With the new season set to get underway, expectations for some area boys cross country teams have never been higher. Though many teams have to replace some top-tier talent, each is expecting to take steps in the right direction.
New Britain, Southington and Plainville all have questions surrounding their teams heading into the season. All have a heavy reliance on their youth and could have a tough time competing with the better programs this year.
After a solid season last year, the Redcoats will look to get even better this season after not losing a single key runner. Berlin has a good chance to compete for a Class MM championship and could be one of the better teams in the state this season.
Newington and Innovation are looking to build off strong efforts last season. With both programs bringing back several of their best runners, the Indians and Ravens should be all over the top of the leaderboards this fall.
Here is a closer look at each of the teams:
Head coach: Lisa Kawecki (3rd season)
Key losses: Carlos Villarini
Key returnees: Matt Melluzo (senior)
Newcomers to watch: Chaz Williams (senior)
Outlook: This season looks to be another building one for the Hurricanes. With the loss of Carlos Villarini, New Britain is left with a young squad with little experience.
Chaz Williams should be a big addition to the team, coming off a big outdoor track season. Still, head coach Lisa Kawecki sees the early meets as a big step in the Hurricanes putting some miles behind them.
“[I’m] looking forward to attend some new meets early in the season for our inexperienced runners to develop their strength,” Kawecki said.
Head coach: Dan Dachelet (fifth season)
Last year’s record: 11-4
Key returnees: Matt Penna (junior), Ryan Slesinski (senior), Lucca Riccio (junior)
Outlook: Mixed feelings surround the Blue Knights entering the 2018 season. Southington enters the fall with a very young roster and a lot of uncertainty.
Head coach Dan Dachelet said it “could be a rebuilding year or could be a bunch of young kids who rise to the occasion.”
The Blue Knights will lean on the few veterans they have, including team captain Ryan Slesinski, Matt Penna and Lucca Riccio, who Dachelet said “is ready to be a solid No. 2 runner.”
“We have a talented group of young athletes that are in unknown territory,” Dachelet said. “We lost the bulk of our varsity last season and the young group is definitely motivated to step up. They logged the miles this summer, so we’ll have to see if this translates into fast times on the course.”
Head coach: Steve Soucy (10th season)
Last year’s record: 6-4
Key losses: None
Key returnees: Michael Parzych (junior), Joshua Ladd (senior), Gianni Fanelli (senior)
Outlook: It should be another strong season for the Redcoats, who are fortunate to be losing none of their varsity runners.
Seniors Joshua Ladd and Gianni Fanelli, along with junior Michael Parzych, will look to lead a Berlin team trying to take the next step.
Head coach Steve Soucy expects the team to compete in the Class MM meet this season.
Head coach: Shaun Berard (13th season)
Key returnees: Cole McNamara (senior), Connor McNamara (senior), Andrew Kane (senior)
Newcomers to watch: Owen Davidson, Brody Davidson, Owen Leander
Outlook: Many new faces come into the fold for the Blue Devils this season. With a ton of freshman on this year’s team, it could be a test for head coach Shaun Berard and his staff.
But Berard is excited about the new faces, saying it is the biggest team he has ever had, with more than 30 runners combined between the boys and girls. Berard’s biggest concern: “cars, roots, rocks.”
“They are great kids and I’m looking forward to the season and seeing how well they all develop,” Berard said.
Head coach: Jay Krusell (2nd season)
Last year’s record: 14-1 (Colonial Division North champion)
Key losses: Brendan Henriques
Key returnees: Aiden Toth (senior), Serhiy Demyanov (junior), Sam Geisler (sophomore)
Outlook: The Indians established themselves as a dominant program last season. Newington is losing Brendan Henriques to graduation, but with many key runners returning, it will be set to have another great season.
Senior Aiden Toth looks to step up as the leader of the team, with Serhiy Demyanov and Sam Geisler as big parts of the team as well. Head coach Jay Krusell also expects to get an influx of runners from other sports “once this year’s cuts have been announced.”
Krusell also described the Indians as a “young, unproven team, so [we] will have to work hard.”
Head coach: Bryan McCain (sixth season)
Key losses: Jesus Santiago, Andre Sterling
Key returnees: A.J. Corso (senior), Brennan Kievman (senior), Gabe Matias (sophomore)
Newcomers to watch: Carlos Gonzalez (senior)
Outlook: Innovation will look to have another strong season in 2018. The Ravens won the CRAL conference title last season and hope to do the same again.
Though it lost Jesus Santiago and Andre Sterling to graduation, Innovation still has a strong core of runners coming back.
A.J. Corso and Brennan Kievman will look to lead as two of the team’s seniors. Gabe Matias will look to continue momentum from a strong freshman season.
With the pieces they have coming back, the Ravens could be looking at a very successful season.