Mairead Clas takes second to lead Darien girls at FCIAC cross country championships

NEW CANAAN — During her first year with the Darien girls cross country team last fall, Mairead Clas established herself as one of the conference’s better up-and-coming young runners.

With her performance this week, the spotlight has gotten even brighter.

Clas delivered a strong finishing kick and passed Ridgefield’s Tess Pisanelli down the stretch to finish in second place at the FCIAC girls cross country championship race in New Canaan’s Waveny Park on Tuesday.

Clas completed the 4,000-meter course with a time of 4:34, edging Pisanelli by two seconds for the runner-up spot. The Blue Wave sophomore moved up four spots after finishing sixth last year, and earned All-FCIAC first team honors for the second straight season.

“I really wanted to push myself today, run my own race, and try to get a good time,” Clas said. “I felt really good on the course and I really liked this course.”

“She’s aware of what her competition is doing, and she doesn’t get flustered or overly nervous to the point where it’s going to block her ability,” Darien coach Steve Norris said. “She’s a good pacer as well. I can’t ever remember a time where she started too fast and then faded away. And if she starts conservatively, she never falls behind to the extent where she loses focus on the people she wants to beat.”

Clas’s performance highlighted a solid day for Darien, as freshman Charlotte Moody cracked the All-FCIAC first team as well, finishing 14th with a time of 15:23.

The Blue Wave posted a score of 185 and finished eighth while running with three sophomores and a pair of freshman in a lineup of eight.

“We ran good times and I’m very pleased with that,” Norris said. “The girls are going to pleased with how they did today time-wise.”

Finishing second was an even bigger accomplishment for Clas considering she had finished behind Pisanelli in the final regular season meet last week.

This time around, Norris and Clas developed a game plan in anticipation of a close finish. Greenwich’s Mari Noble won the race in 14:05, but Pisanelli and Clas were neck-and-neck into the home stretch.

“We talked about the fact that her main rival for second place would be Tess Pisanelli and there was a chance it would be right down to the wire,” Norris said. “So I suggested to Mairead that when she got into the last 150 yards or so, to tuck in behind her so she won’t see you and she won’t hear you with all the yelling. Instead of running side-by-side, Mairead tucked in behind her, waited until the last 10 seconds and came by so fast that Tess couldn’t respond.”

“She (Pisanelli) started to go a little bit before I wanted to but I felt if I saved it for the last part, it would be better,” Clas said. “Saving it back there, I was able to use everything I had at the end.”

While Clas took second place, Moody was conquering several foes, as she moved way up the ladder for her 14th-place finish.

“This is her first season, she had never run before and that was a little bit of a surprise that she finished that high,” Norris said. “She’s been our second runner all season, but finishing 14th meant that she beat 10 people who had beaten her during the regular season.”

Julianne Teitler, another sophomore, was next across the finish line for Darien, taking 37th place in 15:55. Freshman Avery Johnson was 54th in 16:19, and senior Brianna Lyons was 59th in 16:32 to complete the Wave’s scoring

Sophomore Hope Johnson was 64th (16:54), senior Noelle Kennedy was 67th (17:05), and Lily Johnston was 72nd (17:26).

Darien will now gear up for the CIAC Class L championships, which will be run on Saturday, Oct. 26, in Wickham Park, and Clas said the Wave is ready to run again.

“(The FCIAC finish) is really great and just makes me more excited for the postseason races and gives me more confidence,” Clas said. “We have a few good freshmen this year and the team dynamic is really good. We’re competing and having a lot of fun.”


4K, At Waveny Park, New Canaan.

Team scores: 1 Ridgefield 70; 2 Trumbull 83; 3 New Canaan 118; 4 Danbury 121; 5 Wilton 134; 6 (tie) Greenwich and Ludlowe 147; 8 Darien 161; 9 Staples 185; 10 Warde 236; 11 St. Joseph 373; 12 Norwalk 382; 13 Stamford 391.

Individual finishes: Top Five: 1 Mari Noble (Greenwich) 14:05; 2 Mairead Clas (Darien) 14:34; 3 Tess Pisanelli (Ridgefield) 14:36; 4 Daniella Grullon-Pena (Danbury) 14:51; 5 Alessandra Zaffina (Trumbull) 14:54; Darien runners: 14 Charlotte Moody 15:23; 37 Julianne Teitler 15:55; 54. Avery Johnson 16:19; 59 Brianna Lyons 16:32; 65 Hope Johnson 16:54; 67 Noelle Kennedy 17:05; 72 Lily Johnston 17:26.

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