has led the East Lyme girls' team to four straight ECC titles, takes over coaching the boys' team, as well, with Harfenist taking the year off. Anthony was second in the ECC last year, with Macklin third, Abbey eighth, Rukundo 11th and Posgay 25th, as East Lyme won the overall conference championship with 49 points. Anthony, The Day's All-Area Runner of the Year, was second and Macklin third in Class MM, with the Vikings finishing first. "The captains (Fisher, Magnum and Cian), along with all of the seniors, have displayed tremendous leadership and dedication to making this team both enjoyable and successful," Flynn said.

Fitch

Coach: Rich Kosta (9th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Simon Chidley, Jr. Ben Chidley, Jr. Carson Riley, Jr. Raj Bokhiera, Sr. Nathan Jankowski.

Top newcomers: So. Harrison Bied, Fr. Kaiden Chandler, Fr. Patrick Lindy.

Outlook: Fitch's preseason training has gone very well, said Kosta, and the Falcons are looking to gain some experience in the early going in order to challenge some of the top teams in the division. Simon and Ben Chidley, Riley and Bokhiera are the top returning runners, all with substantial experience, while Lindy and Chandler look to impact the lineup right away.

Ledyard

Coach: Tim Strong (3rd season)

Key returnees: Jr. Connor Doran, Sr. Nick Smith, Sr. Chris Evans, Jr. Nick Johansson, Jr. Albert Franck, So. Jojo Preciado.

Top newcomers: Fr. Hayden Baber, So. Auguste Estriplet, Sr. Tevian Eleazar, Jr. Braedyn Caouette.

Outlook: Ledyard completed the ECC Division II portion of its season unbeaten last year to win the title, with then-senior Simon Reichert earning all-league and All-Area honors. This year, Ledyard moves up to compete with the ECC's Division I heavyweights due to regional scheduling, but the Colonels will continue to have good depth, including another All-ECC selection last year in Doran, who will serve as the Colonels' No. 1. Smith has also shown great improvement over the summer, according to Strong, and Baber looks to make an impact right away. Strong said Ledyard is "looking to continue to improve and build a consistent program. We should have some good depth again which will help us in a tough ECC division."

New London

Coach: AJ Turnier (2nd season)

Top newcomers: Fr. Gabriel Frommer.

Outlook: New London loses All-ECC selection Rashawn Wright and goes from Division IV to Division I with a young team. Turnier, however, said he couldn't be prouder of the work his team put in during the offseason. "I'm excited to see the returnees improve their times from last year," Turnier said. "We may have a small team, but we have big hearts who are dedicated to competing at the varsity level."

NFA

Coach: Jaclyn Sullivan (2nd season)

Key returnees: Sr. Peyton Ramsey, Jr. Tyler Crabb, Sr. Timothy Jencks, Jr. Wyatt Gahrman.

Top newcomers: Sr. Tim Lee, Sr. Ibrahim Hasson, Fr. Sawyer Barile, Fr. Nicholas DeBartolo.

Outlook: Ramsey was seventh in the ECC last year and Sullivan expects him to build on that foundation after a solid summer of running. Ramsey and Jencks were both all-conference selections and the Wildcats qualified as a team for the State Open meet by running one of the fastest cumulative times in Class LL. Ramsey, Crabb, Jencks, Gahrman and Lee are expected to fill out the top five. "NFA will look to the newcomers to step up and assist returning varsity members," Sullivan said. "With no ECC championship meet this year, NFA will strive to be the best they can be while competing with heart and building for future seasons."

Stonington

Coach: Jeff Parkinson (2nd season)

Key returnees: So. Ryan Gruczka, Sr. John Cunningham, Sr. Aidan Turner, Jr. Chris Odell.

Top newcomers: So. Matt Goulart, Sr. Dante Dimartino-Hart, So. Charles Joe.

