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Ostberg, DeBalsi lead FCIAC harriers at New England cross country meet

It has been sustained excellence and dominance by distance runners Hannah DeBalsi and Alex Ostberg that enabled them to get a proverbial Grand Slam in that they were individual champions in all four of the championship cross country meets they ran in.

DeBalsi, a Staples junior, won the girls’ race while Ostberg, a Darien senior, was the boys’ champion at the 80th New England Interscholastic Cross Country Championship at Wickham Park on Nov. 8 in Manchester, Ct.

DeBalsi and Ostberg have run away from the field and won by comfortable margins all four times to give credence to the fact that they are among the preeminent high school cross country runners in the country.

DeBalsi won the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) girls’ race at the New England Championship with a time of 17:58 to beat runner-up Gabrielle Richichi by 25 seconds. Richichi is a senior from New Fairfield HS.

Anne Johnston, a Darien senior, was the second fastest runner from the FCIAC and 25th overall with a 19:19. Also from the FCIAC, Wilton junior Mary Lynch placed 28th (19:22) and Staples senior Erica Hefnawy was 44th (19:41).

Staples placed sixth in team scoring with 296 points as the top team from the FCIAC. La Salle Academy (R.I.) won the team title with 80 points and Coe-Brown (N.H.) was second with 93.

Ostberg won his 5K race by 22 seconds as he had a winning time of 15:07 while runner-up Ari Klau, a senior from Hall, had a 15:39.

A pair of FCIAC runners from Ridgefield took the next two places. Austin Gilbert, a senior, placed third with a 15:46 and his junior teammate Gabriel Altopp was just two seconds behind Gilbert and in fourth place.

The FCIAC was very impressive in the boys’ meet as three conference teams finished in places 2-4 in the team scoring, seven FCIAC runners were in the top 15 individually and 15 conference runners placed among the top 56 out of the 264 total finishers.

Eric Waterman finished in 33rd place (16:28) to lead Danbury to second place as he was the first of the five Hatters who packed themselves within 21 seconds of each other. The other four scoring Danbury runners were Ryan Ansel (36th, 16:32), Corey Mullins (49th, 16:42), Ryan Fox (54th, 16:47) and Jack Adamski (56th, 16:49).

La Salle Academy (R.I.) cruised to the team championship with 67 points. Danbury had 144 points to nip Ridgefield by a point and Staples placed third with 154 points.

Kristian Sogaard was Ridgefield’s third runner and he placed 20th overall with a 16:15.

Oliver Hickson (12th, 16:10), Jake Berman (23rd, 16:17) and James Lewis (28th, 16:24) led Staples.

Darien junior Michael Noonan placed eighth with a 16:01. Noonan was the fourth fastest and Hickson the fifth runner from the FCIAC.

Spencer Brown of Wilton placed 14th in 16:11 and Brien McMahon’s Eric Van Der Els was just a second behind Brown as the seventh FCIAC runner in the top 15.

DeBalsi and Ostberg have won their four championship races within a span of 20 days.

They each won the FCIAC championship on Oct. 20 and they both had to hustle to their homes from the post-race ceremony at Waveny Park in New Canaan so that they could then hustle to Old Greenwich for the Fairfield County Sports Commission’s 10th annual Sports Night gala event because they were both honored as the Sportsperson of the Year in their respective towns.

Four days later DeBalsi and Ostberg won their respective state class championship races.

DeBalsi won by an incredible margin of 86 seconds when she led Staples to second place at the CIAC Class LL Girls Cross Country Championship. DeBalsi had a time of 18:14 over the 5K Wickham Park course and New Milford’s Mia Hahom was second in 19:40.

Hefnawy, DeBalsi’s teammate, placed third with a 19:45. Glastonbury won the team championship with 56 points. Staples placed second with 91 and Ridgefield was third with 99.

Haley Greene of Ridgefield placed 11th with a 20:41 and Westhill’s Erika Randazza was just behind her in 12th place with a 20:41.

Ostberg led Darien to second place when he won the CIAC Class L Boys Cross Country Championships with a 15:21 to win by 1:02 of the runner-up, Wilton’s Brown (16:23). Darien’s Noonan placed third with a 16:24.

New Milford won the team title with 70 points and Darien had 87.

Amity won the Class LL team championship with 90 points and Danbury was runner-up with 95. Hall’s Klau won the race with a 15:48. Gilbert and Altopp placed second and third, respectively, with identical times of 16:11 to lead Ridgefield to third place with 106 points.

DeBalsi and Ostberg each won their third champonship race and Danbury was the boys’ team champion at the State Open on Oct. 31 at Wickham Park.

Ostberg (14:58) won by a comfortable 36 seconds over Klau (15:34) and Brown (15:38) was third.

The FCIAC excelled with 11 runners among the top 15 and by having the top three teams. Danbury won with 83 points, Ridgefield had 94 and Staples 109.

The other conference runners among the top 15 were Gilbert (fifth, 15:52), Noonan (sixth, 15:55), Altopp (seventh, 16:01), Waterman (eighth, 16:02), Van Der Els (ninth, 16:05), Sogaard (11th, 16:07), Hickson (12th, 16:08), Berman (14th, 16:11) and Lewis (15th, 16:11).

DeBalsi was also dominant in winning the State Open as her winning time of 17:59 was 44 seconds ahead of Coventry’s Elisabeth Jean (18:43), the runner-up.

Johnston (19:02) was sixth overall and second among FCIAC runners, while Lynch (19:11) placed 10th and Hefnawy (19:17) was 11th.

Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, shown competing during the FCIAC X-C championship in October, won the New England championship at Wickham Park on Nov. 8. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

Hannah DeBalsi of Staples, shown competing during the FCIAC X-C championship in October, won the New England championship at Wickham Park on Nov. 8. (Dave Stewart/Hersam Acorn Newspapers Photo)

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