Hopkins captures FAA cross country team title; Burtson finishes first in race for the Hilltoppers
WESTPORT — Hopkins School senior Nick Burtson will leave quite a legacy when his cross country career is completed at the school.
Monday, Burtson added yet another FAA cross country trophy to his collection, while his Hilltoppers squad earned a sweet repeat.
Burtson crossed the finish line first for the fourth consecutive season at the FAA Championships, winning the 3.1-mile race in an impressive time of 16:58.9 at Sherwood Island State Park.
His first-place finish helped spark Hopkins to the team title for the second straight season, as it posted a team score of 38 points. Close behind Hopkins was runner-up Brunswick School (41).
“It’s really exciting to win the meet again,” Burtson said. “Every year the league changes. We have a really good team, but this year other schools have much stronger teams than they had the past few years, so that gave us more purpose.”
Burtson’s pace per mile was 5:27.
“A common habit for this course is to take out the first mile pretty quick, because the first mile is flat Burtson said. “We went out really fast, but I knew the first mile was too fast for me. I tried to relax a little bit for the second mile, so I could keep my momentum and have a strong start down the hill for the third mile.”
Brunswick sophomore Lucas Pombo was the runnerup, clocking in at 17:05.7.
“I’m pretty happy with my time, we definitely pushed each other within the grouping of the race,” Pombo said. “It’s a fast, straight course, which is nice and the water gives you some type of breeze, which was good. Some of our runners did better than forecasted, which was great to see.”
Junior David Judd had Hopkins’ next best finish, taking fourth in 17:33.8
“This season has been a lot harder than last year, because the league as a whole is a lot more competitive,” Judd said. “It was a lot more nerve-wracking this year, but the team won, so that’s what matters.”
Added Hopkins coach Miguel Pizarro: “We knew Brunswick was strong and only getting stronger and we knew they were coming for us. We were hoping to hold them off — our five and six kids stepped up for us.”
Charlie Garland, a junior, was third for the Bruins with a time of 17:22.6
“I wanted to break 17:30 and I did that, so I’m really happy,” Garland said. “I’ve run this course before, so I knew it pretty well and I think our team was very solid today.”
Said Brunswick coach Steve Polikoff, whose squad defeated Hopkins once this fall and finished second in the team standings during the regular season: “We have improved and gotten close in each race, this was a race that could have gone either way. Our top runner Lucas pressured Nick the whole way and our goal was to take the second and third-place finishes and Charlie Garland ran a really smart race.”
Brian Gall of St. Luke’s was fifth (17:49.1), followed by William Cooper (18:08) of Hopkins and Aaron Serianni (Rye Country Day School (18:08.5). Danny Gall (St. Luke’s), Matty Goodman (Brunswick) and Jonny Citron (Brunswick) rounded out the top-10.
“Some kids made all the difference for our team, like Jonny Citron,” said Goodman, a senior, who posted a time of 18:19. “Overall, our team did a really nice job and I’m proud of how well we competed.”
The top-10 finishers earned All-FAA Team honors. Those placing 11th-20th made FAA Honorable Mention. Billy Bennett (11th), Dean Kaduboski (14th) and James Davies (20th) made Honorable Mention for King, while Chris Ramos (17th) and Ryan Heinzerling (18th) earned such honors for the Bruins. Luke Brennan (12th) and Adam Hagens (15th) made Honorable Mention for King.
“It was really great for us, we had a little bit of a drought the past couple of years,” King coach Mark Lingle said. “We had one honorable mention last year and this year we have three for the guys, so it was a really positive race for us. They are young runners — 10th-graders and a junior — and they have dropped their times and made wonderful improvements.”
Greens Farms Academy placed third in the team standings (103), followed by St. Luke’s (106) and Rye Country Day (111) and King (111).