State Open cross country: Alvarado, Debalsi win; Ridgefield boys champ
Two Fairfield County cross country runners completed their competitive seasons in Connecticut undefeated on Friday by winning State Open individual championships at Wickham Park. Ridgefield made a run at the state record for best and lowest score in winning the boys team championship over conference rival Darien, but failing by a mere 10 points. Staples and Ridgefield were the highest placing girls teams by finishing third and fourth behind champion Tolland and runner-up Glastonbury.
Fairfield Prep senior Christian Alvarado, of Fairfield, won the boys race by leaning in front of Ridgefield senior Trevor Hopper at the finish line of the 5-kilometer (3.14 miles) course. Each was credited with a time of 15 minutes and 31 seconds, with Darien junior Alex Ostberg seven seconds behind in 15:38. Alvardo, the SCC champion, placed first at Wickham Park on Oct. 26 in winning the Class LL title. The trio dominated the field of 178 runners for more than two-and-a-half miles.
Staples sophomore Hannah Debalsi won the girls race in 17:44. For the third straight meet, following the FCIAC championships and the Class LL race, Westhill senior Claire Howlett was runner-up to Debalsi, finishing the 5,000 meters in 18:11, with New Fairfield junior Gabrielle Richichi third in 18:21. They paced the field of 181 runners.
The top 6 teams and 25 fastest finishers in the boys and girls races all qualified for the 79th New England Championships Nov. 9 at Derryfield Park in Manchester, N.H.
Danbury, with 147 points, qualified for the New Englands by placing third in the boys race behind Ridgefield (58) and Darien (109). Also advancing as teams were fourth-place Hall (151), fifth-place Staples (175) and sixth-place New Milford (206). On the girls side, joining Tolland (74), Glastonbury (136), Staples (183) and Ridgefield (193) were fifth-place Conard (211) and sixth-place E.O. Smith-Storrs (221).
"Ridgefield is unbelievable -- probably one of the best (schools) in the country," said Darien boys coach Tyson Kaczmarek. "We were definitely going to try for second and to try to catch them.
Staples girls coach Amanda Parrish said the goal for Debalsi was not to take the race for granted. "She looked strong. Her form was good," Parrish said.
Debalsi said she wanted to win and to run faster than winning Class LL last week. She was three seconds slower, but many runners and coaches said the muddy course and humidity were not ideal conditions.
Area runners qualifying for the New England championships were Ridgefield senior Lauren Hergenrother (18:58), who finished fourth, Fairfield Warde senior Cate Allen (19:02) sixth, Immaculate senior Carly Schuyler (19:21) 10th, Wilton junior Sarah Healy (19:23) 11th, Staples junior Erica Hefnawy (19:26) 12th, Darien junior Anne Johnston (19:35) 16th and Wilton sophomore Mary Lynch (19:42) 21st. Qualifying among the boys were McMahon sophomore Eric van der Els (16:20), who was sixth, Staples senior Peter Elkind (16:29) 11th, Warde senior Aidan Fiol (16:32) 14th, Brookfield senior Parker Timmerman (16:37) 18th, Staples junior Oliver Hickson (16:40) 19th, Darien sophomore Armstrong Noonan (16:41) 20th, Pomperaug senior Samuel Depalma (16:41) 21st, Darien senior Marshall Huffman (16:44) 24th and New Fairfield senior Michael McGonnigle (16:48) 25th.