Outlook: Gruczka started his freshman year off well enough last year, finishing 17th in the ECC and earning All-ECC Division II honors during cross country season. He then had a breakout indoor track season, winning the ECC Division II 3,200 meters and finishing second in the 1,600, following that with a sixth-place finish in the 1,600 at the Class M state championship to qualify him for the State Open. Stonington is tasked with a difficult path this season, being bumped up to an ECC Division I schedule. "With low numbers, we hope to compete at a high level within Division I," Parkinson said."

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (14th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Aidan Pepin, Sr. Caleb Zane, So. Luke Bartlett, Jr. Zac Gamble.

Top newcomers: Sr. Sean Corman.

Outlook: Pepin finished sixth in the ECC championship to earn All-ECC Division II and All-Area honors. Bartlett, Zane and Zac Gamble also return varsity experience for the Lancers, and with 30 runners out for the team Chris Gamble says there is plenty of competition for the top spots.

ECC Division II

Grasso Tech

Coach: Matt Zagura (8th year)

Key returnees: Sr. Ben Srednicki, Jr. Orin Dube, Jr. Jewels Walker.

Top newcomers: Fr. Nick Stavesky, Fr. Mika Proctor, Fr. Andrew Baldi, Fr. Alena Beardslee.

Outlook: Although the team is small, Zagura looks forward to seeing what the year will bring competing in the ECC. The four freshmen "show promise and growth every day," he said. Dube was Grasso's top finisher in last year's Connecticut Technical Conference championship.

Griswold

Coach: Kelsey Nixon (4th season)

Key returnees: So. Michael Strain, So. Lucas Strain, So. Jacob Strain, So. Jackson Collins, Jr. Nathan Moore, Jr. Nathaniel Gauvin, Jr. Evan Gilgenbach.

Top newcomers: Fr. Lucas Hanley.

Outlook: Michael, Lucas and Jacob Strain, triplets, made a splash as freshmen, with each finishing in the top 10 in the ECC and Class SS state championship meets. Lucas was fourth (17:32), Michael fifth (17:33) and Jacob 10th (18:05) at the ECC meet, leading the Wolverines to a second-place overall finish behind champion East Lyme (49-60) and an ECC Division III title. At the state meet, the three all earned all-state honors and advanced to the State Open, with Michael fourth (16:58), Lucas eighth (17:17) and Jacob ninth (17:20), as Griswold finished third in the team standings. This season, Nixon said there are several more runners who trained hard over the summer and will join the Strains in leading the Wolverines, including Collins.

Lyman Memorial

Coach: George Gray (9th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Shane Franson, Sr. Eamonn McMahon, Sr. Kyle McElroy, Jr. Maxwell Hussey.

Top newcomers: Jr. Grayson LeMay, Jr. Maxwell Tingley, So. Ryan Dungan, Fr. Kyle Franchi, Fr. Ryan Spellman, Fr. James Apicelli.

Outlook: Gray uses the word "positive" to sum up the Bulldogs' outlook, with All-ECC runner Shane Franson back to lead a competitive core of returning runners. "Adding the new members, we are anticipating a very strong season," Gray said. "We are off to a great start and are looking to be highly competitive in our ECC divisional meets." Lost to graduation is two-time all-stater Jeffry Stober, who was eighth in the Class S state championship, but Franson was right behind him in ninth as Lyman finished fifth.

Montville

Coach: Steve LaBranche (5th season)

Key returnees: Jr. Ranju Iyer, Sr. Lenny Szczygiel, Sr. Aiden Meislitzer.

Top newcomers: Fr. Jack Brehler, Fr. Kahlil Rose, Sr. AJ Hintz.

Outlook: With the loss of eight seniors, the team looks toward new leadership in senior captain Lenny Szczygiel. LaBranche said that half the team consists of newcomers, who are looking to gain experience with each meet on the way to a "very competitive future."

Norwich Tech

Coach: Catherine Sikorski (3rd season)

Key returnees: Jr. Dylan Rice, So. Will Tardif, So. Jay Morse, So. Mason Burlingame McCord, So. Cody Crane, So. Jay Podziewski.

Top newcomers: Fr. Elijah Bordeau, Fr. Justin Caisse.

