As Staples' standout Hannah DeBalsi was well on her way to setting another course record, Wreckers girls cross country coach Amanda Parrish was trying to come up with the perfect words of encouragement for her star runner.
"I had no idea what to say," Parrish joked. "You're doing great? That's true. Stay relaxed? You do you look relaxed."
Parrish is far from the only one to be at a loss for words when it comes to her sophomore phenom.
DeBalsi crossed the finish line of the Wickham Park Invitational with a time of 17:44 over the 5K course, winning the girls championship meet on Saturday afternoon in Manchester. The course is the site of the Class LL and State Open championships.
DeBalsi improved her time from last's year's event by 1:59 and beat the second-placed finisher -- RHAM's Chrissy Bendzinski -- by 1:31. DeBalsi has set course records in each of her seven races this season.
"We showed we are someone to compete with in states," DeBalsi said. "We can do better as well. I feel like I can go faster for when it counts."
The Wreckers placed third as a team behind Glastonbury (58) and Tolland (53).
"The most important thing for the girls was to run the course and get familiar with it because we will be here two more times this season," Parrish said. "They are a little disappointed but the top two teams in the state are not bad teams to lose to."
Fairfield Prep's Christian Alvarado (15:38) took home the boys individual title, besting Darien's Alex Ostberg (15:41) by three seconds. Alvarado and Ostberg were nip and tuck for the majority of the race before Alvarado pulled way over the final stretch. Ostberg, a junior, finished fourth in last season's race.
"(Alvarado) ran well," Jesuits coach Bob Ford said. "He really got pushed; Ostberg ran a great race; he stayed with him for three miles out of 3.1."
Darien (78) captured the boys championship for the third year in a row, finishing ahead of Hall (90), Staples (118), and Brookfield (127). Fairfield Prep came home seventh.
"It's the course," Ford said. "If you want to do well in Connecticut you have to do well at Wickham. We come up here to practice; it's worth the drive."
The Wreckers got top-10 finishes from Oliver Hickson (seventh) and Peter Elkind (10th).
"We were great Nos. 1-4," Staples coach Laddie Lawrence said. "We just had a big space back to Nos. 5-7. I thought overall we ran well; I was pleased. (Oliver Hickson) ran great up front and had great support from the next three."
The meet served as a final barometer for the FCIAC championships, which take place Thursday at Waveny Park in New Canaan.
Heavy hitters Danbury and Ridgefield were not present Saturday in preparation for the FCIAC meet.
"FCIACs is going to be a war," Kaczmarek said. "I think Ridgefield is the best team in the state, Danbury can be that good and we are in it as well. And one thing I've learned is to never count Staples out."