Sparks wins second straight NCCC title; leads Canton to third place finish

Senior Max Sparks defended his NCCC championship Saturday in Windsor Locks to help the Warriors finish third. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

WINDSOR LOCKS, Oct. 21 – Canton High senior Max Sparks thought about going after the league record at the NCCC cross country championship meet on Saturday afternoon at Windsor Locks High.

Sparks turned in a time of 15:54 a week ago in Canton’s final dual meet of the season in Windsor Locks – the host for the NCCC championship meet. Perhaps, Sparks could top the league record of 15:42 set in 1998 by E.O. Smith’s Kevin O’Connor.

Canton coach Tim O’Donnell was ok with the plan as long as he didn’t lose track of the ultimate goal – to win the race.

Sparks raced out to a quick start but settled down to win the NCCC championship meet for the second straight year with a time of 16:09 over the 3.1 mile course. Suffield’s Kyle Englander was a distant second with a time of 16:23.17 followed by teammate Jared Sharp in 16:34.99.

Canton’s Aidan O’Donnell holds off Bolton’s Michael Barrett to finish sixth and earn All-NCCC honors. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

Canton teammate Aidan O’Donnell joined Sparks on the All-NCCC team by finishing sixth with a time of 16:58.44 in his debut at the NCCC championship meet. O’Donnell played soccer for three years before joining the cross country team this fall.

Suffield easily won the NCCC championship for the second straight year. The Wildcats ran the table (13-0) in the dual meet portion of the season. At the NCCC championship meet, Suffield placed their top five runners in the top 15 spots to easily beat Ellington, 43-78.

Actually, Canton also scored 78 points. But Ellington finished second by prevailing on the sixth man tiebreaker. Ellington’s sixth runner was John MacGillis, who finished 31st while Canton’s sixth runner was Nicholas Lagonigro, who was 37th and 16 seconds behind MacGillis.

Sparks is the only Canton boy to win a conference championship. Tim O’Donnell said that Sparks looks stronger than he did a year ago.

“He’s in good shape – much better shape than he was a year ago,” O’Donnell said. “Everything has been more consistent this year. He looks strong.”

Sparks was undefeated in the NCCC – winning five dual meets. He won the Stratton Brook Invitational in Simsbury, setting a new school record on the course (16:33) in early September. He has been beaten just twice – finishing second at the Maine Festival of Champions in late September and at the Brewster (N.Y.) Bear Invitational earlier in October.

The addition of Aidan O’Donnell has helped, too. O’Donnell has been able to push Sparks in practice throughout the fall.

Canton ended up third in the league – their best finish in the league since taking second in 2014.

Canton’s James Szpekman (56) and Andrew Obrzut (50) battle in the final 50 meters of Saturday’s NCCC championship race in Windsor Locks. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

Granby finished fourth in the league, led by Evan Holm (11, 17:38) and Christopher Weber (14, 17:49), who each earned All-NCCC honors by finishing among the top 16. 

Sparks is the first boy to defend his NCCC cross country championship since Tolland’s Ryan King won back-to-back titles in 2007 and 2008.

The Warriors return to action on Saturday at the CIAC Class SS championship race at Wickham Park in Manchester at 3:45 p.m.

2017 NCCC championship meet results

2017 NCCC boys cross country standings

Team NCCC NCCC Tourn Pts Overall
x-Suffield 13-0 13 26 13-0
Ellington 12-1 12 24 12-1
Canton 11-2 11 22 11-2
Granby 10-3 9 19 10-3
Bolton 9-4 10 19 9-4
Somers 8-5 8 16 8-5
Stafford 7-6 7 14 7-6
Coventry 5-8 6 11 5-8
Rockville 6-7 4 10 6-7
Windsor Locks 4-9 5 9 4-9
East Granby 3-10 3 6 3-10
HMTCA 2-11 2 4 2-11
Hartford Classical 0-12 1 1 0-12
East Windsor 0-12 0 0 0-12

x-won league championship
Teams earn one point for every NCCC dual meet win and one point for each team they beat at the NCCC championship meet.

2017 NCCC Championships
At Windsor Locks
Team results – Suffield 43, 2. Ellington 78 (won tiebreaker, 6th man), 3. Canton 78, 4. Bolton 112, 5. Granby 124, 6. Somers 171, 7. Stafford 178, 8. Coventry 207, 9. Windsor Locks 249, 10. Rockville 264, 11. HMTCA 379, 12. Hartford Classical 383
Individual results – Max Sparks, Canton, 16:09.06 for 3.1 miles at Windsor Locks, 2. Kyle Englander, Suffield, 16:23.17, 3. Jared Sharp, Suffield, 16:34.99, 4. Taylor Ney, Coventry, 16:48.92, 5. Daniel Meaney, Ellington, 16:55.07, 6. Aidan O’Donnell, Canton, 16:58.44, 7. Michael Barrett, Bolton, 16:58. 73, 8. Joshua Stone, Ellington, 17:07.59, 9. Deon Sanchez, East Windsor, 17:16.51, 10. Jake Leroux, Stafford, 17:18.44
Other Canton runners – 20. Matthew Webb 18:11, 25. James Szpekman 18:35, 26. Andrew Obrzut 18:36, 37. Nicholas Lagonigro 19:10, 42. Sean Richard 19:22
Other Granby runners – 11. Evan Holm 17:38, 14. Christopher Weber 17:49, 28. Luke Jennings 18:41, 35. Simon Matthews 19:06, 36. Nathaniel Orluk 19:08, 54. Anthony Spica 19:52, 64. Owen Bogli 20:52

League champions
Individual league champions from Canton in cross country
Northwest Conference
1976 – Sue Richardson
1978 – Kelly Rainey
NCCC
2004 – Melissa Hambley
2016 – Max Sparks
2017 – Max Sparks

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