Outlook: Norwich Tech returns a good number of runners from last year's young team and Sikorski is encouraged by the freshman turnout as well. The coach said she is looking forward to the new format this season, running alongside local teams from the ECC. Tardif was Norwich Tech's top runner in the CTC meet last season as a freshman.

St. Bernard

Coach: Bill Schwarzenbach (7th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Andrew Graves, Sr. Jack Zachem.

Top newcomers: Fr. Jason O'Donnell, So. Zane Kingsborough.

Outlook: The top four runners from the program, Sean Power, Liam Power, Toby Xu and James Babinski, graduated and the Saints will need to rebuild with only four competitors in the program. Graves is healthy after two injury-plagued seasons, Schwarzenbach said, and O'Donnell, a freshman, has been running well in practice and looks primed for a solid season.

Wheeler

Coach: Marc Tardiff (21st season)

Key returnees: Jr. Michael O'Gara, Sr. Ben Dobley, Sr. David Anderson.

Top newcomers: Fr. Cameron Conway, Fr. Jason Krysiewicz.

Outlook: The Lions lost ECC Division IV all-star Michael Carroll to graduation but gained a pair of talented freshmen in Conway and Krysiewicz and, despite having to deal with shortened practices throughout the preseason, Tardiff says his team appears to be excited to compete. Said Tardiff: "Our returning upperclassmen are stronger this season and I expect their times to improve overall."

Others

Old Lyme

Coach: Aron D'Aquilla (2nd season)

Key returnees: Jr. John Almy, Sr. Aidan Powers, So. George Williams.

Top newcomers: Fr. Eric Dagher.

Outlook: The Wildcats graduated No. 1 runner Trevor Wells and three of their top seven, but despite having a small squad this year, D'Aquilla is expecting a competitive season. Powers, Almy and Williams will occupy the 1-2-3 slots, as Old Lyme faces off in the regular season against Shoreline Conference competition only.

Williams

Coach: Ana Schavoir (4th season)

Key returnees: Jr. Philip Knowlton, Sr. Jackson Meisner.

Outlook: Knowlton has been a member of the Williams varsity team since the 2017 season, when as an eighth-grader he helped the Blues win the CISAC championship, and he was the team's No. 1 runner a year ago. The Williams athletic teams have not been granted permission to compete, as of yet. "Based on how the reopening of school goes, we are hoping to move from intramurals to hopefully having some races," Schavoir said.

 

GIRLS

ECC Division I

Bacon Academy

Coach: Matt Lane (4th season)

Key returnees: Jr. Jordan Malloy, Jr. Caylin Davids, So. Tess Mathieu, So. Sophia Falkowski.

Outlook: Malloy was a surprise winner when she finished first at the ECC championship as a freshman, but the junior is no longer an unknown as the two-time ECC champ. Last year, Malloy became the first runner to repeat at ECC girls' champion since Griswold's Shelby Donahue in 2005-06. Bacon was fifth overall in the ECC meet and captured a share of the ECC Division II title along with Stonington. "We look forward to another great season," Lane said. "... We have a great crew of girls joining us back. We are anxiously preparing for another season and hoping to continue our success from past years."

East Lyme

Coach: Mike Flynn (5th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Madison Sjostrom, Sr. Julia Dewey, Sr. Brie am Ende, Jr. Syd Sager, So. Kennedy Holsapple, So. Izzy Pazzaglia, So. Mannat Kadian, Sr. Danielle Zelesky, Sr. Ashley Zelesky, So. Hannah Bergeron, So. Eve Slemp, So. Sara Tamura, So. Jenna Reddy.

Top newcomers: Sr. Ellie McCoy, Fr. Izzy Paggioli, Fr. Alexandra Carlson, So. Gracie Davis.

