Experience propels girls XC

The saying "strength in numbers" holds true in the case of the Darien girls cross country program, as year after year, the numbers grow and promising talent emerges from within the freshman ranks.

Fresh off a 2010 campaign that netted 11 wins and a sixth-place team finish in the FCIAC Championships, the Blue Wave boasts an extremely deep roster that is comprised of 80 athletes.

Gone are key contributors Kelly Brophy (second runner) and fellow graduate Hannah Lyons, who has taken her skills to the collegiate ranks of Hamilton College.

Nonetheless, a ton of talent remains intact -- something the program has, fortunately, gotten accustomed to over the majority of the past decade.

With a solid blend of untested talent and returning core runners, there is no need to jump the gun and expect big things from the new teammates right off the bat. On the contrary, longtime head coach Steve Norris expects his more seasoned veterans to shoulder much of the work load in the early stages of action this coming season.

"At 80 members, our team is bigger than in any previous year," Norris said. "Although half the members are new, we have a strong core of experienced runners. The veterans will hold sway and the new members need not be rushed."

Leading the charge will be captains Amanda Dobler, Megan Keane, Sarah Smith and Tricia Vossler.

Dobbler capped a stellar 2010 campaign with an 11th-place finish in the FCIAC Championships, good for first-team all-conference honors.

Coming off a 2010 track season last spring in which she earned first-team All-FCIAC honors, Keane will provide steady leadership as well. Meanwhile, Vossler and Dobbler provide the program with a wealth of experience. In fact, the battle-tested duo has combined to race in more than 50 varsity meets since joining the program three seasons ago.

Meredith Ott figures to spearhead a strong junior class, while sophomores Katie Farren, Ellen Bauer, Grace Loh and Sarah Colon each ran with the varsity squad last season.

In addition to all that, a pair of newcomers in junior classmates Emma Davis and McKinley Stauffer appear poised to make an impact this season, according to Norris.

"Our strongest aspects are our sophomores and juniors," Vossler, now entering her fourth season in the program, said. "We have great talent in both of those classes. Not only are the younger girls standing out as very capable runners, but we also have seniors who continue to be powerful runners. Overall, we have a team of enthusiastic girls who are very committed to improving."

Competition-wise, the FCIAC remains as deep and talent-laden as ever.

"Wilton is the team to beat, as they only graduated two of seven varsity runners," Norris said. "Meanwhile, Ridgefield has been the best in the league for three years. They have lost half their team to graduation and, therefore, are vulnerable. They are still formidable though."

While many high school kids enjoyed the beach and took it easy these past few summer months, members of the Blue Wave girls cross country team put in plenty of toil in preparation for this coming fall campaign. Throw in the promise of a deep freshman class, and the potential for a highly successful season is firmly set in place.

"Key people did the summer training and worked very hard," Norris said. "And by the middle of the season, many new runners will emerge."