State Open cross country: Alvarado, Debalsi win; Ridgefield boys champ
MANCHESTER -- Two Fairfield County cross country runners completed their competitive seasons in Connecticut undefeated on Friday by winning State Open individual championships at Wickham Park.
Ridgefield made a run at the state record for best and lowest score in winning the boys team championship over conference rival Darien, but failing by a mere 10 points.
Staples and Ridgefield were the highest placing girls teams by finishing third and fourth behind champion Tolland and runner-up Glastonbury.
Fairfield Prep senior Christian Alvarado, of Fairfield, won the boys race by leaning in front of Ridgefield senior Trevor Hopper at the finish line of the 5-kilometer (3.14 miles) course. Each was credited with a time of 15 minutes and 31 seconds, with Darien junior Alex Ostberg seven seconds behind in 15:38. Alvardo, the SCC champion, placed first at Wickham Park on Oct. 26 in winning the Class LL title. The trio dominated the field of 178 runners for more than two-and-a-half miles.
Staples sophomore Hannah Debalsi won the girls race in 17:44. For the third straight meet, following the FCIAC championships and the Class LL race, Westhill senior Claire Howlett was runner-up to Debalsi, finishing the 5,000 meters in 18:11, with New Fairfield junior Gabrielle Richichi third in 18:21. They paced the field of 181 runners.
The top 6 teams and 25 fastest finishers in the boys and girls races all qualified for the 79th New England Championships Nov. 9 at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H.
Danbury, with 147 points, qualified for the New Englands by placing third in the boys race behind Ridgefield (58) and Darien (109). Also advancing as teams were fourth-place Hall (151), fifth-place Staples (175) and sixth-place New Milford (206). On the girls side, joining Tolland (74), Glastonbury (136), Staples (183) and Ridgefield (193) were fifth-place Conard (211) and sixth-place E.O. Smith-Storrs (221).
"Ridgefield is unbelievable -- probably one of the best (schools) in the country," said Darien boys coach Tyson Kaczmarek. "Ridgefield was great all season. We looked at the class results (Oct. 26) and we saw that Ridgefield was solid if you merged all the results. We were definitely going to try for second and to try to catch them. To have four (Ridgefield) runners in the top 10, that's unbelievable. I don't think I've seen that in 11 years of coaching."
Ridgefield, which won Class LL, beat Darien, the L champion, for the FCIAC title, too.
"It's definitely good to win the thing," Tigers coach Bryan Kovalsky said. "In our meeting the other day, I gave the team a basketball analogy where we're leading by 30 points and letting the clock run down. We didn't want to do that. We wanted the record."
Ridgefield's victory came from junior Austin Gilbert (16:24), senior Will Bordash (16:24) and sophomore Gabe Altopp (16:26) supporting Hopper, who had edged Ostberg by three seconds at the FCIACs. They finished seventh, eighth and ninth. "It's funny they finished in a pack, they're such different runners," Kovalsky said of the threesome.
The battle among Alvarado, Hopper and Ostberg was compelling. Ostberg, the Class L winner, said he aimed to set the pace to be in front of his rivals who are stronger at the finish. His strategy did not work. The three were essentially inseparable until the end. Alvardo had a 10-meter advantage in the last quarter-mile, Hopper charged, caught up but his kick wasn't strong enough going up hill over the last 70 meters.
"I was giving all I could at the end," Alvarado said. "That extra kick by me forced myself not to lose. I knew they weren't going to take it easy on me."
Hopper said: "I wasn't worried about being in the way front. I wanted to stick with them until the end. At the end is what won it. I knew it was going to be a battle between the three of us. It was a fun race. I enjoyed running against them."
Staples girls coach Amanda Parrish said the goal for Debalsi was not to take the race for granted. "She looked strong. Her form was good," Parrish said.
Debalsi said she wanted to win and to run faster than winning Class LL last week. She was three seconds slower, but many runners and coaches said the muddy course and humidity were not ideal conditions.
Area runners qualifying for the New England championships were Ridgefield senior Lauren Hergenrother (18:58), who finished fourth, Fairfield Warde senior Cate Allen (19:02) sixth, Immaculate senior Carly Schuyler (19:21) 10th, Wilton junior Sarah Healy (19:23) 11th, Staples junior Erica Hefnawy (19:26) 12th, Darien junior Anne Johnston (19:35) 16th and Wilton sophomore Mary Lynch (19:42) 21st. Qualifying among the boys were McMahon sophomore Eric van der Els (16:20), who was sixth, Staples senior Peter Elkind (16:29) 11th, Warde senior Aidan Fiol (16:32) 14th, Brookfield senior Parker Timmerman (16:37) 18th, Staples junior Oliver Hickson (16:40) 19th, Darien sophomore Armstrong Noonan (16:41) 20th, Pomperaug senior Samuel Depalma (16:41) 21st, Darien senior Marshall Huffman (16:44) 24th and New Fairfield senior Michael McGonnigle (16:48) 25th.
