LeDuc is first Canton runner to win a state title
MANCHESTER, Oct. 31 – The expectations for the Canton High boys cross country team going into Saturday’s Class SS championship meet at Wickham Park were high, especially among the athletes on the team.
Not satisfied with going undefeated for the first time in school history (24-0) or with winning its first-ever league championship, the Warriors had their eye on a state championship.
They knew defending champion Weston would be the team to beat. Canton had finished second to Weston a year ago. This was the race that Canton had in mind on those hot, summer days when individual runners prepared for the season and during the fall when they suffered and grew together through coach Tim O’Donnell’s hard workouts.
Canton’s Mike LeDuc became the first runner in school history to win a state championship in cross country with a Class SS record time of 16:29 and the Warriors had five runners in the top 21. But Weston had four runners in the top 13 to nip Canton by five points, 63-58.
“They were not happy,” O’Donnell said. “Mike won the state championship but there was no joy in his face. He was more disappointed that the team didn’t win than his winning.”
LeDuc beat Weston’s Steven Piscatelli by seven seconds, taking the lead near the mid-point of the race and never letting it go. Brian Magna finished fifth, about 13 seconds behind Weston’s James Bloom in fourth place.
Weston’s Stephen Vento took seventh in 17:31 but Canton’s Jon Cahill (17, 18:00), Kevin Kurnat (19, 18:04) and Ned Furtney (21, 18:06) were a bit too far behind. “We got off to a slow start and didn’t attack the course in the middle,” O’Donnell said. “We moved up but we weren’t were we needed to be.”
While Canton was disappointed with its performance, their overall team time (top five runners) was the fourth fastest time of the day. Canton would have easily won the Class S, M and MM titles. The Warriors qualified for the State Open for the second straight year on Friday, Nov. 6.
“We have another chance to win a state championship next week,” O’Donnell said. “If we have a good day, we can beat any team in the state.”
It remains to be seen if they can beat every team in the state but the Warriors will be striving to make a statement and finish in the top six to earn a spot at the New England championships.
LeDuc was able to resist the temptation to race out with Northwest Catholic’s Nick Greco in the early stages of the race, who led a quick pace on a cold, windy day. LeDuc took the lead around the 3,000 meter mark and began to pull away from Piscatelli and Greco.
NOTES: Canton’s Jon Melite and Nick Chekas were the 6th and 7th runners on the squad and did not score. Only the top five runners score. But they helped by beating Weston’s fifth runner Chris Piscatelli, pushing him down another two spots. … Canton finished second for the third time in school history.
2. Stephen Piscatelli, 16:36
4. James Bloom, 16:55
7. Stephen Vento, 17:31
13. Ryan Gilmore, 17:43
32. Chris Piscatelli, 18:27
(67. Jack Curran, 19:22)
(69. Noah Krassin, 19:24)
1. Mike LeDuc, 16:29
5. Brian Magna, 17:08
17. Jon Cahill, 18:00
19. Kevin Kurnat, 18:04
21. Ned Furtney, 18:06
(26. Jon Melite, 18:20)
(27. Nick Chekas, 18:21)
Class SS boys