Girls XC runs to victory; sights set on Wilton
FAIRFIELD -- Wilton High was the only school to defeat Darien in the regular season, and that was by all of four points.
Needless to say, the Blue Wave girls cross country team is hoping to avenge that defeat and win the FCIAC championship this coming Thursday. The team had one last postseason tune-up on Wednesday in the season-finale at Fairfield Ludlowe, and Darien ran past four teams to earn a sweep.
The Blue Wave topped host Ludlowe, as well as Westhill, each by 20-43 scores. Darien's girls also defeated Bridgeport Central and Harding by 15-50 scores. The main objective for Darien was to come out of the race with something left in the tank as the team targets its first FCIAC title since 1987, DHS head coach Steve Norris said.
It wasn't all smooth sailing as Darien's No. 1 runner, Megan Keane, rolled her ankle along the way but completed the race and still managed to lead her team across the finish line.
Ludlowe's Heather Moriarty paced the 83 girls finishers of the 5K course in a time of 18:15. Westhill's Nicole Ambrosecchio was second in 19:15, and Darien took the third- through ninth-place spots en route to the sweep. This team is very similar to their male counterparts, as both Blue Wave squads have talent that's littered top-10 finishes all season long.
Keane, who finished in third in 19:22, might have threatened for the runner-up spot if not for the ankle injury, which she iced following the race.
Keane, a senior, and Norris remain hopeful that she will be at full strength for the FCIAC competition. Norris is also keeping his fingers crossed that his No. 2 runner, Amanda Dobler, who was sidelined Wednesday because she was sick, is better for the conference championship.
No doubt Norris' team will need to get healthy to end the title drought.
On Wednesday, Darien sophomore Grace Loh finished in a time of 19:29, good for fourth, and was followed in succession by sophomore teammates Sarah Colon in 19:35; Katie Farren in 19:54; and Ellen Bauer in 20:03. Juniors McKinley Stauffer (20:19) and Emma Davis crossed the finish line together.
"All of them have improved substantially, so there isn't much of a gap," Norris said of the underclassmen who have given Darien plenty of depth.
The wins at Ludlowe were enjoyable for Darien, but now the focus turns to Wilton, which trailed the Wave until late in their regular-season clash before pulling ahead to seize the win.
"We want to beat Wilton so badly. They beat us at the end last time," Loh said. "We know how they race."
And that means the Wave runners will have to be prepared to overcome a late charge by Wilton's runners. Norris has some ideas to prepare his team for the challenge. "We'll do some more shorter repetition work to build up our speed," said Norris, adding that he will also prepare his team mentally with some practice tactics.
"It's definitely going to be competitive. They're a really good team," Keane said. "I'm looking forward to it a lot."
Darien's runners believe they have what it takes to win. Norris told his runners prior to the finale at Ludlowe that he wanted them to put forth a good effort but "try to finish with something left," referring to the importance of saving their give-it-their-all runs for the postseason. "I think it will be a close race," the coach said of a possible one-two finish between the rival schools.
"If we all pull through together I think that we can have a chance," Loh said.
Colon added: "I think we're going to do pretty well. We've been doing well all season."