Cross country gets an early peek at the postseason challengers
DANBURY -- Racing on a Tarrywile Park course well-known in statewide running circles for its towering initial hill and rough overall terrain, the Blue Wave girls cross country team emerged victorious over the FCIAC field in Tuesday's meet in Danbury.
The Hatters placed second in the girls competition, with third-place New Canaan along with Bassick and Brien McMahon rounding out the competitive field.
Leading the Darien charge was the talented quartet of Megan Keane, Amanda Dobler, Grace Loh and Sarah Colon, as each overcame the grueling conditions of Tarrywile to land within the top six individual performances on the afternoon.
"We ran a bit conservative in the beginning of the race, but in the second half of the race our splits improved," Darien head coach Steve Norris said. "I think that our conditioning this summer and how hard we trained this past week really paid off for us out there."
Having missed a good portion of last season due to sickness, Keane was determined to take top honors this time around, and an impressive start coupled with a strong finish made it possible for the Darien senior captain.
Keane finished atop the pack with a time of 17:04, good for a 6:53 one-mile pace from start to finish.
"I was sick last season, so I was really focused on making the most of this season in every race I run," Keane said. "The hills were tough but me and Amanda (Dobler) always try to pace each other, so that helped me pull thru and finish first overall. We push one another every time we race."
Teammate Jenny Beadle, who placed 17th overall in the competitive field, shared the sentiments of all runners on hand in assessing the racing conditions of Danbury's course. In describing the accomplishment of Keane, the grueling terrain made Keane's win all the more impressive in Beadle's eyes.
"Between the hills and the sun that was glaring down on us, it was an extremely difficult course," said Beadle. "To see my teammates do such a great job with so many strong times is awesome."
Once the first hill was scaled by Keane and her teammates, the setting flattened a bit, only to provide the competitive field with one more hill before the finish line fast-approached.
For Dobler, who finished in fourth place overall with a time of 17:14 (6:57 one-mile pace), fatigue kicked in down the final stretch.
"Me and Megan (Keane) were keeping a good pace together, but on that last hill I got a little bit tired and she (Keane) finished a bit stronger," Dobler said. "Overall, we did really well as a team today. We overcame the tough course and worked hard to come out on top."
Meanwhile, in boys action, the juggernaut known as the Danbury Hatters sustained their FCIAC supremacy in achieving a clean sweep of the competition. Darien advanced to 6-1 on the season with wins over New Canaan (16-42), McMahon (19-42), Bassick (15-50) while falling to Danbury (20-35).
The Blue Wave boys cross country team finished where they had realistically envisioned themselves placing, according to their hread coach.
"We knew coming in that Danbury was definitely the strong favorite to win this meet, and they could very well be the best team in the entire state" said Darien boys coach Tyson Kaczmarek. "Our guys ran hard, and it's a course that our team has not competed on in six years, so that makes it a tough challenge. They responded though in finishing where we were aiming to finish."
Spearheading the boys Blue Wave performance was John Conley, who placed fourth overall with a final time of 13:49, good for a very strong 5:34 pace.
"We definitely weren't used to those rolling hills but we adjusted pretty well as the race wore on," Conley said. "The fact that we ran plenty of hills in the summer definitely helped. We were in fairly good position early in the race. It looked as if Danbury's number 4 was sliding back. One mile later, they started to pull away from us."
Teammate Michael Johnston placed seventh overall (second for Darien) with a time of 13:57, and thought the Blue Wave fared well amid the stiff competition that the host Hatters always provide.
"We went up against some really hard competition and managed to run very hard as a team today," said Johnston. "A lot of underclassmen stepped up for us."
Other top efforts for Darien included Charlie Baird (14:11) and David Watson (14:13), who finished in eighth and ninth place respectively. Michael Coe (12th, 14:20) and Matt Gentile (14th, 14:21) rounded out the top six Wave runners.
For Kaczmarek and company, the hardest regular season showdown is now in the rear view mirror, so the focus now shiftssolely upon emerging victorious in each regular season race onward.
" If we continue to work hard and run to our full potential, I don't see us losing another meet," said Kaczmarek. "I can definitely see us running the table."
Danbury is the only FCIAC school to defeat Darien in the regular season this year and in the previous three years.