The fall sports season is upon us and the local boys cross country teams figure to be competitive this year, for the most part. A common theme for many of the teams is how to replace some of the area’s best runners from a year ago, something that will not be an easy process.
Overall, there are a few local teams that are still rebuilding and looking to improve, while the rest have the expectations set high.
Berlin figures to once again be among the best teams in not only Class MM but in the state despite the fact the Redcoats lost several key runners from a season ago.
Southington continued its upward trend last year and the Blue Knights expect to take another step this season. Like Berlin, Southington will have to replace some of its top runners that went on to qualify for the State Open, most notably the Murdy twins (Mark and Tom).
Plainville looks like it could have a high ceiling this season as the Blue Devils’ top three runners have head Shaun Berard expecting big things. It will just be a matter of how the team fills out the rest of its roster.
Newington took a positive step in the right direction in 2016, but the losses of some of its top runners could set the Indians back. They will be a team to watch closely.
As for New Britain and Med-Ed Prep, the two schools are in the process of building up their respective programs and are hoping for improvement this season. Both have key members returning and that should help the younger runners in the present and for the future.
Here is a closer look at the local boys cross country teams:
Head Coach: Lisa Kawecki (3rd season)
Last Year: N/A
Key Losses: Aaron Lugo
Key Returnees: Carlos Villarini (Senior), Manuel Rivas (Senior), Jayson Henao (Senior)
Newcomers to Watch: Jonathan Lindsay (Junior), Matthew Melluzzo (Junior)
Outlook: The Hurricanes are still in the process of building their program. The good news is their only key loss was standout Aaron Lugo. New Britain will be led a trio of senior who should provide plenty of leadership as well as experience of an up-and-down season. Senior Carlos Villarini looks to be the frontrunner of the team with fellow seniors Manuel Rivas and Jayson Henao right behind. There will also be a pair of newcomers to watch out for and could make an impact in juniors Jonathan Lindsay and Matthew Melluzzo. While New Britain might struggle to win meets this season, it will be the overall, long-term goal to keep in mind.
Head Coach: Steven Soucy (9th season)
Last Year: 6-5 (5th in Class MM)
Key Losses: Dan Perales, Alex Curtin, Steven Miano
Key Returnees: Mickael Parzych (Sophomore), Gianni Fanelli (Junior), Josh Ladd (Junior)
Outlook: The Berlin boys cross country team is coming off a very successful 2016 in which it finished sixth in Class MM, now its sights are set even higher. The Redcoats bring back a number of young runners that have plenty of experience, especially junior Gianni Fanelli who was a major contributor last season. Sophomore Mickael Parzych and junior Josh Ladd are also expected to play key roles. One of the positives head coach Steven Soucy noted was the shape his runners coming into the season.
“They did a lot of offseason conditioning and seem to be coming into the season in the best shape we have had in a while,” Soucy said.
That offseason work should pay immediate dividends.
Head Coach: Dan Dachelet (4th season)
Last Year: N/A
Key Losses: Mark Murdy, Tom Murdy, Jordan McMeans
Key Returnees: Connor Leone (Senior), Shane Leone (Senior), Ryan Slesinski (Junior), Mike Dorsey (Senior)
Newcomer to Watch: Matt Penna (Sophomore)
Outlook: Southington continued to build off a strong 2015 with an even better 2016 in which it finished seventh in the CCC and 12th at the state meet. As such, the Blue Knights have high expectations for this season with a strong showing in both the Class LL meet and the State Open in mind and head coach Dan Dachlet believes they have the runners to do so.
Southington did lose some key contributors, mainly the Murdy twins (Mark and Tom) as well as Jordan McMeans, which will be difficult to replace. But the team brings back a veteran group led by seniors Connor and Shane Leone with Connor qualifying for the State Open. He will be the Blue Knights’ frontrunner and has had a solid summer of training. Also joining the top of the lineup will be junior Ryan Slesinski, while senior Mike Doresey is expected to contribute. Sophomore Matt Penna will be the newcomer, but Dachlet believes he should make a significant impact on the varsity team.
Head Coach: Shaun Berard (12th season)
Last Year: N/A
Key Losses: Bert Goldsnider (3rd runner), Jared Demmons
Key Returnees: Cole McNamara (Junior), Connor McNamara (Junior), Taegan Brochu (Senior), Andrew Kane (Junior), Brandon Zheng (Junior)
Outlook: If there was one word head coach Shaun Berard used to describe his team it would be promise. The Blue Devils lost two key runners in Bert Goldsnider and Jared Demmons to graduation, but return a trio Berard believes could be the fastest he’s coached entering his 12th year at Plainville. The McNamara twins (Cole and Connor) are back, which should provide the Blue Devils with a strong one-two punch at the top of the lineup. Both were all-conference as sophomores last season. Joining them will be senior Taegan Brochu and juniors Andrew Kane and Brandon Zheng. Al have improved since last season and will an important role on the varsity team.
Head Coach: Jay Krusell (1st season)
Last Year: 3-2
Key Losses: Tommy Doyle, Jason Marques, Jason Goldstein
Expected Key Returnees: Aiden Toth (Junior), Jeremy Rippel (Junior), Salvatore Scata (Sophomore), Joseph Bohlke (Sophomore)
Outlook: After Newington took a step in the right direction last season. It finished with a winning record and a top-10 finish at the Class L meet. And the Indians only figure to get better. Despite losing mainstays in Tommy Doyle, Jason Marques and Jason Goldstein, first-year head coach Jay Krussell has plenty of young runners returning that all contributed at the state meet. Newington will be led by juniors Aiden Toth and Jeremy Rippel along with sophomores Salvatore Scata and Joseph Bohlke. Expectations appear to be high for the Indians and rightfully so.
Head Coach: Bryan McCain (5th season)
Last Year: N/A
Key Losses: Dmetri Hunter, Jonathan Meijas
Key Returnees: AJ Corso (Junior), Jesus Santiago (Senior), Brennan Kievman (Junior)
Newcomer to Watch: Gabriel Matias (Freshman)
Outlook: Innovation is feeling confident heading into the new season. In fact, head coach Bryan McCain believes the Ravens are the team to beat in the CRAL. Innovation didn’t lose many key runners to graduation, which only serves to help it this year. Junior AJ Corso highlights a strong group of returning upperclassmen after finishing second at his conference meet last season and running 19:59 at states. Senior Jesus Santiago and junior Brennan Keivman are also expected to have strong seasons after almost breaking 20 minutes as states in 2016. Gabriel Matias, however, may be a player to watch. The freshman was one of the top middle school cross country runners in the state over the last three years. After that though, it will be a matter of filling out the rest of the lineup, something that could be weakness going forward.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach