Boys race into postseason on winning note
FAIRFIELD -- Runners and coach alike expected to win Wednesday's four-team season-finale at Fairfield Ludlowe.
And once again, the boys cross country team emphatically made their case as one of the most formidable groups in the region. With the FCIAC championship races just around the corner -- scheduled for this coming Thursday -- the goal was simply to stay healthy and prepare for the big conference race.
Soon thereafter, one Darien runner after another cruised across the finish line, injury free, and in first place. Darien knocked off host Ludlowe 20-41, beat Westhill 18-45, and toppled Harding 15-50 to conclude a 16-1 regular season.
"It was a nice finish to the season," Darien's Michael Johnston said. Johnston, who finished second overall in a time of 16:36, has come into his own this season for the Wave..
Ludlowe's Mike Frasco won first place, finishing the 5K course in a time of 16:17, but Darien had the runner-up and third-place finishers, as well as the fourth- through eighth-place racers to pull away from the competition.
Darien's Johnston and Charlie Baird finished in second and third, respectively, both with a time of 16:36. Matt Gentile, John Conley and Michael Coe all clocked in at 16:48 and officially finished in fifth, sixth and seventh, respectively. David Watson was eighth in a time of 16:49.
Kaczmarek's team is once again pulling its weight at the top, even if first-place finishes aren't coming as easily as they did with runners in years past.
The Wave had three more runners who just missed cracking the top 10 among the 90 total finishers: Ryan Mahoney, who was 11th in a time of 17:15, and Marshall Huffman and Brian Davey, who followed Mahoney across the finish line with times of 17:17 and 17:28 for each of the next two places.
The DHS runners set out to motivate each other to do well in every race, and sticking together to better enforce that encouragement was more important than trying to win in the last postseason tune-up, Kaczmarek said.
"We're just going to try to work as a pack and push each other," the coach said just before the race.
Baird caught his breath and spoke about his performance and the team's capability to this point in the season.
"I was pretty satisfied," he said after crossing the finish line. "We worked well together the whole season. I think that pretty much summed up the way we ran the whole season -- using teamwork."
The Blue Wave runners will work together to try to do their best against their conference rivals in the championship meet in less than a week. The biggest hurdle for the Wave is Danbury, the perennial powerhouse squad which was the only one to beat the Wave this regular campaign. No school in the FCIAC has a larger student enrollment than Danbury.
"We feel like we can definitely be a potential threat to Danbury," Johnston said.
Kaczmarek believes Danbury may be too difficult to catch and that his team is looking at a second-place finish if the runners put forth a strong effort.
"We had a great race last Saturday up at Wickham," said the coach, referring to the Wickham Invitational at Wickham Park in Manchester. "I think if we bring that level of intensity and competitiveness we had at that race, that should definitely yield some fast times for us."