CANTON, Sept. 9 — It’s been a magical time for the Canton High boys cross country team the past two seasons.
In 2009, the Warriors won their first-ever NCCC championship, finished second in Class SS and earned a stunning fourth place finish at the State Open. A year ago, Canton (24-0, 12-0 NCCC) successfully defended its NCCC title with a three-point victory at the league championship meet and followed that up by capturing the first state championship in the program’s history by taking the Class SS crown.
Following that legacy could be daunting. But new head coach Bill Sarmuk is confident it will be a good season for the Warriors.
After 10 years at the helm, long-time coach Tim O’Donnell stepped down for personal reasons. But he leaves a nice core of runners led by All-NCCC senior Jon Cahill, senior Peter LeDuc, junior Tyler Steers, junior Julian Franklin and senior Mark Solomon.
It’s a squad that may be lacking in varsity experience but they have been racing at the junior varsity level for the past two years and have been working out with teammates that won a state title and have won 31 straight dual meets dating back to 2008.
“It’s kind of hard to improve on a state championship,” joked Sarmuk, who has coached cross country, boys track and golf at Goodwin Tech in New Britain along with boys and girls basketball at Canton. “It looks like we can be very competitive in the league. We expect a good season.”
Suffield, who has finished second in the league the past two seasons, returns virtually its entire team. Granby is returning several veterans and Avon is always a threat.
Sarmuk will also be coaching the Canton girls cross country team after the resignation of long-time coach Linda Cavanaugh. Sarmuk will receive some help from a volunteer coach, Kim Loveland, a former Simsbury High runner. O’Donnell coached both teams from 2004-08 but he had a paid assistant (Cavanaugh).
Senior Rose Minichello returns for the Warriors, who were 14-10 and 7-5 in the league, along with sophomore twins Jill and Megan Casey. Eliza Chekas, who ran track last spring, is out for the team and looks strong.
Canton hosts its home meets at Stratton Brook Park in Simsbury.