Cross Country: Noble’s performance highlights great postseason for FCIAC runners

MANCHESTER – Greenwich’s Mari Noble may still be a junior but she has already secured her status as being among the best female distance runners in FCIAC history.

Noble has had quite the run of postseason success to confirm that. She was the individual champion at the CIAC State Open Girls Cross Country Championships and then the runner-up in the New England Interscholastic Cross Country Championships a week later.

Those two accomplishments highlighted the successes of many FCIAC runners and teams in those two meets.

Noble, who had previously won the FCIAC and state Class LL championship races in late October, added her State Open title on Nov. 1 at Wickham Park in what many cross country coaches and knowledgeable fans considered an upset victory over Pomperaug junior Kate Wiser at that particular time.

Noble won the 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) race at the State Open with a time of 18 minutes, 13 seconds and Wiser placed second with an 18:23.

Six days earlier Noble and Wiser won their respective state class championship races at Wickham Park. Noble won her Class LL race in 18:30. Meanwhile, Wiser impressed everyone when she set a course record of 17:39 to win the Class L race. Wiser broke the old record of 17:41 which former Staples star Hannah DeBalsi set six years ago as a sophomore at the Class LL championships.

Wiser was also the defending State Open individual girls champion. She won the 2018 State Open with a 17:59 which was 59 seconds faster than runner-up Claire Daniels of New Milford and exactly a minute faster than Noble, who finished third. And add in the fact that on the same day they both won their state class championship races this year when Wiser’s time was 51 seconds faster than Noble’s, Wiser was considered a presumptive favorite to defend her State Open championship.

But it would be Noble’s day at this year’s State Open. Noble was strong all race and steadily pulled away from Wiser to win by 10 seconds as Noble’s winning time of 18:13 was 17 seconds faster than her own Class LL winning time of 18:30.

As stunning as Noble’s victory over Wiser appeared to be at that time, Noble then proved it was not a fluke when she placed second in the New England Championships with a 17:57 on the same Wickham Park course on Nov. 9 and ran 12 seconds faster than Wiser, who placed third with an 18:09.

Sofie Matson, a sophomore from Falmouth, won the race in 17:52. Again, Noble had a significant improvement in time as her runner-up time of 17:57 at the New England Championships was 16 seconds faster than her winning time of 18:13 at the State Open.

Noble and five other girls from the FCIAC earned all-state accolades by having placed among the top 25 at the State Open.

Danbury junior Daniela Grullon Pena placed fifth overall as the second fastest FCIAC runner at the State Open with a time of 19:07. Eight days later Grullon Pena placed 11th when she ran 15 seconds faster (18:52) at the New England Championships.

The top five girls from the FCIAC at the State Open all improved their times on the same Wickham Park course at the New England Championships.

Trumbulll senior Alessandra Zaffina placed ninth in the State Open with a 19:18 and then ran 16 seconds faster when she was 19th at the New Englands with a 19:02.

Darien sophomore Mairead Clas was 10th at the State Open with a 19:24 and 34th at the New Englands with a 19:18.

Ridgefield senior Tess Pisanelli was similar to Noble in how they both perfected their postseason peaking to peak at the New Englands. Pisanelli placed 14th at the State Open with her clocking of 19:36 as the fifth fastest FCIAC runner and she made quite the significant drop when she ran 40 seconds faster and her time of 18:56 placed her 14th as the third fastest conference runner at the New Englands.

New Canaan junior Molly Murphy, who had a 19:43 when she took sixth and helped lead a tight pack of Rams to the Class L team title, secured her all-state status when she placed 17th at the State Open with a 19:42.

The FCIAC fared so well at the 2019 State Open Girls Cross Country Championships that 18 runners finished among the top 50 individually and the conference had seven teams place among the top 10 out of the 21 total teams.

Hall won the team championships with 110 points. Simsbury (136) was runner-up and followed by FCIAC teams Trumbull (155), New Canaan (173) and Danbury (191). Fellow conference teams Ridgefield (207), Wilton (274), Darien (274) and Greenwich (278) placed 7-through-10.

Emily Alexandru placed 26th with a time of 20:00 to help lead Trumbull’s Eagles to third place.

The other 11 FCIAC runners who finished among the top 50 included Ridgefield’s Elizabeth Jasminski (31st with a 20:13), Fairfield Warde’s Abigail Hart (35th, 20:20), Danbury’s Sarah Johnson (36th, 20:21), Fairfield Ludlowe’s Anna Keeley (37th, 20:27), Staples’ Tori Greenberg (39th, 20:28), New Canaan’s Sophie Curcio (40th, 20:30), Danbury’s Meilee Kry (41st, 20:30), Darien’s Charlotte Moody (42nd, 20:30), Ridgefield’s Katherine Rector (45th, 20:33), Wilton’s Emily Mrakovcic (48th, 20:36) and Brien McMahon’s Amanda Graham (50th, 20:38).

The boys from the FCIAC fared pretty well themselves at the State Open as six of them placed among the top 24 individually to while Ridgefield (181 points), Danbury (206) and Staples (209) placed 3-through-5 in team scoring.

Tolland (71) was the team champion and Conard (87) was runner-up. Conard’s superb sophomore, Gavin Sherry, won the 5K race in 15:38 to beat Xavier senior Robbie Cozean by six seconds. That same pair also went 1-2 at the New England Championships as Sherry won with a 15:30 and Cozean was four seconds behind Sherry.

Staples senior Morgan Fierro was the top FCIAC runner at both the State Open (fifth place with a 16:24) and New Englands Championships. He placed fifth at the State Open with a 16:24 and then ran dropped 11 seconds off his time at the New Englands when he was 14th with a 16:13. Charlies Namiot, a junior, placed 12th (16:35) while leading Ridgefield’s Tigers to third place at the State Open and he then he was also the second fastest conference runner at the New Englands when he ran six seconds faster and was 32nd with a 16:29.

The other four conference boys who placed among the top 24 and made all-state were Fairfield Warde senior Gregory Vogt (13th, 16:36), Danbury senior Jack Watson (14th, 16:36), Westhill junior Colin McLaughlin (21st, 16:40) and Greenwich senior Alexander Bein (24th, 16:41).

There were a total of 14 FCIAC runners among the top 50 at the 2019 State Open Boys Cross Country Championships. The other eight included Ridgefield’s Charles King (33rd, 16:56), Fairfield Warde’s Austin Hutchens (40th, 17:02), Ridgefield’s Trevor Demarco (44th, 17:04), Danbury’s Dylan Rosemark (45th, 17:05) and Jacob Hefele (47th, 17:06), Fairfield Ludlowe’s Nathan Cramer (48th, 17:07) and Sam Sweeney (50th, 17:08), and Staples’ Dillon Harding (49th, 17:07).

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