Season Preview: Area boys cross country teams must replace top talent this season

Published on Friday, 6 September 2019 19:47
Written by RYAN CHICHESTER

@ryanchichester1

The 2018 season saw plenty of individual and team success for local boys cross country teams, ranging from undefeated seasons and division championships to top-10 finishes at the state level. The upcoming season is almost here, and expectations shouldn’t be much different.

There will also be some teams in the rebuilding process, but even in those cases, individual school records are within reach and there is plenty of reason to pay attention to every local group.

Here is a closer look at each team:

NEW BRITAIN

Head coach: Lisa Kawecki (4th season)

Key losses: Matt Melluzo, Chaz Williams

Key returnees: N/A

Outlook: The Hurricanes lose two key pieces to their squad this year, with Matt Melluzo and Chaz Williams each graduating, after Williams joined the team last season and made an instant impact.

New Britain was in rebuilding mode last year and will likely be continuing that process this fall, though this season will bring some more familiar foes. After running against a number of new opponents last season, the Hurricanes have an almost identical schedule to 2018. Their younger runners will look to continue to build experience and hopefully follow in Williams’ steps by competing at the Class LL meet this year.

BERLIN

Head coach: Steve Soucy (11th season)

Key losses: Gianni Fanelli, Joshua Ladd

Key returnees: Michael Parzych (senior)

Outlook: The Redcoats say goodbye to a pair of productive runners in Gianni Fanelli and Joshua Ladd, the latter being an all-conference selection last season, but Michael Parzych is back for his senior campaign, and after earning all-conference honors as a junior following a 10th-place finish at the Class MM meet, he should be the leader of the team this season.

Parzych’s return should make the Redcoats a good bet to compete in the Class MM meet later this season.

NEWINGTON

Head coach: Jay Krusell (3rd season)

Last year: 14-0 (Colonial Division North champion)

Key losses: Aiden Toth

Key returnees: Sam Geisler (junior), Joe Bohlke (senior), Michael Bohlke (sophomore)

Outlook: Aiden Toth won’t be an easy runner to replace, given the all-conference selection finished 13th overall at the Class LL meet after breaking the Newington High School home course record earlier in the season. Still, fellow all-conference selections Sam Geisler and Michael Bohlke are back, and both were spectacular for the Indians as underclassmen last season.

Head coach Jay Krusell describes his group as a “young, unproven team,” but the pieces are certainly in place for a potential run at a third division title in as many seasons. Last year put Newington on the map, and this year could solidify its spot there.

SOUTHINGTON

Head coach: Dan Dachelet (6th season)

Last year: 9-5

Key losses: Ryan Slesinski

Key returnees: Lucca Riccio (senior), Matthew Penna (senior)

Outlook: Prior to last season, head coach Dan Dachelet called his Blue Knights team one that could produce a rebuilding season on one with a group of youngsters that would rise to the occasion. Southington looked much more like the latter, and that young group is back for another season.

All-conference selections Lucca Riccio and Matthew Penna return for their senior seasons, with Ryan Asido rounding out the team’s top three. After Asido is a bunch of unknowns, but not because Dachelet is struggling to find the talent to fill out a starting lineup. Instead, Dachelet is searching for the optimal lineup among a wealth of capable runners, prompting the head coach to say that this Blue Knights squad “‘may be the deepest boys team we’ve had in my tenure at Southington.”

PLAINVILLE

Head coach: Shaun Berard (14th season)

Key losses: Cole McNamara, Connor McNamara, Andrew Kane

Key returnees: Jeremy Courtar

Newcomers to watch: Javan Benoit

Outlook: The Blue Devils laced up their running shoes on Friday for the Blue Dragon Invite, and head coach Shaun Berard will be looking to see who stands out in the early parts of the season. There will be plenty of names to chose from, as Berard sees this team as the deepest at Plainville in almost six years.

Despite that depth, there were some key losses in Cole and Connor McNamara, who combined for five all-conference selections and were almost always among the top two finishers for the Blue Devils last season. Plainville might not have any individuals who will finish in under 18 minutes this fall, but it has a bunch of capable runners who can come in under 20 minutes and be competitive in the CCC South.

INNOVATION

Head coach: Greg Person (1st season)

Key losses: AJ Corso, Brennan Kievman, Carlos Gonzalez

Key returnees: Gabe Matias (junior), Jared Krueger (senior)

Outlook: The Ravens won the CRAL title in 2017, but the program now finds itself in the midst of a rebuild, which will be led by junior Gabe Matias, who finished the 5k in 18:33 last season. Matias is just 40 seconds off of a school record, and has two years to get it done.

Senior Jared Krueger will also be a strong runner this fall, but the focus of the program as a whole will be on building it back up to where it was two years ago. Greg Person will try to begin that rebuild in his first season as head coach, but look for that rebuild to last a couple seasons before Innovation is a contender again.

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or rchichester@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin, Innovation, New Britain, Newington, Plainville, Southington on Friday, 6 September 2019 19:47. Updated: Friday, 6 September 2019 19:49.