Outlook: Gone are graduated seniors Gilly Goodwin and Samantha Lyster, who started this run of ECC championships when they were freshmen. Although there won't be an ECC title this year, Flynn said the Vikings will continue to train as if there will be one, in case the state decides upon some kind of regional postseason meet. Sjostrom was The Day's All-Area Runner of the Year last season, finishing fifth in Class MM to lead East Lyme to a runner-up finish. Pazzaglia, meanwhile, then a freshman, was the top runner at the ECC meet, third, as East Lyme tacked on another championship. "The group has great leadership from the captains (Brie, Madison and Julia) that have helped create a fun and motivated group and atmosphere," Flynn said. "The team is focused on being in peak shape for the end of October and possible November meets."

Fitch

Coach: Shawn Towne (26th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Katie Barnes, Sr. Riley Gilliand.

Top newcomers: Fr. Annabelle Schafer.

Outlook: Fitch graduated five seniors — including No. 1 Ava Paprocki — leaving Towne with what he calls a "small but dedicated group" of runners. "We're so fortunate to have any season at all," he said. "We are looking forward to running multiple home meets and visiting our rivals at Harkness Park and Rocky Neck."

Ledyard

Coach: Denise Descheneaux (4th season)

Key returnees: Jr. Katherine Harren, Jr. Victoria Schweitzer, Sr. Zahra Hebert, Jr. Clare Inyang.

Top newcomers: Fr. Ella Stephenson, Fr. Sam Doran, So. Ciara May McGrath.

Outlook: The Colonels return Harren, who was an ECC Division II all-star and the team's top finisher at the conference championship as a sophomore and Descheneaux said her team is very much looking forward to the season.

New London

Coach: AJ Turnier (2nd season)

Key returnees: Sr. Alexandria DeGunia, Sr. Gillian Melville, Sr. Sophie Holdridge, Sr. Nathalie Rosa.

Outlook: DeGunia earned All-ECC Division IV honors last season for the Whalers, who have only four runners.

NFA

Coach: Kara Kochanski-Vendola (14th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Catie Shannon, Jr. Sophia Jones, Sr. Makayla Kelly, So. Eliana Duclos, So. Anna Gosselin, So. Anna Ricketts, Sr. Tessa Hospod.

Top newcomers: Fr. Caroline Holmberg, Fr. Adele Johnson, Fr. Zosia Hospod, Fr. Neveah DeAndrade, Jr. Jenna Pothier.

Outlook: Jones finished fifth in the ECC last year as a sophomore to earn all-conference and All-Area honors and Kelley was seventh. Kelley, Tessa Hospod, Avery Holzworth and Catie Shannon, who has been beset by injuries throughout her career, will serve as the Wildcats' senior captains. NFA was third overall in the team standings at the ECC championship. "The team is eager to get meets started. The girls worked hard over the summer and are ready for the upcoming seven meets," Kochanski-Vendola said.

Stonington

Coach: Jeff Parkinson (2nd season)

Key returnees: Jr. Chloe Morehouse, Jr. Lauren Turgeon.

Top newcomers: So. Marin Singletary, Sr. Marley Cannon, So. Becca Sweeney.

Outlook: All-ECC selection Lily Anderson graduated and the Bears are left with just five participants, meaning every one will play a large role as the Stonington takes on Division I for the first time. Morehouse was an honorable mention ECC all-star and returns for her third season. Said Parkinson: "We are working hard and improving every day." Stonington tied Bacon Academy for the Division II title last year.

Waterford

Coach: Chris Gamble (14th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Sarah Johnson, So. Avery Pepin, Sr. Sophie Marcille, Sr. Tallah Ryan, Sr. Alicia Sanders.

Top newcomers: Jr. Abby Maynard, Jr. Natalie Lombardi, Jr. Anne Seltzer, Jr. Holly Gray.

Outlook: The Lancers have a solid group of returning varsity runners, as well as a group of newcomers Gamble feels will help the team improve. "The returning experienced runners coupled with their new teammates have the potential to translate into a competitive Lancer squad," Gamble said.

ECC Division II

Griswold

Coach: Greg Schoen (5th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Carolyn Wheatley, So. Adrianna Morabito, So. Laila Bakhshalizadeh, So. Elana Healy, So. Kendall Larkin.

