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    Tuesday, July 23, 2024

    High school notes: Ledyard, Montville XC teams ferry their way to opening day

    Ledyard’s Kate Littler, left, was seventh in the Eastern Connecticut Conference cross country championship last year at Norwich Golf Course. Littler was ninth at the prestigious Martha’s Vineyard Invitational on Saturday, leading the Colonels to a second-place team finish. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Denise Descheneaux’s history with the Martha’s Vineyard Cross Country Invitational is that she had no history with it; she had to work the day her daughter, former Fitch High School cross country great Brandy LeClair, ran in the meet.

    On Saturday, Descheneaux, the Ledyard girls’ cross country coach, made sure her runners had plenty of memories of the event.

    The Colonels, along with the Ledyard boys’ cross country team and the Montville boys’ and girls’ teams, coached by Steve LaBranche, left at 5:45 a.m. for the drive to New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they took the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard.

    The Ledyard and Montville teams traveled together, sharing a bus to and from New Bedford.

    “It was a good experience. I don’t think any of us, including myself, had gone out there,” Descheneaux said.

    “It was a neat meet. We took the ferry and when we got out to the island, the school transported us to the meet. They had buses that were running to all the ferries.”

    Ledyard’s boys and girls both finished second overall in the varsity races.

    In the girls’ race, Ledyard finished with 91 points, runner-up to Whitinsville Christian of Massachusetts. Ledyard’s Kate Littler was ninth in 20 minutes, 38.91 seconds, with Josephine Withbroe 11th (21:01.66) and Ella Stephenson 18th (21:47.21). Sage Gressly was the top Montville runner, 66th in 24:15.94.

    Hayden Baber was fifth in the boys’ race in 16:54.39, pacing Ledyard to second place with 105 points, trailing only Barrington, Rhode Island, with 58. Teammate Jackson Hill was 10th (17:19.53) and Gabe Huff was 16th (17:47.07). Jack Brehler was the top Montville finisher, 51st in 19:05.62.

    “The kids had a good time,” Montville’s LaBranche said. “I asked everybody that was there, ‘Do you want to do it again?’ I could barely get the words out of my mouth and they said, ‘Yessss!’

    “It’s a long day. The kids are getting up at 4, 4:30 in the morning. That’s probably the only down side. They were pretty much sleeping on the bus ride and most of them were sleeping on the way back.”

    LaBranche said the athletes had time to have dinner and the Montville runners made a quick trip to the beach while they waited for the ferry.

    “I kind of want to give them experiences. I want the memories,” LaBranche said. “I thought, ‘Martha’s Vineyard, that’s got to be something new.’”

    Sister act

    If the last name sounds familiar, it’s because Stonington junior field hockey goalie Hailey Allard is the younger sister of last year’s goalkeeper, Madi Allard.

    Madi, now playing at Salve Regina, authored one of the great moments of the season for the Bears in the Class S state tournament semifinals last year, breaking up the final four shot attempts for Canton in a shootout in the snow as Stonington advanced to the championship game with a 2-1 victory.

    “(Madi) actually kind of taught me everything I know at this point,” said Hailey, who debuted as the Bears’ starter Thursday in a 2-1 loss to powerful Guilford. “She was always giving me tips and always trying to make me better.

    “She knew she’d be leaving me so she kind of just always told me, ‘Look, when you’re here, this is what you have to do. When you get in my position, this is what you’re gonna do.’ She prepared me to be ready to step up.”

    Hailey said she was a little nervous to open against Guilford, but calmed down as the game wore on. She filled in once for her sister last season when Madi had her wisdom teeth removed.

    So, was Hailey as nervous as the rest of the spectators, watching her sister in the adrenaline rush of a shootout in last year’s semis?

    “Definitely stressed me out the entire time,” Hailey said. “Definitely very nervous for her because I know what it’s like to be in that position. I was so excited to see her do so well and just, like, she was incredible.”

    Sunrise soccer

    The Old Lyme boys’ soccer team held a 5:30 a.m. practice last Friday to beat the heat. The only problem? The sun didn’t rise until 6:22, giving the Wildcats a few minutes to wait in the dark.

    “I’m thinking, ‘Oh, great, I should have checked for the sunrise,’” Old Lyme coach Ally Gleason said. “... They were actually pumped. They were like, ‘We do better in the morning.’”

    The boys were rewarded at the end of practice with bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches, made by Gleason’s mom, Sarah. The players then went straight to school.

    Gleason said it’s a young team, one which graduated star goalie Jonah Lathrop, but one she’s very much looking forward to coaching.

    “Talk about the ultimate team you would want to coach,” said Gleason, whose dad, Paul, the former four-time state championship Old Lyme girls’ soccer coach, serves as her assistant. “They’re focused, they work hard, such good kids.”

    Opening day obstacles

    Stonington’s boys’ soccer opener against Bacon Academy was scheduled at 4 p.m. Thursday on the school’s artificial turf. It was moved to 5:30 p.m. on the grass at Piver Field due to the dangerous heat in the region.

    Then came the next hurdle of the day, with I-95 North closing in the late afternoon due to an accident. Bacon couldn’t get there in time to play on Piver Field, which doesn’t have lights.

    Stonington was already hosting a field hockey game on the turf against Guilford.

    Opening day and athletic director Bryan Morrone was already practicing his juggling act.

    “It’s definitely been an interesting opening day but it wouldn’t be opening day otherwise,” Morrone said. “Luckily, everyone is flexible and can’t wait to get their games in. So there’s an excitement, there just seems to be road blocks in every way.”


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