Staples' Debalsi wins Class LL cross country, team places second
Debalsi, a junior and the defending State Open champion, won Saturday with a time of 18:14 to lead the Wreckers to a second-place finish. She led almost from the outset, and there was nobody else in sight when she crossed the finish line 76 seconds ahead of the next runner.
"I wasn't really going for time, I just wanted to get comfortable and cruise," Debalsi said. "I'm going to be racing two times next week here, so I was just cruising and trying to run the fastest time possible."
New Milford sophomore Mia Nahom, a key member of the Green Wave's varsity soccer team as a freshman at this time last year, took second behind Debalsi in 19:30.
Ridgefield placed its entire top-five in the top-25, taking third in the Class LL team standings, led by Haley Green in 11th (20:40), Ava Kelly in 21st (21:03), Olivia Gorski in 22nd (21:04), Hannah Mercorella in 24th (21:11) and Rachel Maue in 25th (21:13).
Leading sixth-place Newtown was Sarah Mawdsley in sixth (19:56) and Erin Tressler in ninth (20:30). Others in the top-25 included Amity's Emily Criscuolo in eighth (20:22), Westhill's Erika Randazzo in 12th (20:41), Trumbull's Katelynn Romanchick in 17th (20:59) and Julia Provenzano in 19th (21:02) and Warde's Gabi Galletta in 18th (21:01) and Sarah Radziewicz in 23rd (21:08).
For Darien's Anne Johnston, meanwhile, the matching gold medals around her neck represented the long journey she and her Blue Wave teammates had made in a relatively short amount of time. Johnston, a senior who began running cross country as a sophomore, won the Class L state title with a time of 19:26. And the Blue Wave, which had finished a distant fifth last year, captured the team title, edging second-place Mercy by just two points.
"Individual title, team title, it's probably the most exciting Saturday morning I've ever had," Johnston said. "We've come a long way. Coming in here, we knew we had a strong chance, but I never thought it would come true."
Also for Darien, Kate Halabi placed eighth (20:36), Amanda Percarpio finished ninth (20:44), Emilia Callery came in 22nd and was the fastest freshman (21:28) and Maddie Schneider finished 25th (21:35).
Sara Tarascio placed fourth (19:49), Allison Meyer finished 15th (21:06), Michaela Meyer came in 17th and Sydney Malaspina finished 20th (21:26) to lead Pomperaug to a third-place finish. Mary Lynch placed third (19:43) and Olivia Bernardini 21st (21:27) to lead Wilton to a fifth-place finish.
Richichi, a senior, won with a time of 19:06. It wasn't her personal best on this scenic course - she won the 2013 Class MM championship in 18:28 and the 2012 title in 19:34 -- but it was 16 seconds faster than Haley Hasty of Rockville in second place.
"This race is very special to me because it was the first championship I ever won," Richichi said. "It's very exciting every year, and this year we did very well as a team."
The Rebels took second place in the team standings by the slimmest of margins. They finished tied for first with Avon, each scoring 73 points after the first five runners were tallied, meaning the sixth-place runner would determine the winner. Avon's sixth runner, Gillian Reyes, finished 35th, while New Fairfield's sixth runner, Courtney Yaroscak, finished 47th.
Yaroscak, of course, was the hero of the Rebels' SWC championship run last week. New Fairfield finished tied with Pomperaug for the team title there, but Yaroscak's 32nd-place finish secured the title for the Rebels.
"We definitely did very well as a team," Richichi said. "We wanted to win, but we did very well. Every girl on our team gave everything today, and Avon did really well. I think we all ran a great race today."
Also for New Fairfield Saturday, Sabrina Rautter placed third (20:09), Melissa Evans finished 14th and was the fastest freshman (21:14), Bridget Zima took 22nd (21:34) and Kristen Richichi came in 33rd (22:27).
Gabrielle Lemma finished seventh (20:33) in Class MM to lead Barlow to a seventh-place finish in the team standings.
The Tolland girls, meanwhile, pitched the cross country equivalent of a perfect game, sweeping the top five places in Class M to win the title with the minimum of 15 points. Hayley Collins led the way with a winning time of 19:10. Also in Class M, Lily Stiffler of Foran placed 17th (21:26), Bethel's Savannah Pipkin finished 19th (21:30) and Bethel's Julia Fragomeli came in 22nd (21:40).
Defending champion Immaculate placed third in the team scoring. Diana Kirkman led the way, taking second in 20:34, just four seconds off the leader. Danielle Marcone placed sixth (20:48) and Shannon Ducey finished 25th (22:32).