MANCHESTER, Oct. 31 – Avon’s Claire Smith didn’t lose a single NCCC cross country meet in two years, capturing the NCCC championship as a junior and a senior.
Smith, who played soccer as a freshman and sophomore, has found success in track and field, winning a state championship in the 3,200 meters as a sophomore. In cross country, she knew she was good but she wasn’t quite sure how good she was.
There is no doubt any longer. Smith took the lead with about a half mile remaining in the 3.1 mile race to win the Class MM championship Saturday at Wickham Park in 20:04. She beat Waterford’s Sarah Huang by six seconds and third place Megan Powell of Guilford by 30 seconds.
Smith became the first Avon girl to win a cross country state title in 34 years since Mary McNutt won a Class S championship in 1975.
Smith was third for most of the race but she surged with about a half mile remaining to take the lead for good. The course was muddy and slow. After the first mile, Smith knew she had a chance to win the race. How? “I wasn’t tired,” she said with a grin.
Avon, which shared the NCCC championship this fall with Suffield and Granby and was undefeated (12-0) in the dual meet season, finished sixth in Class MM. Titi Vanriel was second for the Falcons in 24th place while Kalli Veldman was third in 40th place. Emily Kelly (55) and Kristen Volinski (62) rounded out the top five.
The last Avon runner to win a cross country title was Brian Lenihan in 1984 with a Class M title. Smith will compete in next week’s State Open championship. McNutt won two titles, also taking the Class M championship in 1974, the first year that the CIAC hosted a girls cross country championship meet.
Avon’s previous state
cross country champions
Mary McNutt, Class S, 1974
Mary McNutt, Class M, 1975
Brian Lenihan, Class M, 1984
Jeff Hyman, Class M and State Open, 1981
Buddy Harris, Class M, 1971
Robert Patrick, Class S, 1963
Class MM boys