DeBalsi adds State Open title to postseason collection
It was an afternoon full of eye-popping performances at the State Open cross country championships at Wickham Park last Friday.
Darien's Alex Ostberg captured the boys individual title in a blistering 14:58, which, according to the records posted on TheRunningAcademy.com, is the first 5,000-meter race at Wickham Park ever run in less than 15 minutes, regardless of the course. On the girls side, Hannah Debalsi of Staples repeated as the individual champion, winning with a time of 17:59.
The Danbury boys won the team championship for the first time since 2008, edging rival Ridgefield by only 11 points for the title. Tolland won the girls team title for the second straight year. Staples placed third.
Ostberg, who last week had captured the Class L state title on the same Wickham Park course in 15:21, actually appeared to be accelerating the final 200-meter uphill stretch to the finish line. With the clock in full view as he sprinted toward the finish line, he could see that he had an opportunity to accomplish something historic -- and he seized it.
"Oh my gosh, I'm so unbelievably happy," Ostberg said. "I wasn't really planning on trying to run sub-15 until New Englands, but the opportunity presented itself today. And, hey, you never want to give up a great opportunity to be excellent. My goal today was to just go out there and show some people what I'm capable of and run the way I know I'm able to. When my coach was telling me I was on pace to break 15 minutes, I was like `You know what? This is my last Connecticut State Open. I have to go for it.'"
Debalsi's winning time, meanwhile, was 15 seconds slower than her winning time last year. She admitted afterward that she missed having old rival Claire Howlett of Westhill, last year's State Open runner-up as a senior, to challenge her.
Like Ostberg, Debalsi led from the outset and won by a wide margin. A little less than halfway through the race, she was already 100 meters or so ahead.
"My main goal was to win, and feel comfortable while doing it," said Debalsi, who is looking to peak just in time for the Foot Locker Northeast regional championships on Nov. 29 in Van Cortlandt Park in The Bronx.
Elisabeth Jean of Coventry took second in 18:43. She passed New Milford's Mia Nahom with less than 100 meters to go. Nahom held on for third, one second behind Jean.
The Danbury boys, meanwhile, had finished second by five points to Amity at last week's Class LL meet, which just added fuel to the Hatters' competitive fire at the State Open.
The top 25 individuals and top six teams all qualified for the New England championships, set for next Saturday at Wickham Park. Other boys who cracked the top 25 included Michael Noonan of Darien in sixth (15:55), Eric Van Der Els of McMahon in ninth (16:05), Oliver Hickson of Staples in 12th (16:08), Jake Berman of Staples in 14th (16:11), James Lewis of Staples in 15th (16:11), Stosh Davis of New Milford in 17th (16:12), Kyle Beaudette of Amity in 20th (16:16) and Alexander Abraham of Pomperaug in 25th (16:19). Other girls in the top 25 included Anne Johnston of Darien in sixth (19:02), Mary Lynch of Wilton in 10th (19:11), Erica Hefnawy of Staples in 11th (19:17), Gabrielle Richichi of New Fairfield in 14th (19:24), Sabrina Rautter of New Fairfield in 15th (19:25), Emily Criscuolo of Amity in 18th (19:27), Sara Tarascio of Pomperaug in 20th (19:27), Danielle Marcone of Immaculate in 22nd (19:32) and Sarah Mawdsley of Newtown in 25th (19:39).