FCIAC cross country stars hit the trails for state meet Saturday

With the Danbury having nipped Staples by three points in a tight race for the team title at the FCIAC Boys Cross Country Championships on Oct. 21, that also paved the way for Danbury’s Hatters to supplant Staples as the top-ranked team in the state in the most recent state poll.

Brien McMahon's Eric van der Els led from start to finish at last week's FCIAC bpys cross country championship. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Brien McMahon’s Eric van der Els led from start to finish at last week’s FCIAC bpys cross country championship. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Danbury, Staples, Fairfield Warde and Ridgefield are all ranked among the top nine in the Top 10 boys state poll for Week 6 while Ridgefield and Staples are among the top five in the Top 10 girls state poll voted on by coaches throughout the state and released by the New Haven Register on Oct. 27.

The tabulation for the top spot in the boys poll was as tight as could be. Danbury and Amity both received four first-place votes but Danbury compiled 99 points, just one more than Amity. Both teams defended conference championships the previous week as Amity won its second consecutive SCC title.

Coach Rob Murray’s Danbury Hatters won this year’s FCIAC championship with 71 points, three less than Staples. Last year Danbury nipped Staples for the conference crown by just one point, 58 to 59.

Staples compiled 96 points in the latest state poll as coach Laddie Lawrence’s Wreckers slipped down from first to the third spot.

Fairfield Prep compiled 71 points in the voting to be ranked fourth and the Jesuits were followed by Glastonbury (62 points) and Norwich Free Academy (47).

Fairfield Warde, which placed third with 99 points at the FCIAC Championships, is ranked seventh in the state with 42 points. New Milford (38) is eighth.

Ridgefield is that fourth FCIAC team among the top nine. The Tigers, who placed fourth at the conference championship meet with 131 points, got 15 points in the state poll. Guilford is just one point behind Ridgefield in the 10th spot.

Most of the highest-ranked boys teams will run against each other in Saturday’s Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Boys Class LL Cross Country Championships at Wickham Park in Manchester at 10:55 a.m.

Defending champion Amity, last year’s runner-up Danbury, Staples, Warde and Ridgefield are all in that LL race while the other FCIAC teams in that race include Bridgeport Central, Brien McMahon, Fairfield Ludlowe, Greenwich, Norwalk, Stamford, Staples, Trumbull and Westhill. Last year Danbury won the State Open and Ridgefield was runner-up.

McMahon senior Eric van der Els gave his school its first-ever FCIAC individual champion last week and he should be among the leaders this year. Last year van der Els placed sixth in the Class LL meet with a time of 16:19 over the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) course and a week later he was ninth in the State Open with a 16:05.

In the Week 6 girls Top 10 poll, CCC champion Glastonbury seized the No. 1 ranking with nine first-place votes. Tolland, which had been No. 1 the previous five weeks, received three first-place votes and fell to the second spot.

Ridgefield, which won the FCIAC team title, also received three first-place votes and is No. 3 as the highest-ranked FCIAC team. Newtown is fourth.

Staples is ranked fifth as that second and only other team in the state Top 10. The wondrous senior Hannah DeBalsi won her third straight FCIAC individual title while leading the defending champion Wreckers to second places.

DeBalsi will look to add on to the many individual titles she has already racked up in championship races. Last year she won State Open in dominant fashion by 44 seconds with her time of 17:59 over the 5K course a week after she won the Class LL race in 18:14.

Two years ago as a sophomore DeBalsi won the Class LL race with an excellent time of 17:41, 22 seconds ahead of runner-up and Westhill senior Claire Howlett. One week later DeBalsi set the State Open record of 17:44 when she won by 27 seconds over Howlett.

The improvement DeBalsi made from her freshman year to her sophomore year was remarkable as she ran 2 minutes, five seconds faster in her sophomore State Open than the previous year. When DeBalsi was a freshman phenom she was runner-up with a 19:17 at the Class LL race and she placed 16th (19:49) at the State Open.

DeBalsi and the rest of the girls in this year’s Class LL race are scheduled to leave the starting line this Saturday at 10:20 a.m.

Staples' Hannah DeBalsi, a three-time FCIAC cross country champion, leads a pack of runners through Waveny Park last week. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Staples’ Hannah DeBalsi, a three-time FCIAC cross country champion, leads a pack of runners through Waveny Park last week. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

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