More often than not during the past half-century, the New Milford High School boys cross country team basks in some well-deserved attention as a league champion.

Still, as any coach or runner for the Green Wave would say over the last 50 seasons, each championship is sweet.

And it was sweet again last Friday in Bethel, as coach Chris Bacich's NMHS harriers outlasted Newtown to claim the South-West Conference title plaque.

Even considering New Milford's remarkable run in the sport, this fall's SWC laurels are very special.

The title is the 10th straight for coach Bacich and his program, an unprecedented run in cross country, or possibly any other sport by the Greeen Wave.

"Obviously, the 10th consecutive championship milestone means a lot to the program," admitted the NMHS mentor. "And hopefully to those who have been part of this proud tradition."

Starting in 1962, the Green Wave won 16 crowns in the old Western Connecticut Conference.

Coaches Mike Abraham and Chris Bacich have guided New Milford to another 13 in the South-West Conference since the mid-1990s.

As has nearly always been its calling cards, balance and packability were the Green Wave's keys to success in Bethel.

On a course still muddied by recent rains, even after the race had been postponed 24 hours, the Green Wave placed runners in fourth, seventh, ninth, 14th and 16th places to total 50 points for its first five finishers.

Newtown claimed first and third place individually, but its next three runners -- 13th, 19th and 22nd -- couldn't match NMHS' packing.

"The gap between our first and fifth runner was an impressive 27 seconds," noted coach Bacich, who hopes for still better in the upcoming state races.

"But even that can be improved upon."

The Green Wave was led by Stephen Anderson, fourth in 17.13.6, some 41 seconds behind individual champ Jame Feinstein, of Newtown.

"It was a solid day for Stephen, who has solidified his leadership role as our top finisher in every race so far this season," said Bacich.

John Hansell was hot on Anderson's heels, placing seventh at 17:18.5 over Bethel's hilly, five-kilometer course.

"John recently finished a tough bout with strep throat," said coach Bacich, "but got back into form in time to put in an excellent effort."

Not far behind, sporting championship green, were Ryan Clarke (9th, 17:25.2), Zach Guptill (14th, 17:33.3) and Noah Rossiter (16th, 17:40.8).

Coach Bacich was impressed by Guptill's title-race effort.

"Zach proved himself to be a crunch-time performer," he said.

Completing the Green Wave's title run were Adam Dengler (34th, 18:13.3) and Greg Hansell (38th, 18:21.2).

Its grip on the SWC secure for another year, the Green Wave now look ahead to state and New England possibilities.

The CIAC's state class races will be held tomorrow (Saturday) at Wickham Park in Manchester, and the Green Wave is faced with the test of state Class LL.

"Class LL will be a big challenge," said coach Bacich, "but we're getting into postseason form and looking very sharp."

Many of the state's foremost boys teams reside in LL'

"Xavier, Amity, Danbury, Fairfield Prep, Norwich Free Academy and Simsbury are considered the favorites on Saturday," said coach Bacich.

"So I guess we're considered dark horses, but I know we can compete with those teams."

For a program with two New England titles and six state titles on its resume over the past decade, New Milford must be considered a threat.

"It's been a great season so far," coach Bacich remarked, "but we're by no means done."

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The Green Wave girls cross country team headed into last Friday's SWC competition as the league's two-time champ.

Coach Tom Marks' squad was unable to match the firepower of the last two seasons, however, and settled for fourth place in the 14-team field.

Immaculate of Danbury easily claimed its first girls cross country title with just 46 points, compared with New Milford's 108.

Jessica Noteware (12th, 20:58.8) and Candice Weiss (14th, 21:07.3) showed the way for coach Marks' pack.

Contributing to the scoring were Gabby Passarelli (23rd, 21:36.1), Marissa Stumpf (29th, 21:56.7) and Sofia Amaral (21:59.2).

Also running varsity for the Green Wave were Rachel Watson (33rd, 22:12.1) and Erin Kersten (61st, 23:43.6).

-- Norm Cummings