State Open cross country results
at Wickham Park, Manchester
Boys team scores
Ridgefield 58, Darien 109, Danbury 147, Hall 151, Staples 175, New Milford 206, Cheshire 218, Brookfield 250, New Fairfield 272, Amity 275, Guilford 281, Fairfield Prep 298, Capital Prep 319, Ellington 332, Glastonbury 346, Pomperaug 346, South Windsor 373, Old Lyme 373, Haddam-Killingworth 482, Bolton 524
Individual results top 30
1. Christian Alvarado (Fairfield Prep) 15:31; 2. Trevor Hopper (Ridgefield) 15:31; 3. Alex Ostberg (Darien) 15:38; 4. Dhahran Velasquez (Capital Prep) 16:13; 5. Spencer Brown (Wilton) 16:17; 6. Eric Van Der Els (McMahon) 16:20; 7. Austin Gilbert (Ridgefield) 16:24; 8. Will Bordash (Ridgefield) 16:24; 9. Gabe Altopp (Ridgefield) 16:26; 10. Ari Klau (Hall) 16:28; 11. Peter Elkind (Staples) 16:29; 12. Matt Chisholm (Farmington) 16:31; 13. Randall Neish (Glastonbury) 16:31; 14. Aidan Fiol (Fairfield Warde) 16:32; 15. Palmer Weimann (Farmington) 16:33; 16. Patrick Begley (Suffield) 16:34; 17. Zachary Magin (Hall) 16:36; 18. Parker Timmerman (Brookfield) 16:37; 19. Oliver Hickson (Staples) 16:40; 20. Armstrong Noonan (Darien) 16:41; 21. Samuel Depalma (Pomperaug) 16:41; 22. Russell Adam (Cheshire) 16:42; 23. John O'Hara (Xavier) 16:43; 24. Marshall Huffman (Darien) 16:44; 25. Michael McGonnigle (New Fairfield) 16:48; 26. Hugh Sichel (New Milford) 16:48; 27. Zachary Guptill (New Milford) 16:49; 28. Jake Berman (Staples) 16:50; 29. Mickey Kozak (Danbury) 16:51; 30. Salvatore Siciliano (Guilford) 16:52.
Girls team scores
Tolland 74, Glastonbury 136, Staples 183, Ridgefield 193, Conard 211, E.O. Smith 221, Wilton 225, Immaculate 235, Simsbury 250, Pomperaug 263, Fairfield Warde 267, Suffield 275, Mercy 277, New Fairfield 319, Branford 335, Griswold 357, Darien 372, Thomaston 396, Bolton 413, East Hampton 543
Individual results top 30
1. Hannah Debalsi (Staples) 17:44; 2. Claire Howlett (Westhill) 18:11; 3. Gabrielle Richichi (New Fairfield) 18:21; 4. Laura Hergenrother (Ridgefield) 18:58; 5. Kaleigh Roberts (Mercy) 19:00; 6. Cate Allen (Fairfield Warde) 19:02; 7. Chrissy Bendzinski (RHAM) 19:15; 8. Alyssa Brehler (Griswold) 19:16; 9. Courtney Akerley (Tolland) 19:17; 10. Carly Schuyler (Immaculate) 19:21; 11. Sarah Healy (Wilton) 19:23; 12. Erica Hefnawy (Staples) 19:26; 13. Elizabeth Lagoy (Conard) 19:30; 14. Caitlin Swanson (Tolland) 19:31; 15. Megan SteinHilber (Tolland) 19:34; 16. Anne Johnston (Darien) 19:35; 17. Samantha Myser (Bolton) 19:36; 18. Cyrene Nicholas (Branford) 19:39; 19. Katherine Deloreto (Tolland) 19:40; 20. Meagan Perez (Griswold) 19:40; 21. Mary Lynch (Wilton) 19:42; 22. Allison McArdle (Glastonbury) 19:43; 23. Liz Fengler (Sheehan) 19:43; 24. Sarah Mattison (Simsbury) 19:47; 25. Madeleine Brandon (Haddam-Killingworth) 19:48; 26. Kerri Ruffo (Plainfield) 19:51; 27. Caroline Smith (Simsbury) 19:55; 28. Sabrina Olsen (Thomaston) 19:57; 29. Gaelyn Kattman (Glastonbury) 20:01; 30. Hayley Collins (Tolland) 20:01.