MANCHESTER, Nov. 4 – Until Saturday, no Canton High runner had seriously challenged for a State Open championship. Canton senior Max Sparks gave it his best shot.
Sparks became the first Canton boy to finish in the top 10 at the State Open at Manchester’s Wickham Park, finishing seventh with a time of 16:21, to earn All-State honors and an invitation to run at Saturday’s New England championships in Belfast, Maine.
The Avon High girls cross country team, which won their third Class MM championship in four years a week earlier, took 13th at the State Open. They were led by Rhiannon Richmond, who finished 18th with a time of 20:41.
Canton freshman Julia Caputo finished 30th – the best finish by a Canton girl at the State Open since Sue Richardson finished seventh in 1975.
A week earlier, Sparks won the Class SS championship here at Wickham Park with a time of 16:26. He was in the second pack of runners for most of the race.
Fairfield Prep’s Drew Thompson and Cheshire’s Brendan Murray opened up a 10-second lead at the 2,000 meter mark of the 3.1 mile race (5,000 meters). Thompson, who won the race with a time of 15:44, pulled away with about 1,000 meters remaining. The pack nearly caught Murray, who finished second in 16:01.
The pack began to split in the later stages of the race. Sparks beat a group of four to finish seventh, beating Xavier’s Peter Schulten by a second, Staples’ Christian Myers by two seconds and Derby’s Ken Little by seven seconds.
Sparks gets to return to the Belfast course at Troy Howard Middle School where he finished second at the Maine Festival of Champions in late September with a time of 15:41.42.
Sparks’ seventh place finish here at the State Open tops the previous best finish by Chris Bussiere in 2005 when he finished tenth.
Richmond led Avon with an 18th place finish and a time of 20:41. Emily Foley (35th, 21:15) was the only other Falcon to finish in the top 50. Avon finished 13th with 300 points, nipping Old Saybrook by one point. RHAM, which Avon beat to win the Class MM championship, had a good race finishing seventh.
Glastonbury had four runners in the top 16 to win the State Open title with 80 points while Danbury took second with 128 points. Pomperaug was third with 136 points.
Caputo’s performance was a pleasant surprise. Her time from the Class SS championships was the 78th fastest of the day. But she improved enough to finish with a time of 20:42, good enough for 30th place. She was the third freshman finisher in the race.
“I told her anything in the top 100 would be a good race if she ran a smart race, according to a plan,” Canton coach Tim O’Donnell said. “My goal for her was to run a smart race – sort of conservative early on – and make gains in the second half of the race.”
At the halfway point of the race, Caputo was 34th. She moved up as far as 29th before finishing 30th. But it was 19 seconds than she ran a week earlier at the Class SS championship race.
She is just the third Canton girl with a top 50 finish at the State Open. Richardson was eighth in 1975 and Kim Powell was 49th in 2006.
Avon girls: 18. Rhiannon Richmond 20:41, 35. Emily Foley 21:15, 56. Rachel Martin, 21:45, 91. Rachel Nori 22:37, 100. Caroline Luby 22:55, 102. Ashley Martin 22:56, 125. Sarah Lancaster 24:59