Strong performances were offered Saturday in state cross country competiton by both boys' and girls' packs from New Milford and Shepaug Valley high schools.
The Green Wave boys showed the way with their runner-up effort in a deep and talented Class LL field while competing at Wickham Park in Manchester.
Coach Chris Bacich's NMHS crew totalled 145 points for their best five finishers to edge Simsbury (152), South-West Conference champ Newtown (156), Ridgefield (156) and Amity (167) in a tight battle for the second-place silver plaque.
Pre-race favorite Danbury cruised to the title with its 94-point performance in a 27-school field.
For the Green Wave, John Hansell led the way with his 11th-place time of 16:49 over a rolling, five-kilometer course.
Rynn Clarke grabbed 16th in 16:55 and was followed by NMHS teammates Jay Humphreys (26th, 17:10), Zach Guptill (34th, 17:17), Hugh Sichel (58th, 17:41), Greg Hansell (72nd, 17:51) and Adam Dengler (88th, 18:02).
Coach Giles Vaughan's Green Wave girls captured sixth place in a 19-team Class LL field.
Shepaug's boys and girls matched fifth-place team efforts in state Class S competition.
Logan Ross clocked 16:50 to grab third place individually and lead the Spartan boys. He was followed by Ellery Rourk (26th, 18:32), Clayton Firmender (30th, 18:41), Ed Wolfe (32nd, 18:45), Steve Williams (68th, 19:50),Bill Heyne (74th, 19:59) and Sean Leveille (88th, 20:37) in the 161-athlete field.
Top qualifying teams and individuals will run Friday, Nov. 1, in the State Open race at Wickham Park.
For more photos, check www.newmilfordspectrum.com.
Photography by Norm Cummings
"Yes, it was disappointing to fall short at Thursday's meet, but Newtown came up strong in what we had initially thought was a "down" year for them as far as lineup strength. Their 2-3-4 ran very well, which combined well with their SWC champ front runner. We ran a fairly good race overall and things could have gone in our favor if a few little things had gone differently, but we weren't the best team that afternoon. Timewise, we ran better than we had the last two years when we were champions, but the circumstances weren't quite the same."
"We'll be facing a strong talent pool at the class meet, but I expect that we'll be shooting for a season high point after the SWC disappointment. John and Ryan should mix it up with the lead pack, but our 1-5 spread must be kept tight to ensure a low score against some deep teams. All seven of our guys have a job to do."
"Class LL has the best teams in boys cross country, so we can expect to see many of them qualifying for a rematch at the Open -- but we need to earn a spot as well."
"The late Coach Devin would have been a little disappointed in the outcome at the SWC meet, but we'll aim to make him proud with a strong effort at the Class LL title meet."
Coach: Chris Bacich, 11th year as coach, 15th year with the program.
Assistant: Ryan Rebstock.
2011 record, accomplishments:13-0 record; South-West Conference champions, seventh in state class `LL,' 10th in the state open.
2012 captains: Ryan Clarke, John Hansell.
Coach's outlook: "This year, we return five of our top seven varsity runners, with a number of talented newcomers. Despite that, only four of our 27 runners are seniors, two of whom are brand new to cross country. The lead group will likely be paced by Ryan Clarke and John Hansell. There should be quite a bit of shifting around among the 3-10 pack, which is loaded with talent. The 3-5 scoring will go to those who want it the most.
One of our goals is to win another South-West Conference title, but we would really like to return to being a true state powerhouse, both in state class `LL' and at the state open, and possibly beyond that. I'm optimistic about our chances of doing quite well. Our key people have worked hard over the summer and our freshmen class is collectively the most talented I've ever seen at NMHS."
Seniors: Louis Alhage, Ryan Clarke, John Hansell and John-David Izaguirre.
Sophomores: Brady Clarke, Colm Farrell, Richard Grudzwick, Greg Hansell, Ryan Lynch and Dylan Nenadal.