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ECC making plans to hold league tournaments in every sport

The Eastern Connecticut Conference athletic directors met Wednesday and are in the midst of finalizing plans to provide a league tournament opportunity for each ECC-sponsored sport, amid a juggling act in which regular-season schedules are constantly being adjusted due to the COVID-19 crisis.

The ECC cross country meet will be held Nov. 4, swimming on Nov. 7 and all other sports will take place the following week, Ledyard High School athletic director Jim Buonocore confirmed Wednesday. The southern cross country schools (Division I in the regionalized fall schedule) will compete at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford and the northern schools are scheduled to run on Woodstock Academy's South campus.

Football activities for league teams will conclude Oct. 31 with the junior/senior combine being held at New London High School.

"Everything else is still in motion," Buonocore said. "We hope everyone will be able to participate when postseason arrives (due to athletics at some schools being on hold due to the coronavirus), but things change daily. So we adapt and keep moving forward. We are working together to keep moving forward."

"I think it's certainly better than just having a bunch of dual meets," East Lyme High School boys' and girls' cross country coach Mike Flynn said Wednesday. "It's been a little bit touch-and-go; to finally have an end date where there's an actual meaningful meet to target, I think the kids will be pretty excited about it. To have it shut down again, it was a difficult thing."

Both East Lyme cross country teams are defending ECC champions, while the boys' team is the three-time defending Class MM state champion. East Lyme, however, is one of the ECC schools which has gone to all-remote learning due to a COVID outbreak, meaning athletics are suspended at this time.

Flynn said he has tried to keep things fun for the runners, having them compete in time trials at different distances. He said the East Lyme, Norwich Free Academy and Griswold cross country teams, all from schools who are not eligible to compete currently due to the coronavirus, might have a virtual meet where each runner competes from his or her own home.

"We were hoping for either a regional meet or there were some proposals to try to do a state meet," Flynn said. "I kept trying to drive that home to them. ... In a typical high school year, they probably race a little too much. We had seven 5Ks scheduled in 28 days. But to go from that to one, it's very difficult to kind of manage it, to keep them motivated.

"It's very different. It's just not the same. But it's as good as you can get," Flynn said. "The ADs are working really hard trying to give us something. They're doing a really good job to try to give us something."

Montville boys' and girls' cross country coach Steve LaBranche said he actually had one of his runners, senior Maddie Gould, jump up and down at learning there would be some sort of postseason meet.

"I know our kids, we're very fortunate to get through the season so far, but something about this season so far has been a little off with no championships," LaBranche said. "I mentioned it to the team (about the ECC meet) and they were ecstatic. Maddie Gould kept saying, 'This is what I want. This is what I want.'

"It gets you one step closer to what we used to have. The idea of having a championship at the end of the season, it gives you something to shoot for. ... It's always been around how can we fare at ECCs? What are we building up for?"

NFA swimming coach Cory Tubbs said an ECC event would give her athletes something to look forward to at the end of a "rough season."

NFA had what was originally a two-week break from school extended by a week earlier Wednesday.

"We condition every day together," Tubbs said. "I send out a conditioning thing for the girls to do every day. I try to have contact with them. I intend to have a Zoom meeting with them some time in the next few days or so.

"I had just gotten my girls right to where we were ready to compete and we got closed down. But we're trying to stay positive. It is what it is. ... Yes, (a postseason meet) is something we're looking forward to."

• The Shoreline Conference also released its league tournament plans Wednesday.

The tournaments will take place as follows: cross country, Nov. 7, Totoket Park, North Branford; field hockey, Nov. 7-13; volleyball, Nov. 7-13; girls' soccer, Nov. 9-13; and boys' soccer, Nov. 9-13.

v.fulkerson@theday.com 

ECC CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS

Following is a breakdown of schools who will compete in three separate Eastern Connecticut Conference cross country championship meets (boys and girls) on Saturday, Nov. 7, at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford and on the South campus at Woodstock Academy (times to be announced):

Session One (at Harkness)

Griswold, Lyman Memorial, Montville, St. Bernard, Wheeler, Grasso Tech, Norwich Tech

Session Two (at Harkness)

Bacon Academy, East Lyme, Fitch, Ledyard, New London, NFA, Stonington, Waterford

Session Three (at Woodstock)

Killingly, Plainfield, Putnam, Tourtellotte, Windham, Woodstock, Ellis Tech, Parish Hill, Windham Tech

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