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Canton breaks through

Four runners in top 19 gives Canton a Class SS state title
MANCHESTER, Oct. 30 – After coming so close in the past two seasons, the Canton High boys cross country team finally brought home the big trophy Saturday.

In 2008, the Warriors were a distant second to Weston in the CIAC Class SS championship race. A year ago, they lost by five points. On Saturday, they exhibited patience and determination to race to its first state championship in cross country.

Canton placed four runners in the top 19 to beat Nonnewaug, 94-123 and capture the Class SS championship. Northwest Catholic was a distant third with 154 points. Old nemesis Weston was eighth with 196 points.

Senior Nick Chekas was ninth with a time of 17:12 over the 3.1 mile course at Wickham Park in Manchester but teammates Jon Cahill (12), Jon Melite (17) and Ned Furtney (19) finished were right behind Chekas. All four runners finished within 13 seconds of each other.

Junior Peter LeDuc, who won the junior varsity race at the NCCC championships a week earlier, got the late bid to run in the race and finished a strong fifth, taking 37th place in 18:05.

Nonnewaug’s Scott Ramponi finished fifth but the Chiefs faded after that. Jonah Riolo took 21st but its next three runners finished in 30, 32 and 35th place, respectively. Northwest Catholic was hurt by its fifth runner finishing 77th.

It was Canton’s first state championship by a boys team since 2003 when the boys soccer team captured the Class S championship. It is the first Class SS title of any kind in school history.

“The difference was our ability to run the distance and be mature,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said. “They progressed upwards throughtout the race.”

Canton’s runners ran a strategic race. They remained close to the front but conserved some energy to make their move in the second half of the race to pick off less experienced runners who zipped out to the front of the pack too early in the race.

“The kids are mature and that helps,” O’Donnell said. “It makes me worry early in the race because they are doing what they are supposed to be doing.”

Kevin Kurnat (46, 18:15) and Jon Powell (54, 18:24) rounded out the top 7 for Canton.

And how did the Warriors react to the victory? “They were pretty happy but not giddy happy,” O’Donnell said. “They still want to do well next week. We can’t get caught in a big celebration yet. They still have a long (training) run ahead of them (on Sunday).

Canton qualified for the Friday’s State Open championships for the fourth straight year. A year ago, they finished fourth and became just the second Class SS school in state history to qualify for the New England championships.

To qualify for the New Englands, Canton will need its fifth runner to close the gap between the top four runners. And they will need to start a bit faster in a race filled with stronger and more experienced runners that won’t be as easy to catch and pass as they were in the Class SS race.

“We have been preaching patience all season,” O’Donnell said. “This race, we’ll have to get out a little faster and react to the stress that the body will be under. But they’re strong enough to handle it. They’ll feel horrible for a while but so will everyone else in the race.”

A championship effort
Runner          Year        Time
9. Nick Chekas       Sr.     17:12
12. Jon Cahill         Sr.     17:16
17. Jon Melite         Sr.     17:22
19. Ned Furtney     Sr.     17:25
37. Peter LeDuc     Jr.      18:05
45. Kevin Kurnat     Sr.     18:15
53. Jon Powell        Sr.    18:24

Top 10 teams
1. Canton 94,
2. Nonnewaug 123,
3. Northwest Catholic 154,
4. Haddam-Killingworth 156,
5. Griswold 158,
6. East Hampton 169,
7. East Catholic 175,
8. Weston 196
9. Ellington 198

10. Old Saybrook 264

CIAC results
Canton
Avon

State Open

Other previous top 5 finishes

2009 Class SS:
1. Weston 58,
2. Canton 63
2008 Class SS:
1. Weston 50,
2. Canton 106
2006 Class S:
1. Thomaston 49,
2. Bolton 90,
3. Old Lyme 118,
4. Portland 129,
5. Canton 130
2004 Class S:
1. Shepaug 75,
2. Canton 88
1996 Class S:
1. Tourtellotte 65,
2. Old Lyme 76,
3. Canton 97
1995 Class S:
1. Tourtellotte 80,
2. Coginchaug 122,
3. Canton 124
1994 Class S:
1. Coventry 80,
2. East Hampton 92,
3. Litchfield 122,
4. Canton 127
1993 Class S:
1. Stafford 48,
2. Coventry 99,
3. E. Hampton 109, 4. Tourtellotte 171,

5. Canton 177

Canton’s other previous top 5 finishes

2009 Class SS:
1. Weston 58,
2. Canton 63
2008 Class SS:
1. Weston 50,
2. Canton 106
2006 Class S:
1. Thomaston 49,
2. Bolton 90,
3. Old Lyme 118,
4. Portland 129,
5. Canton 130
2004 Class S:
1. Shepaug 75,
2. Canton 88
1996 Class S:
1. Tourtellotte 65,
2. Old Lyme 76,
3. Canton 97
1995 Class S:
1. Tourtellotte 80,
2. Coginchaug 122,
3. Canton 124
1994 Class S:
1. Coventry 80,
2. East Hampton 92,
3. Litchfield 122,
4. Canton 127
1993 Class S:
1. Stafford 48,
2. Coventry 99,
3. E. Hampton 109, 4. Tourtellotte 171,

5. Canton 177

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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