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    Friday, December 01, 2023

    Old Lyme freshman Gilbert captures Class S girls’ title

    Old Lyme’s Chase Gilbert races out to the front at the start of the CIAC Class S girls’ cross country championship race on Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester. Gilbert, only a freshman, ran away to an easy win. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    St. Bernard’s Helena Coury leads Lyman Memorial’s Hazel DeLucia (1757) and Hale-Ray’s Sara Evans up heartbreak hill during the CIAC Class S girls’ ;high school cross country championship meet Saturday, October 29, 2022 at Wickham Park in Manchester. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Old Lyme’s Chase Gilbert crosses the finish line all alone in the CIAC Class S girls’ high school cross country championship meet Saturday, October 29, 2022 at Wickham Park in Manchester. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
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    Manchester — The first time Chase Gilbert, a former middle school soccer player, ever got to run at Wickham Park was earlier this season. Gilbert, a freshman at Old Lyme High School, won the Girls’ Small School race at the Wickham Invitational on Oct. 8 in 19 minutes, 19 seconds.

    “We had seen some previous times,” Old Lyme coach Courtney Baklik said. “Wickham was the first big race. She was kind of all by herself (1:13 ahead of the second-place finisher). We thought, ‘She really is at that level.’”

    On Saturday, Gilbert, who admits to being competitive in general, one-upped her previous best at Wickham.

    She won the Class S championship on the 3.1-mile course in 19:12, lifting the Wildcats to a second-place team finish with 75 points. Somers won the team title with 45.

    Gilbert’s time was the third-fastest of the day and the best among local finishers. It was Old Lyme’s best team finish since winning the 2009 Class S title behind individual champion Jenn Ross.

    Gilbert also won the Shoreline Conference title this year.

    “I heard that Wickham was, like, a brutal course and it shows when you’re running it,” Gilbert said. “It’s a tough course, so I mean I was feeling pretty confident going into (the Wickham Invite) because, I’m not sure, I just try to come into a race with a good attitude.

    “I was excited, I took my spot and I just strided and went as hard as I can. I ended up finishing strong so I came excited into this one because I was happy with how I did at the last one.”

    Gesami Vazquez (14th), Grace Ferman (20th), Alexis Antonellis (25th) and Madeleine Morgado (31st) rounded out the scoring for Old Lyme with Alyssa Spooner as the Wildcats’ sixth-place runner (50th).

    Baklik was asked how Gilbert came to have such high expectations for herself despite never having been through the grind of the starting line at a state meet before.

    “It really just seems to be intrinsic with her,” Baklik said. “At times this season, we’d say, ‘Don’t kill yourself on this one. Do it more for the workout.’ It really is her.”

    This is Baklik’s third season with Old Lyme, the first coming in mid-pandemic.

    “I really wasn’t dreaming of this at all,” Baklik said of the second-place finish. “In past years with injuries and COVID, we never got a look at what we could do. It’s been a great day. When you see them out on the course running ... they show up for every workout with a smile on their face. They celebrate every accomplishment, every PR whether it’s varsity or JV.”

    The top two teams from each division qualified for Friday’s State Open along with eight wild card teams based on time. Also, the top 12 runners from each division reached the Open along with the next 30 fastest runners.

    East Lyme senior Kennedy Holsapple was fourth in Class MM in 20:58, as the Vikings, who previously won the Eastern Connecticut Conference championship meet, finished third with 120 points, trailing Guilford (89) and Pomperaug (107).

    St. Bernard freshman Helena Coury was sixth in Class S in 21:02, Lyman Memorial freshman Hazel DeLucia ninth in 21:15 and Wheeler freshman Kaitlyn Kumpf 12th in 21:37.

    In Class SS, Montville’s Maya Suarez was fifth in 21:16 and Stonington’s Peyton Vanderstreet seventh in 21:27. ECC champion Avery Maiese of Waterford was eighth in Class M in 20:37. NFA’s Eliana Duclos, 25th in Class LL in 21:06, qualified for the Open as a wild card.

    It was the first time Maise, in her first year of cross country, ever ran competitively at Wickham.

    “The first time ever on the ‘Green Monster,’” Maiese said of the signature hill on the course. “I was feeling really tired and I knew I had so much more to go. I was definitely happier at the finish. I wasn’t expecting the hill to be as bad.

    “That was my goal (to make the State Open). One through 12. Anywhere in that range and I would be just as happy. I’m just happy to be able to compete again.”

    Trumbull’s Kathryn Marchand, the Class LL champion, had the fastest time of the day in 19:00.

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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