MANCHESTER -- When New Fairfield junior Katie Edwards arrived at Wickham Park for Saturday`s Class M cross country championships, she had no intention of running.
Edwards, the Rebels No. 9 alternate, was all set to cheer on her teammates from the sidelines.
Then she found out that Mary Simons, New Fairfield`s No. 2 runner, and Cacique Richardson, the No. 5 runner, were out due to illness.
That`s when Edwards got a little sick to her stomach herself.
"I was a little nervous," Edwards said.
She paused and chuckled a bit.
"O.K., I was really nervous."
Luckily for Edwards and the Rebels, it didn`t show. The junior, who is in her first season with the cross country team after playing soccer last year, finished in the No. 5 spot for New Fairfield as the Rebels claimed their second consecutive Class MM state championship.
"When I was running and I passed two of my teammates, I was really surprised," Edwards said. "They`re on varsity, I`m not supposed to be passing them."
Aside from Edwards` career performance, New Fairfield benefited from an all-around team effort that included a third-place finish from its top runner, Allison Thoms. Elizabeth LaRegina, Devin Cleary and freshman Meg Crnic also played pivital roles in the victory.
While there was plenty of drama on the girls side, John Raneri, the top runner for the New Fairfield boys, turned the Class MM boys championship into his own personal clinic.
Raneri coasted to the Class MM title with a time of 16:11, which was 1:03 faster than the second-place finisher, Jake McCauley of Darien. It was Raneri`s second consecutive Class MM victory.
This one, however, was a bit different from last year`s, which Raneri called "a surprise." This time, he has bigger fish to fry. Raneri has his sights set on next Saturday`s state open, where he hopes to avenge a second-place finish in 2008.
"A state championship will solidify my standing as a very good runner to come out of Connecticut," Raneri said. "And that`s something I`ve always wanted --and worked towards--since freshman year. It would mean a lot."
Like Raneri, the New Milford boys cross country squad accomplished what they set out to do Saturday -- take home the Class L title.
New Milford placed five runners in the top 16 and convincingly held off second-place Conard (West Hartford) for the victory.
"I think this is the race we`ve been looking for all year," said New Milford coach Chris Bacich. "Everybody had a solid day today."
Senior captain Zach Krause paced the Green Wave with a time of 16:53, good for fifth overall. Krause, a four-year letterman, was excited to add another Class L championship to his long list of accomplishments, but he certainly wasn`t satisfied.
"Coming through as a freshman and a sophomore, I ran on teams with great runners in New Milford history -- Dan DeCresenzo, Dan Watson, all those guys -- and I wanted to be like them," Krause said. "And now our team has evolved into a group just like that, it`s pretty cool to add to such a big tradition. Now, we`re really looking to win the state open next week, that`s the next step."
New Milford boys cross country has gained noteriety in the area for its success over the past decade, but the girls squad hasn`t been too shabby either.
"When they were announcing the scores, I wasn`t really listening and then all of the sudden all our girls started cheering," said New Milford coach Tom Marks. "I turned around and was like `What are you guys cheering about?` I had no idea we came in second."
Paradiso, a junior, finished in eighth place overall at 20:35 and was followed by freshman Jessica Noteware, who clocked in at 21:03.
"Honestly, coming into the race I was hoping we`d be able to sneak into the top eight," Marks said. "I never thought we`d come in second. I`m so proud of all the girls."
For the first time in three years, the Danbury boys failed to capture the Class LL championship. The Hatters were third behind Hamden and Xavier (Middletown), the top-ranked team in the state. Ridgefield`s Richie Hume, who was sixth at 17:00, was the top area runner in Class LL.