Connecticut Cross Country: 2022 State Open Championships & Middle School Championships

Today marked the end of the cross country (XC) season, at least for our family. It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the middle schoolers at Bolton Center School (BCS) and the high schoolers at Bolton High School (BHS). We have been at the center of this action. Debbie is the BCS coach, Dahlia is an 8th grader on the team, and Shepard is a sophomore at BHS.

Yesterday was the high school CIAC Open Championships at Wickham Park. The race was six days after the Divisional Championships on the same course. This was Shepard’s first time competing at the top level. I did the Open 33 years ago in 1989 when my high school team qualified and competed in the event. I was stoked that Shepard got this opportunity.

This was the most competitive field he has been in. The fastest teams and individuals came together and there were 177 finishers. Shepard was 61st. His time was a bit slower than last week, but it was unseasonably warm with the temperature at least 15 degrees warmer than last week. His place relative to his peers was very good. It was also very good relative to the other underclassmen. This bodes well for 2023. He has aspirations to improve and I’m sure he will.

Shepard’s teammate, Silas Gourley, ended his high school XC career on a high note, finishing 74th. They have gotten great coaching from Paul Smith and Matthew Ferraro. It was awesome to see the top runners all compete against each other. I found myself cheering for the other schools in Bolton’s league and division. Those are the runners we see throughout the season. Most are small schools like Bolton and seeing their achievements is inspiring.

The Open Championships is very different from the other races these boys have run. With so many fast runners who are evenly matched, you have to be comfortable with the bumping and jostling that are part of the game on a tight course. The best of the best typically go out fast, get some space, and hold on. The danger is if you go out too hard, you can blow up badly.

Clearly, that happened to some of the boys we know. The flip side is that if you go out too slow, you get boxed in, and can never make up the ground. Shep feels like he could have gone out quicker. He was able to pick it up in the second half of the 5K course. In the end, he was happy with his race and grateful for the experience. That should pay dividends in the future.

Today, we were back at Wickham Park for the third time in a week for the Middle School Championships. Yesterday’s Open Champs was a relative intimate affair with about 180 boys and 180 girls. Today, There were more than 2,200 runners split almost evenly between boys and girls. Add in the coaches, families, and spectators, and you have a lot of people in the park. Even the “Mom & Pop Race” had more than 100 runners. Shepard, Debbie, and I all ran the 1.7 mile race, which was held on the B race course.

Dahlia and the BCS team competed in the girls A race in which there were about 400 starters. They did the 2.3 mile course. She finished a very respectable 51st, just missing out on the medals by one spot. I think this is awesome and I know it will fuel her for the future. She was disappointed for a few minutes, but ultimately, was quite happy with her result. Next year, she will join her brother at Bolton High School. Debbie and her assistant coach, Christa Parisien, have done a great job sharing their love of running with their athletes.

It’s been a very busy summer/fall. Shepard had practice six days a week since late August. Debbie and Dahlia had practice four days a week. Their meets were weekly with a handful more on the weekends. We are looking forward to a break over the next month as we transition to winter activities. The downtime and rest will be welcome, but I’m sure we will miss the joy of XC.

Race Results CIAC Open Championship (High School)

Race Results Middle School Championships

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