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    Sunday, March 03, 2024

    Student (Helminski) and teacher (Flynn) win boys’ XC titles

    East Lyme’s Matthew Carrier, left, and Sam Leone competed in the CIAC Class MM boys’ cross country championship Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester. Leone was eighth in the race and Carrier placed 10th to help lift the Vikings to their second straight championship with a convincing 43 points. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Ledyard’s Jackson Hill, front, runs toward the finish line of the CIAC Class M boys’ cross country championship Saturday at Wickham Park. Hill was fifth and Ledyard earned the team title with 58 points. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    East Lyme’s Sean McCauley finished second in Class MM in 16:42 as the Vikings captured the team title Saturday, advancing them to Friday’s State Open. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Manchester — Chris Helminski — a smart young guy — had an idea his team would emerge from Wickham Park with the Class M state championship Saturday. Seems Helminski used the website athletic.net to simulate the race analytically. The answer: Ledyard High School would win with 74 points.

    Of course, analytics don’t factor record heat (82 degrees and sunny), customary pre-race nerves and the course’s heartbreaking hill, whose top features the finish line.

    Turns out Ledyard won anyway with 58 points, bettering the pre-race numbers.

    “We looked at the weather, too,” Helminski was saying, not long after posing for a photo with his new Class M boys’ cross country champs. “We told them, ‘it’s gonna be hot, it’s gonna hurt.’ But these guys trained like dogs all summer. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone else train as hard as they did.”

    Helminski helped contribute to a very Eastern Connecticut Conference day at Wickham, underscoring an already impressive storyline of two champions. But it was even better: Student and teacher both won titles. Helminski at Ledyard and his high school coach, Mike Flynn, at East Lyme, the MM champion.

    Both teams advanced to compete in Friday’s State Open championship back at Wickham.

    “When I was at Griswold, Mike coached me there,” Helminski said. “An amazing guy and an amazing coach.”

    East Lyme, the reigning MM champion, finished with 43 points, well better than second-place E.O. Smith’s 73.

    “Our goal was to win. Just win and move on,” said East Lyme’s Sean McCauley, second overall and the Vikes’ top finisher in 16:42. “It felt like this was going to be between us and E.O. Smith. We didn’t want to leave any questions.”

    McCauley teamed with Jilali Benjdid (seventh), Sam Leone (eighth), Matthew Carrier (10th), Nathan Bergman (16th), Mason Hintze (23rd) and Kai Ritz (42nd).

    Jackson Hill was fifth overall and Ledyard’s top finisher in 17:34. Hayden Baber (eighth), Gabriel Huff (ninth), Antonio Soldato (14th), Steven Ives (22nd), Greyson Stephenson (49th) and Jacob Parke Widlicka (51st) also ran for the Colonels.

    Griswold freshman Tycen LaBelle finished second overall (16:55) in the Class SS race, behind champion Griffin Mandirola of Suffield, whose time of 16:06 was among the best of the day.

    “My goal was top three and to give it all I had,” LaBelle said. “I did better than I thought I would. I thought I could stay closer to (Mandirola) but that didn’t happen.”

    St. Bernard’s Colin Britner was fifth overall (17:27) in the Class S boys’ race.

    The Class LL championship race was not contested due to lack of emergency services late in the afternoon Saturday. The makeup date has yet to be announced.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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