Commitment paid dividends this fall for a hard-working crew of Shepaug Valley High School boys' cross country runners.

The Spartans captured the state class `S' title Saturday at Wickham Park in Manchester to further gloss an already impressive record this fall.

Over Wickham's rolling, five-kilometer course, coach Tom Scarola's state champ harriers rode to victory the individual runnerup effort of Andy Pullaro (2nd, 16:32), and a balanced performance by teammates Ken Heyne (11th, 17:30), Evan Garrity (15th, 17:55), Matt Griffith (16th, 17:55), Cody Brennan (20th, 18:08), Ellery Rourk (22nd, 18:11) and Jim O'Donnell (59th, 19:30).

As one of their rewards, the Spartans will compete today (Friday) at Wickham in the state open race. Top teams would advance to the New England championship race set Nov. 13 at Thetford Academy in Vermont.

The state title is the seventh in the 14-year tenure of coach Scarola, who previously guided Spartan packs to state class `S' gold in 1997, '98, '99, '02, '03 and '04.

"This is truly an astonishing accomplishment for any coach," praised Spartan girls' coach Mike Hall, who ran for coach Scarola during his Shepaug days in the late '90s.

Shepaug is now ranked number one in state boys' class `S' annals with eight championships and two runnersup finishes.

"Coach Scarola has been challenging young men to be confident and quietly excel in all aspects of their lives," said coach Hall. "It is clearly evident that he has gotten his message through and these young men have responded to his challenge."

Cody Brennan perhaps best exemplified the team's dedication when, just moments before Saturday's state race he stepped on a nail and suffered a significant gash. The Spartan athlete was quickly taped up and proceeded to run his fastest time.

"These young men committed to doing what they could each day," said coach Scarola. "No looking to the past or the future."

"They focused on three things as the season closed," he added. "Run within 10 seconds of goal, position ourselves to pass people at the end of the race, and respond to the race. This team executed this plan beautifully."

Coach Scarola also paid tribute to coach Hall for his contributions.

"Mike Hall's presence is very important'" he opined "The entire program improves because of him. He is amazing. The girls' program is heavily involved in the team success."

The boys' state title came on the heels of a big day for the Region 12 athletes Oct. 22 when they claimed the Berkshire League championship at Black Rock State Park in Thomaston.

The Spartans had trailed Nonnewaug and Litchfield in the regular-season standings with their 8-2 ledger but the championship meet success earned Shepaug the league title.

Andy Pullaro showed the way for the Spartans at Black Rock with his second-place time of 17:01, just five seconds behind Blake Fenwick of Thomaston.

Contributing their legwork to the title run were Ken Heyne (5th, 17:30), Evan Garrity (8th, 17:34), Matt Griffith (15th, 18:07), Cody Brennan (17th, 18:16), Ellery Rourk (23rd, 18:36) and Ben Steers (42nd, 19:39).

Spartan girls

The Shepaug girls finished eighth in an 18-team state class `S' at Wickham last Saturday with 241 points, trailing state champ Thomaston (38) and Litchfield (140) among the five Berkshire League teams competing in that race.

Leading the Spartans was Kelsey Hall (19th, 21:52), followed by Gina DeMeo (40th, 23:06), Larissa Walsh (59th, 23:42), Tarry Bartkus (73rd, 24:26), Nikki Parzuchowski (82nd, 24:45), Brooke Parker (86th, 24:57) and Clare Dwyer (113th, 26:34).

"The girls performed exceptionally well this year," reflected coach Hall. "All the girls ran a great race. I am so very proud of both teams. Everyone worked extremely hard and was committed to giving their very best."

In Oct. 22's Berkshire League race at Black Rock Park, coach Hall and Co. posted a fifth-place finish among eight squads with 110 points, well in arrears of Thomaston's 32-point title performance.

Lending their skills to the Region 12 effort were Kelsey Hall (13th, 22:19), Gina DeMeo (21st, 23:16), Larissa Walsh (23rd, 24:07), Brooke Parker (27th, 24:39), Nikki Parzuchowski (30th, 24:53), Tarry Bartkus (32nd, 25:04) and Clare Dwyer (44th, 27:15).