The Staples High boys cross country team entered last Thursday's FCIAC championship meet at Waveny Park in New Canaan hoping to pass Darien and topple perennial power Danbury.
The Wreckers achieved one of those goals.
Led by a record finish from senior Henry Wynne, Staples placed four runners in the top 15 and placed second overall with 68 points, behind eight-time champion Danbury. The Hatters, who have now won the FCIAC for the 13th time in 14 seasons, had three runners finish in the top 10, led by Nicholas Carlsen in fourth (16:13). Darien came in third with 72 points.
"Very pleased," Staples head coach Laddie Lawrence said of his team's finish. "Any time you come out of the regular season with a certain number of wins and you can be better than that in the conference meet, that's a good thing. We had two losses during the regular season, to Danbury and Darien."
Wynne finished with a course-record time of 15:23 for his second straight individual title and fended off a strong push by Ridgefield's Trevor Hopper, who came in second in 15:44.
"I was looking for the course record after being two or three seconds off last year, and I got it," Wynne said. "Laddie told me to be smart, don't get boxed in. I ran the first mile in 4:58 and then just kept it up."
"He did a great job. He got out real quick and established an early lead," Lawrence said. "Hopper, from Ridgefield, surged real hard in the middle of the race and caught up to him, but once they got in the woods, Henry started to move again."
The Wreckers put together a strong pack behind Wynne as senior Patrick Nolan finished eighth in 16:25, sophomore Oliver Hickson was 14th in 16:33 and senior Sam Cohen was one place behind him in 16:36. The top 15 finishers earned all-FCIAC honors.
"We knew we had to tighten up on Henry a little bit, and everybody was able to do that," Lawrence said.
The Staples girls team finished eighth overall with 178 points, while Ridgefield cruised to the team title (55 points) and Darien finished second (94).
"We wanted to group better than we did," Lawrence said. "We spread out a little too much place-wise. It was nice to have Hannah where she was."
Lawrence said the team's eight-place finish was a "little disappointing" given that he expected them to be between fourth and sixth, but he was pleased with DeBalsi's strong push.
"She actually did a little bit better than she had done in the regular season," Lawrence said. "She had lost to three girls in the regular season."
Sophomore Erica Hefnawy was 22nd (15:43) for Staples, while senior Georgia Kursten (49th, 16:30), freshmen Katharine Smith (51st, 16:34) and Angelee Parmar (53rd, 16:36) rounded out the Wreckers' top five finishers. Senior Alexandra O'Kane was 57th in 16:43 and senior Caroline Corbally was 63rd in 16:54.
Lawrence said that he was surprised by the fast times that were recorded in the girls race by all the runners.
"Alexandra and Caroline had good races. They bettered their times on that course by a lot," Lawrence said. "The whole race was fast."
Staples will now prepare for the Class LL state championships, which will be held on Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester.
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Freelance writer Emery Filmer contributed to this story