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Sparks becomes second Canton runner to win a cross country state title

Canton’s Max Sparks became the second CHS runner to win a state championship in cross country. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

MANCHESTER, Oct. 28 – Max Sparks has his eye on the big picture. After finishing second here at the Class SS championships, he wanted to become just the second Canton runner to win a state title in cross country.

“He didn’t start out recklessly fast like he did last year,” Canton High coach Tim O’Donnell said. “He took the lead earlier than he should have, let (others) get back into the race but extended his lead in the last 1,000 meters when he virtually ran by himself.”

Sparks beat Haddam-Killingworth’s Andrew Meredith by 14 seconds to win the Class SS championship Saturday at Wickham Park with a time of 16:26 over the 3.1 mile course. He joins Mike LeDuc, who won in 2009, as the only Canton runners to win a state title in cross country.

“He’s in good shape and he ran well,” O’Donnell said. “He’ll have to run at a higher level (Friday at the State Open) but this helped his confidence by winning.” The State Open championship meet is Friday at 2:45 p.m.

Can Sparks run with the top runners in the state? “He should be competitive at the front,” O’Donnell said. “He has been more consistent this year. I would hope he can handle the pace and intensity. They are definitely not out of his league.”

A year ago, Sparks finished second behind H-K’s Daniel Schumann. This year, Sparks has been dominant. A few weeks before the season he said he had been running a few miles over the summer to get ready for the campaign. He was being modest.

Sparks has had a memorable season. He won all five dual meets he ran in. He set a new school record on Canton’s home course at Stratton Book Park in Simsbury (16:33) in September. He lost just twice to the current Maine state champion at Maine Festival of Champions in October on the same course that will host the New England championships in two weeks and to a runner from New York at the Brewster Invitational.

In his first CIAC cross country meet, Aidan O’Donnell finished 14th (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

Haddam Killingworth had five runners in the top 12 to easily win their fourth straight Class SS championship with a 39-104 win over Immaculate-Danbury. For the Cougars, it is the sixth Class SS title in the last seven years.

Canton nearly finished third. Old Saybrook nipped Canton, 153-154 for third place. Aidan O’Donnell finished 14th with a time of 17:34. The Warriors finished fourth to give Canton their ninth top four finish in the last ten years.

Fresh off their first NCCC championship win, the Canton girls finished third behind freshman Julia Caputo, who finished 11th with a time of 21:00 while Helena Winkler was 16th with a time of 21:20.

Canton freshman Julia Caputo (1521) earned a spot in Friday’s State Open championships. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

With four runners in the top 20 and five in the top 22 finishers, Haddam Killingworth won the Class SS championship for the second time in the last three years with a 72-108 win over Old Saybrook. For the third straight year, Canton was third in Class SS with 128 points.

Jane Frawley was 21st with a time of 21:34. Canton has finished in the top five in Class SS four times in the last five years.

Caputo and Sparks will be the only Canton athletes at the State Open on Friday.

Canton’s Helena Winkler races in Saturday’s Class SS championship meet in Manchester. (Photo courtesy Bill Brewster)

Individual results — 11. Julia Caputo 21:00, 16. Helena Winkler 21:20, 21. Jane Frawley 21:34, 30. Belle Magna 22:26, 50. Lila Hunt 23:59, 66. Rebecca Lagonigro 25:01, 81. Hannah Sevigny 26:21

Individual results — 1. Max Sparks 16:26, 14. Aidan O’Donnell 17:34, 36. Matthew Webb 18:43, 46. James Szpekman 18:58, 57. Nicholas Lagonigro 19:18, 77. Andrew Obrzut 19:51, 129. Sean Richard 20:58

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.

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