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Harrier heaven: FCIAC cross country finals ready to run in Waveny Park on Monday

NEW CANAAN – The Ridgefield High School boys and girls teams appear to have a solid chance of defending their team championships at the 2014 FCIAC Cross Country Championships at Waveny Park in New Canaan.

The meet, originally scheduled for Thursday, was postponed until Monday due to heavy rain Wednesday night into Thursday. The rain date of Friday was not used as the course is unlikely to dry out in one day.

Defending individual champion Hannah DeBalsi of Staples and Darien’s Alex Ostberg are among the preeminent high school distance runners in the country and they are both solid favorites to win the girls and boys races, respectively.

The varsity races begins with the girls’ race at 2:55 p.m., followed by the boys’ race at 3:25 p.m.

• Click here for the course map •

Schedule of events for Monday, Oct. 20

2:15 – Freshman Races (1.5 miles)

2:45 – Girls Varsity Race

3:20 – Boys Varsity Race

4:00 Girls Junior Varsity Race

4:30 Boys Junior Varsity Race

5:00 Awards Ceremony at Waveny Pool

Ridgefield, Staples and Darien figure to be the top teams in both races while the Danbury boys and Wilton girls are also expected to be among the top teams in their respective varsity races.

DeBalsi won last year’s 4,000-meter race with a course-record time of 13 minutes, 29 seconds. DeBalsi and her teammate, Erica Hefnawy, who placed sixth with a 14:48, helped lead Staples to second place.

Ridgefield won with 52 points. Hannah Fleming was a Ridgefield junior last year who placed 10th and was one of four Tigers among the top 13. Staples placed second with 57 points. Wilton placed third with 74 and was followed by Fairfield Warde (91) and Darien (105).

Darien senior Anne Johnston finished seventh last year with a 14:53 and is a solid candidate to be the top girl chasing after DeBalsi. Wilton junior Mary Lynch placed eighth (15:12) last year and could once again be among the top runners in the county.

A strong newcomer is Westhill senior Ericka Randazzo, who switched to cross country as her autumn sport after previously playing soccer.

Ostberg was runner-up last year in the boys’ race and just three seconds behind Trevor Hopper, a senior last year who led Ridgefield to the championship with his time of 15:15 that set a course record on the five-kilometer (5,000 meters) course that is made up predominantly of fields and trails in the woods at Waveny Park.

Also for Ridgefield last year, Austin Gilbert was a junior who placed fifth overall with a time of 16:04, Kristian Sogaard was a junior who placed eighth (16:11), and Gabe Altopp was a sophomore who was 10th (16:15) as the fifth and final scoring Tiger. They are among a strong core of Ridgefield’s returnees, which is why the Tigers are expected to be a key contender.

Also last year in the boys race, Brien McMahon junior Eric Van der Els placed fourth (15:53), Staples senior Oliver Hickson was sixth (16:09), Danbury senior Corey Mullins took seventh (16:10), and Darien junior Armstrong Noonan placed ninth (16:13).

Wilton senior Spencer Brown finished in 37th place (17:23) before he improved so much during his junior year that he was one of the best distance runners in the state by the end of last spring’s outdoor track and field season. That has carried over to this fall as Brown was undefeated during the dual meet cross country season and is probably Ostberg’s strongest challenger.

Ostberg did not run when Darien and Wilton raced against each other this cross country season. Ostberg sat out some dual meets to focus his training toward success this postseason.

Ostberg revved up for that this past Saturday when he won the Eastern States Championship at the Reebok-Manhattan Cross Country Invitational at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx with a time of 11:57.2 over the 2.5-mile course.

Ostberg has a chance to break Hopper’s course record but the conditions may make that a tougher task.

Ridgefield's Will Bordash (left) and McMahon's Eric van der Els compete in the 2012 FCIAC cross country championships in Waveny Park. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

Ridgefield’s Will Bordash (left) and McMahon’s Eric van der Els compete in the 2012 FCIAC cross country championships in Waveny Park. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

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