Staff reports

Cross country standout Hannah DeBalsi completed a perfect fall season by capturing the New England Championship with a course-record time of 17:15.8 on Saturday afternoon at Derryfield Park in Manchester N.H.

DeBalsi, who also won the FCIAC, Class LL and Open championships, set course records in all 10 races she ran this season. The sophomore defeated second-placed Claire Howlett (17:39.5) of Westhill by 23.7 seconds. DeBalsi's time was a personal best.

Teammate Erica Hefnawy (18:30.2) finished 20th in the field of 264 runners. Staples took eighth place with 300 points as a team. Erin Munley (20:11.5), Tyler Scanlin (20:18.1), Katherine Smith (20:23.5), Caroline Koenig (20:46.2) and Angelee Parmar (21:07.7) competed in the race for the Wreckers. Staples finished in eighth despite the absence of No. 3 runner Elizabeth French, who missed the race through injury.

"I wasn't really sure that to expect," Staples coach Amanda Parrish said. "I told the girls going in that we had a chance to place in the top 10. It was really hard to know; they've proven they've belonged there. Typically Connecticut is competitive compared to rest of New England. It was a learning experience."

The appearance in New Englands was the first since 1999 for the girls, a team Parrish was on.

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"Standing up at opens, finding out if we made it to New Englands brought back a lot of memories," Parrish said. "Comparing the times that the girls run now to back then; the more competitive its gotten. It's cool to see the girls get recognition at that level."

Derryfield Park, renowned for being a difficult course, was a new experience for the runners.

"It was a little bit of mix between exciting and nervous," Parrish said. "It was in a park that had a ski lift; the girls were saying `we have to run up a mountain that people ski down,?' We didn't know what to expect in terms of terrain. I tried as much as positive as possible and I thought they all did well."

The Wreckers should be primed for an even bigger season next year with DeBalsi, Hefnawy and French all returning. Next up for DeBalsi is a regional qualifier for the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships in New York Nov. 30.

"She's usually good at pushing herself when running alone; she is good at making sure she continues to press," Parrish said. "When she gets to Foot Locker that's going to be the first time there are people running as fast. I think her times go down when the competition picks up."

On the boys side, the Wreckers placed 10th as a team, led by 18th place finisher Oliver Hickson (15:53.9). Peter Elkind (16:19.7) and Jake Berman (16:20.0) also placed in the top 50 for Staples. Daniel Landy (17:14.1), Victor Olbin (17:29.9) and William McDonald (18:07.4) also ran the race for Staples.

Ridgefield's Trevor Hopper (15:08.5) edged Darien's Alex Ostberg (15:11.0) for the win. Fairfield Prep's Christian Alvarado (15:16.9) finished fourth.