Close, but not close enough.
On Monday, the Staples High girls ski team fell just over a second short of repeating at the State Open. After jostling for state supremacy for the last few seasons with Fairfield, the Wreckers were beaten -- albeit narrowly -- 287.65-288.73 by their rival at Mount Southington.
The runner-up finish was somewhat bittersweet for the Wreckers, who placed six skiers in the top 25. Fairfield -- a second-place finisher at last year's Open -- also had six in the top 25, led by Sarah Mason, who finished fifth (47.07).
"I knew it was going to be close," Staples coach Tom Owen said on Tuesday. "We've been all season within a couple seconds of each other -- one time them coming out on top, and us the other."
Staples stormed into the meet with a strong core, believing it could win. Owen recalled how the Wreckers trailed Fairfield throughout 2012, only to pass the competition when it mattered most.
"Of course you go in expecting to win," he said. "Two years ago they beat us by a little over a second and a half. Last year, it was an upset for us to beat them because they had beaten us all season long."
Fueled by a pair of seventh-place finishes from Jacqueline Chappo and Liz Cooperstone (tied in 47.25), the Wreckers came close, really close.
"Disappointed, but not devastated," Owen said of falling short. "We did our best, and that's the way it is."
Owen credited Chappo and Cooperstone, a sophomore who pushed Staples' No. 1 skier all season.
"She skied really well this year," he said of Cooperstone. "She's gotten better and better. ... That was a really good race for her."
He added, "She's been right there with (Chappo) all year."
Owen also praised Caitlin Hartman's efforts this season, noting that the junior's all-around abilities have propelled her. Hartman took 17th at the Open in 48.35.
"She's been really strong for us. She's not the classic kind of ski-racing form that you see with Jacqueline and Liz," he said. "She's just a competitive, strong, athletic girl. She did really well."
The Wreckers expect to come back even stronger next year. All but one of their top six finishers at the Open -- senior Caroline Corbally, 25th in 49.06 -- will return. Chappo, Cooperstone and Alex Collins (13th, 47.91) are only sophomores, while Hartman and Alli Thomson (24th, 48.91) are juniors.
"They're young and they're going to get stronger," Owen said. "They're going to get smarter. It looks very promising."
The Wreckers know that they'll eventually get the chance to take on Fairfield again.
"We'll have another shot at them next year," Owen said.
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