Ostberg places ninth at nationals in San Diego
Both Staples junior Hannah DeBalsi and Darien's Alex Ostberg have battled through injuries at different parts of the cross country seasons. That hasn't stop them from winning races at the local and state level, and on Saturday the duo thrived in the premier race of the fall season.
DeBalsi placed fifth at the Foot Locker cross country nationals, held at Balboa Park in San Diego, crossing the finish line in 17:47. Ostberg placed ninth in the boys race with a time of 15:22.
Indiana's Anna Rohrer won the girls race in 17:13, while Ryen Frazier, of North Carolina was second, 17:23. Rohrer also won the event in 2012. Forty runners -- the top 10 from each of the four regional races run two weeks ago -- qualified for the race. Makena Morley (Montana) finished third with a time of 17:29, while Paige Hofstad (Texas) was fourth, 17:33.
"Overall I was happy with my race, I lost my form (in the final 400 meters); that had never to me in a race before," DeBalsi said. "Coming off an injury and considering everything I was happy."
DeBalsi, who finished second in the event last year with a time of 17:25, began the race in mid pack with a 5:25 opening mile and worked her way up over the final distance. DeBalsi edged Libby Davidson (Virginia, 17:48) and familiar nemesis Audrey Belf (17:51) by seconds to seal a top-five spot.
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"My goal was to be All-American (top 15)," DeBalsi said by phone following the race. "I knew winning was kind of a lofty goal and it would have had to be a perfect day. I didn't want to count myself out but top five would be realistic."
New Fairfield's Gabriele Richichi placed 16th (18:14) in the event.
DeBalsi sat out the entire regular season, but returned to win the FCIAC, Class LL and State Open Championship. DeBalsi finished second at the Northeast Regional to reach San Diego.
"She ran fantastic," said Staples assistant Malcolm Watson, who accompanied DeBalsi to San Diego. "That she was bounced back; her time was a lot better than at Wickham (Park); most people ran slower times. She ran a perfect race; I think she's happy."
Grant Fisher (Michigan) won the boys race by nine seconds with a time of 15:03. Ostberg suffered a setback in training leading up to the event and was comfortable in the lead pack and settled for a ninth-place finish.
"I do think I started to struggle over the last mile; my training in the last month was affected by being injured," Ostberg said. "Not being able to do the same volume or intensity I had during the season; it would be that last mile (the effects) would happen."
Ostberg won the Northeast Regional to qualify, and placed 11th at nationals a year ago. Both Ostberg and DeBalsi will lead their respective teams in the indoor track season.
Four Connecticut runners -- Hall's Ari Klau finished 22nd -- qualified for the event, a rare occurrence for the Nutmeg State.
"It's been fun," DeBalsi said. "It's cool to have four people from Connecticut and all ran pretty well. I hope people take notice."