WINDSOR LOCKS, Oct. 21 – As September approached, Canton High coach Tim O’Donnell wasn’t sure how many runners he would have on the girls cross country team. Six runners graduated and two were set to return – senior Belle Magna and junior Helena Winkler.
“I was very concerned we wouldn’t have enough people to score,” O’Donnell said. Five runners are necessary to score in cross country.
Senior Jane Frawley joined the team for the first time. She had played girls soccer her previous three seasons but she had success competing with the indoor track and outdoor track teams the past two years – winning individual NCCC championships in indoor track and outdoor track.
Junior Lila Hunt was another former girls soccer player to join the squad. Julia Caputo led a group of five freshmen on the team.
For just the second time since they joined the NCCC, the girls went undefeated in the regular season (13-0) with a six-point win over defending league champion Ellington, 25-31, in mid-September and a seven-point win over Somers, 24-31, a week ago.
In 2006, the Canton girls went undefeated in the dual meet portion of the schedule but finished fourth at the NCCC championship meet to finish tied for second place. Teams earn one point for each dual meet victory and one point for each team they beat at the league championship meet.
On Saturday, the Canton girls took care of business – convincingly. The Warriors placed four runners in the top 10 to easily beat Ellington, 46-73 and win their first-ever NCCC championship. It’s the first league title for the girls cross country program in 38 years. Canton’s last pennant in girls cross country came in 1979 when the Warriors won the Northwest Conference championship.
Somers’ sophomore Kylie Raymond won the league championship running the 3.1 mile course in 18:59.88. Frawley was second in 20:12 with Caputo fourth in 20:16. Winkler was fifth in 20:30 and Magna finished tenth in 21:07. All four runners earned All-NCCC honors.
Hunt rounded out the top five for Canton finishing 25th with a time of 22:36.
Ellington had two runners in the top 10, led by Kathryn Bonanno in third place (20:15) and Lia Guerrette (20:35) finishing sixth. But the Purple Knights next runners were 12th, 19th and 33rd, respectively.
“The girls really took it in stride,” O’Donnell said. “The goal was to run a good race. We felt if we ran well well we could be competitive.”
And the Warriors ran smart. At the start of the race, one young athlete sprinted away into the lead. Sometimes, it encourages other runners to race after them, expend too much energy early in the race and fade as the race progresses.
“They stayed back and didn’t race after that runner,” O’Donnell said. “As the race progressed in intensity, they stayed strong. They’re a quiet group. Many of them are first-year (cross country) runners.”
Canton had finished second the past two seasons at the NCCC championship meet. Granby (11-2) finished third, led by Jessica Gerace, who finished ninth in 20:48 to earn All-NCCC honors.
The Warriors will return to action on Saturday when they compete at the CIAC Class SS championships at Wickham Park in Manchester at 3:10 p.m.
2017 NCCC championships
At Windsor Locks
Team results – 1. Canton 46, 2. Ellington 73, 3. Somers 78, 4. Granby 94, 5. Suffield 113, 6. Stafford 115, 6. Coventry 171, 7. East Granby 191
Individual results – Kylie Raymond, Somers, 18:59.88 for 3.1 miles at Windsor Locks, 2. Jane Frawley, Canton, 20:11.09, 3. Kathryn Bonanno, Ellington, 20:14.80, 4. Julia Caputo, Canton, 20:15.89, 5. Helena Winkler, Canton, 20:29.79, 6. Lia Guerette, Ellington, 20:34.20, 7. Gabby Zeller, Suffield, 20:37.97, 8. Lynesey Maloney, Stafford, 20:40.33, 9. Jessica Gerace, Granby, 20:47.61, 10. Belle Magna, Canton, 21:06
Other Canton runners: 25. Lila Hunt 22:36, 44. Hannah Sevigny 25:12, 45. Rebecca Lagonigro 25:14
Other Granby runners: 18. Kennedy Baggott 21:48, 20. Amy Briggs 21:59, 23. Hannah-Micayl Shoaf 22:33, 24. Erin Gilhooly 22:35, 31. Shannon McCord 23:22, 36. Bailee Kendrick 24:01
2017 NCCC girls cross country standings
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.