Old Lyme’s Chase Gilbert triumphs in her Shoreline XC championship debut
Madison – Chase Gilbert received congratulatory hugs after an impressive performance in her first Shoreline Conference cross country championship race.
Gilbert, Old Lyme’s talented freshman, had time to soak in her shining moment.
The next finisher, Haddam-Killingworth’s Grace Mitchell, crossed the line a minute later than Gilbert who set a personal best by about 25 seconds with a course-record winning time of 18 minutes, 7.50 seconds.
“I’m stoked,” Gilbert said. “Coming into this, I knew the course was very flat. I haven’t had a PR for about a month because we had done some tricky courses. I was so excited and it really paid off.”
Gilbert became the first Old Lyme girl to win the Shoreline race since Jennifer Ross in 2009.
So much for feeling the pressure of being the favorite in the girls’ race.
A focused Gilbert ran with the confidence of a veteran. She took charge early in the 3.1 mile race on a flat, windy course at Hammonasset State Park and built a comfortable lead.
“I try to stay as calm as possible during my runs,” Gilbert said. “I’m pretty zoned in. … I do enjoy being under pressure and that kind of pushes me to my limits. So, I don’t mind the pressure and I can work through that.”
The other Shoreline Conference runners chasing Chase came away impressed.
“It’s so incredible to watch you run,” a competitor said to Gilbert after the race.
Getting set on the starting line, Gilbert was both physically and mentally ready to show what she could do. Her results this season gave her confidence.
Her determination and drive pushed her to keep going strong despite not having anyone nipping at her heels.
“I’ve always enjoyed running,” Gilbert said. “I used to do races with my dad when I was in elementary school. I push myself a lot. I really like knowing that I’ll improve. I love getting to the next step and I love the feeling after races.
“I’ve been training hard the past couple of years and I think that’s gotten me to where I am today.”
Gilbert helped the Wildcats place second in the Shoreline Conference championship team standings with 67 points, only trailing first-place Haddam-Killingworth, the defending champion.
Old Lyme put five runners in the top 20. Gesami Vazquez took 13th (20:40.90) and Grace Ferman placed 15th (20:44) while Alexis Antonellis finished 18th (20:58.30) and Madeleine Morgado was 20th (21:00.80).
“They had some great performances today, some of their best of the season,” coach Courtney Baklik said. “We’re all really excited about how it turned out. It’s awesome.”
It also was a good day for the Old Lyme boys’ cross country team.
The Wildcats placed fourth with 92 points, finishing behind East Hampton (79), Haddam-Killingworth (63) and champion Hale Ray (36), which benefited from Michael Kraszewski’s first place finish in 16:12.
“Old Lyme typically hasn’t been a strong school in the Shoreline,” senior Harry Whitten said. “Usually, we’re like bottom six. We set our minds on a goal. We wanted to make our name known in the Shoreline, so we worked hard and we put in a bunch of miles – 2,000 miles, I believe – over the summer. This Shoreline performance shows how hard we’ve been working.”
Whitten led Old Lyme with an eighth-place finish in 17:06, a personal best by about 27 seconds.
“I’m just ecstatic,” Whitten said.
Other Wildcats in the top 20 include: George Williams, 10th, 17:17; Eric Dagher, 15th, 17:31.20; and Dylan Hovey, 20th, 17:54.90
Coach Aron D’Aquila was thrilled with his team’s results.
“I’ve watched these guys move up from freshman year,” D’Aquila said. “They’re all heart.”