Ledyard girls' cross country upends NFA for first time since 2013; NFA boys sweep
Norwich — The 2020 season unfurled itself in anonymity, no Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional competition, no league championship due to COVID-19, but Ledyard High School girls' cross country coach Denise Descheneaux saw her team getting more and more competitive.
"We were getting there last year, but with COVID nobody got to see us," Descheneaux said.
"We're all very competitive," Ledyard senior Clare Inyang said. "But we're also all very close. We push each other. It's not a mean type of competitive."
On Tuesday, Ledyard very non-meanly, yet jubilantly achieved something it hadn't since 2013, knocking off Norwich Free Academy 26-31 in an ECC interdivisional meet at Mohegan Park.
Ledyard, behind strong finishes from Inyang (third overall, 18 minutes, 25 seconds), Victoria Schweitzer (fourth, 19:18) and Avery Widlicka (fifth, 19:37) swept the first quad meet of the season, also beating Bacon Academy (24-25) and Tourtellotte (15-50). Bacon senior Jordan Malloy was the individual winner in 16:46.
NFA went 3-0 on the boys' side with wins over Ledyard (18-43), Bacon (21-36) and Tourtellotte (15-50), getting a 1-2 finish from senior captain Tyler Crabb and cross country newcomer Ethan Manfredi, both of whom finished in 14:48.
Both races were rerouted earlier in the afternoon when a bees' nest made the normal 5K course unsafe for the runners, delaying the start.
The girls' race went off second, making it late in the day as the scores were added, revealing Ledyard's narrow victory and sending the Colonels into celebration mode.
"I definitely feel like it's the first of many," said Inyang, who also plays basketball and lacrosse at Ledyard. "I'm excited about what this team brings to the table. It was a great race. It was a little jarring when they had to change the course."
"It's the highest achieving team I've had so far," said Descheneaux, in her fifth season coaching the Colonels. "They're fantastic, such hard workers. Even on the long runs (in practice), just the whole attitudes changed of them being real competitive runners. ... It's going to be a good season."
Ledyard last beat NFA (27-30) on Sept. 10, 2013, also at Mohegan Park.
Malloy, the two-time ECC champion, was also a little wary of the change in course and for the season's opening meet, in general. She had her own cheering section as she raced, with her grandparents, parents and cousins Sawyer, 7, and Finn, 2, meeting her at the finish line.
NFA's Eliana Duclos was second to Malloy in 17:50.
"I was running with Ellie (at the start) and I think Ellie really helped me to push myself more and push up those hills," said Malloy, who said she ran a lot of miles this summer, including a stint at The Running Academy in Torrington. "... It's insane. You always know you're going to become a senior but you don't really think about it."
The NFA boys, meanwhile, have 10 freshmen on the team, including two of the top five and three of the top seven Tuesday. Following Crabb and Manfredi, who previously played for the soccer team, Bacon's Ryan Moores was third (15:22), Ledyard's Hayden Baber fourth (16:00) and NFA freshman Jesse Croteau fifth (16:02).
Crabb was NFA's fifth runner and 26th overall in the 2019 ECC championship, now taking over the role as the team's lone returning senior.
"We've always had more than one senior returning. It's hard to lead that young of a team," NFA coach Jaclyn Sullivan said. "He's done a good job making that connection. It's always been someone and Tyler. Now it's Tyler."
The Wildcats ran at the Stratton Brook Invitational to start the season Saturday with mixed results, Sullivan said, with several athletes falling on the challenging course. Sullivan said her team trained together three times a week at 6 a.m. over the summer, including the freshmen.
"It made going into the season with a young team so much easier," she said.
"It gives you confidence, confidence going forward," Crabb said of Tuesday's set of wins. "Cross country is more strategic. It's 90% mental strength. This is really good for our prospects for the future. It makes for a great 1-2 (with Manfredi); maybe we'll go back and forth. A lot of my past teammateswishedmeluckyesterdayandtoday. ... I try to forget the pressure."
Cross Country photo gallery refer
For more photos from the cross country quad meet at Mohegan Park click here.
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