Photo: Arnold Gold / Hearst Connecticut Media
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Benjamin Seiple, right, of Staples, and Eli Nahom, left, of New Milford, placed fourth and fifth respectively in the CIAC Fall Championship Boys Cross Country race in Manchester in 2017.

Photo: Richard Gregory / Richard Gregory
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New Milford's Eli Nahom wins the Class L race for the second straight year at the state cross country championships at Wickham Park in Manchester Oct. 28, 2017.

The New Milford boys cross country team returns a solid core of runners this year and looks to once again compete for league and state titles.

And the girls team hopes to turn their hard work into wins as well.

A perennial contender in the South West Conference, New Milford boys had a streak of three straight Class L state championships snapped last season when it finished runner-up in Class L.

The potential is there for the Green Wave to return to their winning ways, but things will have to go their way as well.

“Our main goal is to stay injury-free. Everything begins there,” New Milford coach Chris Bacich said. “If that happens I really like our chances about getting back into the hunt for an SWC title. The Class L meet will be very competitive, but, as always, we’d like to go into that meet with a realistic chance at victory. Another goal is to qualify for the New England Championship Meet as a team.”

In his 21st season as Green Wave coach, Bacich has a team that will be led by key returners Eli Nahom, Mike Rafferty, Garred Farrell, R.J. Harkin, and Jason Golembeski.

“Individually, Eli has had a terrific running career and he’s a fine number one runner to have for setting the pace,” Bacich said. “Garred and R.J. look to be in our top group with a talented batch of runners following up. It remains to be seen as to who will step up to complete the scoring group and chart the course of this year’s team, but I’m very optimistic based on what I've seen so far.”

According to Bacich, freshman James Najera has been doing an excellent job in early-season practices and could make an impact. One of the team’s preseason top five hopefuls was sophomore Sam Quigley, whose family has moved. He is now at Shepaug, where Bacich thinks he’ll do very well and be a major contributor.

The boys have their first home meet on Monday when they host Bethel and Brookfield. The Green Wave will then run on Sept. 22 in the Amherst Cross Country Invitational in Massachusetts.

On the girls side coach Giles Vaughan is back for his sixth season in charge of the team.

Key returners for New Milford are senior captains Brooke Morabito and Katie Delaney, junior Julia Colley and sophomore Shannon Palmer. Freshman Claire Daniels is expected to contribute this season as well.

“Our goal is to improve as runners each day by doing all the little things, working hard, maintaining a positive attitude, and having a relentless passion for our sport,” Vaughan said.

The girls host Bethel and Brookfield on Monday before competing in the Winding Trails XC Invitational on Sept. 22 at Winding Trails in Farmington.

“We have great leadership in our two captains and they have worked hard all summer, hopefully we can turn all that hard work and training into competing at a high level as our dual meet season starts and improve and learn from each race that we run,” Vaughan said.