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Darien girls look to bounce back from heart-breaking runner-up finish

Updated 4:28 pm, Monday, December 10, 2012
  • Darien's Eleanor Smith does the long jump during the FCIAC boys and girls indoor track championships at the New Haven Athletic Center in New Haven, Conn., February 2, 2012. Photo: Keelin Daly / Stamford Advocate
    Darien's Eleanor Smith does the long jump during the FCIAC boys and girls indoor track championships at the New Haven Athletic Center in New Haven, Conn., February 2, 2012. Photo: Keelin Daly

 

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On the surface, to the outsider, a runner-up finish in the Class L state championships is nothing to be disappointed about.

For members of Darien High School's girls' indoor track and field team, however, the way in which they came up short a year ago left a bad taste in their mouths.

The Blue Wave was actually announced as the meet winner, but as coach Steve Norris recalls, Darien found out two days later that a miscount in points left the Wave as the second-place team, one point behind Windsor.

Norris and company are out to win the title this year after back-to-back one-point runner-up finishes to Windsor in each of the past two winters. In 2010, Darien pulled out a 1.5 point win over Windsor.

"It's always between us and Windsor," Norris said.

Norris believes his team has what it takes to get back over the top this winter.

"We're expecting a very strong team. We have almost all of our scorers back," Norris said. "We don't have a weak event."

Among the team leaders are captains and sprinters Sophie Long and Liz Heaney. Grace Loh, the school record holder in the 1,000 meter run who was sixth in New England last year, is the distance captain. Eleanor Smith is Darien's field events captain.

"I think we're going to improve a lot from last year. A lot of our strong team members are back," said Smith, a pole vaulter and high and long jumper.

Other seniors whom Norris expects big things from are distance runners Ellen Bauer, Sarah Colon, Caroline Weihs and Caity Lowden.

Junior Catherine Lacy is a long jump record setter and came in fifth in the New England championships last year.

Another junior, Leah Hotchkiss, Class L indoor and outdoor champ in the high jump event, and a fifth-place New England competitor, is also back in the fold.

Junior Jessica Thornbury was runner-up in the pole vault event in last year's spring state Class L championships. Shot-put competitor Taylor McDonald is another strong member of the junior class. Dillon Schoen, yet another standout junior, won the Class L title in the 600 last year.

The sophomores also provide a strong group, including sprinter Elizabeth Fucigna, distance runner Anne Johnston, who was the top cross country team member in the fall, long sprinter Anna Sulger, and Maddie Schneider, who was the Class L pole vault champ in the spring and is also a good hurdler.

Assistant coaches whom Norris leans on for support in running the program are Ella Long (sprinters), Dave Ott (distance), Ben Bartol (shot-put) and Glenn Crafford (pole vault).

Norris expects the Wave to do well not only in the state championships, but also in the FCIAC championships. Last year the Wave finished second to Greenwich.

"We should place in every event in the league meet," Norris said. Tough competition stands to come from Wilton and Staples, the coach added.

Darien's roster is down from about 100 to 63 this year, resulting from less underclassmen on the squad than usual. Norris isn't sure why the numbers dropped a bit, but he remains confident that his team has plenty of depth to succeed assuming it stays healthy.

"I think if we don't have any real trouble, if we don't have a slew of injury troubles, we'll be alright," Norris said.