Top newcomers: Jr. Alexis Lewis.

Outlook: The Wolverines are so young that Schoen's team has five returning runners and four are sophomores, with Larkin earning the No. 1 spot last year as a freshman. The sophomores are hungry to beat their personal-best times from a year ago, Schoen said, while Wheatley, the senior captain, has led by example in what is her fourth season with the team. "So far during practice, the girls have shown grit and determination and look forward to their first race scheduled in early October," Schoen said. 

Lyman Memorial

Coach: George Gray (9th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Jessica Casey, Jr. Helen Blakeslee, Jr. Kristen Goodrich.

Outlook: Casey (eighth ECC, 10th Class S) and Blakeslee both earned All-ECC Division III honors last season and will lead the way once again for the Bulldogs.

Montville

Coach: Steve LaBranche (5th season)

Key returnees: So. Maya Suarez, Sr. Maddie Gould, Sr. Lindsey Beavan, Sr. Felicia Bower, So. Jaisey Galvin.

Top newcomers: Fr. Chloe Hammer.

Outlook: Suarez and Gould were ECC Division III all-stars last year and with Gould returning along with fellow senior co-captains Beavan and Bower, the Indians have more than their share of depth. "With two-thirds of the team returning seniors and juniors, expectations are high the team will be competitive throughout the season," LaBranche said.

Norwich Tech

Coach: Catherine Sikorski (3rd season)

Top newcomers: Fr. Lillian Daniels.

Outlook: Norwich Tech joins the ECC for the purpose of regional competition but the team only has three runners, all freshmen, not enough to score. Still, Daniels ran in middle school and Sikorski is looking forward to seeing what her young runners can accomplish. Sophomore Hailey McGuirl will miss the season due to a knee injury.

St. Bernard

Coach: Juli Bassett (5th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Serena Britner, Sr. Rachel Kunka, Jr. Olivia Busher, Jr. Lilian Turner, Jr. Katie Power.

Top newcomers: Jr. Anna Graul, Jr. Maria Proulx, So. Phoebe Foley, Fr. Sophie Addison, Fr. Audrey Turner.

Outlook: St. Bernard, the Division III champion last year and fourth overall in the ECC championship meet, won't have the ECC meet to improve on that feat this year, but the Saints will be strong, nevertheless. Bassett returns five of the top seven runners, including All-ECC and All-Area selection Serena Britner, who was 11th in the ECC and 13th in the Class S state championship meet last year to lead the way. "The Saints will have a solid pack of runners following Britner's lead," Bassett said.

Wheeler

Coach: Shannon Curioso (3rd season)

Key returnees: Sr. Miranda Pabst, So. Lucy Smith, So. Maddy O'Gara, Sr. Juel Anderson.

Top newcomers: Ruby Varas, Ky Connal-Nicolaou.

Outlook: Wheeler lost several members of its starting lineup to graduation following last year's ECC Division IV title, but Curioso said the returnees are "training to get stronger and faster," grateful to have the opportunity to compete this season. "We are looking forward to seeing improvement in our race times from last year and throughout the upcoming season," she said.

Others

Old Lyme

Coach: Courtney Baklik (1st season)

Key returnees: Sr. Bella Hine, Sr. Lillian Grethel, Jr. Anne Colangelo.

Top newcomers: So. Maddy Morgado.

Outlook: Baklik, who has coached indoor and outdoor track at Old Lyme in the past, takes over the cross country team and says the Wildcats have "a small but well-rounded group that works well together." She said: "We look forward to seeing the new talent working with our returners." Old Lyme lost No. 1 runner Faith Caulkins to graduation.

Williams

Coach: Ana Schavoir (4th season)

Key returnees: Sr. Mary Madaus, Jr. Grace Cassineri.

Outlook: Madaus was a member of The Day's All-Area team last year, finishing ninth in the New England Prep School championships. Williams has not yet been given the go-ahead to race this season, still engaging in intramurals.

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