The 2011 Darien High School boys cross country team added another historic first to its season: For the first time in Darien High School's history, the team qualified to compete in the New England Championship race. The Blue Wave earned this honor by placing sixth in the CIAC Connecticut Open Championship Race Tuesday at Hammonasset State Park in Manchester.

On Tuesday, Darien took sixth place out of 20 teams at the State Open, surpassing the ninth place finish in the 2009 Open that had been the previous Darien running program's high water mark.

The meet was delayed because of the snow and subsequent water damage to the course at Wickham Park, the Open's traditional venue. Organizers ultimately relocated the race to Hammonasset, a brand new course for the Blue Wave. Despite their lack of familiarity with the course, the team turned in a solid performance at the meet, under balmy, sunny conditions that were the polar opposite of last week's snowy State Championship race.

Finishing first for Darien was captain Michael Johnston, who posted a time of 16:24 for the 5K race. Second for Darien was captain Charlie Baird, who crossed the finish at 16:45. Captain Michael Coe finished in 17:05, third for the Blue Wave. Sophomore Marshall Huffman finished just behind Coe in fourth for Darien, coming across the finish line in 17:06. Freshman Alex Ostberg was the Blue Wave's fifth finisher in the race with a time of 17:15. Sophomore Peter Kreuch finished in 17:46, and captain Eli Converse came in at 18:01.

Coming on the heels of the team's 17-0 season and recent Class L title, the latest victory was especially gratifying for coach Tyson Kaczmarek.

"We ran a sensational race. This was the goal -- to make New Englands -- that we really started to talk about once we knew what a good team we had. I'm ecstatic," Kaczmarek said.

"Qualifying for New Englands is the exclamation point on top of an amazing season," Coe said. "For the team to work so hard all year for a goal like that, and to actually be able to accomplish it, is a truly beautiful thing. The whole team should be proud of themselves."

The Blue Wave travels to North Scituate, RI to represent Darien in the 77th New England Championships slated for Saturday.

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